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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Editor's Message

Sarah Hamid-Balma

Reprinted from the Mindfulness issue of Visions Journal, 2016, 12 (2), p. 4

 

When I first learned the practice of mindfulness, I found it nothing short of liberating… and irritating. I’ll explain the irritating part first. I participated in a 20-minute guided meditation every week of my mindfulness-based cognitive therapy group. We had to lie down without fidgeting and practice various mindfulness techniques. All fine except that I have restless legs syndrome, so if I don't move for 10-15 minutes, it pretty much guarantees that my leg will involuntary spasm—a lot. It doesn’t exactly hurt, but boy is it irritating. Now, I understand that a guided meditation doesn’t have to be pleasant and I got very good at accepting discomfort, but suffice it to say I never did a long meditation after that group ended.

Yet I did take something very powerful away from that group that I do use often. I had taken enough cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to know how to identify and challenge negative thoughts, but for me, mindfulness brought into focus what CBT glossed over: that most times noticing and letting be is enough. Mindfulness taught me how to notice a bad thought and then watch it drift on by like driftwood. No challenging, just observing. This technique became even more powerful when I applied it to panic attacks. I suffered from panic disorder for 15 years in my youth. Exposure therapy helped immensely (thank you CBT), but what also really helped was learning to just do nothing when a (rare) panic attack returned. No rushing for paper bags or tranquilizers, no shoving of heads between knees. No, doing nothing was and is the best remedy to get through a panic attack. Ok, it’s not exactly “nothing”; it’s a really active kind of nothing: noticing and being totally curious about what’s happening but not controlling or “fixing” in any way. There is something so freeing in that aspect of mindfulness.

But it’s not easy. There’s a line in a Netflix series theme song that sums it up perfectly: “Taking steps is easy / Standing still is hard.”1  For me, being is harder than doing. I’m good at being busy, at directing, at helping. Just being with myself like a friend walking down a road by my side—that takes patience, compassion and curiosity. Thankfully, those are muscles I want to build. So if mindfulness rubs you the wrong way, try it from another angle. It’s more than worth a second look.

 
About the author

Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division

Footnotes:
  1. Spektor, R. (2013). You’ve got time. On Music from Orange is the New Black [MP3 file]. Sire Records.

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