Mindfulness Changed My Life and It Can Change Yours Too
Updated: Jan 27
In March 2020 I had the world knocked out from under me. One day I had a busy day of patients and the next day I didn’t have a practice at all. I had to let my staff go, and I didn’t have a job. I was stressed about the future and worried about what was coming next. I felt powerless, an emotion that is not common for me, especially in my professional world.
I have long been into riding, and I often put on a self-improvement podcast when I ride around the Vedder loop. The Vedder trail is where I find motivation, peace, time to reflect, and time to work on myself. I started a new podcast on that morning ride in March. The name was odd, but I was hooked from the first episode. Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry talked to me about paying attention to my feet on the ground and to my belly rising and falling. This was my first taste of the practice of mindfulness.
The Last 8% Podcast – by Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry Listen Here
Mindfulness is a practice that works to help us to be the “architect” of our own brains. "Architect" is one of the ways that Dr. Pawliw-Fry talks about the changes that happen in our brain as a result of mindfulness training. Mindfulness is actually a fairly easy principle to understand, but its effects are complex, and in practice, it is harder to do than it sounds.
When we are paying attention to our feet on the ground or our belly rising and falling, we are present and in what I call the intentional network of our brain. Our minds often get distracted - in my case, I get distracted a lot. When we get distracted, it is often our default mode network that takes over.
When I start out paying attention to my feet on the ground, my mind wanders to the color of a leaf that I just passed, which reminds me of the color on a flag for a team that I like, and before I know it I am thinking about that one time I made this awesome catch in baseball when I was a kid… clearly, I am no longer thinking about my feet on the ground. I have been tugged away into my default mode network - the part of my brain that takes over when I go into neutral or autopilot. The work of mindfulness is to recognize that we have gotten distracted and to come back to paying attention to our feet on the ground. This practice grounds me back to the here and now, helps me to be present, and brings me back to my intentional network. What does this matter? And why is mindfulness being written about on a chiropractor's blog?
The Lost Wallet
I committed to practicing mindfulness for 6 months. Most mornings I would ride for an hour around the Vedder trail, paying attention to my breathing, getting distracted, and hopefully, eventually, paying attention to my breaths again.
After 6 months of practice, I had an interesting experience when I lost my wallet. When I lose my wallet, I usually feel really dumb and it feels like my brain goes offline. The moments I am least proud of have happened when I am lost or lost something, especially my wallet. On this particular day, I warned my daughter that I was on my way to completely losing my temper (because I always have before).
But a miracle happened. I didn’t lose it. The part of my mind that can think and be reasonable... stayed. I was able to say to myself, “I have lost my wallet before, and I have always found it, and if I spend too much time stressing about it, I will be late for work as well, which will only make me feel worse.” As I drove to work, my brain continued to work on the problem, and I soon remembered that my wallet was in my raincoat pocket. I called my son, asked him to grab my wallet out of my pocket and put it in its usual spot. Because I didn’t lose my temper, I didn’t have to apologize to anyone for the things that I said when was stressed, angry, and feeling dumb. Until now, the best I thought I could do in situations like this was to apologize more quickly after blowing up. Instead, I had managed to stay calm and in doing so had avoided a negative situation entirely.
Mindfulness is the only thing that I can attribute this event to. I had managed to architect myself (though a seemingly unrelated task of breathing, getting distracted, and coming back to breathing). I now had a brain that stayed composed when I was triggered. It felt so great! If I wasn’t a believer in mindfulness before this moment, I was certainly seeing the fruits of my labor now.
The Last 8% Podcast
This brings me to the name of the podcast. The last 8%.
92% of our life is manageable. The last 8% is the part of our life that truly knocks us on our back. I found this podcast during a global 8% situation and it helped me through, but it also helped me through my own personal 8% situation. The pandemic has knocked a lot of us down. I want to encourage you that it doesn’t really matter what has knocked you down in the past, we can build your brain up and create a life that is much more resilient and resistant to the 8% of life.
It doesn’t matter what your triggers are. They can include chronic pain, trauma, stress, relationships, or even something as simple as losing your wallet. Whatever it is that triggers you, derails you, leaves you feeling flooded with emotion and powerless to change your behavior at that moment, those are your last 8% moments. If we prioritize Dr. JP Pelew-Fry and his 20min podcast first thing in the morning, it might just be the ticket to changing our brain in a way that will allow us to remain standing when the next 8% moment comes to knock us down.
The Last 8% Morning Podcast – by Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry Listen Here
About the author
Author Dr. Spencer Devenney is a Chilliwack Chiropractor, who graduated in 2009 from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC). He has a clinical interest in all things mechanical. His motto is: "if it hurts to move it bring it to your chiropractor first."