This week I decided to put my focus toward noticing and I discovered 3 lessons . “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Lesson 1: Don’t be fooled into thinking that what works for you will work for the other guy (or girl). I downloaded a 3 minute guided meditation tape from U Tube with difficulty. The thing is … I’m a meditation snob. In fact, it’s been 40 years since my first meditation retreat that required 7 days of silence (!) and sitting on a pillow for an hour at time, numerous times a day. But I’ve held onto the idea that anything less than a one hour ‘sit’ isn’t real meditation. Hah!
As my life changed, my daily practice time dropped — first to 30 minutes/day and then, with children, I stopped. In recent years, I got back into it with 20 minutes ‘sits’, the maximum my mind and body can tolerate. But 3 minutes?
The story is that my client was looking for a guided meditation tape to “.. reduce his anxiety” and I suggested my standard resources that run between 20-30 minutes. He works 50 hours a week, has a wife, 4 children, and difficult to manage Type 1 Diabetes. Although he was excited to try it, the next week he said it’s not working. He doesn’t have the time. I wondered if he could have found the time if he had to? Fortunately, I noticed this and suggested another approach.
I did some research and sent him the 3 minute uTube. He loves it, pulling it up on his phone a few times a day. He thinks it’s doing wonders for his mind and his health. It clearly works for him. You might try it yourself and tell me what you think. “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
Lesson 2: When you’re uncertain what course to take, step back and figure out what will help to make a decision. A client who was significantly depressed told me that her therapist wants her to start on an anti depressant. She said she can’t take them because she had a “horrible reaction” 10 years ago and asked my advice.
Experts give advice. I’m not an expert and even my doctors with deep knowledge and training can’t be sure how I or anyone will respond to any medicine. That’s why the wide range of side effects on the package. Instead, I stuck with what I do well. I asked questions to see what she could learn about herself that might help create a shift, starting with what happened. She couldn’t remember the side effects other than they were totally unexpected and worse than the anxiety she was try to lessen, her doctor wanted her to stick it out to see if she’d acclimate but she was terrified and stopped after a week and she refused to try anything else. She thought the doctor must be furious with her and never saw him again.
I asked what might help her to make a decision now. “I guess I’d like to know what side effects I could experience. My doctors tell me they don’t want to describe the bad things that could happen since it could influence how I respond. But that’s not how I work. I need to know what could happen so I’m not blindsided. I need to feel in control so I can decide if it’s worth it to me or not.” We identified some benchmarks that she could use to decide whether the medication improved her quality of life. She felt like she was in charge and growing more comfortable with taking a risk. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Lesson 3: Things change, even in your own body, so keep your mind open to your options. But she was still worried that the same thing would happen, I shared my own experience with anti depressants. Twenty years ago, I was ‘cycling’ on prednisone to control ulcerative colitis and it threw my energy and mood completely off kilter. My doctor suggested an SSRI to help balance my mood. It worked remarkably and I stopped taking it when I stopped the prednisone. Last year, with new illness and a horrible winter in New England, I felt very low and, at my doctor’s suggestion, tried the same medication again, assuming it would have the same positive effect. It didn’t help my mood, gave me nightmares and upset stomach. With my doctor’s help, the 3rd medication I tried did the trick without side effects. The future ain’t what it used to be.
Sometimes we can predict our response to a new event based on past experience. Often, it’s just not the case because there are too many variables. And, even our response to an event that we’ve experienced before can change over time. It can be paralyzing. Or you can take that fork. Figure out what you want to be different, what’s going to make it as easy as possible for you to take a risk and put a dive in. “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace.”