On being mindful: the good, the bad, and the doubtful

I try to be mindful: I don’t want to do anything that would hurt anyone else, I don’t want to do anything that would hurt me. It hasn’t always been that way.

When I was in the revolving door of the mental health system my life was chaotic. In crisis a lot of the time. They tried anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, stuff to calm me down, stuff to lift my mood; talking therapies, ECT; in-patient and out-patient. And still I could be violent towards others (throwing anything that came to hand in the direction of anyone who annoyed me) and always violent to myself. Self-harm was my prime coping strategy and many times I made suicide attempts.

Last year I was referred to a Mindfulness group. Way too many hours plodding through a workbook that expected – demanded – total commitment; exercises to do each day between sessions, sheet to complete. I shut down when the very first exercise involved total mindful immersion in eating a raisin. What? I hate dried fruit. The sweetness. The texture. The way it sticks to your teeth. No way could I even think about it. But then I didn’t know I was on the spectrum. And so the weeks went on with me trying to be involved in the group knowing that I did no homework. The others felt guilty that they weren’t committed enough. In fact I did feel that the whole thing revolved around hanging a huge guilt trip on you. I felt that giving lip-service to this charade of MacMindfulness was all it deserved.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve meditated – but in a ‘proper’, not-for-profit meditation group, when I’ve visited my friend in South Australia. She runs such a group and once she brought a friend who taught us the Buddhist cleansing breath.

And so last November, having recently been diagnosed ASD I drew up a plan for my days and included ‘Being Mindful’ each day. So each day, hopefully around the same time but I certainly don’t beat myself up if it isn’t, I do a 3 minute breathing space exercise. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t made a difference. Sometimes I find myself getting a bit fraught and I say to my husband – I haven’t had my 3 minutes. I take time out and feel so much better. And if my mind wanders, so what? I tend to find that I’m thinking about positive things, I’m never distressed, and I’m certainly not emotionally uncomfortable.

I’m not going to advocate that you start full-on mindfulness. Certainly not the kind that I’ve come across – that would be hypocritical. But being mindful on your own terms and in your own space may help. As long as you’re comfortable, you can do worse than try.

Being creative is the mainstay of my life, and poetry, prose, and photography is where I express my deepest emotions. I also enjoy the challenge of design and create jewellery, fabric bags, and garments and home items in yarn. Diagnosed with ASD at the age of 68 after fifty years in and out of the mental health system, I now aim to explore and share my experiences over these years. Apart from blogs and short articles I'll share my life in my verse and images.

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