Yesterday I got the clearance from my surgeon that I get to return to work this week! It has been 7 long weeks since surgery, and I was starting to go a little stir crazy during the recovery process. This morning, as I was reflecting on the last 7 weeks, I found myself feeling extremely grateful. Not only was the surgery successful in diminishing the level of pain I experience, but it also gave me the opportunity to check back in on ME.
I've spent the last month meditating every single day, and becoming aware of thoughts and feelings and sensations that in my regular day-to-day life I had lost awareness of. I found myself going through a mental check list everyday of all the skills I've been using, not just to get through the hard part of recovery, but also to find the things that drive me directly into happiness. I've spent time with myself figuring out all the things I want to accomplish, and how I want to get there. I've witnessed subtle shifts in everything from my mood, to my physical state, to the energy I put out into the world.
All this from meditating, you ask? Yes. Thirty minutes every single day where I carve out time to sit with just me and everything going on with me.
Now let me be honest. I teach mindfulness on the regular. I tell my clients ALL THE TIME that mindfulness doesn't have to be sitting cross-legged with your hands in a pose, chanting. I teach them it can be anything from taking a shower, to listening to music, to washing dishes (that's one of my favorite mindfulness activities.) I tell them "Mindfulness isn't about getting to a place of Zen. It's about being present in the moment and noticing when you aren't in the moment, and then bringing yourself back." I believe this in the core of my soul. I practice it daily... AND...I've been meditating for the last 30 days...cross-legged, hands in a pose, and chanting. It's all the things I teach my clients. I'm in the moment, I'm constantly bringing myself back to the moment, AND...there have been more moments than not, where I actually feel like I am in a place of Zen.
The beauty of mindfulness/meditation, is that it's unique to every person. Each individual has the opportunity to find out what works for them. For some, it's hiking in the mountains. For others, it's playing an instrument. Some people are most mindful when they are doing a self-care activity like getting a massage or facial. Some find their most mindful moments in conversations with others, or while cooking. Others find it by just sitting in stillness and watching or counting their breath. I've done all of these things, and they have served as incredible practices in training my mind to stay present and aware in the moment I am in. The shift for me, that came from taking a leap of faith into the unknown of meditation, is that I have consistently felt connected to my inner self, in a way I haven't experienced in the ten years I have been practicing mindfulness.
I've been able to access emotions that I didn't want to face, with a sense of safety and comfort, and heal parts of myself that I was convinced were irreparable. I was able to shine light on beliefs, and fears, and uncertainties that had been lurking in the shadows, driving my actions or lack of action. I've found inspiration and motivation to pursue my passions. I've uncovered parts of my authentic self, that I didn't even know were there. I did this in 30 minutes for 30 days!
Believe me. I get it. It sounds like I just jumped off the woo-woo diving board. My judgmental self was questioning how meditating was going to change anything when I first started thinking about doing it. Thankfully, my non-judgmental self checked the facts and urged me to try something I hadn't. It told me "Kate, you've got all this time on your hands while you recover at home. What's the worst that can happen? You feel nothing? Nothing changes? At least you can say you tried it!"
So here I am, on the precipice of returning to work, after almost 2 months at home. Not only am I returning with less pain, but I'm returning in a rejuvenated state, with an experience that is going to allow me to do my job with more compassion and empathy. With more experience of both how frustrating and rewarding any kind of recovery can be. With more insight into how I want to teach DBT and model how effective the skills are. More than anything, I get to return with a stronger sense of self. I get to jump back into my life with my eyes wide open, a more open and receptive heart, and with the a renewed intention of changing people's lives, just by living mine.