On being sick (in mind and body) and mindfulness

Just a spoonful of mindfulness makes the medicine go down

Mindfulness and sickness; negative self thoughts, sickness and healing

I had just spent several hours feeling frustrated with my ineptitude in the technical arena. I’ve been on a campaign to step beyond my comfort zone – learn and do something new; especially put myself out there – online. I want to help as many people as possible to develop the skills and reap the benefits of having Mindfulness in their every day lives.

I’d had a particularly challenging time understanding and accomplishing something online – learning to use social media of all things – and felt the complete opposite of all those young people who seem to be born with technology genes in their blood.

I also had been feeling particularly miserable with a cold that had developed the night before and had fully landed in my head – only clouding my brain even more. I felt the wretchedness of a sore scratchy throat that felt rubbed raw by coarse sand paper, while swallowing shards of broken glass at the same time. My whole head was congested with nothing able to be released. I felt miserable. And pitiful. And some of that feeling that I just could not go on. Sneezing, coughing, gagging, sniffling, swallowing, barking like a seal, snorting, chortling – nothing brought relief, and in fact only made everything else seem worse. And hurt more.

The combination of pitiful negative thoughts about myself and pitiful physical condition made for quite a miserable state.

I had enough awareness, though, that I needed some soothing, so I boiled some hot water that I could simply breathe in the steam of, and tried to soothe my inner passage ways. Medicine for my body.

I also turned on the meditation I had received for the day from Mindful 30, and lucky enough, it was about self-critical thoughts. And breathing. (Who would’ve thought? 🙂 ). Medicine for my soul.

The teaching of the meditation was to let those negative thoughts be like a train coming into my station. I could get on those trains and go for a while in any direction, and then get off at any point of my choosing. Or I could see those trains coming and going and I could just stay on the platform and simply notice their arrivals and departures; but not be taken away by them.

I liked that image. When I tended to my thoughts, I became aware that I was saying unkind things to myself about my “dis”–ability with the tech world. I was not being helpful to myself and I was letting discouragement, frustration and overwhelm take over; leading me to believe I was incapable. I was boarding the train that said “Incapable/Hopeless” as the final destination.

The continued instruction of the meditation I was listening to was to breathe and notice the breathing and where it took place in my body; as well as to simply notice all thoughts.

Often times my thoughts are closely connected to my feelings, so I followed the instruction and let myself be present to the negative self-talk and associated feelings. Rather than telling myself what a dope I was and how I’ll never figure this stuff out, and everyone else can do it with their eyes closed, I got in touch with the feelings underneath the disparaging words. I dropped into the sense of shame at perceiving myself as being so inadequate, and then underneath that, the feeling of tenderness, the vulnerability one feels when shamed or put down or bullied. My lip was even quivering.

I began to feel compassion instead for this brave soul who works hard and has a big heart. Who wants to share with the world – and who is not afraid to learn new things – even if they are hard; and I felt compassion for her hurt and emotional struggle (mine).

I then began to offer compassion to myself rather than condemnation or criticism, and that felt so much better. That was good medicine for my soul.

Of course all the while, I am leaning over a pot of hot steamy water, letting the warm steam float into my mouth and nose and flow into my throat, lungs and airways – caressing and soothing my parched, crackly, wounded passages with each breath. This was good medicine for my body.

After visiting with my thoughts, the meditation instruction was to simply breathe again. Notice where I noticed it most. Pay attention to that and keep coming back to that place (for me, it was my throat and lungs that felt so aflame, but gradually began to feel soothed). Let my attention stay with me on the platform as the trains came in and departed.

I was able to visually and viscerally connect the mindful awareness of paying attention to my breath literally to that visceral experience of breathing the warm steam in and gently soothing those hurt places. The steam was the metaphor for my awareness – flowing into every softened, tender, open place and providing healing rather than harm.

It was lovely.

The final instruction of the daily’s meditation was to offer compassion first to someone I love and hold dear. I was to send wishes of safety and health, peace and happiness, ease and well-being to someone important to me.

I’m familiar with this loving-kindness practice, but usually do it starting with myself and then moving outward in larger circles to someone I love; someone I have difficulty with; all in my community who I know; and then to all those out in the world – strangers I don’t know.

So I was surprised when the next instruction was to imagine that important someone sending wishes for compassion straight back to me. I was moved and felt surrounded and embraced by such tender warmth and care. Tears streamed down my face, into the hot steamy water – releasing more of the congestion in my head that I had earlier felt so constricted by. And releasing the harsh stuck self-diminishing place I had felt so constrained by.

Warm healing steam and warm healing thoughts.

This train’s destination said, “Warm Healing Steam, with stops at Warm Healing Thoughts along the way.“ I got on that train and was happy I had waited for the train going to the right destination.

If you or someone you love is having a hard time dealing with the run-away trains of self-deprecation and other negative thoughts, please call me for a therapy appointment, and to learn mindfulness skills.

My apologies for no blog post last week. Anything I had ready didn’t seem relevant, and anything relevant was not quite ready for words…

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
[email protected]
(510) 482-4445



  1. Kennedy Golden on October 31, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    This is lovely and helpful and timely. While I am sorry that your cold was so miserable, I fully appreciate your sharing your journey and plan to share with some family who are also having big challenges. Many thanks, as always.

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