Why is so important for you to know who you are and who you’re not, considering your history of experiences, especially before being diagnosed and understanding your neurological differences? This is the theme of the first chapter in my book. And why is it so important to become skillful with attentive listening and mindful speaking (chapter three in Living Well with ADHD)? Here is an excerpt from Paul Kalanithi’s book, When Breath Becomes Air (Random House, 2016), who answers those questions in three sentences that you should read at least three times to digest it fully:
I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick skulls, into communion. A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form. It was the relational aspect of humans—i.e., “human relationaliity”—that undergirded meaning.
What a profound and poetic use of language to explain the meaning of language. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon and writer who died in March of 2015 while working on his book. He was passionately interested in “what makes a virtuous and meaningful life.” I highly recommend When Breath Becomes Air.
I asked Life Coach Casey Dixon (mindfullyadd.com and dixonlifecoaching.com) to answer a question about beginning and sustaining a mindfulness practice. Casey is an expert on simple and effective practices.
TH: What would you suggest as a good way for adults to begin a mindfulness practice that they can sustain?
CD: First, I would suggest people find one practice that they really enjoy, their “go to” practice. I have one, called Mountain Breath, that I can call up anytime and it helps me get into a mindful state immediately. I practiced it as a guided mediation so many times that now I can easily do it on my own. Variety is nice when you are into practicing mindfulness, but having one go-to practice is a great way to start that will last.
Second, I love the “When I …, then I …” approach, which means that you find a really good cue that triggers your mindful practice. One of my clients came up with, “When I see Bob walk past my desk at work, then I will take 3 intentional breaths.” This is a great cue, because Bob walks past her desk several times each day and she can rely on it. Now, when she sees Bob (although he does not know this!), then she practices mindfulness. This works really well, so she was able to expand her cue to trigger other, more involved practices.
Another client had a really hard time finding a cue. I pushed her to think of one thing that happens in her life every day. She came up with, “When I cover the bird cage at night, then I will try Tick Tock.” Tick Tock being her go-to practice. (Note: “Tick Tock” is rocking side-to-side like a pendulum).
It is also helpful to remember that you don’t have to be a mindfulness master in order to benefit. Practicing mindfulness might feel awkward and sometimes you will forget to do it, but if you have a go-to practice and a good cue, you can keep it up or return to it when you are ready.
For more information on other accessible mindfulness practices, check out mindfullyadd.com
Effective communication requires awareness of the speaker when listening and awareness of the listener when speaking. When listening, are you attending to the speaker, or listening to your thoughts instead? Are you formulating your response, or actually listening? To listen mindfully is to be aware of where you are directing your attention, like directing your visual attention to an object you wish to see.
Mindful listening is like meditation. When meditatinng, returning attention to your breath is a way to return from your thoughts to your experience in the present moment. When listening mindfully, the speaker is the object of your attention in the moment. To maintain attention to the speaker is to practice mindfulness in real time. Meditation is simply one form of mental conditioning to counter old habits. Casey Dixon (www.mindfullyadhd.com) illustrates other, very simple ways to practice mindfulness.
Effective communication also requires awareness of the listener when speaking. There are times when you may be entertaining, but not interacting. You might not be self-centered by nature, but when your listener has little opportunity to participate, you are—in effect—being self-centered. You might not notice when a polite listener has lost interest and is wanting to get away from you. Sadly, you might be clueless as to why you have trouble maintaining friends.
Here is the good news: You don’t have to sacrifice your capacity to entertain when learning to interact. You just need to know the difference.
Living Well with ADHD has arrived! Thanks to all of you for your inspiration and contributions. Finally, there is an actual book that I can hold in my hand. It is a nice feeling after two years of work.
I sold the first seven copies of the book at a regional conference on ADHD last week in Orange Beach, AL, thanks to the generosity of Chris Dendy who allowed me a corner of her table in the exhibit hall. More importantly, I learned a lot from presenters like Timothy Wilens, who provided a lot of research-based information (more on presentations later). I was very pleased with the quality of this conference. I met many knowledgeable and passionate advocates there, and I plan to return next year. It was informative and inspiring.
Living Well with ADHD is now available online at addwarehouse.com. In the coming weeks I will be able to offer it on this website and through events at local bookstores.
Did you ever use an effective coping strategy, but forgot that you did? On the last day of 2015, I had to get important documents into the mail before the post office closed. To avoid the risk of misplacing the documents, I went directly to the post office from work before running other errands on the way home. A couple of hours later, still worried about deadlines, I looked for the envelopes containing those important documents so I could mail them before dinner. On the way to dinner with my wife, I went to the office to search for them, then circled back to the house to search there once more, and then back to the office for one last opportunity to find them before the post office closed. Once I gave up and decided it would not be a catastrophe to mail them later, I recalled having already taken them to the post office. Despite the unnecessary traveling in circles and being late going to dinner, my wife – with sincere understanding and acceptance – said to me, “it’s mostly good; you got the documents into the mail on time.” She was inconvenienced and not annoyed! And I am grateful for her gift of understanding!
Thanks to all who came to the meeting last night. Participation was relatively balanced, although we all need to refresh ourselves on the guidelines (you can view them on this site). We had a little trouble following the theme and staying on topic. As we approach the new year, I want to invite comments on how we can improve the group, what topics are important to you for the coming months, and what you think about reserving one of our monthly meetings for professional guest presenters. Several of you volunteered to meet an hour before our next group meeting to discuss peer leadership, topics, presenters, publicity, and generally how we can improve on what we do. Thanks to all who volunteered. Others are welcome to come early and join us. I plan to visit some support groups in other parts of the country next year and learn how they operate. By the way, what have we done to run the women off? There were only two females present last night and one was a non-ADHD spouse. Have a wonderful holiday. I look forward to receiving your comments. TH
As we near the end of the year, I want to review how we see ourselves individually and collectively. Who are you in relation to your partner, family, colleagues, and peers? Who are we – as ADDers – in relation to neurotypicals? And I want your input regarding topics for the coming months. See you tomorrow night.
I just returned from a 3-day meditation retreat in Kingston Springs, TN. The retreat location normally hosts kids in summer camps and other events for youth. In the kitchen area there was a little board on the wall that appeared to have been sliced out of a log. Imprinted on the board was this four-word sentence: “I’m a little board.” It was one of the first things I noticed at breakfast time, and it is ironic because the first thing I usually have to deal with at a meditation retreat is my unquiet mind and restless feelings. By midway into the second day, my brain arrives, and I am reminded that silence is not somethnig to avoid. When I practice tolerating sensations of restlessness, I learn all over again that boredom is a phantom – something that we create when we believe we can’t tolerate being quiet and still.
Our next support group meeting is Monday December 7. I want to stimulate discussion of unleashing your creativity and potential to actualize your vision. I will be sharing some inspiring thoughts from David Giwerc’s book, “Permission to Proceed.” I met David at the annual CHADD conference in New Orleans. He is the founder and president of the ADD Coach Academy. See you Monday.
Among the many discoveries at the CHADD conference in New Orleans was Casey Dixon’s mindfulness website. Go to my resources page for the link to her site. Casey and Winne Kinder presented to a standing room only classroom of people interested in mindfulness for minds like ours.