Six months ago, I had a stroke at the ripe old age of 53. Luckily for me, it was small and though it took part of my site, part of my memory, and part of my ability to feel emotions, it left me with no real physical impairment. But, when an illness sneaks into your life it changes your outlook on the future. As a result, I’ve been taking new meds, as well as looking into different physical and mental exercises. I’ve also been thinking about the quality of life and how mine as changed. That makes me think about how it may change in the future and what I can or should do now in order to not only preserve the joys I still have in life, but to increase my enjoyment of life so that when the inevitable happens and I move on into the next phase of existence, I can feel satisfied that I lived my life the best way I knew how.
As part of the search into physical and mental exercises, I’ve realized I must change my diet somewhat (although I refuse to live the rest of my life eating things I don’t want or don’t like. One of the exercises I heard about while looking into different ways to control a person’s eating habits was “mindful eating.” An easy way to describe this is “just eating.” Sitting with your food and paying close attention to the colors, aromas, and textures of the food, while also being aware of how your body reacts to each bite. Of course, when you practice this mindful eating, you must also “just sit.” You are not to watch TV, hold a conversation, drive, or work as you eat. You must just sit.
I’ve heard all my life about Budhist monks who sit and “just be” and I learned yoga and meditation when I was very young. But, to be honest, I’ve never found that I have been able to “just be.” I’m always reaching out for solutions to life problems or thinking about a recent event. The closest I ever came to quieting my mind was when I was involved in a group meditation and we were instructed to reach out with our heart chakra to the others in the group. Once I “connected” to my fellow meditators, my mind became quiet and I just experienced feelings from others. It was an awesome experience, but other than that, I’ve never been able to keep myself quiet. It has occured to me more than once since my stroke that this inability to quiet myself contributed to the stroke.
Today, I was rearranging the furniture in my small apartment. I’ve had company for almost three months, since I moved in here and want to make it into “my place.” I worked for about two hours and finally realized that I had reached my limit with the moving furniture. I sat down on my love seat, put my feet up, and stared off into space.
Because the stroke has affected my memory center a bit, it has had the effect of quieting my mind quite a bit. A lot of the internal chatter that used to be there is now gone. As a result, about five minutes after I sat down, I realized that I had just been sitting. I hadn’t moved and hadn’t had any thoughts. I first though “I should get up and…” but my better judgment kicked in at that point and told I told myself to take advantage of the opportunity to just sit, do nothing, think nothing, and see how long I could do it. I probably only lasted another ten minutes (I didn’t watch a clock), but when I did decide to end my sitting, I realized that for the first time in a very long time, I felt peaceful. I felt as though I had had a very restful respite from my busy life. As I got up and went in to do my dishes, I realized that if I could hang on to that feeling of peacefulness more in my life, I probably wouldn’t have as much high blood pressure as I have in the past. Sitting silently and just being there without worrying about what I should be doing for others felt more beneficial to my physically than any of the medicines or exercises I’ve done in my past. I can’t convey to you the feeling of “stillness” I had, but I would certainly recommend that you try it if you haven’t.
We spend so much money in this society on exercise equipment (treadmills and the WII), medicines (Lasix, Paxil, Plavix), and entertainment (you name it) trying to feel better. Now, after 54 years, I find that one of the best methods for getting that feeling of wellbeing is simply sitting silently. I hope you try this. I hope it works for you. It’s amazing!