Friday, January 9, 2009

Mindfulness - My Ultimate Mood Stabilizer

Around this time 10 years ago, a crisis intervention team was figuring out what do do about my antidepressant-induced mania. Changing my diagnosis to bipolar and putting me on a mood stabilizer was a good first call. They also recommended cognitive therapy, once I stopped bouncing off the walls and ceiling.

"Cognitive therapy," I recall myself saying between bounces. "What's that?"

The psychiatrist on the team briefly explained.

"Ah, mindfulness," I replied.

Three blank stares.

"You know," I said, kind of floating above my chair. "The Buddha. He came up with this stuff 2,600 years ago."

Humor him, said the look on their faces. A Buddhist maniac - they come in all shapes and sizes.

The cognitive therapy, needless to say, turned out to be applied mindfulness, and proved very useful to my recovery. No one, of course, gave the Buddha any credit. Later, I learned about dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which loudly champions the Buddha and mindfulness.

These days, needless to say, mindfulness is all the rage. There's even something called "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy," which I can assure you is a redundancy.

Anyway, here I am, not bouncing off walls, still singing the praises of mindfulness. Think of the mind watching the mind. Think how useful the art of being aware can be in nipping baby mood episodes in the bud, managing stress, and otherwise reeling in a runaway brain.

Mindfulness is my number one recovery tool. It is my real mood stabilizer. But practicing mindfulness requires considerable discipline, and, if you're like me, takes years to achieve a certain level of proficiency. So please think twice before changing your relationship with your chemical mood stabilizer.

My mindfulness video is one of the first I shot shortly after buying a camcorder and film-editing software last year. I hope to shoot more mindfulness videos once I work up some more scripts.

For more on mindfulness, check out these two articles on my mcmanweb site:

Mindfulness - The Ultimate Mood Stabilizer

“'Mind precedes its objects,' reads the first line of the Dhammapada, the best-known of the Buddhist scriptures. 'They are mind-governed and mind-made.' ... "

Mindfulness - Living in the Present

"Life is a bitch. No one gets off this planet alive. We have to savor our good moments while we can. But, of course, we will miss them completely if we keep getting stuck inside our own heads."

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