A Little Meditation for a Lot of Stress Relief
I used to do a lot of yoga and a little bit of meditation. After being diagnosed with breast cancer I still kept up both but when the cancer metastasized to my bones and my body changed I had to change my practice too. So I started doing a little bit of gentle yoga with a lot more meditation. Aside from family and friends I feel it is one of the main things that helps me through life with ongoing treatment. It helps me feel less stressed, sleep better, be able to calm my anxiety and feel more ready to take on life’s challenges. It is also teaching me to be gentle and compassionate with myself.
It is important to find a style that resonates with you, that you enjoy. There are many different types of meditation, too many to talk about in a single blog post. To keep it simple I just want to introduce you to mindfulness meditation, mostly because it is one of the practices I do and it continues to truly help me everyday.
Mindfulness meditation combines simple breath work, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment and compassion for yourself and others.
An easy way to get started is to take a MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) or MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) class either in person or online. I took one at the hospital that was specifically for cancer patients and it gave me some really good tools. Depending where you live they might be offered at your hospital or a local cancer support centre. Sometimes yoga studios and wellness centres offer them too although they will be for a general group, not just cancer patients.
What is also great about meditation is that you can take it with you wherever you go and do it whenever you need it. Taking a class, watching a video, or reading a book about it is a great start and will help you get an understanding of how it works. Then the best way to really understand it and feel its effect is to do it as often as you can. Even 5 minutes a day can really help with stress, anxiety and inner peacefulness.
Check out these books to help you get an idea of how to practice mindfulness meditation, compassion and self-acceptance:
- Full Catastrophe Living by John Kabat- Zinn
- Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery by Linda Carlson and Micheal Speca
- How to Meditate (and/or) Comfortable with Uncertainty both by Pema Chodron
- No Mud. No Lotus – The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hahn
There are also several guided meditations that can be found online.
- The Chopra Centre offers fantastic 21 day guided meditations that you sign up for and they are free. They aren’t necessarily all mindfulness meditations but they are really well done and easy to follow
- John Kabat- Zinn- Guided meditation
- Online MBSR programs
- Short talk by Pema Chodron on facing your fear
There are also some great meditation apps out there. The one that I use is called Insight Timer. It’s really simple. It has a timer that you can set to the sound of peaceful bells so that you don’t have to keep looking at the clock to see how long you have been meditating for. It also has some guided meditations that you can choose from and shows how many others around the world are meditating with you at that time.
Between diagnosis, treatment, recovery and ongoing treatment, living with cancer is a stressful roller-coaster set on repeat. Meditation is a very useful and powerful tool that can help you get in touch with your thoughts and emotions, cultivate compassion and find strength to keep going -maybe even to thrive. – Jasmin Fiore Dodge, Registered Yoga Teacher and Founder of Stretch Heal Grow