Nolan Gajdascz here, and I'm thrilled to share with you my transformative journey through the free 8-week Palouse Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course. Over the course of these eight weeks, I immersed myself in mindfulness practices, deepening my understanding of mindfulness and its powerful impact on my life. Through this experience, I have been able to cultivate a more mindful and present way of living, leading to profound improvements in my inner dialogue, stress management, and overall well-being.
The Palouse Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course has provided me with invaluable tools and techniques to navigate the challenges and demands of daily life with greater ease and resilience. It has given me the opportunity to explore formal mindfulness practices, such as body scans and sitting meditations, as well as informal practices that integrate mindfulness into everyday activities like showering, walking my dog, and even eating.
During the first week of the course, I focused on establishing a foundation for my mindfulness practice. Through formal practices like the Cheeto Meditation and Body Scan, I learned to pay attention to the present moment, embracing sensory experiences and accepting any challenges that arose. I encountered a mix of insightful and peaceful sessions, as well as moments of difficulty with wandering thoughts and physical discomfort. However, I remained committed to the practice and discovered the value in each session, building a strong groundwork for my mindfulness journey.
Moving into the second week, I continued to deepen my mindfulness practice through both formal and informal exercises. I found that by incorporating mindfulness into everyday activities like showering, walking my dogs, and even lifting weights, I was able to bring a sense of presence and appreciation to each moment. These informal practices allowed me to slow down, let go of distractions, and fully engage in the present, leading to a greater sense of calm, contentment, and gratitude.
As I entered the third week of the course, I explored new avenues of mindfulness, including yoga and seated meditation. These formal practices offered unique challenges, with moments of an active and wandering mind, muscle tightness, and feelings of anxiety. However, I approached these challenges with a non-judgmental attitude, accepting that imperfection is part of the journey. Through yoga and meditation, I discovered the power of physical movement and deep stretching to release tension and cultivate a sense of relaxation and well-being.
In parallel with my formal practices, I continued to incorporate mindfulness into various informal activities, such as tending to my plants, sipping my morning coffee, and enjoying time with loved ones. These moments of mindful presence allowed me to fully appreciate the beauty and simplicity of everyday experiences, fostering a deeper connection with myself and those around me.
Throughout this blog post, I will share my reflections, insights, and challenges from each week of the Palouse Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course. My hope is that my experiences will inspire and encourage others to explore mindfulness as a means of reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, and enhancing overall well-being.
Join me on this transformative journey as we delve into the power of mindfulness and its profound impact on our lives. Together, we can cultivate a more mindful and fulfilling existence.
- Getting Started
- By the end of the course, I am hoping that:
- I will have a deeper personal understanding of mindfulness and practices.
- I will have an improved relationship with myself.
- I will have higher emotional intelligence.
- Some of my strengths are:
- I have a strong work ethic and devotion when I'm passionate. I have the ability to work through difficult problems and appreciate the time it takes to get there.
Cheeto Meditation (4/7/2023):
- I found the practice of mindful eating to be insightful and connecting.
- The Cheeto had various sensory qualities, such as spiciness, sponginess, a baked cheese smell, and crunchiness.
- Paying attention to the food and reflecting on its presence inspired me to become a more mindful eater.
- Although my mind wandered multiple times during the session, I noticed each instance and gently brought my focus back.
- I felt deeply relaxed, connected to each part of my body, and overall very mindful.
- Despite experiencing pain in my neck and upper back, I accepted it without resistance and found the session to be motivating and peaceful.
- This session was challenging as my mind wandered frequently and I had anxious and intrusive thoughts.
- However, I recognized the importance of persevering through difficult practices, understanding that nobody is perfect.
- I experienced intense sinus pressure and congestion, which affected my concentration.
- Despite the discomfort, I managed to create a mentally calming atmosphere by tuning out external noises and distractions.
- Due to a long day, I ended up doing the body scan right before bed and fell asleep within 10 minutes.
- Given my previous struggles with sleep, I considered this practice beneficial in helping me relax and improve my sleep quality.
- The session began with anxiety and mind wandering but gradually transitioned into a state of calmness, leaving me ready to face the day.
Throughout Week 1's formal practices, I encountered a mix of experiences, ranging from insightful and peaceful sessions to challenging moments with wandering thoughts and physical discomfort. Nonetheless, I remained committed to the practice and found value in each session.
- Showering at the end of the day
- Before starting, I was playing the "what if" game with myself, causing anxiety.
- I focused on my breath and the sensation of hot water on my body, which has always helped me enter a more mindful state.
- Showering mindfully has been an effective grounding method for me, even before I knew about mindfulness.
- I was initially concerned about time spent away from my business and rushing the process.
- However, I paused to appreciate the moment with my dogs, realizing the importance of breaks and finding joy in simple activities.
- I recognized my tendency to prioritize productivity and the need to slow down and appreciate the little moments.
- I felt pressured to hurry and get to work, focusing on time away from my business.
- By bringing myself to the present moment and feeling the workout in the right places, I practiced mindfulness and the mind-muscle connection.
- Reflecting on this, I feel proud of my ability to be present during my workout.
- I experienced social anxiety and felt overwhelmed.
- Taking a deep breath and focusing on sensory experiences, such as the feeling of my feet in my shoes, helped calm me down.
- I recognized the power of grounding myself through breath and sensation.
- My mind was preoccupied with thoughts of time away from my business.
- By redirecting my attention to the task at hand and accepting it, I released tension and found myself calmer.
- I learned the importance of being present and not rushing through life.
- Initially, I was eating mindlessly, not fully engaged in the experience.
- However, once I directed my attention to the food, I noticed flavors and textures more fully and appreciated the snack mindfully.
- This practice revealed the tendency to eat mindlessly and the value of being fully present during meals.
- I felt frustrated, in a hurry, and tensed up.
- Taking the time to slow down and appreciate the moment with my dog brought happiness and a sense of being present.
- I recognized the significance of slowing down and finding joy in the little moments of life.
Throughout these informal mindfulness practices, I discovered the power of focusing on sensations, breath, and being present in various activities. By incorporating mindfulness into everyday moments, I experienced a greater sense of calm, appreciation, and motivation.
- Sitting Meditation (4/15/2023):
- Despite my phone dying halfway through the meditation, I remained focused on my breathing and stayed in the moment without opening my eyes or interrupting the practice.
- It was a grounding and relaxing session, allowing me to center myself and cultivate mindfulness.
- In a flustered morning with external distractions, I struggled to maintain mindfulness during the session. However, I felt more in tune with myself and noticed sensations of coolness throughout my body, as well as tightness in my shoulders and neck.
- I felt calm and mindful throughout this practice. When my mind wandered, I gently redirected my attention to my breath without judgment.
- I observed physical sensations along my spine, shoulders, neck, and the touch of my intertwined fingers and thumbs.
- I did this session unguided before bed, which presented some challenges as my mind kept wandering. However, I remained non-judgmental and eventually fell asleep.
- I noticed the warmth under my blanket and the support of the pillow on my neck/head, and overall, it felt like a positive session.
- I experienced tightness in my neck, shoulders, and right hip during this practice. Despite the physical discomfort, I maintained mindfulness and gently brought my attention back to my breath.
- It was a beneficial meditation that left me feeling ready to face the day.
- This session was particularly good, with a high level of awareness and relaxation in the moment.
- I encountered some neck pain during the practice, which I acknowledged and accepted.
- Overall, it was a motivating and grounding experience, preparing me to tackle the challenges of the day.
Throughout Week 2, I encountered different levels of challenges and distractions during my formal mindfulness practices. However, I remained committed to cultivating mindfulness, bringing my attention back to the present moment, and accepting any discomfort or wandering thoughts. These practices provided grounding, relaxation, and a sense of readiness to face daily challenges with greater awareness and resilience.
- Caring for my plants:
- I was aware of the pleasant feelings while tending to my plants and felt a sense of relaxation throughout my body.
- I experienced attentiveness, happiness, and being in the present moment. It was rewarding to see my plants thrive, and I appreciated the time and effort required to care for them.
- I felt excited throughout the experience and had a big smile on my face.
- The event brought a sense of motivation and validation in my passion. Knowing that people believe in our work makes it easier to push forward and make a difference.
- I felt full of joy seeing the kids excited and happy to play with me, although I initially felt overwhelmed.
- After taking a deep breath, I stayed in the moment and enjoyed the experience. Eventually, my body felt tired from all the running around.
- Being with the children reminded me of my desire to start a family of my own and the future I envision for them. It evoked feelings of nervousness, excitement, and a drive to succeed.
- I was aware of the pleasant feelings while enjoying my coffee, feeling the warmth of the beverage and the energy from the caffeine.
- It brought comfort and uplifted my mood. Since I don't have coffee every day, I appreciated the moment and noticed sensations like my fingers typing on the keyboard.
- Overall, I felt good and calm, hearing the sounds of yard work being done outside.
- I felt warm, relaxed, and happy to be outdoors, taking in the fresh air and sun.
- I embraced the moment and focused on the positive feelings and sensations. It was a shift in attitude from previous frustrations about taking the dogs outside, and I felt proud of my progress in becoming a more mindful and content person.
- I experienced a lightness across my body, closed my eyes, and relaxed my shoulders, neck, and jaw.
- The music brought a rush of happiness and joy, evoking emotions and clear thoughts.
- I deeply appreciate classical music and hope to learn how to play an instrument someday. I eagerly look forward to practicing my guitar again.
- I felt my shoulders relax and appreciated the warm sun on my skin. I even closed my eyes for a moment.
- The experience made me feel happy and fully present. I found joy in appreciating the beauty of something as simple as birds singing.
- This moment reminded me of the importance of paying attention to such experiences. It created a sense of anticipation for future encounters with nature's wonders.
Throughout Week 2, I cultivated mindfulness by being fully present and aware during pleasant events. These experiences brought relaxation, joy, and a deeper appreciation for the small moments in life. They also highlighted the connection between mindfulness and my personal aspirations, motivating me to continue on my journey of mindfulness and self-improvement.
- Yoga I (4/23/2023):
- I do yoga regularly and really enjoyed this session. It was a little more fast-paced than Yin, but it provided slow deep stretching that felt great on my tight muscles. The practice helped me relax and release tension, leaving me with a sense of physical wellbeing.
- During this session, I had a very active mind that wanted to wander. Although this may seem like the opposite of mindfulness, I never judged myself or my ability. Instead, I gently but firmly brought my attention back to the present moment. I also felt some muscle tightness in my mid-back, shoulders, and neck. Overall, it was a good and motivating practice, reminding me of the importance of non-judgmental awareness.
- Once again, I experienced an active and wandering mind during this session. It was a difficult practice with lots of anxiety, but the physical sensations felt good. The stretches provided a sense of release, relaxing tightness in my muscles. I recognized that experiencing challenges and an active mind is a normal part of practicing mindfulness, and I accept that I can't be perfect every time.
- Despite another anxious day, I was able to relax and accept the present moment during the body scan. In fact, I was so relaxed that I almost fell asleep during the session, which I consider a win. This practice helped me cultivate a sense of calmness and connection to my body, even in the midst of anxiety.
- This session was particularly relaxing and centering. Although I felt a bit flustered going into the practice, I emerged from it with a sense of calm. The tightness in my shoulders and neck gradually relaxed as I focused on my breath and brought my attention to the present moment. It was a reminder of the power of meditation to shift my state of mind.
- The second yoga session of the week was great. The practice was a bit more challenging than Yoga I, and the stretches felt good on my body. Despite going into the practice feeling anxious, I finished with a greater sense of calmness. The stretches, particularly in my legs, shoulders, and back, provided a sense of relief and relaxation.
In Week 3, I encountered a mix of experiences during my formal mindfulness practice sessions. From active and wandering minds to moments of relaxation and release, each session offered its own insights and challenges. Through it all, I maintained a non-judgmental attitude and accepted the imperfections of my practice. These experiences continue to deepen my understanding of mindfulness and the importance of being present in each moment.
- Experience: Cleaning my dog's mess in the morning
- I was aware of the unpleasant feelings while the event was happening.
- My body felt tightness in the shoulders and neck as I had to quickly get out of bed.
- The moods, feelings, and thoughts that accompanied this event were frustration and rush. I felt angry about having to do more laundry and clean up the mess.
- As I write this down, I recognize that cleaning up after my dogs is a part of owning them, and it is my responsibility to take care of them, myself, and our living space. I acknowledge that I will likely have to do it again soon, and I will try to approach it with more mindfulness.
- Experience: Having trouble sleeping before bed
- I was aware of the unpleasant feelings while experiencing difficulty sleeping.
- My body felt uncomfortable in every position, and I had a small headache.
- The accompanying mood was frustration. I felt frustrated that I couldn't fall asleep, knowing that it would make my day harder as I woke up tired.
- Reflecting on this experience, I think about how this has been a consistent issue in my life. However, I also recognize that with time and practice, I can work on improving my sleep. In this moment, I notice the sounds of birds singing outside and feel the sun coming in from the window, along with the sensation of my fingers typing on the keyboard.
- Experience: Dealing with anxiety
- I was aware of the unpleasant physical sensations, including shrugged shoulders and light pain, along with some pacing.
- The predominant moods, feelings, and thoughts were worry, stress, and self-doubt. I found myself second-guessing myself and my decisions.
- I acknowledge that anxiety has always been a part of my life. Starting a business from scratch is not easy, and I expect that some days will be more challenging than others. I won't give up or let anxiety get the best of me.
- Experience: Stressing about life and business
- I was aware of the tightness in my shoulders and neck.
- Similar to dealing with anxiety, this experience felt like another difficult day. It was not new to me.
- I recognize that nothing in life worth having comes easily. While I am dealing with stress and anxiety in various aspects of my life and business, the level and consistency of these feelings have not changed significantly. I am aware of who I am and how to best handle myself.
- Experience: Not getting a response after reaching out multiple times
- I was aware of the physical sensations in my face, shoulders, neck, and back, along with tapping my foot.
- The dominant emotions and thoughts were anger, frustration, disappointment, and negative thoughts, which affected my overall mood.
- As I write this down, I acknowledge that my feelings are valid, but the situation is not fully within my control. I remind myself that what is meant to be will be, and accepting that is a personal goal. Just acknowledging this helps me feel a little better about the situation and allows me to consider a more optimistic approach in my thinking.
- Experience: My cell phone is broken and deteriorating
- I was aware of the same tightness in my muscles and some pacing.
- The accompanying emotions were anxiety and frustration. I felt unhappy with the situation and worried about having to buy a new phone.
- Once again, I recognize that my feelings are valid, but the situation is not entirely under my control. I acknowledge that I will get a new phone soon and it will be fine. However, in this moment, it is a stressful situation. I notice my shoulders tightening and my foot tapping as I write this. I will do my best to remain mindful of this and approach it with less judgment.
In Week 3, my informal practice logs reflect a variety of everyday experiences and how they affect me mentally and physically. By cultivating awareness during these moments, I gain insights into my emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This awareness allows me to respond with more mindfulness and acceptance, recognizing that I cannot control everything and that my feelings are valid. Through continued practice, I aim to approach these situations with less judgment and cultivate a more optimistic mindset.