28/05/2014 08:25 BST | Updated 27/07/2014 06:59 BST

Mindfulness, Meditation, and Calming the Hell Down

There I was, trying to practice mindfulness, when two birds flew out of nowhere and scared the shit out of me. I was sitting on the step to my patio when all of a sudden a frantic flurry of wing-flapping disturbed my inner peace. These disturbers of the peace dropped their hard-earned worm out of their mouths, for which I felt tremendously guilty. Here I was, attempting to be one with nature and calm the hell down, and nature ended up making me more nervous.

This, thankfully, has been the first and only occurrence, thus far, that nature has disturbed my peace instead of enhanced it. Currently, I'm on a quest to find calm in the midst of my inner mental turmoil. I have a not-so-fabulous trifecta of mood disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D.), and sporadic Depression, that has bestowed upon me the gift of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.)--fun! Needless to say, I've had to try many things to calm the shit in my mind so that I could calm the shit in my body...literally. Therapy, medication, exercise, and essential oils have all helped tremendously, but it hadn't been until I discovered this thing called mindfulness that I've truly started to find peace.

Mindfulness, in its simplest form, means to be in the present moment. This is, of course, easier said than done. I don't know about you, but when I'm trying to relax, my mind inevitably wanders into a tail-spin of worries and to-do lists. The key, I've discovered, is not trying to empty the mind, but instead concentrating fully on something in the now. For instance, focusing on my breath has been immensely helpful. As I breathe in, I think about how the air feels, where it is coming in, the temperature of it, where it goes as it enters my body. I put one hand on my tummy and one hand on my heart to feel its journey in and out of my body. I'll even think as I do this, "Inhale positivity; exhale doubt," and repeat.

The mental tornado, picking up debris of rubbish and unnecessary worries quickening its pace as it does so, that is my mind, has had a rough go of it this year. I've had to take a medical leave of absence from work because the damage the tornado caused was simply too destructive to fix without taking the necessary time to do so. I have had no other choice but to find a way to relax and calm my mind so that I don't further put my health in jeopardy. I have been forced to relax; it kind of sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it? It's the truth though, and honestly, without having been forced to do it, I'm not sure if I would have. It's difficult to give yourself permission to take care of you. There's a feeling of guilt and selfishness that accompanies it, which is utterly nonsensical. I know, rationally, that if I don't take care of myself, then I won't be around to take care of the people whom I love. It's not selfish to take care of ourselves; it's called self-preservation, and it's absolutely and totally necessary. There's a reason that airlines instruct us to put our own breathing masks on first in an emergency before we help those around us. What help are we if we're passed out or dead? What good are we if we're gone, physically or mentally? I've had to realize that I can't check out and that I have to make myself, my health, my number one priority.

Thankfully, practicing mindfulness, being aware of the present moment, has allowed me to relax in a way that I haven't before. I feel grounded, centered, aware, and awake. I've been able to make mindfulness a habit everyday by listening to 20 minute meditation apps and practicing yoga. By habitually practicing mindfulness, I'm able to spend time outdoors and notice everything from the smell of summer coming, the wind in the trees, the cool grass under my feet, and the occasional flutter of a beautiful butterfly, which brings a sense of tranquility I haven't experienced in a long time, if ever.

Despite my scary/guilty/nervous brush with the birds this morning, I'm going to continue to practice mindfulness while relishing the wonders of nature. We're just going to have to learn to be at peace in the same space, damnit.

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