Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Ooh, maybe I'll meditate in Hawaii!
So I started taking a Mind-Body Intelligence class last night.  It runs for 8 weeks, an hour and a half each week of guided meditation and then you are expected to practice daily on your own.  The book that we're reading to go with it is called The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron and focuses (so far) on treating oneself with loving kindness. 

Initially, this seems silly, right?  Aren't we always thinking of ourselves?  Shopping for food and clothing for ourselves, cooking for ourselves, maybe even exercising for ourselves?  We value ourselves plenty.  But then again, I think back to last year, when I really did not value my health (or did not think it was necessary to value it).  I waited many months before going for a chest xray that my doctor advised.  While I made time for my job and my family, I did not think that taking time away from my busy everyday business was really necessary, until of course, it was.

So now I find myself on this path, to figure out who I am if I am showing loving kindness to myself.  This is new for me, even though I believe I've always paid good attention to myself.  Apparently, it wasn't enough.  What appears selfish and luxurious must now become essential, i.e. yoga, massage, regular exercise, scheduled doctor visits, therapy.  Wow.  That's a lot of extra-curricular activities for just one person.

Last night was my first foray into meditation (aside from yoga, which is different).  We sat on our cushions (I was the last to arrive and I did not get a purple one.  Hrmph.) and tried to follow our breath.  We were told to acknowledge any thoughts that distracted us from our breath, and to just label them "thinking", then to return to the breath following.  Sounds simple, right?

At first, it wasn't too hard.  I think having had experience doing yoga gave me a toe up on what it feels like to focus on breathing.  But then the voice in my head (and I was surprised to discover that the voice is very shrill and speaks quickly) tried to steer me to my To Do lists.  I tried visualizing placing my thoughts into a basket, then sending them down the street riding on a tricycle.  This made me smile, but did not bring me back to my breath. We sat for about 20 minutes last night before she dinged a little chime to bring us "back to the present".  This confused me a bit, since I thought the whole point of this was to be very much in the present.  I suppose a better way to term it was to bring us back together, taking the focus away from the breath.  Apparently this is called concentration meditation.  And if we just practiced this type of mindful breathing for the next 2 months, we would see decreased pain, anxiety and improved circulation. 

I'm intrigued.  Since we will also be introduced to other types of meditation (spelled alarmingly close to medication... hmm...), we will have a library of calming resources to choose from by the end of the class.  However, I don't know what this means about how my own daily practice might evolve.  Will I become calmer?  Less agitated?  What about sitting for 3/4 of an hour and following your breath makes you less anxious?  I am curious to know the why and how of it all.  I do, like many, enjoy facts.

Many thanks for staying with me, dear readers, both in the thick of the cancer jungle and now here in remission.  I hope you took a few minutes to browse through the NYTimes collage of cancer survivors.  I found it too difficult to sum myself up in less than 150 words (perhaps I'll give it a try later tonight), so don't look for me there.  I appreciated the diversity of the pictures and emotions that many people were able to articulate.  Although I've written close to 100 blog posts (almost all of them more than 150 words), I still don't know if I've really captured the experience of the past 10 months.  But I'll keep trying.



  1. I continue to be in awe of how well you capture your feelings, and mine. Perhaps your intuitive meditative state has been when you write. Reading your posts has also helped keep me focused on what's most important, and that's YOU.
    much love, your ma

  2. I have always felt that our ability to care for and know others is limited only by our knowledge of and love for ourselves. As a survivor you have built a chassis to carry you far on such a journey. Here's to knowing You!
    Love, Uncle Larry