I woke up the morning after receiving word from my PH clinic that I would have to stay home and well away from other people (due to COVID-19) with a familiar feeling in my body but not something I had experienced in a long time. I recognized it quickly as fear for my well-being.
As a fellow PHighter I have no doubt that you have faced many challenges in your journey with PH, but none quite like the one we are facing as a community right now. In these disorienting times, it can be extremely challenging to steady ourselves. Like many of us, I am trying to find ways to ground myself and make good use of my time isolating at home. I have found my mindfulness practice to be extremely helpful as that anchoring force.
What is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zin, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” There are quite literally thousands of books and studies that have been written about mindfulness and they all suggest that it is supportive to both our physical and mental wellness. It has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety, boosted immune systems, feelings of a better quality of life, more compassion and empathy for ourselves and others, and less emotional reactivity. Quite simply it helps us to be resilient when times are challenging and to be with the beauty of the present moment when they are not. There are many ways that we can practice mindfulness, everything from yoga to taichi, but one of the most common is meditation.
If you are new to meditation, basic meditation is a simple but challenging practice. The good news is that it is also very forgiving. Here is a practice that you could try.
Choose something to focus on. Often folks choose their breath because it is our constant companion. We take the breath everywhere, which means we can meditate anywhere.
Set a timer. If you have never meditated I would start with 1-3 minutes and work your way up to 10 minutes. The good news is that brain science tells us that it takes 10 minutes a day to begin to rewire the brain and experience the benefits of meditation.
Close your eyes or lower your gaze to help you to focus your attention.
Watch your body breathe. You don’t need to change, work with, or judge the way the body is breathing. You just need to watch it breathing.
Tips and tricks:
I said meditation is simple, I did not say it was easy. Minds are busy. Your attention will wander away from the breath A LOT. Suddenly you’ll notice that you are thinking, feeling emotion, making a list of things you need to do, or deciding on dinner. It’s all good. Don’t judge the mind, but do bring your attention back to your breath. You will do this over and over and then over again in even the shortest meditation.
The breath does not need to be your object of attention. I know as a person with lung disease it can sometimes make me anxious to be so aware of my breath. You can also pay attention to a part of your body. For me, it's my shoulders but I could have just as easily picked my hands or earlobes. Pay attention to the sensations in this part of the body.
Find a way that is comfortable to be. While you often see images of people sitting cross-legged on the floor this is definitely not a requirement for meditation. You can be sitting, lying down, or even walking, whatever works for your body.
Explore online resources. There are a tonne of meditations and meditation teachers out there. I encourage you to explore and try them out until you find some you like.
Happy meditating PHriends!
About our guest contributor, Sam Bowker:
Since her PH diagnosis in 2015, Sam Bowker has not let PH get in the way of achieving her goals of staying active. In fact, she completed a 10-km walk as part of the Oak Bay Half-Marathon in her hometown of Victoria (BC) in 2017. Sam has since then continued to grow as an avid yogi and hosted a workshop for PHers looking to practise yoga during the 2018 Western Regional PH Symposium.