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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The...

The MD said it could be a rotator cuff injury incurred when I fell on the ice in December. Depending on the extent of the injury, I could need physical therapy or surgery. The decision would be made based on the MRI. No, I am not claustrophobic and am not fearful of the MRI machine. Yet, when I arrived for the pictures to be taken I was aware of being quite nervous.

A very friendly technician made certain there were no metallic substances either in my clothes nor surgically placed in my body. Then, he cleared me for the MRI. I was instructed to lies on a table, told to remain very still and was slid into the machine. He made certain to cover my eyes and reminded me that I would hear all kinds of knocking noises. I knew this as this was not my first MRI experience.

Then, aware of my anxiety, and recalling all the articles I have read by my colleague at Mental Help.Net, Dr. Elisha Goldstein and the advice I give to my patients and readers, I decided this was a good time to meditate. It was too late to take any deep breaths as I had to remain very still or it would be necessary to repeat the process because the pictures would be ruined. Nevertheless, I focused on my breathing, allowed my thoughts to drift without paying them any attention and fell into a meditative state. I should say, I fell into that state until the loud knocking MRI sounds began. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I found it very challenging to meditate. 

Focusing again on my breathing, and allowing the noises to drift, I once again began to meditate and became aware of a floating sensation, as though I was in a swimming pool.

It wasn't until the MRI was finished and I arose from the table that I was aware of a totally relaxed feeling. I had succeeded in meditating and reducing at least some of my anxiety.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes. It is one thing to instruct others about what is best in their lives but it is another matter to remember to practice those things with your self. Having attended meditation groups in the past and well aware of its benefits, I stopped its practice a long time ago. Interesting. The reason I injured my shoulder was that I was rushing to an appointment, ignored the icy condition of the sidewalk, slipped and fell. at first, the only injury I was aware of was to my pride and dignity. A week later, the shoulder started to hurt.

In other words, the moral to the story is two fold:

1. Nothing in life is so very important that we need to rush. All of us rush around too much, convinced that what we are doing is so very important that we must get there fast. We rush to work, rush home, rush to the MD, speed on the highway to get there faster, rush through dinner to get to that crucial television program. When we are rushing we are not living in the moment. We are not practicing mindfulness. We are not caring for our minds and bodies.

2. The second moral to this story is to remind myself to "practice what I preach." Another way to put it is, "Physician (Therapist) heal thyself (myself). It is not enough to guide, advise and encourage others. I am also human and need to use mindfulness.

All of us need to reduce the stress in our lives. By doing so, we can enhance our health and avoid many episodes of anxiety and depression. Meditation and exercise are two of the best ways to accomplish this.

This is why I have dusted off and reopened Jon Kabat-Zinn's book on meditation and mindfulness, Wherever You Go There You Are. I may even resume sessions with my acupuncturist. Through acupuncture, I achieved some of my best meditations along with wonderful and long lasting feelings of calm.

To all readers: Practice mindfulness, meditate, take in the moment now and embrace it.

By the way, I will get the verdict about my shoulder next week. Stay tuned.

What are your stories of rushing and stress? Your experiences, opinions and questions are strongly encouraged. Send them in. Lets start talking.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


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