Therapy #4: Mindfulness – “I Learned On A Raisin”
Say what!?! “I learned on a raisin,” my therapist repeated with a twinkle. Apparently my ears had not let me down. “Raisin.” He’d actually said, “I learned on a raisin.” WTF!?
Yesterday was my fourth therapy session. For my regular readers, you may be tauting up articles on your fingers, wondering if you missed the Therapy #3 article. Nope! I didn’t write it. It was just a planning session, not very interesting.
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Therapy #4 was really the first session where an hour was devoted to in-depth therapy. I’ll be frank. I was apprehensive. Was it going to be interesting? Helpful? Lame? I was hoping to discuss the wrongs from my past. With waterproof eyeliner and waterproof mascara firmly in place, I was ready to have a jolly good cry. Instead, I heard the word “raisin.” I mean…really!?!
Oh! how wrong I was!
The session started off with the usual probing question of how I was feeling. “Eh, some dark days, some better days, but never a 100% happy day from start to finish,” I said.
“Happiness is a by-product of a life well lived,” he quoted Eleanor Roosevelt. “You don’t try to be happy. It just happens.”
No kidding! Where has this wisdom been all my life? “Really!?!” I gasped. “Uh, I was always lectured to be happy.” He just looked at me as if to say, “Well, that’s not right.” Hmmm.
“Aren’t we going to talk about the past?” I queried. “Isn’t that where the healing comes from?”
“Ruminating on the past doesn’t help,” he responded. Well, that was a shock. I thought that was what therapy was all about.
“Ruminating is the brain pacing back and forth on the same path over and over and over again.”
“Yes! That’s what my mind does, from morning ’til night,” I said, fatigued.
“Does it help?”
Reaching out, he opened his palm to reveal three stones. The lovely gunmetal sheen of hematite attracted me. A blue agate caught my eye. But being a human magpie, I went for the bling! I chose the purple amethyst.
“Now, examine the rock. Then close your eyes and describe it to me,” he said.
So I did. Or, I thought I did. My description of it was pathetic, abysmal.
Then he did it. He described the blue agate, going on and on and on and on. Will this never end, I thought. Then he opened his palm and showed me. He hadn’t described the whole agate…just one tiny crevice.
“This is mindfulness,” he said. “Living in the moment. I learned on a raisin.”
Oh…my…word. So that’s what my Michael’s been trying to teach me for four years. It drives me crazy when he looks at things for a long time…thinks about them…talks about them. “Move on dot org!” I want to scream. Apparently, I’m married to a man who lives in the moment, who naturally practices mindfulness. “Yeah, but don’t tell him that,” my therapist jokes. “We don’t want him to get the big head.” LOL
What a novel concept! I almost never live in the moment. I almost never practice mindfulness. I may physically be standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, but my mind is “somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.” As I scrub the plates and clash the silverware, my mind is treading the same ol’ tired path of ruminating and obsessing about the past, perhaps in a quasi-magical attempt to fix it.
If you were to meet me, I may look like I’m listening to you. I’m emoting, responding. But I’m not actually in the moment with you. The internal conversation in my mind drowns you out. Why are you talking to me!? You’re interrupting! Shut up!
No wonder I love to be alone.
Mindfulness is an antidote for anxiety.
I hate that the word “anxiety” has now been applied to me. My father’s words, “She’s a chickenshit, afraid of her own shadow” float back to me, from two decades ago. And now, “anxiety disorder” has been hung on me. Not that it’s not true. It is! I live in a state of perpetual arousal. No…not that kind of arousal. Get your head outta’ the gutter. I mean the “flight or fight” type of arousal that results from a hypothalamus stuck in overdrive. Why? What did ya think I meant!?
“‘Now’ is from this moment to five seconds from now,” my therapist tells me. Come again!? So he repeats it. This time, I get it. “The past doesn’t exist. You can’t fix it. The future doesn’t exist. It can’t hurt you. All you have is now. Mindfulness helps you live in the ‘now,’ decreasing your anxiety.”
Well I’ll be gobsmacked. He’s right! Most of what I fear, doesn’t happen. Most of the mean things I anticipate people saying to me, are never said. The retorts I angrily prepare in advance go unused, a waste of thought and emotion keeping me in a perpetual state of anxiety, pain and sometimes anger.
I’ve survived everything that happened in the past. My present is peachy. So what am I so anxious and apprehensive about!?
“Y’know,” I tell him, “now that I think about it, depression runs in the family. I can think of several ancestors who probably had depression.”
“Oh yeah! Depression is wildly genetic.”
“And I can also think of some relations who probably had OCD.”
“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is also wildly genetic,” he tells me. Suddenly, I start having heartburn. I also feel empathy for those in my family who’ve also suffered from depression and OCD. Damn it! I don’t want to feel empathy for them, but I do.
Things are starting to fall into place. I can’t change my genes, but I can change how I think and what I think.
“Down the road, we’ll talk about the past,” he assures me as the session ends. “But right now, we need to get you to a stable place so discussing the past doesn’t shake you.” I assure him that it won’t…it can’t.
As I drive home through the silvery-green fields of oats and golden-green fields of wheat, I realize that everything I’ve learned at therapy was straight out of the Bible, oh me-of-little-faith.
“What are you so frightened about, you little-faiths?” he replied. Then he got to his feet and rebuked the wind and the waters and there was a great calm. The men were filled with astonishment and kept saying, “Whatever sort of man is this—why, even the wind and the waves do what he tells them!”
(Matthew 8:26-27 PHILLIPS)“That is why I say to you, don’t worry about living—wondering what you are going to eat or drink, or what you are going to wear. Surely life is more important than food, and the body more important than the clothes you wear. Look at the birds in the sky. They never sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much more valuable to him than they are? Can any of you, however much he worries, make himself an inch taller? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They neither work nor weave, but I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these! Now if God so clothes the flowers of the field, which are alive today and burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you ‘little-faiths’?
( Matthew 6:25-30 PHILLIPS)
And speaking of Solomon, I’m reminded of the book he wrote, Ecclesiastes, my favorite book of the Bible. It’s repeated mantra of “vanity” is oddly comforting, because frankly, this life has always seemed somewhat, um, insignificant to me. Money…can be lost. Property…can be destroyed. Relationships…don’t last forever. Appearances…wrinkle and sag. We spend a lifetime working and worrying…for what!?! We only have this moment to enjoy.
1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities! all is vanity.
1:3 What profit hath man of all his labour wherewith he laboureth under the sun?
1:4 [One] generation passeth away, and [another] generation cometh, but the earth standeth for ever.
1:11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be remembrance of things that are to come with those who shall live afterwards.
2: 24 There is nothing good for man, but that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.
3:12 I know that there is nothing good for them but to rejoice and to do well in their life;
3: 13 yea also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labour, it is the gift of God.
12:13 Let us hear the end of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man.
12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.
And that’s what mindfulness is all about. I learned it on an amethyst. My therapist learned it on a raisin.
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This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment. If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion. If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.
Thompson, L. (2016). Therapy #4: Mindfulness – “I Learned On A Raisin”. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2016/07/therapy-4-mindfulness-i-learned-on-a-raisin/