larryB&W@300This question & answer column is for people living with chronic health challenges and their family caregivers, who want to learn to increase the odds of improving their health by learning to live with mastery & wellbeing.

I invite you to post your questions in the comments box below and I will answer them on a future Friday in this column. I post to this blog three times per week. Monday posts are relevant published articles. Wednesday posts are interviews—mostly video. Friday posts consist of your questions about living better with chronic health challenges, and my answers to them.

Someone recently asked me this question during one of my presentations:

Question: You talk a lot about mindfulness-based mastery and although I’ve actually been practicing mindfulness meditation for years, I don’t have a sense of having any degree of the mastery of the mind that you describe. For example, I’ll be in a conversation but my own thoughts are grabbing so much of my attention that I’m missing some of what the other person is saying. How can I be less entangled with my own thoughts so that I can focus more on the other person’s words? That’s the kind of mastery I want, but my meditation practice hasn’t gotten me there.

Answer: Great question! I can tell that you’re an experienced meditator because mindfulness practice has allowed you to become aware that you are caught up in your thoughts. People without your experience of mindfulness practice are not even aware of their wandering minds.

For many years, I had a formal sitting meditation practice for 40-minutes after work every day. It did not confer a sense of mastery to me because that isolated formal practice was not enough.

Mindfulness, ultimately, can be practiced during every waking moment, and the results are dose-dependent. Whenever I’m in the common situation you described, I acknowledge to myself that my mind wandered off, and then, with strong resolve, I put 100% of my attention on what the other person is saying (or on whatever the activity is at that moment). Often, that works for a minute and then my mind has wandered off again. So, I just keep working at returning all my attention to where I want it. 

Mastery, like the elusive enlightenment concept, which is described in Buddhist texts, can only be had from moment to moment, but it’s worth the effort.

This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.

What questions do you have about how to live better with chronic health challenges? Each Friday, I will answer your questions in Chronic Illness Q&A with Dr. B. Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box and you’ll see my response to you in an upcoming Friday post.

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