Reply To: Week 4 Homework Assignment (Mindfulness in Behavioral Health)

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Kathryn Vandermast

1. Going into this exercise I thought I had made a mistake in pouring a cup of coffee for myself prior to beginning. I had only taken one sip of the coffee so I could still taste it in my mouth and when I began the exercise I kept thinking about my coffee. Once the wave exercise began, I found that it was helpful to have this very present and real craving to understand if the mindfulness meditation could in fact help me ride the wave of the urge for caffeine at 2pm in the afternoon. One reason that this exercise worked for me was for the same reason the thought diffusion exercise worked for me and that is because water and nature are what I use to alleviate my suffering. Imagining myself continuing to ride the wave brought my body into a place of peace and away from the thoughts of my craving because I could feel the weight of my body being lifted as it is when you are floating on the ocean. The urge would pop back into my head, but I could just return to floating on a wave. Sadly, I did end up drinking that cup of coffee when I was done but it did make me think about the possibility of not pouring that cup at 2pm and trying mindfulness instead because I did feel more alert after. It made me realize that in the beginning stages of recovery one may have to utilize this meditation frequently and understand those times when the craving is more real. If you smoke and you know you want to smoke after you eat then after finishing the meal attempt this exercise and see if that urge can be overcome, then the next hurdle after a stressful interaction, attempt this exercise rather then the cigarette. Addiction is so much more then a chemical dependence and there are all these stressors in life that cause someone an urge so having this as a tool can allow someone to be proactive with their urges and tackle them as soon as it is understood that there is a likelihood of them surfacing.
2. After trying all the exercises I decided to discuss the “feeling emotion without judgement” one because that is the exercise, I got the most reward out of physically. I thought I would prefer the thought diffusion because that is often what I do to quickly go into a more mindful state in that I will picture myself in my favorite spot in nature. I found when I did that 2nd exercise on my own simply following the directions of the exercise that it was effective, but I did not like the guided version because I didn’t necessarily want to do a full body scan and I wanted to be able to choose my location mentally. I once again struggled with the loving mindfulness exercise because of the need to continue back to specific words or phrases. When I did the feeling emotions without judgement, I was able to take a word such as sadness which I had been feeling as we crawl towards the end of winter but as I felt it throughout my body, I did not feel sadness in a negative way, I felt it as a warmth through my body and I was able to let it go. I felt relaxed and at peace with the feeling which is not what I had expected going into the exercise. I could see this being useful for people who struggle with anxiety and depression and over time someone who may struggle with trauma, but maybe not at the beginning stages of trauma work when feelings are so raw but as a clinician might begin introducing coping skills around a person’s trauma.
3. I have really enjoyed exploring all the different exercises and I really appreciated you sharing your own story because that helped me to see mindfulness in practice from the perspective of someone who utilized it on their journey and felt the profound advantages of it. I have learned that I have a lot of work I need to do within myself to lean into my own suffering and accept that there is pain and discomfort in life, and I can’t do things to avoid it I have to learn how to accept it and let it go. When reading other people’s comments, it’s so interesting to see how all these exercises impacted people so differently. One that I may have really disliked others found very effective which enhances in my mind the importance of the relationship you have with the people you are working with and understanding that there isn’t one version to approach mindfulness for all but the exercise you choose needs to make sense for the person you are working within that moment in time. What really needs to happen before I start attempting this practice with others is that I need to practice it in myself. I am someone who has always needed to believe in what I’m selling so I have to make mindfulness a part of my day to day, have the ability to recognize how it may be benefitting me before I am going to start trying it with anyone I work with however through this training I have recognized the potential for significant benefits and have every intention of making the commitment to myself so that I may bring it into the lives of others.