Is your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth? Is your foot tapping the floor? Are your teeth clenched? If so, it might be time to consider mindfulness, a philosophy that promotes deep-level healing.
To get started, sit in a comfortable chair, take a deep slow breath in, and while gradually exhaling, focus on everything your body is experiencing. Is there a cool draft coming from a window, the sound of birds outside? Can you smell food or perfume or other fragrances? Is your chair soft or is the fabric of your jeans tight against your thighs? The trick to mindfulness is to experience these sensations, to be acutely aware of them, and to let opinions about them pass.
And believe it or not, it’s harder than it sounds.
Mindfulness advocates living moment by moment without judgment. It’s slowing down and paying attention to situations that sometimes go on auto-pilot, and living with yourself and others without imposing evaluations and prejudice.
And here is the real takeaway for cancer patients: “Mindfulness can tremendously enhance the healing process” says Dr. Matthew McQuaid, a board-certified surgeon with more than 20 years of experience in medicine and healing.
Mindfulness can suspend judgment, even in situations where it’s hard to see the good. Suspending judgment, if only for only a few minutes during cancer treatment, offers a break from the barrage of thoughts that can invade every waking moment and even prevent the elixir of sleep.
Dr. McQuaid contends that taking a pill or getting an operation isn’t enough for genuine recovery. The process needs to go deeper — that there is a body and soul connection that involves emotional, attitudinal, spiritual and mental aspects — and that practicing mindfulness can be the key.
During cancer treatment, when time sometimes feels slow and moments can drag, practicing mindfulness offers strength and healing.
Practicing mindfulness wakes up latent joys that are easy to forget in the rush of life’s demands. The taste of a strawberry, the sound of a breeze rustling leaves, the glimmer of sunlight through a shiny window — these moments of beauty can go unnoticed without practicing the art of paying attention.
“It takes practice,” Dr. McQuaid advises, “but the payoffs are amazing. Quoting T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” he sums up mindfulness as “a condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.”
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