Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm mindful of the fact...

I have recently completed an NHS Chronic Pain Rehabilitation course, based on ‘Mindfulness Theory’ Four weeks, eight days, of group cognitive therapy to give us a greater understanding of long term pain and strategies to deal with its effects on our lives. Chronic pain is long term pain which in my case arose from a riding incident in 2005.

I had been a keen runner, a gym addict, a brown belt in karate, a passionate windsurfer, an ardent long haul traveller, a keen horse, motor and mountain bike rider and top of my professional tree. After the accident I battled back to fitness several times, each time to relapse, with hospital stays, lumber punctures, scans, facet joint injections, physiotherapy, increasing infections and depression. Finally in 2010 I decided to take early retirement from my senior advisory teacher post, managing a team of twenty on teachers and assistants. It was no light decision, I had worked all my life to build my education, skill and experience and was very proud of the Head Teachers role and the positive influence I could have on children and young adults, but felt I was no longer able to give of my best and I didn’t want to let people down.
So the multidisciplinary rehabilitation course was my chance to understand what had happened to me and learn strategies to relearn & cope with my changed persona and the frustrations of daily life often with pain or fear of pain. The Impact Team, from psychology, physiotherapy, nursing, neurology and anaesthesiology, worked with us to help us understand our damaged central nervous system, our autonomic responses, our physiological struggles, our values and goals. Through discussion and Buddhist relaxation, to Mindfulness and Tai Chi we each came to a different understanding of where we were and, more importantly, how we could re-engage with ourselves and re-find our values. The concept of Mindfulness; focussing on the present, living for the day and awareness of self was key to our learning and our final task was to examine our values and set ourselves paced goals to move on with.

My values have always been rooted in ‘being the best I can be’, in ‘sharing and caring for others’ and in having pride in myself and use my academic skills. Hence one of my first steps was to reengage with the gym and another to keep up with my creative writing, so here’s the outcome of those first small steps. Getting in touch with those values and I set out for the gym.
Now I was fully aware of the date (Nov 11th) and did notice the time (10.55am) as I got to the building, but what happened next blew me away. This was the moment I’d avoided for so long and I mustered all my positivity to, ‘live for the moment’ as I opened the swing gym doors.

It was silent, figures frozen, machines still, eyes lowered; the only sound from a single bugle being played on the wide screen. I had stepped out of my fearful universe into that two minutes silence in honour of all those who gave their lives in two World Wars. Now you can’t get a better example of ‘Mindfulness’ than that! Today I was taught by men, long dead, the meaning of life.

“Be kind to yourself”, those voices from the past asserted, “stay in this present moment!”As an old Moorlands farmer said to one of my new mindful friends “Eh lass, just be!”

So there it is; in mind and in print...I count that a small success!