When life takes you down the rabbit hole…

I’d like to begin by saying WOW and Thank you! I never thought what I wrote would resonate with so many and I want to sincerely thank all of you for all the wonderful comments, encouragement, and for subscribing. I also thought I’d share the results of #BellLetsTalk Day with you.

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You can see here where the funds will be directed.

Besides from being truly humbled by your overwhelming response, it really made me pause and think. There are so many people out there that might be going through a tough or stressful time. I mean life can be really crazy, with or without cancer.

We spend so much of our time rushing around. From our jobs, or school, the grocery store, or carting our kids off here and there that life just becomes so overwhelming and maddening.

Rush…Rush…Rushscreen-shot-2017-01-29-at-5-43-57-am

I promised myself one thing after my first round with cancer, that I would never be complacent in my life again.

For a time, I was hyper aware of all the beauty life had to offer. I know this will sound silly, but it was small miracles like funny cloud patterns or the way my dog would snore, to the way the city was reflected in puddles. I noticed everything. After a while screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-5-47-34-amthough, life began infiltrating these moments and I found myself falling back into old habits. I found myself complaining about the weather (as Canadians will do), feeling my blood boil when I was stuck in traffic, the stars were dimmer, and then I stopped noticing.

I had fallen back into my former life cycle.

Wake up – shower – grab breakfast – grab purse – get in car- eat breakfast – get to work – get a coffee –start the day – work – grab purse – get back in car – drive back home – dinner – marking/planning – pack up for next day – bed. Wash – rinse – repeat.screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-5-52-03-am

Monotony took over and I began living life in autopilot, the thing I swore I wouldn’t do. Maybe before cancer, it was acceptable to just settle in, but not now. I had worked hard to have that life, get that job and build my career. Cancer changed everything. The goals I wanted before, even the ones I had worked so hard for changed, there was no room for being frazzled and stressed, living in a monotonous life.

So upon the recommendation of my psychologist I enrolled in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)* course. I was hesitant initially, because really who has time, but I did it. Now you may think MBSR is hokey and all kumbaya, but its one of the only meditation modalities being studied scientifically, and used in hospitals. It was hands down one of the best things I have ever done for myself and my mental health.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-5-57-05-amIt isn’t for the feint of heart, because of the time commitment (8 Weeks + home practice), but I swear it is worth it. Each week I would meet with a small group of stressed out over worked harried individuals and we would learn a specific practice or a few. Then we were tasked with homework. Typically it was an exercise in attention, some sort of meditation, and a very short “journal”. Initially it was a challenge fitting it in, but somehow if you are committed, you do find time.

That was 5 years ago. I can tell you that the skills I learned in those 8-weeks saved me a few times. Like the day they told me my cancer had come back, and that there wasn’t much they could do (at that time). I had meditated while waiting for my oncologist, so I was calm and able to be rational and breathe. It allowed me to be clear headed and coherent enough to ask questions, something I likely wouldn’t have been able to do had I been extremely emotional.

As with anything, you need to practice or your skills get rusty. I have to admit that over the years, my practice hasn’t been what it used to be and once again life got in the way (dating, marriage, dogs, house, travel), so last year in September, I took the course again, this time a very willing participant. I will tell you, my mental health has been better since. I won’t lie, I don’t practice everyday (although I should), but I use it when I need it.screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-6-02-08-am

What I was thinking is, there are some online resources that are open-sources, so I thought that if anyone was willing, I would start with this post, and then the next 7 to “lead” a very rudimentary Mindfulness Group, by posting what each weeks lesson is, the practices and leave it up to you to try it out.

There is no right or wrong way, it is about learning to notice, becoming aware, and taking a moment to breathe. If you are game, Week 1 Resources will be posted below.

AM

*In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn founded MBSR at the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts and nearly twenty years later the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. Both these institutions supported the growth and implementation of MBSR into research and hospitals worldwide.

 

Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to things as they are.

– Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Kabat-Zinn (2007)

 

Week 1 Mindfulness: Awareness & Automatic Pilot

  • When we are on Autopilot, we are more likely to become annoyed or have our “buttons pressed”.
  • Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, we can choose not to go down “the rabbit hole” or mental ruts.
  • The aim of MBSR is to increase awareness so that we have more choices when we respond to situations, rather than react automatically.
  • To achieve this, we practice becoming more aware of where our attention is and deliberately changing the focus over and over.

Activity 1: Raisins

Take a raisin, or any small edible item. On a piece of paper, write down your immediate thoughts about that item. Next, use each sense to examine the item. Eyes, ears, fingers, mouth. Do each for a good minute. Now write down what you notice.

Meditation 1: Body Scan

Begin with a 45-minute body scan (see below). I suggest a quiet place where you can either sit or lay down. Its ok if you fall asleep. I did.

Home Work:

  • Do the body scan 6x for week one
  • Record what you notice each time you do the practice.
  • Choose one routine activity (washing your face, brushing your teeth, lacing your shoe, etc.) and make it deliberate, just like the raisin activity.
  • Eat one meal mindfully (i.e. Like the raisin activity)

Meditations:

www.guilford.com/MBCT_audio (Requires creating a user account)

https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/Documents/MP3/01%2045%20Min%20Body%20Scan%2007.mp3

Suggestions/Tips:

  • Learning suggestions
  • Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothing (sweats or yoga-type clothing work well).
  • Use a mat or pad that you can lie on the floor with.
  • If the temperature varies the room you are using you might want to dress in layers.
  • Choose a quiet spot or time when others will not be interrupting.
  • Download meditations to an iPod or other listening device for easy listening.
  • Good Luck

 

12 thoughts on “When life takes you down the rabbit hole…

  1. Pingback: These Are My Scars
  2. Well done for completing the course! I did this course too, and as you say, it is hard st first to find time, plus at times it is boring, but having stuck with it, I completely agree that it has changed my life, made me more positive and resilient. My favourite bit of the course was a full day in noble silence – I have never experienced things so intensely as by the end of the day. I had a sublime experience with chocolate digestive, I truly had never realised how amazing they are!

    Like

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