Personal Experience of Buddhist Practice:
How Mindfulness Meditation Changed My Life
“It’s a way of improving almost everything, by doing almost nothing.” These words have stuck with me since my fist encounter with Lou Carcasole. This phrase seemed so inspiring, yet so questionable. It almost made everything seem too easy. Now, several months later, I am at a better point in my life. I can appreciate those words and understand them, because they are so very true.
I became interested in the practice of Mindfulness Meditation during a long and extremely hard battle with an eating disorder that I struggled with for about 8 years. I would go through the daily motions getting no satisfaction out of anything. My motivation was so low; I hated life and everything that came with it. This may seem like a harsh statement for a young girl. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even do justice to the hell I felt trapped inside.
Several years of attempts at successful treatment, left me disappointed and thoroughly disturbed at the lack of support and adequate guidance there is in the world for people suffering from this disease. I was convinced that my life would always be an attempt to change who I was, yet never be satisfied with the outcome.
It started as an incredible feeling to have complete control over something in a life where I felt everything was out of control. I quickly learned that things have a way of turning around and taking complete control over you. My eating disorder was my best friend and my worst enemy. I spent the majority of my adolescence lying, cheating, stealing and living a shamefully secret life that to this day no one knows all the specific details.
This disease was an obsession. My thoughts and actions were completely out of my control. It was the first thing I thought of when I woke, the only thought that raced through my mind all day, and the last thought before I slept. When I was asleep I felt safe. I knew it was the only time I was unable to hurt myself. I slept a lot. I became so depressed that there were many days I wished to never wake up.
The lack of support in society fed into my disease. I felt that I needed to reach a dangerously unhealthy state to even be acknowledged as someone who needed some help. I continued each day convincing myself that I didn’t deserve help. There were too many people out there suffering from terminal illnesses, ‘real problems.’ I assumed that I was being punished in some way, that I deserved this suffering. I was ruining relationships with my parents, siblings, friends and I just let that feed into why I should continuously hurt myself.
The summer of 2002 was when I hit my rock bottom. I had given up completely. I was placed on a waiting list for an outpatient treatment program at the Toronto General Hospital. In the mean time, I was seeing a doctor who placed me on medication and began working on some cognitive behavioral therapy. The effects of the medication were something that I was never able to comprehend. This quick fix to me was a false sense of feeling cured. I didn’t want to rely on medication for the rest of my life. It wasn’t dealing with the problem, it was downplaying it temporarily. What happens when I’m off the medication? I soon found out after I voluntarily took myself off the medication a few months later. I felt myself slipping back into a depressive state that semester when I returned to school. I ended that semester just barely passing all my classes.
In February 2003, I was admitted into the Toronto General Hospital program. It was a Monday through Friday intensive boot camp like environment. I remained in the 8 week program for just over 4 weeks. It was the most emotionally draining month of my life. I came home crying each day, feeling more depressed than the day before. I reached a point where medically and physically the hospital had helped me as much as possible. Yet, my emotions seemed to get worse. I knew I needed further emotional support which I could not find in that setting.
The day I was discharged from the hospital was what I felt, the first day of the beginning of my recovery. I had a feeling that something else was out there for me and I was determined to find it. This was the day I came to find out about Lou Carcasole and the practice of Mindfulness Meditation. I was browsing through the Sheena’s Place website when I came across a list of close to 40 facilitators and their biographic information. I was most intrigued after reading Lou’s information and got in touch with him that day. After an initial telephone call, where Lou briefly introduced me to the practice, I began seeing him on a weekly basis for about 10 – 12 weeks.
What amazed me about Lou was that he was not interested in labeling me as someone with an eating disorder. That was never even acknowledged until many weeks had passed. He didn’t need to know about my shameful past. Lou was interested in how I felt in my own body at that point in time. How comfortable I felt with myself on a daily basis. He always made me feel welcome and at ease. I had actually found someone who cared to help.
Mindfulness Meditation requires one to focus on the present moment. To think of the amount of time people these days walk around daydreaming as the hours go by. No one is appreciating the moment, simply being aware of surroundings and of themselves. I was always so caught up in the past, or stressing about future events, I never really lived my life up until this point. The practice involves taking time to sit with yourself, to be aware of your senses, your breath, and your body as a whole. To do so is such an amazing experience. To sit long enough where you actually feel your mind become calm. It is such a simple thing, if only you try. But many people simply do not have the time. It is such a silly thing, who cannot spare time for themselves each day to appreciate yourself and to become aware of your body and your mind, in tune with one another. So in tune that eventually you will be able to feel stress, anger, suffering before it takes over. You will begin to feel, without becoming your feeling.
For years, I was so disconnected from my body and myself. Lou has helped me to learn about my thoughts and my feelings and how they affect my behaviour. For the first time in my life, I am in control of my recovery and of my life.
It becomes difficult at times to maintain a constant routine of meditating. Fortunately, Lou has taught me that the changes I have made thus far are permanent. I cannot go back to looking differently at my life after being exposed to such a better view of it. To continue with meditation is to deepen those realizations. There is never one goal to be reached; I can always get further and further in-tune with myself with each meditation. For the rest of my life, doing ‘almost nothing’ will continue ‘improving everything’ in my life.
Lou Carcasole is an engineer-turn-mindfulness practitioner and teacher. He was trained in mindfulness with teacher Shinzen Young and Jon Kabat-Zinn. He is happy to know that he is making a significant difference through the teaching of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR). The testimonial above is provided by one of his clients.
Source: Radical Growth