Reading The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD by Lidia Zylowska MD of UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center. I got it out of the library both because it caught my eye as a new book and because I have always had erratic attention, especially when reading when my eyes skitter this way and that and I end up endlessly rereading (and forgetting). Also because mindfulness interests me and ties in with reading about Buddhism.
I am always looking for ways to be present in my day and not find it has passed in a parcel of small activities while my head was somewhere else.
She talks about something I have been learning the long way – paying attention to my attention, observing it rather than being driven by it. I originally learnt this in the wake on my mother's death and always tell bereaved friends: just let your thoughts pass through without judgment. There domain many then, sad, funny, solemn, irreverent, that if you try to control, judge or edit them, you will go mad. Just let them pass like clouds in the sky.
It was the beginning of learning I could choose my thoughts. Now 17 years later, (I'm not a fast learner!) I can stop my thoughts and see myself at a forked path: I can choose which way they go, what story I tell myself, what ruminations accompany my day. And not judge myself for either path, though I reasonably can judge my choice.
As she says, “the key to emotional well-being is how we understand and relate to our emotions – not whether we have them or what they are.”
I am only picking up some of her hints, the ones that struck me. For example, shifting attention from a feeling of anger to another part of the body, like the soles of the feet, which would be grounding as well
She has a wonderful exercise called STOP which I have been doing throughout the day. It is so simple and effective: you pause, take a deep breath (which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and deactivates stress chemicals), become aware of your senses and surroundings (become present) and decide how and whether to proceed. I have changed the final step to reconnecting with my sense of God, but that wouldn't suit many people.
It reminds me of a technique I read about years ago, where you make a memory, consciously deciding to anchor this moment in your memory by becoming fully aware of your surroundings You set it as a memory, knowing you can revisit it later. It works and I can still exquisitely remember route 1 and the Big Sur. Or, and this must have been accidental, Easter Sunday when I was 6 and awoke to the delicious realization that it was “today”! Or setting a memory at 16 when I was about to go to a party and knew that one week later I would be back in the grayness of boarding school. I can remember fiercely making the memory and it is vivid today.
She also provides a CD of meditations which are also available as a free download. These are not specifically for ADHD and would work for anyone. She has the classic Buddhist Loving Kindness meditation for example.