Nine Years, Nine Lives

Today is a pretty remarkable day in my life. The day my life was changed, utterly and completely – nine years ago. When I think about that, I am brought to tears. After all I wasn’t supposed to be here. If it weren’t for luck and scientific breakthrough, I wouldn’t be. There are times I wonder why I am, still here that is. If it were any other kind of anniversary, I would be celebrating with a party or a cake. Because it’s my cancerversary, my day is spent reflecting on my blessings and thinking of all the dear friends I have lost along the way.

In years past, I have been so busy that the day has almost gone by without notice, can you imagine? A day not thinking about cancer, a normal day. I don’t have many of those. 2015-08-26 21.49.543,285 not normal days, just off, abnormal like the cancer. Some days I feel every second. On other days, time flies.

I  live a condensed life, condensed experience, condensed joy.

Joy.

 

This year is kind of a monumental year. I turn 40 in just more than a DSC05142month. 40! Middle aged (when did that happen :o)! Believe me, I didn’t think I’d ever see my 35th, let alone my 40th. When I was diagnosed nine years ago, I didn’t think I’d get to do a lot of things!

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to buy a car or a house. I didn’t think I’d get to travel. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to fall in love. I didn’t think I’d ever advocate for change. What did I know!? I had no idea what potential my life had. I had no idea of what I could achieve. I had no idea what life truly held. I had no idea what it meant to live. I mean really live.

IMG_2159It shouldn’t take critical or terminal illness to teach us that lesson. 2016-07-07 18.54.45-1Why can’t we all live genuinely, authentically, passionately, no time for B.S. kind of lives.

Time.

When you realize that time is really the precious commodity that everyone is after, you begin to value it over everything else. Things are just thing and are transient. Money can be made, of course it can buy comfort, but it’s just a thing. Time on the other hand provides us with opportunity. Opportunity to spend it on doing what we love. Opportunity to spend it wisely. I say that, because for us, it’s limited.

Our clocks start ticking they day we are born. So we can chase money and fancy things, and spend all that time working and running in circles. Or. We can open our eyes and see how beautiful the sunrise is, especially when you are with someone you love. How magnificent it is to experience the cultures of the world. How wonderful it is to be loved.

Love.

I wouldn’t be here without Love. The love (and kindness) of my medical team. Love from my family and friends. The love of my dogs. The love of my life. Thank you all! I couldn’t do it alone. I know together, we move forward.

To another nine years,

AM

 

Mother’s Day and Coming Full Circle

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.58.24 PMIt’s Mother’s Day today and I have to admit that it can be a bit of a challenging day for me. As progressive as I am and know that one is not defined solely on one aspect of their life, not being a mother is well a mother. After all it’s a day explicitly for celebrating our mother’s, but what is a mother?Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.04.55 PM

Babies are popping up everywhere, and kids are extra cute at least it seems so especially today. There is nothing like other people’s joy serving as painful reminder of the things you cannot have. Please don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed for their happiness and the blessing of that new life, but it’s just that it’s an in your face reminder that I will never be a “mother” and some days it just feels like cancer just robs you of everything.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.02.09 PMFor a while I thought that this sense of loss was more about feeling what it is like to be pregnant than actually being a mother, but I now know that it is the whole cycle of life that I am missing out on.

Early on in my diagnosis, I had the wherewithal to ask about fertility preservation. I was referred to an onco-fertility specialist literally days before my first treatment. I remember vividly sitting in the Dr.’s office, thinking I had everything under control until “harvesting, embryos, and sperm donors” were mentioned. I actually started having a panic attack. My head swam with questions, “What if I meet someone and they don’t want my sperm donor embryos,” “What kind of qualities do I look for in a donor”, “What do I do with my embryos if I don’t use them?” “I can’t donate them, pieces of me will be out there, but I don’t know if I can destroy them,” the thoughts were consuming.

Breathe, just breathe I thought.

My saving grace was my oncologist deciding that there just wasn’t time to delay three weeks to harvest my eggs. So they shut my reproductive system down while I did chemo. It seems strange to have such a monumental decision made for me, but it was a relief that I didn’t have to decide, I realize now, I wasn’t ready and as much as I wanted to consider the options, the truth was, there wasn’t time and I didn’t have anyone to turn to for unbiased advice.

After treatment was finished, I saw the fertility specialist again to revisit whether I wanted to harvest and preserve my eggs. At that time, I decided that I would harvest eggs, but I didn’t have the finances to proceed and although I would be getting the cancer discount of 50% off the regular price, I waited.

Once again, the decision was made for me, my cancer was back, this time it had spread and I realized that I might not get out of this alive. Parenthood would have to be something that was sacrificed in order to save my own life. Even though it’s now eight years later and I am stable and married, my choices are still limited to acceptance of my infertility, except now I am actively trying to prevent pregnancy.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.18.26 PMIt is amazing how things can come full circle. Having the option of being a mother taken away from me made me want it so much more, but having been through treatment and knowing I will live the rest of my life with cancer and the possibility of recurrence or progression at anytime I am steadfast in deciding not to have a child. I mean, how can I possibly put a child through losing their mother, or risk passing on my faulty genes or risk my own life just trying? Had I never encountered cancer, I wouldn’t have a problem trying to get pregnant at 39, but that is not the case.

Even if I could get pregnant, my ovaries have been exposed to so much radiation from scans and treatment my eggs would be fried, they have been exposed to systemic chemotherapy, and they are 39 years old, the odds of having a healthy pregnancy is not be in my favour.  As it stands, the treatment I’m on counter-indicates pregnancy. The drug inhibits a protein (ironically ALK) that is used during fetal development and the effects on a growing fetus are unknown but likely detrimental. I could stop treatment, but that would mean I’d have to stop my meds for as long as it takes to clear out of my Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.58.18 PMsystem, plus the time it would take to get pregnant and finally another nine months until delivery. I might be lucky enough have the cancer not grow or grow slowly enough to make it to delivery and restart treatment, but then there are no guarantees that I’d respond to treatment again. It would be playing Russian roulette.

 Maybe it is a selfish decision, maybe it is for the best, but there is nothing like holding and smelling a new baby to make you doubt your decisions. I don’t know what it is about the new baby smell that triggers every cell in my biology to want a baby, but it does and it’s hard to resist that siren’s call. For a long time, I couldn’t bring myself to attend baby showers or even hold a newborn because it was so upsetting, but I have gotten better. Knowing something in your brain doesn’t make it any easier to knowing it in your heart. I don’t regret any of my decisions and it has taken a long time to get to a place of acceptance. I still have my bad days, today is one of them.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 10.07.25 PMI am very lucky though, I am healthy and happy and have a wonderful little family (Me, my Patrick and all the fur babies, Lacey, Finn, Mischa and Borat), and have been blessed with a most incredible mother who raised and cared for me (still does) in good times and in bad and taught me how to be a strong woman. I have a wonderful mother-in-law who is kind and thoughtful and who so openly embraced me as a daughter and know through her son what an amazing mom she is. I have so many women in my life who inspire me to be great and to do great thing because of their example of sacrifice and grace. So I don’t have my own biological children and never will, but I have known the kind of Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.56.55 PMlove it takes to be a mother.

To all the would be moms and mothers who have lost children, adoptive moms, and surrogate moms you deserve to be celebrated today too. So to all the mother’s out there in whatever way you are defined, Happy Mother’s day to you.

AM

 

Surrogacy and the blues

Maybe it because my mood is like the weather today…fog clouds my mind and clouds fog my heart, while tears are on the verge of falling at any minute.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.19.19 PM

Maybe it’s because I’m depressed…I’m switching my meds and on a clean out.

Maybe it just because I hate hearing people be flippant about something that is tragic and a privilege and someone like me and many others out there just can’t do.

I happened to be napping, and e-talk came on (usually I flip the channel) but I was half asleep until I heard the “news that Kim Kardashian is encountering fertility problems.” First, let me say I don’t know Kim or her health issues, and I normally would never judge anyone’s choices in whether or not they are or are not pursuing any or all health care options, but this bothered me. If her problems are real and not just fodder for a TV show, then I really feel badly for her, because I know what its like to have fertility issues and what its like to be told that you can’t or shouldn’t have a child.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.31.40 PMIt feels like a part of you had been ripped from you. It feels like you have to bury the most natural instinct you have. It makes you question your identity. It brings you to tears at the sight of children. You tell your brain that its better to not have any, and suppress the wonder of what it might have been like to parent. It feels even worse, but I honestly don’t have the right words to describe the feeling. So if it’s real, I get it.

The problem I have is the “I’ll just get a surrogate” solution. Because it’s so easy.Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.21.04 PM

Maybe for her it is. Well good for you!

For many of us, it’s not an option, at least a viable one. For one, it is incredibly difficult to find someone to do that for you. Think of the sacrifice! I mean they are going to carry a child for nine months and then just give it a way. It would take a very special human to do that for you.

Maybe you get really lucky and you can find a family member or even a complete stranger, the legalities of such a transaction are not so simple. So when someone just throws surrogacy out there as a solution or alternative to pregnancy for whatever reason, they either come from great privilege or great ignorance.

I know people who have had children through a surrogate, when it happens, it is a true gift and miracle in and of itself. These people have traversed the ups and downs and craziness of pregnancy to help families these families who otherwise could not have a child. They weren’t a quick fix that could be fixed with some money thrown at it. They were friends who knew how hard and how much these couples wanted a child. They knew these women couldn’t bear a child naturally because of previous cancer treatments, or those that were ongoing. They did it out of love. They were willing to sacrifice themselves, their own health, time and bond they had with that baby. Like I said, it takes a special person. Not everyone finds their angel.

Anyway I don’t want to ramble, but if you are like me, or if you are looking for help with fertility, I’ll post a few good links and call it a night.

AM

My Oncofertility.org – A patient education resource provided by the Oncofertility Consortium

Fertile Future – Fertile Future is a Canadian national non-profit organization that provides fertility preservation information and support services to cancer patients and oncology professionals.

LIVESTRONG – LIVESTRONG Fertility is dedicated to providing reproductive information, resources and financial support to survivors whose cancer and its treatment present risks to their fertility.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 6…Kintsugi – Recognizing the Beauty in Broken Things

Last week was hard!screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-10-29-19-pm

I am still sweeping up pieces of myself and putting them back together.

I have been broken before, so I know I’ll be ok.

Stronger.

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-4-39-17-pmKintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery, and its philosophy is rather beautiful. It recognises the beauty and value in broken things (more specifically pottery) and speaks to the breakage and repair of objects becoming the history of something, rather than the disuse of it. Potters often repair objects with resins mixed with gold or silver, making no attempts to hide cracks, but to highlight them and make pieces more beautiful and interesting. Here we tend to throw them out. I prefer the Japanese way.

A few years ago at a conference workshop on journalling we were asked to quickly write a response to the idea of Kintsugi. I wrote something and really never shared it, but in light of recent challenges and losses, I am using it to find strength again. I share it with you, its my story in a nutshell.

The fallout is far worse than the sickness. Once treatment is finished, the shell-shocked ruin of a person emerges from the fog. Every emotion and sense of fear comes pouring forth from me.

The problem was I couldn’t share these thoughts and emotions because if people really knew how wrecked I was, how terrified I was, they too may begin to crumble.

I wanted desperately to put back the pieces of my ruined life, to mend them and be the person I had been. The trouble was that person was gone.

I was paralyzed by fear. Terrified that once I managed to fix my life and myself, it would all crumble  to dust and there I’d be again, cancerous.

Somehow I tried my old life back on for size, but it didn’t fit. Like a shoe that was two sizes too small, it was uncomfortable and gave me blisters, but I put my brave face on and carried on. I had “successfully” taped my bowl back together.

Even though it leaked and looked like something Homer Simpson might make, it was together. Then it fell and shattered again.

More pieces strewn about, more pieces to pick up. How would I survive? Recurrence is a bitch.

Faced with few tangible options I decided to forgo trying to fix myself again. Instead I chose to live and love and be happy. I knew the bowl could never look the same, it had been too “damaged” and broken.

I chose to accept it, scars and all. I gave up the mask of bravery and allowed myself to be raw and vulnerable. To share that vulnerability with those around me. In doing so, I slowly turned that ugly shell of a person into something stronger and far more beautiful.

Each crack like a work of art, a work of love, a work of life.

MBSR like Kintsugi is about accepting things as they are.

Week Six of MBSR focuses on two ideas that are designed to help us strengthen our minds to be able to do this: Thoughts are not Facts andMindful Communication

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-10-35-02-pmSo often how we think and communicate can be a point of stress. By becoming aware over and over again how (in meditation) our thoughts can effect us, we can recognize them, let them go and return our focus to our breath. With time and practice we can gain some distance and perspective on our thoughts allowing us to see that there may be other ways to look at or think about situations, breaking us free from old patterns. Thoughts are only mental events, they are not facts. We certainly are nt our thoughts.

Communication patterns can also be problematic or a source of tension for many of us. One of the reasons communication can break down is that many of us focus on or project the hope that someone else will give us what we want – attention, validation, understanding or approval. What this does, is put pressure on the other person, and sometimes backs them into a corner. Often when we feel pressured, we shut down rather than open up. When that screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-10-35-45-pmhappens during a conversation, often communication breaks down because a person can feel threatened, resentful, and not heard. In MBSR we are learning to focus in on ourself and our behaviour rather than those of others. We tune into our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations so that we can read them. By being aware  of these things, we gain a better sense of perspective and balance and can then focus on communicating our need rather than projecting them.

These ideas can be hard to learn and sometimes even more challenging to practice, because the ask us to really examine ourselves and ask us to be accountable to ourselves. However, once you do learn these lessons, you will find your perspective changing. You may even be able to let go.

Be well,

AM

 

Activities:screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-10-34-07-pm

 

Meditations:

Mountain Meditation

Mindfulness of Breath (Track 4)

Bells at 5 Minutes, 10 Minutes, 15 Minutes, 20 Minutes, and 30 Minutes (Track 13)

3 -Minute Breathing Space (Responsive) Track 9

Home Work

 

*Ways You Can See Your Thoughts Differently – Here are a few things you can do with your thoughts, either in meditation or in your daily life.screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-10-55-26-pm

  • Just watch them come in and leave, like a waves, without feeling like you have to follow them.
  • See if it’s possible to notice any feelings that give rise to the thoughts. Sometimes the context can be a link in a chain of events.
  • Think of thoughts as mental events rather than facts.
  • Write your thoughts down on paper. This lets you see them in a way that is less emotional and overwhelming. It can also give you time to pause and give you a moment to respond differently.

Previous weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.