Fibromyalgia, my unquiet mind

” The mind is the most capricious of insects-flitting, fluttering”, Virginia Woolf

Sit quietly for a minute and imagine this stream with leaves quietly floating by in the water.

Now think of the many thoughts, that are like a barrel full of monkeys, aggravating your mind, flitting around uncontrollably. With each thought (or monkey) that arises, a place that thought on a leaf and imagines it floating away. The thoughts will come non-stop, but in between thinking of the leaves remember to focus on the breath. Keep up this mindful/ meditative strategy, gently allowing each thought to drift away on each new leaf you see in your mind.

This is a somewhat similar practice that I recently experienced in a mindful/meditation group. It can be very helpful for those of us with fibromyalgia whose minds  (brains, Central Nervous Systems) are in a constant state of hyper-arousal. In fact, mindfulness meditation is probably THE most useful strategy we can undertake when our hyper-vigilant CNS is in overdrive, which is, almost always.

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Meditating daily for 15 to 20 minutes requires discipline. It can be done, but it isn’t easy. To be mindful is to be present every moment, aware of our thoughts and the emotions that arise because of our response to them. This is even more of a challenge, especially with a fibromyalgia mind which is in a constant state of turmoil. We find we judge ourselves even more critically than we do others. We lack self-compassion.

We believe the sky is about to fall at every new change in our physical and mental environment. Our minds are racing towards the next activity and we feel like a failure because we can’t keep up the same pace we once had. We feel hopeless and for a while think that we need new medications. Then, when they don’t help very much we begin the cycle once more, rushing around, bringing on a flare-up, over-exercising, feeling anxious, then depressed as those challenging symptoms incapacitate us.

We tell ourselves to pace but when we fail to do so we become our worst critics. The mind flits around from one thought to another. We forget to remember our breath which is often shallow and not relaxed. We are the embodiment of anxious, disquiet minds (and bodies), holding us in captivity.

Mindfulness is easy to describe and the most difficult to practice. But, there are few choices, except to live constantly struggling with this unruly mind of ours. Paying attention, on purpose, without judgment, and living in the moment is a way to break the cycle of an unquiet state of mind.  When I turned 70 my dear spouse gave me this vase that has the inscription: “Remember to breathe”.

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