Finding The Pleasant in the Unpleasant
A couple of weeks ago I experienced a colonoscopy. Like most people I don’t particularly relish the thought of an invasive medical procedure. However, throughout the experience I was able to find elements that were pleasant. In almost any circumstances we may be able to use our mindfulness practice to see the bigger picture and gain perspective.
These are my mindful observations from that experience:
Prior to the procedure I had to fast for around 30 hours. So when I walked into the office the morning before my appointment (a few hours after breakfast) I was feeling pretty hungry. My colleague was preparing biscuits for that afternoon’s class. At first I became distracted – wondering how I would feel after another 26 hours without food. I was focusing on my future needs rather than what was important in that moment. Rather than concentrating on the work I needed to do I had allowed myself to be distracted. I then chose to focus on what I could appreciate about that moment, such as the sensations of my breath. And I chose to remind myself of how fortunate I am that I usually have enough food to eat.
The pleasant journey to the hospital:
I was due at the hospital, approximately 2 miles away, at 11:30am. I decided to take the opportunity to practice mindful walking. I set off at 1030 with a carrier bag containing my dressing gown and slippers. The air temperature as about 4⁰C, the sky was overcast and there was fine drizzle. Initially I noticed my body hunch up in reaction to the cold and damp air, and my walking pace increased. As I became aware of my posture I brought my attention to my breath. I felt the tension soften as I lifted my head and slowed my pace. For the first few minutes I focused my attention on appreciating the felt sensations of walking.
I turned my attention to the rain, initially noticing the changing shades of my light blue shirt – I had neglected to zip up my jacket. I began to reflect on the weather and our tendency to complain about it. Yes it was cold, yes it was wet, yes the sky was grey. The cold helps balance the ecosystem and control the growth of bacteria, essential for a healthy living environment. The rain provides water, water to drink and water to feed trees, plants and crops. Trees need water for growth and photosynthesis, essential for the air we breath. The plants give us colour and beauty, and the crops give us food – rain gives us life! And the clouds, well they give us rain and protect us from harmful UV rays.
After a short wait, the nurse, took me to the operating theatre, where I was greeted by two more nurses and the surgeon. I elected not to have sedation although gas and air would be available as required. The nurse, attempted to insert a needle in my arm. Historically I have never had a problem giving blood, indeed a phlebotomist, during a recent hospital admission, was quite excited by the accessibility of my veins! However, I noticed with curiosity, and a bit of pain, that the nurse was struggling to locate a vein. After about 3 minutes,, the other nurse, took over and after a short time decided to try the other arm. This was immediately successful.
With nothing to watch I focused on my breathing to manage the pain and discomfort. To be fair it was not as bad as I expected and only resorted to the gas and air when the tube was required to turn a corner. After about 20 minutes I was asked to roll over onto my back, I was now able to watch the main feature- ‘Mark Sidney: The inside story’. I watched with curiosity as the camera travelled through my colon towards my small intestine. Although a part of me, there was nothing familiar about the images I was viewing. I noticed that the pain and discomfort softened as I became more curious and focused my attention on this alien landscape. As the surgeon took biopsies at different sections, I expected to feel something, a sharp stabbing pain, a pinprick, but no I could see it happening but could not feel the sensation. Another 25 minutes later, the procedure was over.
Although the procedure was uncomfortable at times, it was also fascinating. I was able to marvel at both the wonders of the human body and the progress of modern medicine.
Throughout the entire process I appreciated the kindness and dedication of the staff I encountered. I met five members of staff on that visit, whose prime concern was my health and wellbeing. They put my mind at ease and explained every part of the process. We even shared a joke or two!
My mindful colonoscopy?
So what have I taken from this experience? Certainly it is not something I would choose to go through. However, I have learned that I really can choose how to respond in any situation. I can choose to seek out the pleasant. On our courses we talk about the 3 A’s of Mindfulness, Accepting, Appreciating and Allowing. By accepting the negative and appreciating the positives we can begin to allow our experiences to flow together, the pleasant with the unpleasant This can help us to see our lives and situation in a bigger context. Whether a colonoscopy, getting caught in the rain, or any other seemingly unpleasant experience, look for the pleasant and allow yourself to see the bigger picture.
If you want to find out more about how Mindfulness can change your perspective, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org