Nicole: You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us.
Mason: Yeah. Yeah, I know. It’s constant – -the moment. It’s just… It’s like it’s always right now, you know?
Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I looked forward to being “seized by the moment”. I was going to see my fellow veterinarians at the Mindfulness Meditation Retreat in Chicago. Through initial introductions via the Veterinary Information Network, our cyberspace meetings become corporeal. The names on the computer screen would have faces and voices! I’d come to share a deep connection with those who had attended every year. It was this sense of community that drew more newcomers to explore what the weekend was all about.
For the last four years, Dr. Michele Gaspar has organized the retreats in Chicago. Her vision is to have veterinarians find healthier ways to manage with the work we do. Sharing our stories was a large part of the time spent together. The stage was set early by the 24 people that attended. Many felt free to express their thoughts in this non-judgemental space. Listening and talking helped us realize how we’re not alone in our daily struggles, as we seek to provide the best care for our patients and their owners.
We needed a different tool for skillful living so we explored how mindfulness meditation could help. There was a big focus on developing a sitting, breath-centered practice. This would be a better way to deal with the thoughts (worries, anxiety, stress, depression) than the behaviours we’d been using and which were no longer working for us. Sitting and watching our thoughts would teach us to pause before reacting, observe how our thoughts were being generated (sometimes randomly) by our overactive minds and that we could eventually learn how to co-exist with uncomfortable thoughts. We sat several times each morning and afternoon. My experience, of repeatedly being still and quiet, helped to peel away the layers of tension I didn’t want to acknowledge or maybe even knew existed.
Through yoga, we also developed our mind-body awareness. After spending most of my life living in my head, I knew how it could lead to a disconnect from my body. I had the opportunity to teach a few basic classes and a chair yoga sequence during the weekend. I did it with the intention of feeling the sensations in the body, in order to link breath with movement. It was encouraging to introduce yoga to those that were new to it, as well practice with colleagues who had already discovered its benefits. I tried to let people understand the yoga poses were nothing more than a physical manifestation. We were the ones bringing our stories and interpretations along with us, onto the mat.
We’d just gotten comfortable with being in a group. We shared meals, took a walk and had a chance to rest. There was gelato, while watching a movie. Before we knew it, our moments together had passed. We’d have to wait another year before we could reconnect. Knowing these people are out there, doing the best they can, is heart-warming and will continue to encourage me everyday.