My body taught me many things, all of them now filled with soul: how to dance and make love, mourn and make music; now it is teaching me how to heal. I am learning to heed the shifting currents of my body-the subtle changes in temperature, muscle tension, thought and mood-the way a sailor rides the wind by reading the ripples in the water.
From "Meditation" by Kabat-Zinn, Massion, Hebert and Rosenbaum, in "Breast Cancer: Beyond Convention," edited by Mary Tagliaferri, Isaac Cohen and Debu Tripathy:
Meditation is useful for anyone coping with cancer precisely because it is fundamentally concerned with the here and now. In addition to helping you deal with stress and pain, both physical and emotional, dwelling in the present moment can slow your perception of the passage of time and enhance your appreciation of each moment of living. In the midst of profound doubt, fear, and confusion, you may not know what path to take-and there may, in fact, be no way to know. At such a time, knowing how to be still without having to make anything happen, go away, or change is extremely valuable. The disciplined practice of residing in stillness, even for short periods, leads, in time, to new ways of seeing, new pathways for knowing, and new choices for action that might not have been seen but for the stillness itself.
Mindfulness practice involves an element of constant self-inquiry, promoted not through thinking but through sustained awareness and continual, coherent questioning about what one is actually experiencing. Reports from clinical studies as well as personal experiences show that regular practice over the long term can enhance your ability to perceive yourself and your place in the world with acuity, precision, and acceptance. This greater awareness and familiarity with the entire field of your own experience-and particularly your ability to recognize thoughts as thoughts, and feelings as feelings-brings composure, inner stillness, a sense of personal power and authority, and, paradoxically, a greater nonattachment and selflessness. All this can help a breast cancer patient cope with the high levels of stress and uncertainly that come with a cancer diagnosis. At the same time, it cultivates wisdom and the capacity to see and act based on your direct experience of connectedness to others and to the world. It points toward compassion as well, including, most important, self-compassion.
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