A handsome young African man ( 15 years old ) sat opposite me in my counselling office in Vienna, Austria telling me how surprised, how thrilled and how relieved he was now that he was able to eat without pain.
You may be thinking that that sounds pretty normal. Eating is not supposed to hurt. A few short weeks before, he had been guzzling goopy white fluids to get relief from the gnawing in his gut and before being able to put a morsel of food into his mouth. He had been diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer that would require surgery if prescribed remedies did not offer solace soon.
He and I knew that the credit for this apparently spontaneous healing ( a miracle?) belonged to something different than just the medicine prescribed. His parents were questioning the changes in their son. They also wanted to know more about this strange white haired school counsellor their son was seeing.
In fact, this quiet young man had simply adopted a practice of taking some time out for himself to be with himself in the peace of his own bedroom. Time when he stopped studying, time when he stopped listening to his folks argue and his brothers squeal in their cramped quarters - a timeout with a different slant than the one we, as parents, teachers and counsellors generally use for disciplining our charges.
This man child was under huge pressure to succeed in the international environment. He was preparing to take the International Baccalaureate exams. It appeared that the very survival of his family depended on his successes. He was their hope. The pressure was impacting on him physically, mentally, emotionally. I taught him mindfulness for relaxation and healing.
So what exactly did I teach him? I taught him to sit and breathe differently. I taught him how to breathe on purpose and "be" on purpose for a little while each day rather than the automatic pilot way we normally are. After all, isn't breathing a given? Don't we all just do it? No. Stressed-out folks tend to breathe shallowly and inadequately in the top of their chest.
I taught him how to watch his thoughts. He soon realized they were very self-abusive, defeating and discouraging. He had been abused physically and mentally and emotionally his whole life because that was all his parents knew. So that was what he learned about how to treat himself. That was how his parents too had been raised in their poor little village. I taught him to watch his thoughts as they came up. Once he recognized them for the damage they were doing to him and the impact they had on increasing his stress levels, he had options and realized he could take control of his thinking processes.
I taught him how to practice acceptance and non- judgement. And the special thing about this young man was that he did it! He practiced. And he practiced. Mindfulness practice brought him relief and peace of mind - and healing. His body, while relaxed, created the perfect conditions for healing.
Sound easy? Well it is not so easily explained and much better experienced.
My own personal experience with mindfulness was similar to this young man's. A group of persistent cancerous cells kept reappearing in my body in spite of the best treatment that modern medicine in Europe at the time had to offer. When a therapist taught me mindfulness, the Doctors were all puzzled and chalked it up to one of those "mysteries". But there is no mystery. We all watched our childhood bumps and scrapes heal "mysteriously" when we gave them the right conditions - when we let the body "be", it takes amazing care of us.
Mindfulness is not a mystery. It has been extensively researched. It has proved effective in helping so many problems- the most recent research being on memory and concentration in older patients ( so think what it can do for young ones!!). Nor is it a new or a passing fad. Insight meditation is more than 2000 years old and has been studied for almost that long in some parts of the world (needless to say not the west til recently). This is NOT meditation as we think of clearing the brain ( good luck with that one in our world these days). This is not a quick fix in a world of quick fixes. It requires practice. It requires, in the words of the Nike commercial that you "just do it".
My classes and workshop presentations give you the chance to "just do it" and learn a lot more about it for a couple of hours or a number of weeks. Then you can decide for yourself. Most people, even after such a short time, feel recharged and refreshed, leaving with some food for thought, plus some practical skills to use immediately, and new resources to work with. While the focus is on your own well-being, we look at practical applications for the workplace, the classroom, medical facilities as well.
Looking forward to seeing you in my class!!
In the meanwhile, be well.