At year’s end, we are invited to reflect on the year just passing by countless ads and articles. On Sunday at church, we celebrated the year end review with a fire communion. We wrote words on strips of paper to reflect on the year passing and the one to come. We burned our words of sorrow and regret in a caldron and attached others as feathers to a fabric phoenix that would rise from the ashes to fly forth in the new year. I chose to burn jealousy, regret about the past, and negativity and let fly my resolutions to see happiness in all things, to focus on being present, and to be at ease. I resolved to see all things with an open heart.
If you practice mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, you may have noticed the Eastern-inspired spiritual overtones in my words. They reflect that this year has been one of new discoveries for me. While I have dabbled in mindfulness and meditation for the last decade, I participated in a month-long Mindfulness Summit in October that was truly life changing. A member of my brain injury support group has been so enthusiastic about yoga that I gave her classes a try and ultimately signed up for a three-year membership at the local gym where the classes are held. I am thrilled with the transformations that mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have brought about . . . because I have had my head in a cloud of dispair for too long.
Some of my tendency toward depression lies in my pensive nature and introverted preferences. But I became even more depressed and anxious about life after a moderate brain injury in 1977, when I was 22. The gloomy forces built until I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2004. Even though medication and information about how brain injuries work have helped me, it wasn’t until I had that ah-ha moment in 2013, at the end of my late-in-life graduate school career, that I was able to turn the corner. Afterwards, I wrote my brain-injury memoir and unpacked all of the pain by naming my physical and cognitive symptoms. I examined each one. I considered long-term management. At last, with amazement, I felt relief!
Since then I have begun to grow again. I smile. When I ruminate, I simply put a stop to thinking the thoughts that bring me down. (Yes, we can control our thoughts by focusing on our breath, the present moment, our mantra!) I feel at ease knowing that I can be present and open-hearted.
An article in Tricyle, Buddist Thank-you Cards: Finding gratitude for life’s ‘10,000 sorrows’ and turning suffering into our greatest source of compassion and creativity, spurred me on to write this blog post. It reminded me once again that suffering is our greatest source of transformation. Suffering is the source of awakening! This Buddist observation is getting it’s day in the sun due to the popularity of neuroscience too. I recently read Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth.
Count me it! I am exited for the New Year, an emotion I haven’t considered in quite some time.