There must be something wrong with me…
There must be something wrong with me… if you think this way, some facets of society will readily agree, adding further weight to the bag-of-rocks perspective dragging you down. A couple of weeks ago my employer asked me to take leave (on the basis of their duty of care) and has organised for me to attend a medico-legal assessment with a psychiatrist to determine my fitness for work. The source of this action was my own transparency around my health. To be precise, my mental health. While I am a strong advocate for people, especially men, to explore connections and solutions regarding their health and well-being – I have learned now that such intentions and actions can be the beginning of a cascade of events with the potential for further stress and uncertainty.
A number of people including my GP (doctor), a couple of different psychotherapists, and close family and friends, while questioning the reaction of my employer, have also questioned the way I view my health. These people have suggested various ways of framing my health, relationships and choices. They have pointed out the normality of what I often see as the source of problems, namely my capacity as a parent and partner. Some mindfulness practitioners would agree that parenting is a challenging choice of mindfulness path! (This is a theme I will certainly be exploring further in this blog.)
Here are some helpful words from Francis Cook (quoted by Karl Duffy at mindfulbalance.org):
‘Mindfulness practice, as it deepens, is a practical way of relating to thoughts, of working with difficult emotions – especially as they present in body sensations – and finally, and maybe most crucially, a way of relating to our sense of self. One way this may be helpful, in a pragmatic way of dealing with the up’s and down’s of each day, is to continually define ourselves in a fluid, on-going, non-fixed sense, understanding life, as it were, as always being born in each moment. We try to bring attention to these continual little births, seeing how an event or moment gives birth to a new emotion and is followed by a new thought (or more likely, a re-hashing of familiar, old patterns of thought). Rather than allowing that thought take hold, identifying with it and making it part of our story, we can let it pass through. Rather than attaching some of our identity to these moments, and the narrative that accompanies them, we can hold ourselves lightly, not limiting ourselves to the moods we experience or the judgmental thoughts they generate. In this way we can develop a sense of ease as we no longer feel the need to defend the “self” created by them.’
And so I continue to hold to the breath as a foundation for my mindfulness practice, grateful for the flexibility and gentle non-attachment this attention generates (please see Jon Kabat-Zinn quote in previous post regarding the breath in mindfulness practice). After all, as long as you are breathing there must be something going right.
‘…mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing
in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.
If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass and the weeds.’