Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of the first books I read that helped me to observe what was going on in my mind, and not become the thoughts.
I was on vacation with my husband in the summer of 1999. I dreaded trips and the spike of anxiety that came with them.
Unfamiliar surroundings + free time + belief that I didn't have any right to enjoy anything + belief that if I did enjoy something, then something bad would happen=high anxiety. I came across Kabat-Zinn's book as we were checking out a local bookstore. Something about the title resonated with my sense of impending doom. I started reading that evening.
We went to visit old friends who lived on top of a mountain. As I sat in their living room, watching hummingbirds hovering at the feeder outside the picture window, my eyes glanced down at my arm, and a mole which I had fixated on the past suddenly became the total focus of my attention, and knocked my heart up into my throat. I excused myself and went into the bathroom, and examined the mole. I felt my knees sinking, a cloud of dread blocking out all peripheral vision, reducing my consciousness to the mole.
The observing part of myself saw how quickly the anxiety came, like an injection, and how much I hated it. Kabat-Zinn helped get me back in the room, back into a 3-D world. The present moment is all we have. If we exile it into trying to know the future(is this mole cancerous? Will my anxiety ever go away?), we are losing our lives. I went back into the living room to watch the hummingbirds. It wasn't like a conversion experience or magic, just a glimmer of being more than my anxiety and obsessions. It sucked having the wind knocked out of me by anxiety. I felt tentative, vulnerable, sad. I felt weak. And yet, my observing self was alive, and hanging on somehow.
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