Side Notes: Small Successes

Let me say first that I sometimes throw myself the most magnificent pity parties – usually with fine snacks and often gifts as well – so I’m not looking for sympathy here.

That said, and just by way of offering a bit of background for this article: I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for many years now. A little over two years ago I fell – hard enough to be hospitalized for a week and then put in a physical rehabilitation facility for another three weeks – and after that, up until about a month ago I’d been unable to walk anywhere other than around the house… Then I bought a treadmill.

It took about three weeks for me to figure out the minimum number of minutes that I could reasonably say I’m able to do in any one session, as well as the minimum number of sessions I could do in any given week. I should note here that this ‘figuring out’ stuff wasn’t planned; it’s just how things went. I’m not that damn smart.

Anyway, what it’s come down to is this: If I’m able to use the treadmill at all, I can do five minutes, and even if I have a few bad days when I can’t do it at all, I can still swing three days a week. So this is my current goal: Five minutes, three times a week. If I can do more I will (and so far I have).

For me at this point, this is a fairly easy goal so it’s unlikely I’ll fail at it unless I dive into a really big flare (‘flare’ = more inflammation and pain than will allow me to function). If/when that happens I’ll just suspend the goal until I’m back on my feet, and if I’ve been down a long time I’ll probably have to whittle down the goal so that it’s still doable, and I’m okay with that.

It’d be more difficult to dial back my goals if I wasn’t prepared for the possibility. I guess you could call that an advantage to chronic illness for those of us who deal with that — we learn our limitations and how to work with them. Good grief I wish it was an easier lesson to learn.

The reason I’m setting goals is 1) because I can (as in, I am able to), and more importantly 2) because I get an ENORMOUS emotional payoff for small successes. I am all about comfort, and the payoff is hugely tied in to my comfort level in terms of how I feel about myself in general. Even better than my magnificent pity parties: Fabulous pats on my own back and melodious toots of my own horn. Yay me.

This is my point: Whether or not one is able to set goals, I think it’s really important to acknowledge and wholeheartedly accept the good feelings that arise from any successes, no matter how small.

Any new thing you do, no matter how little it can be done, it’s more than what was being done, yes? I’ve found that when I can manage not to make comparisons like ‘yay this is what I did but boo I should be doing more’ or ‘boo I have so far to go’ and just stick with ‘yay I did that’, oh boy I can squeeze a whole lot of comfort and enjoyment, pats on the back and toots of my horn out of getting even the smallest of things done.

Yay me!

Back to meditation next article. Probably.

Meditation, introduction

Let me say up front that I am a slow learner. (And I’m just fine with that.)

It took me several decades of searching for and trying various methods of meditation before I found what works for me. The purpose of this series is to help others find what works for them, perhaps more quickly than I did.

In my years of searching I encountered a number of folks who insisted that there is only one true method for meditation, and if you’re not doing it their way you’re doing it wrong. Others were less dogmatic about the method but insisted on defining the experience, and in a way their definitions can be quite accurate because what one experiences in meditation is heavily influenced by expectation.

I will note here that some folks want/need teachers to provide them with rules and definitions. This series is not for them, but I want to be clear that the ‘find it myself’ method is no better; it’s just different.

That said, after all those years of trying different methods without much success, I realized: Those methods were discovered by human beings who must have initially sought meditation on their own with no rules to guide them. That the experiences of those folks were so varied led me to conclude that not everyone will benefit from the same method, nor will everyone experience the same thing. If some human beings can find what they’re looking for, then perhaps anyone can. The very rule some claim, that only special people are chosen to receive such information, is still only a rule that was established by human beings. Go figure, huh?

So I did my best to set aside all my beliefs and expectations (easier said than done, by the way), and started my journey anew. The first thing I did was so very simple: I put a question in my mind – What do I need to know right now? – and just listened with all my being. My only real expectation was that an answer would come in some form. What I experienced from there might not be relevant to anyone but me, so I’ll spare you the description. Just wanted to provide some idea of where I’m coming from with this series.

This is what I recommend to those who seek their own methods of meditation: Do your best to set aside all beliefs and expectations. Find a comfortable position where your body can relax without drifting off to sleep. Ask a question, then listen for an answer. It might come right away or it might take some practice sessions first before you see any results. Be willing to be patient if that’s necessary, but don’t expect the process to be difficult.

If it is difficult and you feel like you’re forcing yourself to do this, then it’s not a good fit, and that’s okay. The next couple of articles in this series will offer some strategies for self-guided (visualization) meditation, which is great for times when it’s just too hard to stay focused on listening alone.

Feedback is most welcome. Feel free to share your own methods and experiences.

Until next time…