Mindfulness and Me
November 01, 2013
When I received the diagnosis of breast cancer, I knew my life had changed. What I hadn’t expected was that there would be some positives. One of those was that I now fit the criteria to use resources provided by Turning Point. Turning Point, a non-profit organization, is a Kansas City area community resource for hope and healing. As per its website: "Turning Point’s mission is to empower and transform the mind, body, and spirit of individuals, families, and friends living with serious or chronic physical illness. We provide innovative education services and tools that inspire people to take charge of their illness and live life to its fullest."
My husband and I signed up for "Mindfulness: Living in the Present." We just completed the class. I understand that I am to purposely focus my attention on the present moment and accept it without judgment. To help my mind stay in the present instead of focusing on the past or future, I’ve been instructed to repeat the phrase, “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in; breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” I don’t understand the difference between mindfulness and meditation. I just know that there is one.
The benefits of being mindful are numerous. Practicing mindfulness improves physical and mental health and can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and help ease depression and anxiety disorders. Further, research has determined that it is a key element in happiness.
I have learned to be mindful for brief periods of time. I am on a quest to lengthen those moments. As usual, I turned to Mid-Continent Public Library for assistance and was amazed by the resources available on mindfulness. I am currently focusing on two:
You Are Here, by Thich Nhat Hahn, was recommended by my mindfulness course instructor, Theresa Hubbard. Thich Nhat Han sums up why I want to be mindful: "In daily life, we are often lost in thought. We get lost in regrets about the past and fears about the future. We get lost in our plans, our anger, and our anxiety. At such moments, we cannot really be here for ourselves. We are not really here for life. Practice makes it possible for us to be free – to rid ourselves of these obstacles and establish ourselves firmly in the present moment. Practice gives us methods we can use to help us live fully in the present."
My favorite is a course published by The Great Courses entitled Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. It is available both as a CD and a DVD. Professor Mark W. Muesse provides 24 lectures on this topic. That sounds like a lot. However, after I began watching these lectures, I found that the first seven contain most of the information I need to learn how to be mindful.
Turning Point provides me with much needed support. Learning to be mindful is helping me to live in the moment, to be calm, and to pause before I overreact to what life sometimes throws at me. Not being judgmental, either of myself or others, is also part of this practice. I have no idea what the future will bring. What’s important is to enjoy the here and now.