Health checkup: Meditation and cognitive therapy

Gary Ray; photo by Linda Ray

Gary Ray, a retired Asheville resident, first spoke with Xpress in 2017, for the article “Invisible in Plain Sight: Living with Disabilities in Asheville.”  Diagnosed with macular degeneration in the late 1960s, he was declared legally blind in 1980 when his vision fell to 20/200. Since 2016, Ray has been completely blind.

Xpress recently caught back up with Ray, who shares with readers his efforts at keeping himself centered and the perks of revisiting old books.

What are some techniques you use for maintaining your mental health? 

I try to maintain a spiritual practice to keep myself centered. I try to do this once every day. When I can, I meditate.  I was once diagnosed as clinically depressed, and it took years of work and therapy to finally become centered. The major focus of this work now is dealing with the fear of our current COVID-based world. The other focus is learning to accept my becoming totally blind.

What is your favorite way to approach your own physical health? 

I approach this in two ways. First, I have a regimen of doing floor exercises every day. I do 250 modified push-ups, 250 sit-ups and 250 Superman extensions. Next, I go to the YMCA twice a week and do 15-minute sets on three machines. I use a step machine, a recumbent bike and a treadmill. During the beginning of the shutdown, I started using an old treadmill I had at home. After the Y opened back up, I returned to going there two days a week. I started adding one day of using my treadmill at home and got up to a single set of 20 minutes.

What is one book, podcast, documentary or article related to mental or physical health that you’d recommend, and why?

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I discovered this book in the early 1980s. It talks about cognitive therapy. Essentially, it discusses how to change the way one feels by changing the way one thinks about what is going on. I reread this book regularly and have found a practice of applying it to myself.

Editor’s note: “Health checkup,” is part of our 2022 Wellness issues. These short Q&As feature local residents offering insights about their individual approaches to maintaining their physical and mental health. Hopefully, the wide range of perspectives provide readers with ideas and tips for their own well-being. Be on the lookout for more online and in next week’s Wellness Issue, Part 2. 


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