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completely stuck in his head with angry thoughts
about his illness, and that during the meditation he
came to the realisation that this was the first time in
months that he had really been present and alive to
what was happening. To him this was a revelation.
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.
Just think for a moment: when you are stressed or
can't sleep, what is happening, where is your mind?
Yes, it is either ruminating about the past or
worrying about the future. These thoughts affect
our mood and behaviour. Yet, often we are una-
ware that our minds are even doing this we are on
automatic pilot. We live on automatic pilot a lot of
the time. Whether we are showering, eating, driv-
ing or walking, we are frequently unaware of the
experience of what we are doing we are lost in
our heads. The risk of this - and if we talk specifically
about living with cancer - is that we may be worry-
ing about the future, stirring up anxiety and tension
in the body and increasing any pain in the process.
But we also miss the enjoyable moments of our
lives being with our children or friends, listening
to a concert or being in the beautiful countryside.
Looking at the above diagram, it is easy to see how
we could give our nervous systems a break by al-
lowing ourselves some time each day to be in the
present moment. We have the breath and/or the
body to use as anchors to the present moment. By
focusing the attention on the sensations of breath-
ing or the feel of the body sitting in a chair, the
weight held by the chair, the feeling of the feet on
the floor, we come into the here and now we step
outside the virtual reality of our minds. Thoughts
soon come in again, but we train ourselves to no-
tice them and, without any judgement, guide the
attention back to the breath or body.
There are numerous studies showing the
benefits of mindfulness for people living with can-
cer. They show reduction of stress symptoms, en-
hanced coping and wellbeing, improved immune
function and improved quality of life. There is also
something very powerful that comes from the
shared experience of being in the group. Further-
more, studies have shown that personal growth
and healing is possible, once we get below the sur-
face of fear, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is
a vital practice for living with a chronic illness like
cancer and for coming to terms with loss and one's
own mortality.
Thursday 30th March - 2pm near Oxford. Mindful-
ness for Living Well with Cancer - a workshop on
mindfulness for all abilities. Led by Yes to Life trus-
tee and cancer survivor Clare McLusky
If after the Workshop you feel inspired to take it fur-
ther, then please see below for more information
about the eight week course.
The course is taught in eight two-hour sessions and
a day of silent practice, and includes: -
guided instruction in mindfulness meditation
practices and mindful movement
an opportunity to explore your experiences
with these practices through group dialogue, to
support learning and understanding
a short breathing practice to use in times of
theoretical teaching
home practice of meditations and weekly sug-
gestions for ways of integrating mindfulness
into daily life
CDs with guided meditation for home practice
and weekly handouts to support learning
Participation is always at your own level of