Exercise has been my saving grace but I knew I needed more than one coping skill. One cannot be enough; there may be the matter of time management or the overwhelming nature of the problem. Over the years I have been given many suggestions. I have tried them all with varying success. Here is one that made a major impact and maybe it will help you too.
I struggled with constant thoughts of my son dying especially during his disappearances. The idea is not to distress my readers or pull you into my pain but I want you to understand the sheer fear of not knowing. I imagined terrible scenarios which always ended the same way. I was totally unable to stop these painful obsessive thoughts. Until someone asked if I knew about Tonglen.
I have a very basic understanding of this practice but it speaks to me. Tonglen works so well with my personality as it does not require me to step out of my body (which I happen to find very uncomfortable). In short, Tonglen asks you to exchange yourself for others, or, as I use it, to exchange my pain for other's. Rationally, I knew that my experience as the mother of a heroin addicted child was not unique. But in my darkest moments I wasn't in touch with that. I was alone and transfixed on my pain. Using this practice, I purposefully connect with all of the parents out there grappling with the unknown of where their child is, whether they are scared or hungry, hurt or gone. I was taught to breathe in all of their fears and breathe out .reassurance, hope and peace. It helps to visualize this collective suffering; I use the image of smoke on the in-breath and a beautiful healing light on the out-breath.
This works! It breaks the cycle, it takes the focus off of me and it connects me to humanity. Pain, fear, panic separate us; they isolate and Tonglen connects. This connection does not erase my suffering; it recognizes it and honors it . And I feel like I am making a difference. I do not need proof, I know that's impossible but I believe in the power of thought, in the power of light and the power of Tonglen.
To read more about Tonglen click here. (Page 1 & 6 are especially helpful)