“All you have to do for the next few minutes is just be,” instructed the yoga teacher as we settled in for the end-of-class meditation. Instead of leading me into meditation, this guidance started me thinking, What would happen if I let myself just be during a migraine?
What if, instead of thinking about everything I should or could or would be doing, I allowed myself to be in the migraine. I don’t mean to wallow in the migraine or dwell on it, but let it be what I’m doing in that moment. If I were at dinner with friends or at a yoga class, I wouldn’t be thinking of my to-do list. Even though a migraine attack is unpleasant, unplanned, and unwanted, there’s no requirement that I stew and ruminate through it.
To be clear, I wouldn’t just be lying around, hanging out with the migraine. I could read or watch a movie, take a nap or talk with Hart — whatever I need to do to take care of myself. The point is to not think about what I’d be doing if I didn’t have the migraine, but accept that fact that I have one and make the best of it.
Much of the frustration during a migraine comes from obsessing about what I’d rather being doing. This fruitless churning doesn’t make the migraine stop sooner or take care of any chores, it just upsets me. Why not sidestep the frustration and aggravation by giving myself permission to just be?
This isn’t always practical or possible during a migraine, of course, but I can at least try it. Maybe the lack of fighting, the lack of stress will help the migraine pass more quickly and I can get back to my life a little bit sooner than when I obsess over how much I’m missing.
Since I drafted this post 18 months ago, I’ve put just being into practice. The transformation is amazing. Even when the symptoms are bad, attacks are way less stressful. Jon Kabat-Zinn advises, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” I’m still wobbly, but I think I’ve learned to surf.