When life is challenging – financial woes, illness such as celiac disease, unemployment, divorce, or whatever – it seems hard to live in the present moment.
- Celiac Counsellor’s Corner* is a place where Sherry Scheideman, M.A., Registered Clinical Counsellor, responds to your questions about the emotional and social issues that celiacs face. Diagnosed with celiac disease herself in 2001 in Victoria, BC, Sherry draws upon personal experiences and a Master’s Degree in Counseling to support you in transcending this ‘life transition’ and turning it into an opportunity to live your best life – ever.
We tend to look back to the past, yearning for the way things were before the trouble started, kicking ourselves for somehow getting into this mess, or feeling sorry for ourselves that things happened the way they did.
When we’re not looking back, we tend to look into the future, terrifying ourselves with images of what might happen next.
Both of these habits (dwelling on the past and projecting into the future) make us even unhappier.
The one thing that can help us feel better is to focus on what is happening right now, in the present moment. After all, what’s happening right now is our life.
But this is very unappealing when the present moment is painful! It’s much more tempting to run away from it, into our thoughts of past or future, than to sit in what’s actually happening right now. That’s why staying in the present moment with difficult experiences is an act of bravery.
Here are some guidelines on how to be bravely in the moment when things are tough:
- Notice that you are stressed / agonizing over the past / fearing the future.
- Congratulate yourself for noticing. (“Well done, Buddy!”)
- Take a break from your story about what is wrong. (“Take five!”)
- Turn your attention onto your breath. Focus on the sensation of the cool air coming into your nostrils, and the warmer air going out of your nostrils.
Continue to pay attention to your breath, and
- Notice sensations in your feet.
- Notice scents and sounds in your environment.
- Notice the physical sensations of emotions as they come and go.
- Use the breath as your anchor when you fear the difficult emotions will sweep you away. (Focus strongly on the cool sensation in your nostrils as the air goes in, and focus on the warmer sensation in your nostrils as the air comes out.)
- Congratulate yourself on your bravery for doing this. (“Good work, Buddy!”)
Let’s see how this works in an example of someone struggling with celiac disease.
The Celiac Difficulty: Betty was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, so she is learning to live with serious dietary restrictions. At the same time, her company chose her to go on an important business trip which will involve long days of travel and several crucial dinner meetings in a foreign country where the gluten-free diet is not well known. Betty feels frustrated and hard-done-by as she looks back to the past, when it would have been easy for her to take this great career opportunity. She wonders WHY WHY WHY she ended up with this limiting disease. She fears that if she doesn’t go, her career will be de-railed. On the other hand, she fears that if she does go, she may get ill, or be ineffective at the dinner meetings because of the dietary restrictions.
The Mindfulness Remedy: Betty notices that she’s agonizing, and says a silent, “Thanks, Buddy!” to herself for noticing. She decides to take a break from the celiac story. She focuses on
the way her breath feels at the tip of her nostrils. She notices the way her toes feel in her shoes. She notices the smell of fresh-mown grass coming in her open office window. Her gaze falls on the business trip proposal documents, and she notices a wave of emotion rising within her. She pays attention to the emotion’s sensations in her belly, her chest, her head, and her hands. She notices a fear of being swept away by the strong emotion. She decides to use her breath as her anchor. She strengthens her attention to her breath, noticing the cool air entering her nose. She breathes into the emotion and the fear, allowing them to be there. She notices that they eventually pass. Suddenly, the sunbeam shining across her desk seems brighter. She realizes that there are lots of options and possibilities to explore, whether she goes on the business trip or not. In this state of acceptance and relaxation, Betty jots down some ideas.
When life is challenging, it may seem like the hardest time to live in the moment – but it’s actually the hardest time NOT to. To focus on the past or future is agonizing. In the present moment, peace is always ready for you to notice it.
Thank you, celiac disease, for making things so tough that we become mindful and find peace!
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“Life happens! Why not love it?”
“Being diagnosed with celiac disease and going gluten-free has challenged me to develop inner resources that I never knew I had, and I’m grateful for that. As a counsellor, I love to help other celiacs find their own gifts within the challenges of the disease, and to facilitate healing. Why not let your celiac disease motivate you to be your best self?”
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- *Information and perspectives provided in Celiac Counsellor’s Corner are intended to provide general information, without independent verification on the part of The Celiac Scene for the accuracy of the information provided to it. The information is specifically not intended to be a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by your physician or other health care professional. You should always consult your own physician or other health care professionals about any medical questions, diagnosis, or treatment, especially before trying any diet. The Celiac Counsellor’s Corner does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on any content contained herein.