My Love Affair…

I must admit…I am having a love affair. I am madly in love with my spa tub. In fact, it is one of the reasons I fell in love with the house that we bought in Virginia just about a year ago.

The master bath in our new home is large, in fact it is 13×15 feet (not including the beautiful walk-in closet) and includes his and her vanities, a shower that could hold four-five people with two shower heads and beautiful ceramic tile throughout. The spa tub sits under an eight foot picturesque window with a moon-shaped transom window above that allows the perfect view of the moon, stars, clouds, or tree tops. To me, it is the perfect room in our lovely home and a gift to myself for all the nonsense that I have gone through for the past six years.  

I am currently searching for the perfect chandelier to add a bit of elegance to the room.  When my doctors told me that a spa tub would be good for my Cervical Dystonia they didn’t specify that it needed to be ugly or boring.  In fact, I believe I paid my dues and deserve this lovely luxury. Our home in Pennsylvania had a sad little master bathroom — rather pathetic. It was a long, narrow room and only had a shower, toilet and a pedestal sink. There was no storage and no bath tub. For 18 years when I wanted to take a bath, I would gather my bath belongings and make the trek to my daughter’s bathtub, which was just a standard tub.  While she was growing up, I was surrounded by bath tub toys instead of bubbles and candles.

There is something very soothing about taking a bath in a spa tub listening to relaxing music, looking at the sky and seeing a beautiful display while surrounded by candles, bubbles, a favorite scent while having jets massage sore muscles. Some people love cars, sports,  cooking, cake decorating, etc. Me, I love my spa tub and it’s finally time I admit it.  I mention my love for my spa tub since I love to combine my tub time with another one of my favorite things…meditation.  I took a meditation class and I spend my time in the tub meditating in hopes of better managing my pain. In addition, it’s my time. My escape from the world, my medical problems — a place where I can meditate and then get lost in my thoughts.

Following one of my spa tub rituals, feeling very clean and relaxed, I turned on a television news show I don’t normally watch. However, as I turned on the television, I noticed the show was featuring a special on the benefits of meditation. I quickly became interested since they were explaining how new research indicates that meditation can physically ‘change’ the brain.  While I have only been meditating for about nine months, I knew that my coach was a big believer in how meditation can make you a happier person as well as help you manage pain along with countless other benefits.

According to the news report, several studies suggest that changes through meditation can actually make people who practice it happier, less stressed, nicer and can help control stress, eating habits and reduce chronic pain, all the while without taking prescription medication.  I remember thinking…gosh, I have been hearing and reading about this for the last nine months.  My coach could actually have saved them a lot of time and money and shared her research with them!

In fact, in February, one of the first things I did when I began My Unplanned Life was to include information about one of my favorite meditation experts Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. His book, The Catastrophic Life, is one of the most interesting books about meditation and accepting changes in your life. Dr. Kabat-Zinn, the pioneer behind Mindfulness Meditation, has written some amazing books and has several cd’s available to help get you started with meditation. While looking for answers on how to accept my spinal cord injury, the treatment by Dr. Liar and the medial malpractice lawsuit I found Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s book rescued me when I felt I was sinking.

I am fully aware that there is a lot of confusion about meditation. The type I practice and was taught is an intimate and intense exercise that can be done solo or in a group. The key to all meditation is that you have to practice — not once a month or once a week.  You have to practice every day! You have to relax, quiet yourself and take the time needed. Even meditation experts can find it difficult from time to time to meditate on a daily basis. Quieting the mind is very challenging and something I struggle with each day.

A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital (where Dr. Kabat-Zinn began his Mindfulness Meditation studies) looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.  Many doctors are beginning to prescribe meditation instead of pills to benefit their patients. In fact, in the class I took, there were patients participating whose doctors had encouraged them to take the class. In researching the topic, more than six million Americans have been recommended meditation and other mind-body therapies by conventional health care providers.

Perhaps the most mind-bending potential benefit of meditation is that it will actually make those who practice it nicer. A meditation study placed microphones on participants who had been taught basic meditation and those who hadn’t. Participants were then recorded at random during a period of time. The research found that those newly trained in meditation used less harsh language than people who had no meditation experience.  The people who were practicing meditation were more empathetic and they spent more time with other people. In the study, the participants laughed more and didn’t use the word ‘I’ as much — they used the word ‘we’ more.

Following the news report, I began thinking about how meditation had changed me and my life. Was I better able to accept my Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter diagnosis because I had changed by brain through meditation? Was I happier and less stressed and better able to deal with the unplanned portions of my life? I gave it a lot of thought during this past week. I believe I feel less stress overall and I take things more in stride. I find I give more thought to things before I say something.  And, while dealing with pain is an ongoing demon I must battle, I have accepted it as part of my life. I guess you could say that I am more tolerant when it comes to pain.

If a doctor was to study my brain to see if meditation had changed it would the test show change? Or, maybe, have I just spent too much time in the spa tub? Whatever the case, I am not going to stop doing either one. To me, they both make me feel more alive…and happier. And, at the same time, if I am less stressed, nicer and feeling less pain, and handling unplanned aspects of my life better than I have in the past than I know I must be doing something right. Is it meditation that is making me a nicer, happier, calmer person or have I just come to terms with my fate?

©My Unplanned Life and www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com 2011.

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About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter, Depression, Disability, Don't Give Up, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Dr. Liar, Faith, Happiness, Heart Condition, Medical Malpractice, Meditation, No regrets, Pain, Pain Management, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury, Surgery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My Love Affair…

  1. Rebecca Davis Merritt says:

    I started reading your blog last night when I couldn’t sleep due to pain (long story but recent fall damaged my spinal cord stimulator and I am awaiting inpatient surgery to implant new system with paddle lead). I want to thank you for your blog. I went to Amazon today to order some of the mindfulness work by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn you recommended, I believe God brings certain people into our lives when we need them and I think you are one of them for me. Interestingly, just a few days ago a person in one of my Facebook support groups (Post-Concussion) suggested I try mindfulness relaxation to ease post concussion headache. So when I read this in your blog I decided I had received the message loud and clear. I think my favorite post of yours I have read so far had to do with happiness. I am fortunate in that I have always had an attitude of gratitude and have been able to maintain my happiness and joy in living even when experiencing much pain/stress etc. I really resonated to that post as I think it could do many people a world of good.

    • mswd says:

      Rebecca ~ I am so happy you wrote and if you read my latest post (Being Courageous), I believe God sent YOU to ME! I have been feeling a bit down (ok, a lot down) due to some challenging medical problems and it makes me happy that my blog is providing you with some comfort and additional ‘messages.’ Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living, was my first introduction to meditation and biofeedback. In addition, I took a medication class and it was there where I first experienced true relaxation. Once you learn to let go and get to the point of real relaxation you work hard to achieve it whenever you need it. I also found a Christian psychiatrist, who I have written about during the last six months or so — God sent me to him for more reasons than I can possibly explain.

      It sounds like we have a lot in common. My shrink tells me it is also my sense of humor and ability to find the joy in every situation that has help get me through the tough times. I would love to know more about your situation if you are willing to share; however, I know it gets old writing and talking about your medical woes. I have a Facebook page for My Unplanned Life and will also send you my email address — I would love to hear from you! I have met the most courageous and wonderful people via the blog — another reason I feel God pushed me to write it.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write. I will be praying for you and I hope to hear from you. Wishing you a speedy recovery. I didn’t have much luck with the spinal cord stimulator, but happy for those who are able to find relief using it. Sending love and blessings and crossing my fingers that I hear from you! XO

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