Side effects to Mindfulness
By Dr. Vijita Ningombam
A few years ago, I came across the term ‘Mindfulness’ while I was browsing through the internet. I was surprised because it was a practice I was following for many years without knowing that they had a term for it. To me, it was called ‘living in the moment’. A practice that I tried to follow over and over again even though there were many failures at it.
I was intrigued yet filled with gratitude to be stumbling upon a word that I truly believed in. Even through I was practicing to live in the moment all the time, I was only trying my own experiments with it without a guide but now that I had a guide and many articles and books I could read on Mindfulness, I knew I was getting closer to Nirvana!
The definition of Mindfulness as found in many books, articles and even wikipedia is- The psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one develop through the practice of meditation and through other trainings. It is based on Buddhist, Zen, Vipassana and Tibetan meditation techniques.
My practice was similar, I did try my best to live in the moment and enjoy the present, keeping the past behind and embracing the future however it comes. But then, I felt I should try and let mindfulness meditation guide me.
I remember planning it out and deciding to try Yoga at the same time and everyday after my Yoga session, I followed it with mindfulness meditation.
It felt great! Even though each day was a different experience all together. Some days I managed to sit for merely 10 minutes and some for about an hour. I had realised that I can concentrate best on my breathing around my nostrils, so that was how I sat everyday, just breathing!
The first few months was just about concentrating on my breath and letting every thoughts pass by without judging them. It definitely sounds easy but it wasn’t a smooth ride at all. I did manage to succeed most of the time but sometimes it just went out of my hands.
A few months into mindfulness meditation, when I realised that I had kind of succeeded in concentrating on my breath for most part of my meditation sessions, I decided to practice the same in my day to day life, throughout the day.
While walking, I tried to feel the ground, enjoy the fresh air I was breathing, recognising my surroundings and being grateful for experiencing its beauty. While I spoke to someone, I concentrated on their words without judging them and just seeing their inner beauty as a human. While taking a shower I would feel the water drops dripping from my skin and feeling its touch. While eating, I would taste the food and concentrate on my taste buds and relish the food.
I felt myself changing in a good way, I had become a very compassionate person. I realised I stopped judging people and anything else. I found myself loving life, just as it was and not trying to change a thing.
But then just as things were going very well with me, I started feeling something that I had never experienced, it was my first Panic attack!
I remember my heartbeat racing and my breath rate speeding, I felt heaviness on my chest and my ears were pounding by the sound of the palpitation of my heart, it was that moment that I felt that I having a heart attack!
I wondered why it even happened to me, specially because I was following a practice that is said keep you calm and stress free. It is also claimed by many as a treatment to anxiety or depression. Well, it was ironic and something I never expected.
I stopped practicing for a few days, because I felt that I would have never had that episode of having a panic attack if I didn’t concentrate on my breath in the first place. And then the second episode happened again a few months later, of course, because mindfulness had become a habit to me even though I felt that It was doing harm to my body.
I became more anxious because, I didn’t want to end up taking medications for anxiety. So, I told myself that if mindfulness made me go through something like this, it has to get me out of it as well because, well, that’s what they claim!
So, I pulled out my yoga mat after a few months of keeping it in one corner of my room and started my practice all over again, surprisingly it felt like I was trying it for the first time. My body had become quite stiff just in a few months. I felt that it was probably did some good before, at least I was more flexible! Anyway, I followed my mindfulness meditation after a brief yoga session. (Oh! The reason why I always try to do a little yoga before meditating is because I’ve always felt that I can concentrate better).
In just a few days through my practice, life had changed all over again. I felt that I could control a full blown panic attack by just sitting still and making it pass by. And honestly, that moment to me felt like I achieved Nirvana! I did have a few more panic attack like situations but now that I knew how to smile back at it without it affecting me at all, it never came back again!
I sat down one day to analyse what really happened to me in the past few months, and that day I realised that I went through everything that I did because I was learning about my body, its reaction to things around me and situations in my life. Life is obviously not a smooth ride, there are things to be stressed about and it is totally normal to be stressed or sad or happy or excited.
Your heart beat will never beat at a constant rate, and that’s totally physiological. Your breath will vary throughout the day according to the physical activity you are at or just your thoughts.
All my life, I had never studied myself so when I started to do that, for the first time I was I experiencing every situation and my body’s reaction to it, some of these emotions were perceived to be normal and some to be dangerous. I didn’t realise that some of these physiological changes were normal even though theoretically as a doctor I knew what it meant, and so I reacted to it and my brain’s feedback mechanism followed suit turning it into a panic like situation.
As I’m writing this article, it’s been almost 7 years into my practice of Mindfulness. And I feel great! I feel like I’m a more caring and compassionate human being than I was before because I can relate to other living creatures better and understand their emotions. I’m more aware that change is the only constant and I enjoy experiencing that every moment. I hardly feel angry or get stressed about anything. My married life is going great because it’s easier to understand my partner’s emotion and love. I’ve found my passion in art and I, along with my co-founder built an art company called R&V Art house to help promote those artist who share the same passion as me. I find pleasure in helping others as I love to see the happiness in their eyes and feel their emotions. I don’t feel the need to search for happiness everywhere because whatever I have is enough for me. I enjoy every little breath I take moment by moment and I’m more alive than ever before!
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