When Worlds Collide

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 8.30.28 PMToday is May the 4th and for us Star Wars Fans out there it’s Star Wars Day and boy did I did feel at one with the Force. For a short time today I was truly happy because I was finally able to see my Oncologist and not one of her fellows (even though they are all lovely and very competent) because it’s just not the same. For months now, I have been struggling with being just good and not NED (No Evidence of Disease), it’s been quite an ordeal. This is in part because I have had access to the scan results  and the fellows (bless them) have been saying “it looks good, no change,” the reports of course say that the nodules in slide x remain unchanged, so of course I see remain and think “well there’s cancer there!”

It was a tough pill to swallow (literally pills) going from being a super responder on Xalcori (yes its a thing) to just being good. For an over-achiever, this is not ok, especially when Lorlatinib is supposed to be a better drug. Well today I found I wasn’t just good, I’m a super responder and I’m NED!!! Hooray!!! So all that worry and mental gymnastics for nothing. Now that I’m relieved for myself, I can channel my energy into outrage for my friends in the US.

Maybe you haven’t heard or don’t know that the Republicans and the House of Representatives voted to support a heinous bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare). They voted despite not knowing if it would save lives or harm people. If yoScreen Shot 2017-05-04 at 9.28.07 PMu are looking for impartial, you won’t find it here! Many and by many I mean millions of people will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars more to even get insurance or care based on their pool.If I lived there I would be in the two to tiers and would have to pay at least 150K a year and that doesn’t accept for the expensive pill I need to live. Even if I was at the top of my pay grade this is way more than I could afford, so without it I would die. Thats what my friends are facing. It sickens me! It also makes me so incredibly thankful that I was born in and live in Canada. Our system isn’t perfect, but you can bet your ass that if you’re in trouble you will be guaranteed care.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 9.04.12 PM

I wanted so much for this post to be happy and for the most part it is. I wanted to just update everyone and summarize my weekend at the DC Hope Summit, but the more I think about is, the sicker I feel.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.43.49 PM
Look at all those beautiful survivors!! Also that’s Katie hope dealer extraordinaire 🙂

Last weekend I was so incredibly priviledged to be able to attend LUNGevity’s Hope Summit in DC through a donor scholarship (and the very hard work of resident hope dealer Katie Brown and everyone at LUNGevity). It was an incredible experience! It’s not often that one is able to meet so many others like me. There were people from all stripes, young, old, survivor, supporter, newly diagnosed, those who have been around the block and everything in between. Before this, I couldn’t have even imagined having 340 other survivors and caregivers in one place. It was truly beautiful and tragic all a the same time. Beautiful because there were so many of us, tragic because there was so many of us. Its complicated.

I almost always need a few days to decompress and process my experiences because they really are massively emotional experiences, and I say that in the most positive way. There were so many ALKies like me, and ROS1ders, those with EGFR, Cmet and those without a driver mutation, regardless of who you were, there was someone there that knew and understood your experience.

It was just wonderful to see everyone talking and sharing, crying and laughing, taking hope from hearing someone else’s story and sharing their own, maybe empowering someone else. Many new advocates were born over the weekend and some old ones refuelled. Now, more than ever, they will be needed.

I have always marvelled at the close knittedness of the lung cancer community (so many of us knew each other online before ever meeting face to face) and how much sharing happens, how much progress is being made with so little. So little attention. So little funding, and yet research has happened, awareness is happening, action is being taken and people are living better and starting to live longer. But there is still a long road ahead. But we are just starting and bills like the AHCA is a massive setback to us and to all others who are vulnerable and live on the knife’s edge. So my thoughts are with all of you who hoped for the best, and are hearing the worst, resist my friends. Resist with every breath.Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 9.22.20 PM

Be Well and May the 4th be with you.

AM

Indivisableguide.com

Living with intention…Week 8

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.52.50 AMHey folks we made it to week 8 in the meditation series and here we are at the end! It has been really wonderful to put this out there and to practice and re-fresh myself again, I truly hope it has helped you in some way.

Hopefully as a result of your dedicated learning and practice, you may have noticed some  changes in you since you began. If you haven’t, now might be a good time to ask yourself…have you noticed any changes since you began 8 weeks ago?

The changes may be different than you expected and they might not be monumental. They may include subtle shifts, like discovering that you don’t react as readily to stressful situations, maybe now you take a deep breath or two before you act or don’t act. Or maybe Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.54.44 AMyou’ve discovered that you are sometimes able to find space in the day to take a few minutes to yourself, or that you are a little more resilient in difficult situations, or that you’re just a little kinder to yourself. No matter what they were, pat yourself on the back, you made it.

Now the challenge will be to continue on practicing. It doesn’t have to be intense like these 8 weeks have been, it’s up to you to find your own way. There will always be a million things pulling you in all directions and getting in the way, its up to you to remind yourself to be mindful and do things intentionally.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned throughout my 7+ years of living with cancer is, there is no control. It is an illusion. I can control the weather as easily as I can control the things happening in my own body. That is to say, I can’t!

What I can control, and what you can control is how we choose to react (or not react). How you choose to live with meaning and intention. We can let our lives go by with notions of shoulds and wounds, but by doing that we miss life.

So live.Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.52.34 AM

AM

“When possible do just one thing at a time. Pay full attention to what you are doing. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back. Repeat step 3 several billion times. Investigate your distractions”
– Larry Rosenberg

 

Resources & Tips:Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.43.45 AM

See previous weeks 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

Tarabranch.com – Lots of goodness!

Dharmaseed.org – Pod Cast

Audio Dharma – Guided Meditations

Meditation Oasis – Podcast & Apps

Daily Mindfulness – Tips and suggestions

The Anger Process – AH FOWL

5-Step Pain Process

Soften Soothe Allow – Dealing w/ difficult situations

Tuning In – Tips on how to be a good listener.

Loving Kindness…Week 7

To say that this post is late is an understatement!!Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 8.21.05 PM

When I get writer’s block, I get writer’s block, and that’s exactly what happened…that then add a dash of perfectionism and you have a recipe for disaster!

I don’t know why I can’t quite get a coherent piece of writing done around this week’s topic, which is Loving Kindness and how best to care for yourself. I have written and re-written this post over and over, but it never really seems “right”.

I know I am my own worst critic and hold myself to a ridiculous standard that I wouldn’t normally hold for others, and I’m working on it. For me, it’s easier to recognize someone else’s pain and suffering than my own, and often when I do, I feel terrible and beat myself Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 8.24.33 PMup because, “There’s someone out there who’s worse off than I am, how dare I feel sorry for myself”. I have gotten better with that, but I am still hard on myself. This week’s practice is about evaluating and being mindful on how to be kind (not judging) towards yourself and how to best care for yourself in times of distress.

 

Some may say that this is selfish, but I’d ask you to read Five Myths to Self-Compassion, it is quite enlightening, I found it very informative and beneficial in dispelling my own myths. Another tool that helps is practicing the Loving Kindness Meditation.

Be Well,Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 8.26.04 PM

AM

Previous weeks posts. Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6

Activities

Nourishing v Depleting Activities

When trying to evaluate areas of our lives that may help us to care for ourselves, it may be beneficial to ask one of the following questions. (You can do this with an existing page in an agenda, or start fresh by making a list, or by just asking is this an N or a D.)

  1. Of the things that I do, what nourishes me or gives me pleasure, what increases my sense of actually being alive and present rather than just getting by? (Add an N next to those things on the list)
  2. Of the things I do, what drains me, what decreases my sense of being alive and present, what makes me feel like I’m just scraping by or feeling worse or drained? (Add a D next to those things on the list)

Accepting that there are some aspects of life that just can’t change, I am consciously choosing to increase the time and effort I give to nourishing (N) activities and decrease the time and effort I give to depleting (D) activities.

Action Plan 

  • Think about a time when you faced difficulty. What are some of the things that got you through the difficulties? What are things that would sooth you, activities that might nourish you, people who you might contact for support, small things you could do to help you get through?
  • Now write down suggestions to yourself for an action plan that you can use as a framework for coping the next time you are facing a tough time or if you are feeling depressed.
  • For example, a plan may look like…I know when I was depressed last month, I was able to call Mary for support, she talked with me and on another day she visited me too. I felt better after having a nice long bath, where I lay in the water and meditated for a few minutes. I also felt better after I went for a walk, I was really able to gather my thoughts after some fresh air. Making an appointment and speaking to Dr. Jones was really helpful too.
  • It can be helpful to remind yourself that what you need at times of difficulty is no different from what you learned and practiced  in the past few weeks or in other Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 8.23.33 PMtimes of difficulty.

Using The Breathing Space

Meditations

Loving Kindness

Home Work

  • On days 1, 3, 5 practice Loving Kindness Meditation.
  • On days 2, 4, 6 practice any of the meditations we have covered in the previous six weeks.
  • Choose one of the following activities to do: Nourishing v Depleting Activities, Action Plan, or Using the Breathing Space

New Resources

Self-Compassion.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda

Words escape me and I can’t quite express what I’m feeling in the way I want to. Week 5 of our MBSR should be up, but I can’t bring myself to write the post yet. You see, I just found out today that a friend and fierce cancer warrior passed away last night. So if you can bare with me, that post will go up in a few days time.

Losing friends hurts.

I met Amanda about six years ago at a Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) conference. It was shortly after I had found out that I was terminal/incurable. I had come to conference for strength in facing what would likely be my last year. I had no idea what would transpire at conference. Previous meetings were fun and offered helpful tips dealing with some of the issues faced by young adults (YA’s) like fertility, loss of identity, isolation, relationships, disintrajectorization*, and so many more. Most importantly, they offered a chance to be with others that just got it.

Most at conference at that time were dealing with their first diagnosis, or were recently out of treatment, there weren’t too many of us that were lifers, so I was surprised to hear about an informal meeting for metastatic participants. I jumped at the chance to attend! That’s where I met Amanda. She like me was one of the 10 who attended that meeting. It was a cathartic experience. It was raw and painful, we cried, swore and shared our most intimate fears, it was beautiful.

It always amazes me how open we can be with others, baring secrets that we don’t share with our most trusted friends and loved ones. One may wonder why that is? Honestly in my experience at that time, I didn’t want my loved ones to know how scared shitless I really was. I didn’t want to admit that I might die. I wanted to shelter and protect my family and loved ones from suffering, both mine and theirs. It was sense felt by many in that room, including Amanda.

In the months following that meeting, we lost three friends. Amanda was not one of them despite being riddled with cancer. It was everywhere, her bones, liver, lungs, and other major organs. She was a walking miracle.

Again we lost friends, but she endured.

We would go on to attend more conferences together. She attended some in a wheelchair and others rocking stilettos, but her spirit was always indomitable. She loved her daughter with ferocity and her whole heart, everyone knew that because she told us with pride. Her personality was big and bold, you always knew where you stood because she didn’t mince words and didn’t hold back. She lived her life with every fiber of her soul. She unknowlingly was my against all odds beacon of hope. screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-4-43-48-pm

Today my shores are a little dimmer.

AM

*Disintrajectorization was a word coined by Travis Gobeil in 2005 and is a term that describes what happens to your life when you get cancer as a YA. Your life is disintrajectorized off its current path and onto another totally different path.

 

 

 

 

Streeeesssss….Week 4

No one likes things that suck, but sadly they are part of our lives. The suckiness of something can range in variety and gravity, but sucks none-the-less.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-53-39-pmI know there have been many times in my life where things seemed overwhelming or the crushing sensation of stress and anxiety made it seem like I could never climb out of the hole. In the past. I would have likely handled those feelings by drowning them in retail therapy, alcohol and escapism. I’d like to think I’m a bit more self-aware now, but stress has a way of sneaking up on you.

So what so we do when we encounter a crap fest or, as it’s also known stress.screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-51-49-pm

Typically we try to avoid it in one of four ways.screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-52-32-pm

  1. Spacing out – we go somewhere else in our heads or we switch off.
  2. Hold on to it – we don’t allow ourselves to let go of the sucky experience or we wish that we weren’t having a crappy experience at all.
  3. Wanting it to go away – we want to get rid of the experience or we avoid future events we don’t want to deal with.
  4. Anger – we emote negative feelings, frustration and avoid future situations.

The reality is, we can’t avoid all the bad things. Eventually, we need to learn how to deal with them in a productive way or else they compound and cause us undue harm. Mindfulness can help us become more aware of our experiences both positive and negative so we can be less reactive and less stressed out.

The father of stress, Hans Selye defined stress as – The body’s nonspecific response to any demand whether caused by or resulting in peasant or unpleasant stimuli.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-57-24-pmIn nature, the stress response is designed to protect animals (humans included) from danger. It’s called the fight, flight or freeze response. Great for bunnies being chased by foxes, not so good for our hectic lives. The problem is, when we are constantly “under stress” and I don’t mean our lives are being threatened by a bear or an axe-wielding maniac, but the ongoing everyday work, life, kids, health, …whatever cycle. Then these stresses compound on us and our health can suffer.

That’s where mindfulness can help us.

This week, I’ll introduce the 1 Minute Breathing Space or (S.T.O.P).

This handy little acronym can help us when we are starting to spin out of control or really feeling the heat.

S = Stop and pause what you are thinking and doing.screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-55-10-pm

T = Take a breath. Be mindful and take a slow deep breath.

O = Observe or notice what’s actually happening with you. Are you having thoughts or judgments, emotions? Is there tension anywhere? Is your heart beating fast? Are you breathing quickly?

P = Proceed with awareness and kindness towards yourself and others.

Easy? No! Believe me when I say I use this ALL the time!!

This week marks our halfway point and I am curious to know how people are doing. How did the Adverse Events Activity go? What challenges are you finding? What successes have you discovered? What’s getting in the way of practice? Anything else you are noticing?

I’d love to hear how you are finding this!

Before I post this weeks homework, I have a request. – Lung Cancer Canada is looking for B-Raf oncogene positive lung cancer patients who have taken either Tafinlar® (dabrafenib) or Mekinist® (trametinib), or a combination of both to contact them. If possible, I ask you my lovely readers to please share this message through your social media channels. This particular mutation is incredibly rare and we can really use your help reaching patients.

My sincerest thanks.

AM

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom         -Viktor E. Frankl

Previous weeks activities and practice can be found here (1, 2, 3).

Home Work:

  • Practice at least six times this week, alternating Mindful Yoga 2 (or mindful walking) with the Sitting Meditation. Try not to expect anything from doing these. In fact, give up all expectations about it. Just let your experience be your experience.
  • Everyday: Practice using the 3-Minute Breathing Space, three times or at least once daily at pre-determined time. (I love this one, and use it all the time!) In addition complete the Unpleasant Events Journal.
  • Anytime you need it, practice the 1-Minute Breathing Space (STOP).

Meditationsscreen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-51-34-pm

Hatha Yoga 2

3-Minute Breathing Space

Mindful Walking

Mindful Breathing (Sitting Meditation)

All other practices are optional. Happy Practice.

Gathering the Scattered Mind – Week 3

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-8-39-50-pmMy apologies for the lateness of this post! It was a hospital day yesterday and afterwards my wonderful husband surprised me with an impromptu date night, and we got in late. Also actual writing had to happen and I wasn’t sure what to say, but finally, here we go.

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-8-36-13-pmThe theme for Week 3 in the Meditation Series is gathering the scattered mind. I’ll be honest that lately I have been incredibly scattered because I have been waiting for scan results, so this weeks practice has been pretty spotty and I’ve been so easily distracted.

For the last little while, I have been learning to live with results that don’t quite meet up with my expectations. It isn’t that they ‘re bad results, its just not the results I want. For a very long time, I was blessed after a course of scans to get the wonderful news that I was NED (No Evidence of Disease), but since I progressed last year and changed meds, I haven’t quite gotten there.screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-8-56-30-pm

Overall, I am very healthy and all the results show that I am stable. The results say my brain and organs are unremarkable (good news ironically) because it means that the cancer is still only in my lungs. The problem lies in the lungs. Although things have not changed from previous studies, within the results, there have always been comments about “stable globular masses” or “stable pleural effusions” and frankly I hate knowing that there is cancer is living in me and that my lungs are trying desperately to kill me.

I don’t know if I was under the misguided impression that NED meant that the cancer was gone or dormant, but it certainly gave me a sense of security and comfort, and not having it keeps me on edge. After all, there is no uncertainty that there is or isn’t cancer in me, its in here and its trying very hard to be active.

As hard as I try not to fixate or catastrophize, I can’t reconcile those feelings of insecurity and chaos when I know how precariously balanced I am on the edge.screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-8-57-45-pm

Maybe its all in the wording

Words.

Never say words don’t matter.

Words have power.

In my case they have the power to set my mind spinning down a trajectory of sadness and fear, which is why I’m really glad that I am posting this MBSR series, because it forces me to recognize these anxieties.

Perhaps as you have been practicing your meditations, you have found yourself wandering too?

Now that we have been practicing for a couple of weeks, you might actually be noticing how busy your mind can be. I know mine certainly is!! You may be replaying past events or have expectations of the meditation, or be noticing fearful thoughts, or even running through your grocery list of chores. Its ok.

You might even be feeling frustrated that you can’t “clear” your mind of those thoughts, or that your mind is wandering. That’s ok. The kind of meditation that we are learning with MBSR isn’t about getting rid of our thoughts and distractions. Its learning to recognize them. Its human nature to want to strive for something or achieve a goal, but here the goal is to have no goals.

I know it sounds a little nuts, but really its such a useful skill. One of the reasons I think the MBSR program is so intense, is to help us to slow down, be deliberate, and to make the skills learned part of our daily routines.

This week we will introduce a new type of meditation. Mindful movement. The idea being that by being more aware of our physical and mental state, we are allowed to be more present in the here and now. These movements encourage us to take time to pause by bringing our attention totally into the body and try to marry our breath with our movements.

Remember though, the goal here is not to have goal. Try to resist the temptation of say having the goal of relaxation. Relaxation might happen, in which case that’s great, but maybe it doesn’t in which case that’s great too, because maybe you noticed that you were carrying tension in your neck and shoulders, which leads you to notice that you are holding on to a negative event that happened earlier on in the day. Then maybe as a result of that noticing, you realize that you had been tense over a non-event and decide to let it go. That’s what can happen when we start recognize our thoughts and our body sensations.

So with that, we introduce Mindful Walking, and Hatha Yoga. I’ll break them down and link to some videos that can help with home practice below. In addition, if you practice Qigong or Tai-Chi these can also act as mindful movements.

Before I post the new practices and homework, I want to hear from you.

How have you been finding things? How did you like last weeks practice? What were some of the pleasant events you experienced? If you want to share, I encourage you to leave me a comment. If you’d like me to share it, let me know too, or else I’ll keep them private.screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-8-54-09-pm

Be well and happy practice.

AM

Activities for Week I can be found here, and for Week 2 here.

Activity I: Unpleasant Events

Last week we had the opportunity to become aware of thoughts and feeling we felt when we experienced pleasant events, this week, we are going to focus on unpleasant events. The activity will act the same as last week where you will notice and record events (for yourself) in a chart or journal.

Day What was the experience? How did your body feel, in detail during this experience? What moods and feelings accompanied this experience? What thoughts went through your mind? What thoughts are in your mind as you write this down?
Example I found a parking ticket on my car. My shoulders got tense and raised, my forehead became tense, my stomach became upset. Frustration, anger, irritation “I was sure I could park there.” “What a waste of money!” “Ugh I hate parking tickets”

 

Meditation I: Seated Mindful Breathing

Practice mindful breathing seated in a chair or on the floor, make sure you are sitting so that your spine is self-supporting. If seated on the floor, do so on a firm, thick cushion (or a pillow folded over once or twice). Whatever you sit on, make sure your hips are slightly higher than your knees.

 

Meditation 2: The 3-Minute Breathing Space

Step 1- Becoming Aware – You can do this sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then bring your awareness to your inner self by asking yourself, “What is my experience right now?”

  • What thoughts are going through my mind? (As best as you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events, try to put them into words.)
  • What feelings are here? (Turn toward any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them.)
  • What body sensations are here right now? (Quickly scan your body to pick up any sensations of tightness or tension, acknowledge them.)

Step 2 – Gathering – Redirect your attention from physical body sensations to sensations of your breath and breathing itself. Feel your abdomen expanding and contracting. Expansion as you breathe in and contraction as it goes out. Follow your breath all the way in and all the way out, using your breath as an anchor.

Step 3 – Expanding – Try to expand the field of your awareness from your abdomen to include your whole body. Imagine your entire body inhaling and exhaling. Try to notice your posture and facial expressions or if you note any sensations of discomfort, tension, resistance and bring your awareness to those sensations by breathing into them.

 

Meditation 3: Mindful Walkingscreen-shot-2017-02-10-at-9-51-49-pm

This can be done inside at home, or out in the real world. The key here is to be deliberate and attentive.

  1. Stand straight and tall but not stiff. Take a moment to feel your feet on the ground and let your weight be distributed evenly. Are you leaning to one side or the other, or on your toes or heels?
  2. Your hands can be folded gently at your abdomen, or if you are more comfortable just by your sides naturally.
  3. Drop your gaze slightly.
  4. Step out with the left foot. Feel it swing out. Feel the way your heel strikes the ground, then the ball of the foot and finally the toes. How has your balance changed?
  5. Feel how your body moves as your right foot steps forward. Feel the heel hit the ground, then the ball of the foot, and finally the toes.
  6. Walk at a steady pace, one that is slightly slower than you would walk normally.

Your first few steps may be awkward as you are trying to notice all those sensations that we normally do automatically. Once you have done this a few times, you won’t look like a zombie. So maybe the first time you try this, you may want to be at home or in your own yard.

Handy Tips:

  • Flat space
  • Barefoot (If you like)
  • Be slow and attentive
  • Try to focus on feeling the sensations of stretching and bending, change of balance and weight as your body as it moves.
  • Try to feel the pull of gravity and the groundedness of moving through your feet (heel….pads….toes).

 

Meditation 4: Yoga

There are many kinds of yoga and all are based on basic poses or asanas, but we will focus on Hatha yoga which marries poses (Asanas) with breath or Pranayama. Hatha yoga helps prepare the body and mind for other meditation practices. It is relatively gentle, slow and great for beginners. *

*If you have any health concerns or conditions, please consult with your physician before starting the movement portion.

Home Work:

  • Everyday: Practice using the 3-Minute Breathing Space, three times or at least once daily at pre-determined time. (I love this one, and use it all the time!) In addition complete the Unpleasant Events Journal.
  • On days 1, 3, and 5 practice Mindful Walking and record your experience and observations in your home practice journal.
  • On days 2, 4, and 6 practice Hatha Yoga and record your experience and observations in your home practice journal.

Meditations:screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-9-47-53-pm

Hatha Yoga 1

Hatha Yoga 2

Hatha Yoga 3

3-Minute Breathing Space

Mindful Walking

Body Scan and Mindful Breathing (optional)

New Resources:

Mindful Magazine – Nice site that has tons of great articles and meditations.

Living in Our Heads – Meditation Week 2

Living in Our Headsscreen-shot-2017-02-02-at-8-18-50-pm

Before I dive in to week 2 of the meditation series, I thought I’d start off by posing the question, How did it go?

For me, I chose to brush my teeth mindfully. Initially, it felt like a very very long ordeal, but by the end of the week, it didn’t seem so arduous, and I noticed flossing was much easier too.

I also chose to do my body scan before bed. I have been having some trouble with insomnia, so it really did help me to fall asleep. I can remember getting to about my mid-body and zzzzzzz. Getting to sleep easier, has translated to a more relaxed me during the day.

I would love to know how people fared and what you think so far? So post your thoughts in the comments section.screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-8-22-53-pm

Now on to Week 2!

The aim of MBSR is for us to be more aware, more often. The thought that comes to my mind is “Be here, now.” One of the things that can impede us from being present in our lives is the thought that we or something we are doing isn’t good enough or less than we expected some how. These thoughts can sometimes make us blame ourselves or judge things and ourselves negatively. These patterns can often be automatic and therefore “mindless”. What we want to do is interrupt the pattern. When we do that, we can consciously make a choice.

That all sounds wonderfully easy. It isn’t. It requires practice. We are after all trying to break some well-entrenched and sometimes unconscious habits. One of the first steps though is by noticing and acknowledging what our situation is. Just that, noticing, not changing. The body-scan is a tool to help us do that. It allows us to acknowledge and bring attention to an area without changing anything. There is no good or bad, no goal to achieve or not, you just are.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-8-20-58-pmMindful Breathing is another tool that helps us to ground us and bring gentle awareness to ourselves without judgment or need to change anything about our situation. We simply breathe and notice our body as we do so. I tend to have a challenge doing this one on my own and need to listen to a guided meditation. I find I am able to focus on my breath with more attention having someone guide me than if I did this on my own. Its ok if your mind wanders while you practice, it is completely normal and expected. So don’t judge or think you failed. Just notice the thoughts or the fact that you have wandered, and refocus on your breath. If it happens again (and it probably will) just acknowledge and refocus. That’s the beauty of breathing; every breath is a new opportunity to start again.

AM

Activities for week 2 below. Week 1 can be found HERE.

Activity 1: Pleasant Events

This week is an opportunity to really become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations around positive or pleasant events. So everyday notice and record (for yourself) in detail how you felt. You can use the chart below as a reference.

Day
What was the experience?
How did your body feel, in detail during this experience?
What moods and feelings accompanied this experience?
What thoughts went through your mind?
What thoughts are in your mind as you write this down?
Example
Came home to a happy wiggly dog
Lightness across the face, awareness of shoulders dropping. Smiling
Happiness, Pleasure, Relief
“What a warm welcome”
“I feel so loved”
“I didn’t feel appreciated today until I got home.” “Rufus really loves me!”

Meditation 1: Body Scanscreen-shot-2017-02-02-at-8-19-55-pm

Begin with a 45-minute body scan (see below).

Meditation 2: Mindful Breathing (See Below)

  1. Using a comfortable straight-backed chair, sit in an upright position (not slouching) to help, use a pillow to help you stay off the back of the chair. If you chose to sit on the floor or cross-legged, make sure you are supported by a soft surface (comfort so you avoid numb bum) and that you are elevated enough that your knees are lower than your hips.
  2. Once seated, you want an erect spine, and if in a chair, feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed.
  3. Gently close your eyes.
  4. Bring your attention to your body; the physical sensations of your body pressure where it makes contact, any tension, just like in the body scan.
  5. Now bring attention to your breath.
  6. Try to focus your awareness on the sensations in your lower abdomen as you breathe in and out (sometimes it helps if you place your hand on your belly).
  7. Try to follow your breath as you breathe in and out. Notice the changes and physical sensations and you breathe.
  8. You don’t need to try to control your breathing in any way, just let it happen.
  9. Sooner or later (probably sooner) your mind will wander. It OK! It happens and that’s what our minds do. It isn’t wrong or a mistake or a failure. It is an opportunity to refocus on your breath again. It ok it this keeps happening too. Just remind yourself to refocus and start again. Every breath is a new beginning.
  10. Continue this practice for 10 – 15 minutes (or more if you like). Remember that the intention is simply to be aware of your experience in each moment as best as you can. Use your breath as an anchor to reconnect you to the moment if your mind wanders.

Home Work:

  • Do the body scan 6x for week 2
  • Record what you notice each time you do the practice.
  • At different times during the week, practice 10-15 min of mindful breathing, 5-6x.
  • Activity 1 – Pleasant Events awareness
  • Choose a new routine activity to do mindfully (see description week 1).

Meditations:

www.guilford.com/MBCT_audio, track 4 (Requires creating a user account)

https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/Documents/MP3/Awareness-of-Breath.mp3

Body Scan

Tips for the Body Scan

  • Regardless of what happens (you fall asleep, lose concentration, focus on the wrong body part) keep practicing.
  • If your mind wanders, just note the thoughts and bring your mind back to the scan or your breath.
  • Let go of success or failure, this isn’t a competition. Be open and allow it to happen.
  • Let go of expectations what the scan will do for you.
  • Approach your experience with non-judgment, curiosity and openness.
  • Your breath is an anchor.
  • Be aware, be non-striving, be in the moment, and accept things as they are.