So there I was lying on the doctor’s table, getting my Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for my fibromyalgia, and my doctor was saying, “relax your face, relax your face.” Well, my first thought was, “I thought it was relaxed!” My second thought was, “How am I supposed to do that?” This seems to be the story of my life. I can’t tell you how many times a Physical Therapist or Massage Therapist has told me to relax when I thought I already was. My muscles seem to be in a constant state of tension no matter how many stretches I do or how much I try to relax them. They’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. The weird thing is, I don’t feel tense most of the time. I guess I’ve just gotten so used to it that I don’t notice it.
I’ve tried different relaxation techniques over the years when my muscle tension was pointed out to me but all they did was stress me out! Part of the problem is that I can never truly relax. My mind is constantly busy even if my body is resting. Often my husband and I will be watching TV, he’ll make a comment or ask a question about the show, and I don’t even know what he’s talking about. My mind has been busy “chasing rabbits.” Again, I don’t feel stressed; that’s just the way I’m wired, but now that I can fully appreciate how much this is impacting my pain levels, I know I need to do something about it. My doctor suggested meditation because he said he wants me to learn to relax. Meditation was already a part of my HOPE plan, and though I do meditate on Scripture, I realized that I needed to make a concerted effort to learn the type of meditation taught in many medical facilities now if I want to make those unruly muscles loosen up.
I found a book called Mindfulness, An Eight-Week Plan For Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. The practices in the book are based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavior Therapy (MCBT). MCBT was designed to help people with depression, and it revolves around a form of meditation called Mindfulness Meditation. According to Williams and Penman, “Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression, and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily.” From what I’ve read so far, this type of meditation doesn’t require me to stop thinking and try to make my squirrelly brain sit still in a corner somewhere; it just gives me something different to concentrate on. It’s a method of mental training.
I’m ready to start this, but I have a confession to make here — I’m a great starter, but not a great finisher. I’m really bad about starting things and stopping halfway through. In my work as a personal trainer, I encouraged clients to have an accountability partner. Having someone that you have to “answer to” can encourage you to keep going even when you’d really rather not. So…. I’d like to make you all my accountability partners by starting a Mindfulness Monday post. Each week for the next eight weeks I’ll talk a little about the previous week’s meditation practices and how I did with them. Maybe that will help me stay on track with this and let you see if it’s something that might help you as well.
Are you good at relaxing? What have you found most helpful?