I Can’t Control Life, but I Can Control My Mind
Practicing meditation helps columnist Lisa Weber reduce the stress in her life
My first time trying to meditate was a complete failure. I couldn’t contort my legs to look like a pretzel, to mimic the “meditation pose” I’d always seen in movies. After several fruitless attempts, I decided to just do my best to sit up straight, relax my mind, and focus on my breathing.
I tried to practice meditation several times. But the only results I got were two legs that instantly fell asleep and sharp pains running up my back. I couldn’t find the benefits of torturing my body to sit in a painful pose.
Meditation techniques aren’t one-size-fits-all
Flash forward to age 42: I was sick in bed, surfing through Netflix for something I could binge-watch, when I came across a show called “Headspace.” The description mentioned it was about how to meditate anywhere at anytime. The preview showed a man sitting in a chair with his eyes closed.
I thought, “Well, I can do that!” So I clicked the start button with low expectations, but a glimmer of hope. I was eager to try a strategy that could potentially settle my nerves, control my stress, and calm my emotions on demand.
A tranquil narrator walked me through the first technique — one I could do even while lying in bed. He explained that meditation had nothing to do with following a set of rules, but rather finding a way to personally connect my mind and body by doing what worked for me.
This show personalized the meditation experience and ultimately changed my life. I’ve been doing the meditation techniques from the first three episodes for a little over two years now. Each time I practice, I get deeper into my mind and body. It’s a relaxed feeling — grounded and in the moment. It helps me accept my body and the life I have at that very moment.
Meditation helps me heal
Because I live with scleroderma, I often find myself leaning on my meditation skills to power myself through tough times. While awaiting test results, processing bad news, or preparing to battle through my day in pain, meditating is a way to let it all go and recharge. There’s nothing more healing than being present without worry — even if just for a few minutes.
“Headspace” gave me choices, ways to practice that fit my lifestyle and bodily limitations. My favorite place to meditate is lying on the grass in my backyard. But I typically find myself practicing my techniques while sitting in my office chair. The location doesn’t matter as much to me as being able to quickly settle my mind and find peace whenever I need to.
In May, I started to transition into a new career. I’ve been through interview processes that feel more like trials with firing squads on standby. Some nights, I catch myself stressing out over money, and other nights I’m tossing and turning, on high alert for my next interview.
That’s the thing about life. There’s never a shortage of stressful situations! I can’t simply tune out worrisome information or events, but I can work through them with meditation.
If I’m not quick to suppress my stress, I inevitably end up suffering from dreaded scleroderma flare-ups. I can have full-body attacks of pain, fatigue, and even new organ damage caused by inflammation and scarring.
Knowing how detrimental stress can be to my health, I start meditating as soon as I recognize that my mind is not at ease. Being able to calm my mind is a powerful tool. It’s just as important as the pills I take each day to improve the quality of my life with scleroderma.
Within 10 to 20 minutes, I can relax the tension in my body and quiet the storm swirling in my head. It’s like manually breaking the seal on a pressure cooker and allowing the buildup of steam to escape. The relief is instantly noticeable. I even get to sleep like a baby afterward!
Keep practicing. It’s worth it for the benefits.
Meditation doesn’t have to be about humming the word, “Aum.” You don’t even have to close your eyes. The only thing that’s required is getting your mind and body to connect on a personal level and to accept the moment you’re in.
I’m still learning how to meditate. I spend a few months practicing each new technique before trying a new one. I’m learning that it takes time to master (if that’s even possible), but the benefits make it worth the effort.
My recommendation for others looking to make a positive change in their lives is to learn to meditate. Try the “Headspace” show. Surf the internet for suggestions and techniques, or sign up for classes near you. There are even apps, like one called Calm, that can help. Keep searching for techniques that work for you. Everyone deserves the gift of stress relief!
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.