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Let It Be

By Philip D.

November 21, 2010

Week Five

Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are. It does not mean that you have to like everything or that you should be passive in attitude but trying to be open to whatever the present moment offers.

For me, this Attitude is pretty significant. The three-year anniversary of my diagnosis is just around the corner but I'm not sure that I totally accepted my serostatus until recently. I only know that just about everything began to look better once I finally did. I will never like being HIV positive but I do accept that until there's a cure, it‘s inside me. Because I'm not wasting my time and energy dwelling on what might have been, I am more focused and able to make decisions about the present.

This week in place of the Body Scan, I used both the Standing and Lying Yoga exercises found in the workbook to cultivate mindfulness. I've been hooked on yoga and the stillness it consistently provides me for over ten years, so to be honest, these both felt comfortable and safe. For those that have a hard time sitting still, I don't think there's a better way to quiet the mind than yoga. Doing the poses my body is kept so busy that thinking becomes harder to do and so much less important than breathing.

On Monday evening, my friend Russel invited me to do a 45-minute Zazen (seated meditation) at a local Buddhist Zen Center (this is California after all). It was special and unique to practice with other like-minded people in such a beautiful space. Couldn't help but notice the physical diversity in the people around me. I hope to return there as much as I can to keep my Practice alive when these first eight weeks are up.

I'm starting to see my meditation as a form of mental exercise. Just like working out or doing cardio, it took time to build endurance and confidence. In the beginning I felt awkward and couldn't imagine sitting every day for 30 minutes (or more) but over time I've surprised even myself. There are days when I'm a fidgety mess but I just tell myself those are the times when I need to meditate the most.

Week Six

Letting Be -- With this quality of awareness, you can simply let things be as they are, with no need to try and let go of whatever is present.

It might sound dumb but I think I get what the Beatles were referring to in "Let It Be". Most likely written and recorded during their search for enlightenment with the Dalai Lama, I imagine they also discovered the power of such a simple concept.

While reading both the book and the workbook, I noticed the only time the two were in conflict, was using "letting be" over "letting go". The best way to describe the difference might be that letting go implies that you're getting rid of a thought or situation and letting be is more about co-existing with things just as they are. Letting be is more in line with A.C.T [acceptance and commitment therapy], so I chose to use it here. A small but important distinction. Continued doing the two yoga series from last week alternating days with the Body Scan. My mindful mornings are still intact but with the days growing shorter, sometimes sleep wins over meditation at 10pm.

I notice that I have become a lot more sensitive to the world around me in so many ways. I'm reserving judgment about whether or not that's a benefit but since it comes with improved mental clarity it's hard to label it bad.

At the beginning and end of each session, I am reminded to thank myself for taking the time to do self care. This week I became aware of how my self-deprecating thoughts and behaviors have decreased. I wouldn't go as far as to say they're now 100% positive but in developing mindfulness, neutrality is preferred anyway.

My Practice may not be a cure for depression but it sure seems like a powerful antidote.

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See Also
10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being
Depression and HIV
Feeling Good Again: Mental Healthcare Works!
More Personal Viewpoints on Coping With HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Terrence (Idaho) Thu., Dec. 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm UTC
Its amazing that the tools of meditation and mindfulness, that i have cultivated in the battle over my addiction to drugs and alcohol, has transfered seamlessly with my recent HIV diagnosis.
HIV does not define who i am as a loving caring human being. HIV however has improved my consciousness with the world around me. Everyday i make an effort to turn my diagnosis into a positive and so far so good.
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Comment by: Stephan (Los Angeles) Thu., Dec. 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm UTC
Thank you for sharing your experiences in developing mindfulness. As a veteran of the 60s & 70s, I engaged in a number of self knowledge/self-important experiences, many of which included mindfulness work - although not always by that name. While I was enthusastic with the immediate results, mindfulness did not become part of my daily regimen.

I have a Thai lover and in getting to understand him and his cultural values I have explored Buddhist teachings. In the course of that I have begun my practice of daily meditation and mindfulness. As a 14 year HIV survivor I have had time to learn acceptance of my diagnosis and to develop gratitude for medical interventions available. Mindfulness has been especially useful in the latter, making me conscious of my gratitude for meds and doctors.

There are days meditation provides some respite from depression and others not so much. Mindfulness about the depression, understanding that depression is simply depression and NOT me, helps me more on an immediate day-to-day basis.

This briefly describes my experiences with meditation and mindfulness. I consider myself a novice in both. Each day brings challenges in terms of facing fears: long-term unemployment, possible loss of home, what happens if I lose my COBRA, will I ever be able to visit my partner in Thailand again. Some days the meditation comes easily and I can observe the fears without attachment, other days staying focused on the breath is all I can manage. But whatever the daily experience turns out to be, the fact that I make time, take the effort to meditate, take a mindful breath before reacting to a fearful thought, reminds that I am becoming a better friend to myself. If meditation and mindfulness bring nothing more than that they are a comfort to a man of 64 with HIV and no job.

I look forward to reading more about your mindfulness journey. Hearing about your experiences enriches my understanding of my own.

A blessing to you.
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Comment by: Brooklyn (Seattle, WA) Wed., Dec. 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm UTC
Let it Be, I couldn't agree more. I've known I am positive for less than a year now and just accepted that my care free youth was to blame for getting it. I never felt bad for myself, or blamed whoever I got it from.

I see a lot of people who are stuck in THE Blame Game part of the disease. I never had that need to put it on someone else. I'm sure they had no idea they had it, and it doesn't really matter who I got it from or when. I have it, I have to deal with it.

Blame and Guilt are only speed bumps I encountered, not huge brick walls. I get emails from a lot of readers stuck in a labyrinth of HIV acceptance and for whatever reason I skipped that part.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Philip D. Thu., Dec. 2, 2010 at 1:37 am UTC
Hi Brooklyn

It continually intrigues me how differently people perceive being infected by HIV.

My guess is that much of it has to do with what decade each of us were infected regardless of how long. If you got it in the 80's you faced a horrible death by a disease many lived in terror of contracting; If it happened in the mid 90's, you had the long awaited gift of anti-retrovirals but debilitating side effects that destroyed quality of life but how could you complain? In this century, you might face stigma and the struggle to pay for medical care or medications but a long and normal lifespan is completely possible.

You and I are the lucky ones.

By the way, your baby Myles is beautiful. I'll bet he's growing by leaps and bounds. Please post new pics whenever you can and take good care.

Comment by: Douglas Smith (Hamilton Ontario Canada) Tue., Nov. 23, 2010 at 5:51 pm UTC
As someone co-infected with HIV / HBV (27 years ago), I was recently taken by the following comment: "I am NOT living with HIV. HIV is trying to kill me, and I'm trying to kill it". That is the reality that I accept. After 27 years, my zealous battle is as energized as ever! I embrace the battle.
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Comment by: Philip D. Thu., Dec. 2, 2010 at 1:45 am UTC

I think I can begin to understand your reality since you privately shared part of your story with me. You are a fighter, my friend. Thanks for the inspiration.

Comment by: R.Thompson (San Francisco, Ca) Sun., Nov. 21, 2010 at 11:20 pm UTC
It always amazes me when I am having a challenge in my practice the answer appears. I have always had such a challenge with "let it go". How do you let something go that is imprinted on your brain? You can't eliminate the memory, so let it go can really only be a temporary avoidance. "Let it be" works for me. It acknowledges that it is there, it will always be there and I can learn to live in harmony with it or let it eat at me like a slow moving disease. Thanks P.
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A Positive Spin

Philip D.

Philip D.

After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.

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