By Carol Rankin
This is my narrative of the first experiences with mindfulness and meditation in an organic deep sense of awareness. l thought that I would begin by expressing how I felt during the process of an unknown territory, with some reservation of the unfamiliarity ideology of the technique process in mindfulness.
Yet a stir in my body and mind needed to understand the mechanisms of the subject and, unknown to me, I would find that the entire subject and the practical program experiences were not only fascinating but challenging, with a lucid notion that I have never experienced before. A journey that I intend to explore and learn to navigate, the technique of meditation with maintaining the focus of the objective with the realisation that the technique would manifest itself in an unordinary way.
I recently attended a hospital appointment; it was for an MRI scan. For those who have never had, or experienced, an MRI scan examination, it can be a daunting process, especially if you suffer from anxiety and it is your first-time experiencing this type of examination.
A radiologist escorted me to the radiology room and asked that I remove all metal objects and jewellery. In that moment, I informed the radiologist that I needed to prep my mindset in readiness for the scan and to control my anxiety.
I began the 5,4,3,2,1 process method (taught by Dr Dean Howes), moving my focus to my breathing techniques. The radiologist continued to proceed with explaining the procedure of the MRI scan which takes approximately 25-30 minutes for the examination to complete.
If you have never seen what an MRI Scanner looks like, well…it is a beast of an intimidating high-technology performance instrument, which has a tunnel that resembles a time travel machine with a bed inside the tunnel. The gigantic machinery is quite noisy with a rattling sound, jolting motion and vibration which is unsettling. The size of the machinery is enough to give you motion sickness, to say the least.
Focusing on breathing technique, allowing diaphragm to expand on intake of breath, and visualising scenery, from time to time my mind would wander. This was fine as I just kept refocusing, then suddenly I entered the dark tunnel. I emerged into a full deeper path which led me into silence, stillness and then nothingness. Funnily enough still very much aware of my surrounding, the MRI scanner, the jolting motion, vibration, and the rattling sound of empty drainpipes. However, it was no longer significant as I was deep in meditation.
What I found astonishing is how the MRI scanner no longer appeared or seemed threatening. My anxiety level reduced as I was now in a deep sense of nothingness, mind being emptied. I felt free and calm within myself.
As the MRI scan was counting down its examination completion, I noticed that I remained in deep consciousness. The radiologist entered the room and tried to wake me up, but I was unable to come out of my emptiness. The radiologist noted that I remained in meditation mode, so allowed me the extra time with the hope I was able to gain consciousness and be present.
Eventually, I did come round and what I found interesting was I recalled the feeling of calm, safety, refreshment and the chronic pain that I was experiencing was bearable. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I intend to continue this journey of mindfulness and meditation as part of my daily life.
Dr Dean Howes is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick Centre for Lifelong Learning. Dean teaches a variety of mindfulness, psychology and coaching courses and modules. He has been a tutor at the centre for more than ten years.
You can learn more about our Centre’s mindfulness courses here.