Mindfulness means a fresh opportunity for equanimity in each moment. It means an unspoken understanding that every breath brings the possibility of new perspective and that nothing, absolutely nothing, is forever. And finally it means perpetual hope and growing acceptance
Different Meditations Use Different Parts Of The Brain
MBCPM Course Levels and Their Descriptions
Mindfulness and Aging
Happy Holidays to all our readers!
Photo by Rita M, MBCPM alumni and volunteer. And thanks to Rita for last month’s photo as well.
Drop-in Maintenance Class In Kingston
On Thursdays starting January 10, 2013 Kingston will be part of our Drop-In Maintenance class from 4 to 5 pm. The location will be at Providence Care – Mental Health Services. The first day will be in the Leadership Centre Room with subsequent weeks in their board room G68.
CBC News on Meditation and Pain Management
by Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is influential in the USA in informing health policy, just published a draft report on meditation programs for health and wellbeing. It concluded that research does support the use of mindfulness and meditation in pain management. CBC News contacted us at the NeuroNova Centre on the day this was reported in the Los Angeles Times and wanted to interview us about the work we do with our MBCPM courses in Ontario.
Our own Guy Russel was featured in the piece and did his best to convey some of the essence of why mindfulness and meditation influences pain, hard to do in a 2 minute segment, and he did an amazing job. CBC acknowledged they did not even risk using the word mindfulness as it was too hard to define to viewers! Meditation everyone could understand, so the CBC team ran with that word on the broadcast, but did use Mindfulness in the article on-line.
It may have come as a surprise to alumni that Guy was originally a pain sufferer referred to our courses in 2010. Guy went from being unable to work, due to his pain, which came after an attack of shingles, to being increasingly more functional and less dependent on pain medication due to doing the MBCPM course. He then volunteered his time with our programme for a few months, did contract work for us for a year and joined our team formally in 2012. So he really knows the impact of this work from the inside.
We also acknowledge the 5 alumni: Marija, Donna, Don, Jonathan and Kathryn, who came to St Mikes at short notice and were filmed for the clip on meditation for pain sufferers. Two of them gave interviews, which, though not aired, helped to inform the CBC team of the value of mindfulness. We also thank the CBC team, producer Laura, reporter Kim, and cameraman Peter, who worked with us to get their piece on the air.
The End of Illness : A New Perspective on Health That Changes Everything by David B Angus 354 pages, Published by Free Press
This title ‘The End of Illness’ could make one feel sceptical about the book’s contents and indeed some of the ideas are futuristic. Nevertheless it appears that we are on the cutting edge of accessing information on our ‘whole body’ health like never before. Dr Angus is “one of the world’s leading cancer doctors, researchers and technology innovators”. He shows, quite persuasively, how taking things like multivitamins and supplements could actually be detrimental to one’s health in the long term. He goes into depth about inflammation, its detection and the devastating consequences it can reap in the body and that by taking shortcuts with our diets by blending fruits and vegetables on a regular basis and purchasing what we think of as “fresh” food we could be short-changing ourselves.
His plea is to adopt a “systematic view- a way of honouring our bodies as complex, whole systems”. However, as thought-provoking as this book is, with some of the exciting new ideas it presents regarding “powerful new technologies that promise to transform medicine in our generation”, Dr Angus emphasizes that there is no “one size fits all” answer. One thing is clear though, if possible, we do need to become our own health advocate. This book makes a very interesting read for those who are curious about health and like to keep abreast of the new and not so new ideas out there.
Moods and Mindfulness
by Jackie Gardner-Nix
‘Tis the season to be in a good mood, but for some of us the holiday season may not be so great. We can be at the mercy of extended family who don’t understand “why you still haven’t recovered from the pain yet”, and others who wish you a “truly wonderful holiday” when it brings sad memories, not happy ones. We recently coined the phrase in class that these are examples of “emotional fender benders”.
This is also the season of shorter days and low light. Those prone to onset of depression, or just low mood at these bleaker times of the year, called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (“SAD”), may be hauling out the therapeutic lights which help to treat the disorder, and/or booking a vacation in the sun, if affordable. (see light-therapy.com
Mindfulness and daily meditation practice can help to limit the extent of the low mood and prevent the depression setting in, similar to the way we can use this skill to prevent physical pain exacerbations.
How does this work?
When a challenging event happens or when triggered by something which reminds us of a difficult experience in the past, propelling us into a sad or low mood, the mind tends to generate thoughts which support the sadness, “feeding” and amplifying the sad, difficult feelings. Research shows that when a list of sad, happy and neutral words is read to experimental subjects to see which ones they can remember, sad people remember the sad words much more than the neutral or happy ones.
We generally don’t like the sad thoughts, so, as they are accumulating we may be trying to push them away and avoid them, which usually makes the situation worse. Working at supressing them lowers our mood even more and a feedback loop occurs.
As we see in the diagram above, upsetting event or context leads to a sad mood which, in turn, leads to automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) which leads to emotional amplification. When adding the attempt to suppress negative thoughts the cycle leads to an even lower mood.
Mindfully, even when sad, we can notice the ANTs and know what they are capable of doing—dropping us further into a bad state, even depression or a physical pain exacerbation. We can also acknowledge that the ANTs are “cognitive distortions”, meaning not really true, or overly pessimistic and not the most likely to happen, such as “I’m going to fail”; or “I’ll never amount to anything”, or what ever internal programming we may have picked up from critics from our past.
The skill we practice in Mindfulness is allowing ourselves to feel the sad mood without running from it, and notice the negative thoughts as part of a usual train of events which used to take us on the journey to “never want to go there” land. So we can note the ANTs as familiar (“There I go again”) and like clouds in the sky, know they will pass. Not fine while we watch them, but we know nothing stays, and at some future time, sooner rather than later if we can see it this way, we will feel a lighter mood.
Even watching our mood fluctuate throughout a day in response to all the events which happen can tell us this.
The down side of course, is: remember that ex-boyfriend (girlfriend) who swore s/he loved you and would love you forever? S/he may well have loved you at the time, but, with what we now know about how things change, s/he was on dangerous ground with the second statement!
Ode to Mindfulness
by Anonymous (a prolific poet)
If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful,
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you, when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can do all of these things,
Then you are probably the family dog.
(We thought this was appropriate with the last 2 issues involving stories on Karma, the dog!)
Acupuncture For Pain
by Rosa Raponi Newton
Based on the article by Tima Vlasto, Holistic Science & Spirit Examiner, October 12, 2009
Ever thought of trying acupuncture for pain relief? Perhaps you have tried it and found it to be of some benefit. This is the experience that many pain sufferers report, though there is very little understanding, from a scientific perspective, as to how acupuncture actually works. Without this scientific understanding, western medicine has been reluctant to accept acupuncture as a valid form of treatment for pain and other ailments.
A review of the scientific literature shows that the research base for the effectiveness of acupuncture is slowly growing. With regards to pain, researchers are beginning to show how acupuncture may be responsible for interrupting pain signals. New research shows that nerve tissue called “C fibres” form branches exactly at the location of acupuncture points. Dr. Silverstein, of the Curtin University of Technology, believes that the insertion of the acupuncture needle at that exact point interrupts the nerve circuit and makes us less sensitive to pain.
The connection between acupuncture and pain has also caught the attention of the American military. Dr. Richard Niemtzow, editor of Medical Acupuncture, is training Air Force physicians to use “Battlefield Acupuncture” to treat the pain of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By inserting tiny semi-permanent needles in the skin of the ear where acupoints are located, pain signals are blocked from reaching the brain. Dr. Niemtzow reports that pain can be gone within five minutes, and that this effect can last for several days.
Acupuncture is being held under the microscope – so to speak. Decades of scientific data based on the use of electron microscopes and stereomicroscope photographs is now being presented which gives us a visual picture of acupuncture meridians and points. With the use of this highly sensitive technology, scientists can now see meridians as tube-like structures which carry a fluid high in hyaluronic acid – a substance which is known to lubricate joints, eyes, skin and heart valves. Also visible are points of tiny cells which house chromosomal material thought to be the source of adult stem cells which could potentially develop into any type of cell in the body.
Scientific research such as that mentioned here can improve our understanding of why acupuncture works and how it works. As the wider medical community begins to accept the use of acupuncture as an effective method of pain treatment, it will become more accessible to those with chronic pain who seek alternatives and adjuncts to the offerings of traditional western medicine.
[Note from the Editor: University of Toronto 4th year medical students spent the afternoon of December 10, 2012 listening to speakers on complementary medicine, including Naturopathic and Homeopathic medicine, Chiropractic management, Acupuncture, and Dr, Jackie gave them 25 minutes on Mindfulness. ]