Have you ever thought it would be kind of cool to be able to meditate, but then a tiny little voice in your head would say, “Are you kidding? Spend 30 minutes focusing on my breath? I’d rather stick a needle in my eye!”
I’ve been there.
But then, 13 years ago, in the midst of one of the more stressful periods in my life, I signed up for a class called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It was an eight-week class that met weekly for two hours, and included one all day “retreat” toward the end of the class, where we practiced in silence what we had been working on over the previous weeks. This was one of the best decisions of my life, and meditation has become one of the most effective tools I have as I continue to live a full and happy life with cystic fibrosis.
This class made such an impact on me, that I have now learned how to teach it. The reason I took the time and spent the money for this training is that I want to teach others with CF how this simple practice can make a difficult and sometimes complicated life just a bit easier to handle.
I took the class (twice) in person (both times in hospitals), and co-taught another eight-week session with my mentor in a hospital in San Jose. Why meditate in hospitals, you might ask?
Actually, the MBSR program originated at the Stress Reduction Clinic, which was founded in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Now, it exists in over 250 medical centers across this country as well as in numerous locations internationally. Consistently, graduates of the program report:
- Coping more effectively with both short- and long-term stress
- Greater self-respect, energy, and enthusiasm for life
- Lasting improvements in physical and psychological well-being
You know that having cystic fibrosis does not define you. Yet, it can be hard to find yourself in the midst of treatments, medications, doctor visits, hospital stays, and constant concern over that magic number, the FEV1. Having a chronic illness like cystic fibrosis is stressful. This is just a fact of life.
What is often forgotten is that there is much more that is right about us than is wrong! Using the techniques taught in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, we can develop skills that will help us stay afloat in times of chaos, and get more in touch with aspects of ourselves that are untouched by problems with an epithelial chloride channel!
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply purposefully paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, without judgment. The present moment is where life unfolds, and it is only here where choice is possible. By cultivating the practice of mindfulness, you can begin to see where you tend to be on “autopilot,” and learn to use compassion and courage to make conscious choices about how you allow life to unfold, rather than feeling completely out of control. Mindfulness practice is ideal for cultivating greater awareness of the interconnection of mind and body, as well as of the ways our unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional and physical health.
I can’t focus on my breath…How can I meditate?
The good news is that the leader of the class (me) also has CF and understands this dilemma. There are other ways to use mindfulness to better cope with stress. One does not need to focus on the breath. There are many other ways to anchor the mind. Breath is just a very easy one to teach, and it’s always there. Because I understand that attention to the breath can provoke anxiety, we will explore other ideas.
I can’t go to a class. I have a multi-resistant bug. Or, the corollary: I don’t want to get multi-resistant bug.
The best news yet: This class takes place in a virtual classroom. All you need to attend is a computer with Internet access. If you would like to be able to speak (and this is encouraged), a computer headset is recommended.
What are the details?
This class will be an 8-week intensive training in mindfulness based on ancient healing practices. In addition to the weekly classes, there will be one full day retreat scheduled toward the end of the course. The price of the course is $350, but no one will be turned away for lack of ability to pay. If you would like a scholarship, please contact Julie Desch at Julie@newdaywell.org.
Registration can be completed here.
The mind and body are linked. We know this now through innumerable well-designed scientific studies, and we are learning more every day about how this works. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you have no input into your health simply because your disease is genetic. When you learn the practice of mindfulness, you begin to experience exactly what this means, and with that understanding, you can begin to see some wiggle-room around unhealthy habits of the body and mind.