I've been practising mindfulness now for 4 years. But there's nothing like a crisis for you to find out how well your practise stands up! So, when I recently lost all my hearing my mindfulness was truly put to the test...
When I teach mindfulness one of the first exercises I get people to do is the tea meditation. Now I have to do it every time I want to make a brew, otherwise I have no way of knowing when the kettle has boiled!
Much to my husband's delight I have had to embrace single-tasking. I can no longer spend the evening watching TV and scrolling through Facebook. Instead I'm reliant on subtitles and have my eyes glued to the big screen rather than a little one.
Much of the time when we listen to people we're only paying half-attention while we're thinking of what we're going to say in response. Now I have no choice but to listen mindfully - I have to use my eyes, my brain and my full attention just to get the gist of what's being said.
I have become very mindful of how my body reacts to stress. Because of my regular mindfulness practice I have been able to take a step back and watch how shallow my breathing becomes when I get anxious about an impending test, about the results and about what that means for my hearing. I've also observed the range of thoughts that pop into my head: - is it a tumour? How can I continue to work if I'm completely deaf?
I've had to learn to live with new and raging tinnitus in the ear where I've recently lost my hearing. It's tempting to dwell on how bad it is to have tinnitus in both ears, and how little sleep I'm getting (it's currently 3:20am!). Instead I am trying to observe my tinnitus neutrally. Is it constant? How does it fluctuate? Does it ever disappear (yes, it does from time to time. Not for long, but enough to notice if I'm paying attention.) Noticing those periods of relative quiet gives a moment of relief. But not one I cling to, otherwise my days (and nights) would be dictated by these small pockets of silence and the hope they bring.
But I'm not perfect. I'm human. And whereas before I used to find the errors in the live subtitles on the news hilarious, now they make me want to throw things at the TV in frustration at the ridiculous gobbledygook they come up with. Yes, I know that's not very mindful, but I'm sure you get where I'm coming from!
If you're struggling to come to terms with your hearing loss or tinnitus, do get in touch. I know what it's like from personal experience and can help you to make the most of your new life.