When I do my therapy groups, I always start the group with a mindfulness exercise.
When somebody new joins the group, I always acknowledge, honor, and celebrate that by doing a particular mindfulness exercise.
In this mindfulness exercise, I ask people to focus on their breath (a very common focus for a mindfulness exercise).
I invite them to observe, just notice, the breath. They don’t need to change the breath, in any way.
I also invite them to do the following: Breathe in something they would like to take in more of — from the room or from the universe. And breathe out something like they would like to let go of.
Because examples help explain things (especially something new), I always predict how I might do this mindfulness exercise.
I say something like this: “I don’t know what I’m going to breathe in and breathe out, but I’m going to make a prediction. I might breathe in gratitude for all of you being here, and I might breathe out any anxiety about doing something new, because every group is new.” (Other things I’ve predicted I’m going to breathe in during this mindfulness exercise: hope, connection, and the awareness of each moment. Other things I’ve predicted I’m going to breathe out: distraction, fear, and anything that gets in the way of my being in the moment.)
I really like this mindfulness exercise. Even if I’m too distracted to focus very well, even if my mind wanders a lot (because that’s what minds tend to do), it helps to just allow for the possibility of — to make some space for — breathing in something helpful and breathing out something that gets in the way.
Yesterday, when I did one of these groups, there was somebody new there. (And, as I wrote about yesterday, somebody was missing, too, for a very good reason.)
So, because somebody new was joining the group, I did that mindfulness exercise.
And, as often happens when I do that exercise, I breathed in gratitude and I let go of …. anxiety.
I had a good reason to be anxious yesterday.
Doing something new is always a “good reason” for increased anxiety.
Here were some of the new things I did yesterday:
- I facilitated a therapy group, with a new mix of people
- I needed to get my 3-month teeth cleaning and I had to go to a new place to get the Intravenous antibiotics I require whenever I get my teeth cleaned.
- I went to a new dental hygienist, to get the teeth cleaning.
Probably some explanation would be helpful, right now, especially regarding #2 and especially for people who don’t know me and/or haven’t read every friggin’ blog post I’ve written this year.
I have a Very Unusual Heart. My VUH is prone to endocarditis (which is an infection of the lining of the heart). (I wrote about this in detail, on Day 65, when I thought I might have endocarditis again.) Since I’ve gotten endocarditis three times so far in my life, my doctors and I came up with this plan: I will have my teeth cleaned every three months and I will receive an intravenous dose of antibiotics before each cleaning.
This is routine for me, now.
However, many things about this process were new, yesterday.
Some of these things were new because of a change I had chosen – to go to a new dental hygienist, who works with my wonderful dentist, whom I wrote about here.
That’s my dentist, Dr. Luis Del Castillo (in a photo I took on April 13). (I didn’t take a picture of my new dental hygienist yesterday. Perhaps that’s because I was too ….. anxious?)
Some of the new things I encountered yesterday were due to changes beyond my control.
That’s my beloved IV nurse, Kerri. She left her position a couple of months ago — eeeek! — but, thank goodness, moved to another place within the same hospital, so I could still work with her — Yay! (By the way, that picture was taken four months ago, at the old location. I didn’t take a picture of her at the new location yesterday. Any guesses why that might be?)
Yesterday, I was breathing out and letting go of anxiety, every step of the way, as I encountered new things during this process of getting my teeth cleaned, this process of not getting endocarditis, this process of staying healthy and alive.
And when I’m doing something new (and when the possibilities of illness — and death — are more in my consciousness), I definitely have more anxiety to breathe out.
My new dental hygienist (not pictured), named Michel, said a lot of things to me yesterday as she was cleaning my teeth. I didn’t say much because, well, she was cleaning my teeth.
Here are some of the things she said to me yesterday that are sticking in my mind, right now:
- “I don’t expect you to trust me immediately. You are just meeting me.”
- “It’s very important to trust your dental hygienist. It’s a relationship. It’s especially important for YOU to be able to trust your dental hygienist.
- “Let me tell you all the reasons why you won’t get endocarditis by getting your teeth cleaned here.” *
- “With your history, I would expect that sometimes you might obsess about keeping your teeth perfectly cleaned and other time you wouldn’t want to deal with it, at all.”
- “Let me know if you are uncomfortable, for any reason, at any moment.
- “A lot of people cry here. “
She said that last thing, when — in response to her understanding and empathy — I let go, in a rush of tears.
I never cried with my old dental hygienist. That might be a reason why I left, and found a new one.
That concludes this blog post for today.
Thanks to Michel, Dr. Del Castillo, and Kerri; to everybody who has ever helped me stay healthy; and to you, too, for reading today.
* A teeth cleaning at the dentist is the leading cause of endocarditis, for people who are prone to it.