Mindfulness Meditation, A Beginning Again

Why am I posting this here and why post this on a cancer blog site, Blog For A Cure? Of all places, I think the site that has people living with cancer is the most important place for this. I strongly believe that both caregivers and those with cancer, and those suffering loss, can benefit from this type of mindfulness meditation. Why? Because more than with any other group of people, everything is amplified when you or a loved one has cancer, and coping with the stress of life, or death, is a bear. I think this can help in many different ways.

I went to a great meditation class last night…at the Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT… I tried Shambala in New Haven, but this was different…much more personal … Mindful meditation, a la Jon Kabat Zinn who teaches at Massachusetts General Hospital.

I was first introduced to meditation in college…initially Transcendental Meditation… I even did a research paper on it back then… It was much less popular then and not something much talked about…this has changed somewhat over the years…it has always fascinated me…

I have come back to it over the years on and off…. and recently again…Hoping to find something spiritual after Emilee died, something to help me settle and focus… I have been inconsistent…and this time I want to stay with it.

There is even an app for phones for a meditation timer with a chime that chimes to signal beginning and end… how cool is that… no excuse not to do it for a few minutes.

By the way…this is not something you GET…i.e., it is not something you practice and someday, you get it right……. it is something you do for your brain… you do exercise for your body? okay, this is exercise for your mind…for your being conscious and paying attention…without attachment… it is exercise for emotional health…especially, emotional health because it helps you to feel, observe, release. The more you practice returning to your breathing, coming back to focus on something neutral, the easier it becomes to release emotions, especially ones that cause suffering.

And it takes practice… a lifetime of practice…and I don’t mean it takes a lifetime to learn…I mean it is something you incorporate into your daily life… no, you do not become the dalai lama…or some enlightened buddhist monk…you just get better at being whoever you are and being more in touch with that…I want that. You get better at not getting stuck with emotions that influence your thought patterns in a non-productive way.

I was not going to go last night because it was a little far, and I was saying, there is a meditation center nine minutes from my house. This was worth the drive. Sometimes, the right instructor, the right guide, makes all the difference in the world.

We did two five minute meditations, with some input and guidance during these segments by the instructor. We then discussed what it was like for us. Well, some of us did, and some of us had questions. Like me.

Question: My thoughts can be bizarre combinations of thoughts and images and sometimes so wackadoo I want to laugh.

Response: It is okay to laugh if you have to laugh.

Question: What if I have a thought that solves a conundrum no one has ever solved before?

Response: Have a pad and pen nearby just in case.

Question: Okay then, and what about the soup of flowing thoughts, or even falling asleep?

Response: Well, the thoughts are always around. Keep coming back to your breathing as soon as you realize you are caught up in a thought or emotion. And if you notice you are falling asleep, bring awareness back to your breathing. If you fall asleep, you fall asleep. Allow yourself, your body needs that. Whatever happens is okay.

Homework for the first week….focus completely on some task…brushing your teeth, washing  a dish, whatever, and think of nothing else. And, do a two minute meditation, one or more times, daily.

Until you have tried this type of meditation (with a guide, not by yourself, and preferably someone trained in MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), do not be so quick to blow it off as either nonsense, or, “that’s not for me”. You may be missing something valuable. Possibly, something invaluable.

And, there is quite a bit of research on it. Look it up and see for yourself. And if you are interested, you can find instructors. Many teaching hospitals offer it to staff, patients, and caregivers.

Neal Klein
Life After Emilee, on the loss of my wife to pancreatic cancer. I’m not accepting comments right now but please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page.