Before I write about my experiences, I would like to give the definition of the mind and of mindfulness:
- The Mind: Oxford Living Dictionaries define the mind as ‘The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.’
- Mindfulness: Psychology Today State ‘Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past, or anticipating the future.’
I believe our minds are very powerful. If we’re not aware of our thoughts, they can run away with us, moving our attention past or to the future, away from the present. I have to pull myself up on this frequently, but that’s all part of the journey. I am aware when my attention has moved away from the present and I am able to adjust.
My first experiences of realising how strong our minds can be was during my work as a nursing auxillary. I was around 20 years old. The first situation was with a patient who had been admitted with a stroke. She was unconscious, with CT results showing a huge amount of brain infarction (death of cells). Medical staff informed her family that she probably wouldn’t recover from it. Within 24 hours all her children, apart from one who was in Hong Kong, had visited to say goodbye. It took her son 4 days to make the journey. The night following his visit, she peacefully passed away. I was amazed that she was able to wait to die until after her son saw her.
This was the first realisation I had of how, in some circumstances, there’s a possibility we are able to make the transition of death consciously. That’s an incredible realisation. We may have the power to choose when we die. This means death may not just be something physical which happens to us when our body stops functioning. It means there’s a likelihood we consciously take part in the transition.
My second experience whilst working on the same medical ward was during a hectic shift. We’d had a cardiac arrest first thing in the morning. That lady didn’t make it. Inevitably, we were running behind. In those days we made sure all patients were washed before lunch time. At the point I was gathering the other nurse who was going on break with me, a buzzer rang in one of the side rooms. It was a 92(ish) year old man, who had been admitted with one form of chronic leukemia. He asked if he could get back onto the bed. This took two members of staff as a hoist was needed to transfer him. Due to time constraints it was impossible that was able to happen at that time. I told him we could get him back on the bed first thing after our break. He replied ‘I’m dying you know’. I told him he wasn’t, as it was part of the job to remain positive and encourage the patients to be so too. He once again told me he was dying. I left him, with the belief I would help him back on the bed after the coffee break.
We returned from our fifteen minute break to find the crash trolley outside his room. He’d had a cardiac arrest and died in the chair. I can’t remember, but I think they got him back on the bed to work on him. I felt awful. I had denied someone their dying wish. I deeply regret that now and of course if I could change that, I would.
At the time I wasn’t aware that a person could be so conscious of their impending death. It is something I have often thought about over the years. His statement has become part of the foundation of how I treat and respect people. I believe others when they tell me how they feel. Even children. It makes me so angry when adults don’t believe children just because they are children. Especially schools/teachers not believing in illness and being poorly. However, that’s another post!
The main thought these experiences led to is that if our mind has this much power in our lives, how can we use this to our benefit? Our minds can have a negative effect on our lives, by always bringing us down and somehow, drawing our attention to bad things that happened. We have the ability to use our mind in a positive way, to not let it control us by taking our attention away from the present in a negative way.