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Mindfulness - Part 3

By John McManamy

My first real test using mindfulness came in the fall of 2005. I had successfully maintained a low dose regimen for more than a year, way lower than the recommended clinical dose. That summer, lightning struck. An enlightened editor at HarperCollins informed me that my manuscript had been accepted for publication. For years, I had struggled to keep my head above water. Now - finally - I could start swimming.

In the meantime, I was emerging from my shell. I was meeting more people through my involvement in state DBSA activities. After one event, with my hypomania cranking up, I sensibly chilled out in my hotel room. After another, where I talked way too much in the car on the way home, I judiciously spent a quiet evening at home.

Half the trick of mindfulness is being able to spot your mood episodes as they begin - or even before they begin - while you are still in control of your brain, while you still have choices. Most of the time, the solution is fairly simple - a time-out, a break, some quiet moments, a good night’s sleep.

It is when we give into our feelings that we get into trouble. We’re having fun. We want to enjoy the moment. We get carried away. We can’t stop. Call 911.

Very quickly, things with state DBSA turned ugly. I resigned from the board and spun into a sudden deep depression. Back in the old days, I probably would have been in denial about my depression. I would have put on a brave front and soldiered on, only to be hammered by a force that is way too much for one person to handle

This time, I acknowledged the terrible feeling. I was going down. Of that I had no doubt. But I still had power to manage the descent. My depression was complicated by the fact that the weather instantly turned foul and stayed foul. Nature had turned on me.

The other half of mindfulness is detachment. Detachment is a key part of Buddhist teaching. When the mind watches the mind, the skillful person does so with practiced disinterest, as if observing the grass growing or the paint drying. We pay attention to our thoughts and feelings bubbling to the surface, but the trick is not to identify with them. They are just thoughts and emotions. They gain force only when we attach ourselves to them. Then we enter the world of illusion, with our entire reality caught up in our fears and desires.

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