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.