Mindfulness: Week 7 – Learning to Dance Again

John relaxing in Mundy Park

John relaxing in Mundy Park

So when did you stop dancing? When was the last time that you were able to completely cast aside any regrets from the past and concerns for the future and simply enjoy spending some time in the present moment?

Over the past 2½ years since my accident and head injury, I have made good progress in resolving many issues by focusing on my self-managed rehabilitation work.

However, I know that I have been spending too much time thinking about past troubles and future concerns.

Having now completed week seven of my eight-week mindfulness course, I feel quite sure that my meditation practice will enable me to spend more time in the present moment enjoying life with my family and friends.

Coming to this realization this past week was quite a thrill.

Working through the Mindfulness book this past week has given me a wealth of information, ideas, perspectives and some interesting exercises.

During one such exercise, I was first invited to make a list of the activities that regularly do in a typical day. Then I was asked to think about each activity and decide whether they nourished or depleted me.

Surprisingly, most of my daily activities are nourishing. Even those seemingly mundane activities, such as loading and unloading the dishwasher and doing the laundry have now become nourishing.

Como Lake

Como Lake Loop

Since adopting my new meditation practice, my mundane activities are now opportunities to practice being mindful!

Even my running, which I have always found to be fulfilling, has become more nourishing, since I am now doing mediations during and after my daily runs.

Week seven also included three meditations to be done on six of the seven days of the week.

This week, instead of being given specific meditations, I was asked to tailor my daily practice by first choosing two meditations from past weeks:

– First, a meditation that I was comfortable with or had not come to grips with.

– Second, a meditation that nourished me and made feel good about the world.

I would then finish each daily practice with “The Three-Minute Breathing Space” meditation

Here’s the daily meditation practice that I put together:

– First I chose to do “Exploring Difficulty” for my first meditation, which I always find challenging.

– Then for my second, I decided that the “Befriending’ meditation would nourished me greatly.

After the first two meditations, I finished  with “The Three Minute Breathing Space” as instructed.

My daily meditations this past week were actually extremely hard work, especially the “Exploring Difficulty” meditation. However, my meditative experience along with the “daily activities” exercise has emphasized the need to monitor my daily activities and make sure that I am nurturing myself.

Diana's garden

Diana’s garden – the pride of our neighbourhood

I also know that mindfulness meditation will be an integral part of my life for the future.

As for dancing, my mindfulness meditation this past week has encouraged me to start over and now would seem a good time to start over. My wife Marjory is my perfect dance partner, although she often reminds me that she prefers to lead.

We’ll probably start with a waltz and slowly work our way up.

Finally, you should try the “activities” exercise yourself and see how your daily activities are either nourishing or depleting your life. You may also discover ways to bring more nourishment and fulfillment into your lives.

As always, I wish to thank Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman for writing the amazing book that inspired me to take this pivotal eight-week Mindfulness journey.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

I look forward to starting “Week 8 – Your Wild and Precious Life”, my final blog for this Mindfulness series, on Sunday and then, as always, sharing my experiences with you in my blog.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Mindfulness: Week 3 – The Amazing Three-Minute Breathing Space

John among the Laurels

John among the Laurels

Week 3 has been a breakthrough week for me. When I started my eight-week mindfulness meditation course, I suspected that it would eventually help alleviate my chronic pain. However, I did not expect that help would come as soon as this, and in such a dramatic fashion.

First, a quick update on my ongoing struggle with scheduled daily meditation times. I have decided that it actually worked better for me to not have a schedule. This past week, I have been doing my daily meditations when the need arises and when time allows. It’s working fine so I will leave well alone.

This week’s meditations enabled me to take the enhanced awareness that I gained from my first two weeks and integrate it more closely into my daily life.

I completed three meditations daily – eight-minutes of Mindful Movement, eight-minutes of Breath and Body, and The Three-Minute Breathing Space meditation.

My Mindful Movement meditation consists of four interlinked stretching exercises. They are all beautiful in their simplicity. When put together, the total experience is soothing and profound.

Of particular note is a set of body stretches, where you reach upward with your arm outstretched as if you were picking fruit from the branch of a tree. As you return your arm back to your side, you are invited to mindfully observe your hands and fingers as they slowly move downwards.

Personally, I loved this experience. It gave me a heightened sense of body awareness and encouraged a child-like sense of curiosity. It was as if I had never seen my hands before. One has to experience it to fully understand.

Breath & Body meditation spot - Noons Creek

My Breath & Body meditation spot – Noons Creek

I usually did my Breath and Body meditation straight after Mindful Movement as recommended in the book. It worked really well given my already heightened sense of body awareness.

Sitting in a comfortable position on a chair, I initially spent a little time noticing the sensations of my whole body. Then I focused in on my breathing. Gently reminding myself that there is no right or wrong way to feel, I then simply observed my body and breath sensations that were there in the moment.

When my mind wandered away from the breath, as it does, to planning, remembering, worrying or daydreaming, I acknowledge where my mind had wandered to and then gently escorted it back to my breath and the moment.

If I felt any physical discomforts while sitting, I would either mindfully adjust my body position accordingly, or focus my breath towards the area of discomfort. Both of these techniques brought noticeable relief.

Near the end of my meditation, I sat in the silence, focusing on my breath, fully aware. It was as if my whole body was breathing. The experience was sublime.

As I finish this meditation, I am reminded that reminded that the deepest stillness and peace does not arise because the world is still or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow our body, our mind, and the world around us to simply be just as they are – moment-by-moment and breath-by-breath.

As for The Three Minute Breathing Space, I have become especially fond of this meditation this past week. It’s designed to be used as needed and I have therefore used it quite frequently over the past week.

The Three-Minute Breathing Space spot - Noons Creek

The Three-Minute Breathing Space spot – Noons Creek

However, the first time I experienced it was totally unplanned and what happened will remain with me always. Let me share the story with you.

Last Sunday, I drove out to the nearby Pitt River Dyke for my usual weekend long run at around 6:30am. I felt the need to get out and run despite having a bad migraine headache, so I took an extra-strength Advil and hoped it would pass.

The Pitt River Dyke is one of my favourite runs, since it offers some stunning views of the mountains and the river from the trail. There’s also an abundance of wildlife to be seen along the way.

As I ran along the winding trail by the slough that leads to Pitt River dyke, my headache was now getting worse. I am quite familiar with migraine headaches since my 2010 concussion injury. However, this one was now severe and my peripheral vision was blurred. I was understandably concerned for my health.

I was considered turning back when I reached the Pitt River. However, the trail turned and I was presented me with a beautiful river and mountain vista that lifted my spirits and soothed my headache somewhat.

It was a gorgeous morning and the air was fresh and sweet. I scanned the vast blueberry fields that run all the way on the other side of the dyke from the river. I was hoping to see a black bear or two as they are commonly seen feasting on the berries. Alas, there were none to be seen.

“I’ll just do another kilometre or so, and then I will turn for home”, I thought, as I admired the river’s wide expanse flowing gracefully towards the mighty Fraser.

Mountains and river - Pitt River Dyke

Mountains and river – Pitt River Dyke

Then I turned my head, looked down the trail and saw before me the largest black bear I have ever seen just a few hundred feet ahead of me, slowly meandering in my direction.

Delight was my first reaction, although I do know that it’s unwise to get too close. After watching the bear stop and have some blackberries from the bushes along the trail, I decided that it would be prudent to turn around and head back.

However, I just had to take my ear buds out and get a quick photo with my iPhone for the kids. As I headed back along the trail, I must admit that I did a few shoulder checks. I know that bears can run a lot faster than I can. Fortunately, he seemed totally preoccupied with eating the blackberries.

As I continued back down the path, my head and vision were a little better for the vistas and my bear experience, but still very much there.

It had so far been an eclectic morning from a musical perspective. I had set my iPhone songs on ‘random choice’. I had never done this before and it had been interesting to say the least.

The music ended and I was wondering what was next. Then, to my absolute surprise, I was suddenly listening to The Three Minute Breathing Space meditation through my ear buds while I was running!

I was caught totally off guard but immediately went along with what was now happening in the moment. Why not, I thought.

Led by my trusted meditation guide, I continued my run down the trail for the first minute, mindfully observing the river and the blueberry fields while becoming increasingly aware of my innermost thoughts, feelings and body sensations.

For the second minute, I gathered and focused my attention on the breath and the body sensations felt while breathing. During the third minute, I expanded my attention and my field of awareness to the entire body.

“Wow”, I thought. “In just three euphoric minutes, I am fully aware, mindful and grounded in the present moment, and accepting of my life as it is right now.”

By the still waters - Port Moody Inlet

By the still waters – Port Moody Inlet

Even more amazing to me was realizing that my vision was now clear and my migraine headache had totally disappeared!

I was “running on air without a care, in the moment”, all the way home.

Looking back, I have found that a well-managed running program works well for self-managing chronic pain associated with my ongoing concussion symptoms. Now I have discovered a new and significant addition to my chronic pain self-management tool kit – Mindfulness Mediation.

What’s also exciting is that Mindfulness Meditation will likely improve many other aspects of my health and well-being; indeed, all aspects of my life  – moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath.

As for the future, the positive impacts of mindfulness meditation on chronic pain are evidence-based and well documented. Therefore, I envision that it will soon become universally recognized as an essential part of everyone’s chronic pain self-management tool kit.

Thank you again to Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman for writing the book that inspired me to start on my exciting eight-week Mindfulness journey.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

Of special interest to me right now is that Dr. Penman has written an exciting new book, along with co-author Vidyamala Burch, that’s entitled “Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing”.

Their new book will be available on September 5th, in the UK at least. I am looking forward to reading it with great enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, I will be starting Week 4 of my eight-week Mindfulness course on Sunday and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in my next blog.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Mindfulness: Week 1 – Mindful of body and breath

Time to meditate - Mundy Park

Taking time to meditate – Mundy Park

What an insightful first week of my eight-week mindfulness meditation course. I have enjoyed reading the book and following the guided meditations so much!

The material is well suited to someone like myself who is starting out, developing their own mindfulness practice, and already knows intuitively that they will benefit from it.

The author’s writing style is excellent. The meditation guide speaks respectfully and calmly with clarity and eloquence. My guide has become a trusted friend.

Over the week, I felt calmer, less stressed and more able to cope. It would require a long blog to mention all the things that I have experienced and learned over the week. However, I would like to share some of them with you.

My first task was to find times that would work well for my twice daily meditations. The first week’s meditation is only about 8 minutes, but finding two regular times that would work was challenging, but I found them quite quickly.

Morning meditations seem to work well for me and set me up for the day. They work best after I have showered, eaten and finished my morning run. I am awake, well nourished, feeling healthy and calm.

Just before going to bed works well too. I am relaxed and open for meditation at that time and I sleep really well afterwards.

As you might expect, I use ‘earbud’ headphones and my iPhone for all my meditations to improve my focus and to be respectful of others around me.

Surrounded by nature - Mundy Park

Surrounded by nature – Mundy Park

This week’s guided meditation was a short ‘Mindful of Body and Breath’ meditation, designed to ground me in the present moment.

Initially, I needed to ensure that I was sitting in a dignified yet comfortable position, so that my posture supported my intention to be awake and aware. I then closed my eyes and focused my attention on the physical sensations that I felt from my body.

I initially focused my awareness on my breathing and the breath to calm and ground myself.

Then, starting with my feet and working my way up to my head, I acknowledged the physical sensations that I was feeling from different areas of my body.

I finished by acknowledging the physical sensations felt from my entire body, as a whole.

These were amazing physical awareness experiences for me. I took great care not to make things happen – I simply registered what was already happening.

Moving my awareness back to the breath, I acknowledged the sensations of my abdomen rising and falling, breath by breath, moment by moment.  It had been a long time since I had felt such a sense of peace, stillness and calm. It was sublime and I was deeply moved.

During my meditations, my mind would periodically wander off the breath, to thinking, memories, plans, worries or daydreams.

When this happened, I took great care not to judge myself, or to be upset with myself. I simply registered where my mind had wandered off to, and then gently escorted my attention back to the breath.

At the beach - Old Orchard Park

At the beach – Old Orchard Park

In his book “Wherever you go, there you are”, Jon Kabut-Zinn, a long-time mentor of mine, suggests that observing one’s thoughts during meditation is like sitting in a cave behind a waterfall and watching the water flow over the falls.

During my meditations this past week, I have come to appreciate Jon’s analogy. I have also discovered that there’s no need to dwell on thoughts that are emotionally stressful.

My ongoing mindfulness meditation practice will enable me to manage my thoughts and spend more time in the present moment. It’s a place where I will find inner peace, calm and tranquility.

As for the future, I am feeling quite optimistic and hopeful. My plan is to have a mindfulness meditation life-practice, integrated with my running rehabilitation and ‘non-inflammatory’ healthy eating programs that are already in place.

I am hoping that this is the missing piece of my self-managed rehabilitation and chronic pain management puzzle, so to speak.

It has been an exciting week and I am looking forward to the next seven weeks of my eight-week mindfulness course.

My challenge might be to resist the temptation to charge ahead in the book. Of course, I do know that I must stay in the present and savor every moment of this eight-week mindfulness experience.

Among the flowers - Rocky Point

Among the flowers – Rocky Point

Before bringing this blog to a close, I would like to share one more story.

About 15 years ago, I was in my downtown Vancouver apartment reading The Georgia Straight, when I came across a small ad for a Sufi cooking class.

It was at the nearby False Creek Community Centre and the fee was only $10.

Although I knew little about Sufism or their style of cooking, I was intrigued, so I signed up.

About 10 other people turned up on that Saturday morning. After a brief introduction to Sufi philosophy, our instructor asked us to leave our regular lives behind for the morning, be present in the moment, and enjoy the experience.

With that in mind, we were each asked to choose a healthy, nutritious dish of food that we would each prepare and then share for lunch that day. After deciding on a meal and making a shopping list, we walked together along False Creek to Granville Island market where we each bought the fresh produce for our dish.

It was a beautiful sunny day, the aroma from the flowers along the way was gorgeous, and the market was bustling with people. Then, upon our return, we each prepared our dish, sat down, offered a prayer of thanks and then we ate together.

It was an amazing experience and I learned so much from this seemingly insignificant half-day Sufi cooking class. Here are the things that I remember:

– A quiet sense of peace and calm that resonated from our instructor

– The sights, sounds and smells while walking along the creek to the market

– Being thankful for living in a place abundant with fresh fruit and vegetables

– Picking fruit and vegetables and accepting their minor flaws, without judgment

– Preparing the dishes by hand with love and caring for those that would eat it

– As we ate, being consciously aware of the people that helped create the meal

– The farmers, drivers, market workers, our instructor, our group, ourselves

– Giving thanks before our meal for our food and all those people that created it

– A quiet sense of peace and calm that resonated from everyone on departure

Perhaps not so surprisingly, I do not remember learning anything about a Sufi style of cooking or an ethnic dish. Of course, that’s because I was actually attending a mindfulness class!

With that story, I will close for this week. I hope that you are able to return and share more of my mindfulness meditation experiences through my weekly blogs.

Thank you again to Mark Williams and Danny Penman for writing the book that inspired me to start on this exciting eight-week journey towards mindfulness.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Week 7 – Chronic pain self-management: Pulling it all together!

Just finished my Port Moody Inlet 6K

Just finished my Port Moody Inlet 6K

As this is the final blog in my weekly chronic pain self-management series, I would first like to say ‘thank you’ for visiting my blogs.

It is always a pleasure and, indeed, an honour for me to serve others living with chronic pain.

My hope is that by sharing my chronic pain self-management story along with my knowledge and workshop facilitator experiences, I will further increase chronic pain knowledge and awareness across BC and globally.

Additionally, I hope that my blogs will provide people living with chronic pain some additional information, support and a real opportunity to improve their ‘quality of life’ by taking a UVic workshop.

Let me quickly recap what you will learn when you attend a free of charge, 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) from the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging:

Action planning and goal setting
Acute versus chronic pain
Pain and symptom cycle:
– Pain
– Tense muscles
– Ineffective breathing
– Stress & anxiety
– Restricted movement
– Difficult emotions
– Depression
– Fatigue
– Pain etc.
Self-management tools:
– Problem-solving
– Pacing and planning
– Managing fatigue
– Physical activity & exercise
– Relaxing & better breathing
– Understanding medications
– Working with health professionals
– Using your mind
– Communications
– Understanding emotions
– Finding resources

Pitt River dyke trail 9K

Pitt River dyke trail 9K

Following the completion of our workshop, our participants soon discover that chronic pain self-management for the long term is difficult. It requires a great deal of discipline, determination and hard work.

Most of all, I know from experience that we all want and need to be inspired and to inspire others.

Some incredible sources of inspiration for me are to be found while performing my volunteer work facilitating chronic pain self-management workshops with UVic.

I am constantly inspired by the courage, honesty, strength of character, openness and generosity shown by my workshop participants as they work together in becoming strong, capable self-managers.

Then there’s my amazing UVic coordinator Carol Sicoli, who continually inspires me with her dedication, hard work and commitment to helping people in need. Thank you so much Carol for your leadership, expertise, kindness, encouragement and friendship.

Port Moody Inlet 9K

Port Moody Inlet 9K

I have often been told by my UVic colleagues and our workshop participants that I inspire them and others, which is heartwarming, gratifying and much appreciated.

In addition to feeling valued and fulfilled, my UVic volunteering is having a positive impact on my own rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management programs.

Consequently, if you are living with chronic pain, I thoroughly recommend you consider volunteering as a part of your rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management program.

As mentioned in my first blog, there are an incredibly large number of people out there living with chronic pain. Many have exhausted the traditional sources for help and are resigned to quietly living a life of suffering, often feeling helpless and desperately alone.

My hope is that my chronic pain self-management blogs reaches as many of these people as possible.

If you are an adult living in BC with chronic pain, you should seriously consider taking our free of charge self-management workshop.

It may result in a new beginning for you and your loved ones. It certainly was for me!

My two 'pace bunnies' - Pitt River dyke trail 9K

My two ‘pace bunnies’ – Pitt River dyke trail 9K

As for me, I am going to take a short break, We leave for our annual family camping trip for two weeks after school finishes on Thursday.

Camping under canvas while being surrounded by nature enables us to regroup and reconnect as a family. Rain or shine, we always have a great time!

While I am away camping, I will find some quiet time to contemplate life. Then when I return with fresh energy, I will continue with my chronic pain work and blog some more too.

As for my blogging, I am not sure exactly what’s next, but I suspect that I will be inspired while I  am away.

In closing, I will remind you as always, that if you or someone close to you is living with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I would encourage you follow the link below and sign up for a chronic pain self-management workshop soon.

Namaste.

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Week 6 – Chronic pain self-management: Communications skills are vital!

Off for a run

Ready to go for a run – always!

I know from personal experience that the ‘body & mind’ tools that we offer in our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, such as physical exercise and mental relaxation, are essential for ongoing, long-term chronic pain self-management.

However, we also offer several other ‘communications’ related tools that are vital for maintaining solid, healthy relationships with the many people that are supporting us while we are living with chronic pain.

As a facilitator of the University of Victoria’s Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, offered free of charge to adults across BC, I have been involved in many brainstorming sessions with people living with chronic pain.

Brainstorming affords our participants an opportunity to share their chronic pain experiences. Although challenging, many participants feel that managing the chronic pain itself is not always the most difficult thing they face in their daily lives.

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park 4K

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park 4K

Many say that there are times when maintaining an open, honest and respectful relationship with their partner, family members, friends, and health care professionals is the most challenging thing for them.

When these relationships break down, they often feel misunderstood by people that are trying to help them. In some cases, some participants are not always sure that they are fully believed when they talk about their chronic pain.

Personally I have had incredible support from my wife Marjory and my entire support group. However, there have been times when I have felt misunderstood and quite alone living with my chronic pain.

The good news is that, in our workshop, we have 4 specific tools within our Self-Management Tool Kit that will help us self-manage our relationships while living with chronic pain.

Waterfall - Coquitlam River 9K

Waterfall – Coquitlam River 9K

Here’s a brief description of each:

1. How to communicate effectively

Communications skills are vital for people who are self-managing a condition like chronic pain, so that they can let others know how they are feeling and what they need.

In our workshops, we discuss a variety of different communications skills with our participants, and then we use role-playing to practice them.

Some examples of these skills are:

• Using ‘I’ messages rather than ‘’you’ messages

• How to be clear to others when we are stating our wants and needs

• When and how to say ‘yes please’ and ‘no thank you’ when people offer help

Learning through role-playing is very effective and lots of fun!

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park 4K

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park 4K

2. Dealing with difficult emotions

It’s important to understand that emotional ‘ups and downs’ and feelings of anger, fear, worry and frustration are normal for people living with chronic pain.

Additionally, finding a supportive, non-judgmental group where they can talk about their emotions and feelings and feel they have been heard and understood can be an empowering experience.

Our workshop participants often feel that they are among a supportive group and are comfortable enough to discuss their personal emotions and feelings and then do some brainstorming and problem-solving with the group.

As the facilitator, these discussions are always fulfilling and heartwarming.

Foxgloves - Coquitlam River 9K

Foxgloves – Coquitlam River 9K

3. Making informed treatment decisions

Reports about new treatments, new drugs, nutritional supplements, and other complementary or alternative treatments claiming to be the answer to chronic pain are plentiful.

This is especially true for people who desperately looking for something or someone to take the pain away.

Unfortunately, there is rarely a ‘complete solution’ to be found for chronic pain. However, there are medications, rehabilitation programs and therapies that can help.

So it’s important to know how to evaluate these prospective treatments in order to make an informed decision about whether to try them or not. This applies to both mainstream and alternative treatment options.

During the workshop, we give our participants a list of questions and criteria to be used when evaluating and considering a new treatment option for chronic pain.

We especially advise them about information offered on the Internet and how to recognize more reliable web sites.

Last but not least, we emphasize the need to inform our health care professional when we are contemplating any new treatment and then keeping those health care professionals up to date with our progress.

Meditation Grove - Mundy Park 4K

Meditation Grove – Mundy Park 4K

4. Working with the healthcare system and health care professionals

Most people have experienced difficulties in getting the health care they need. There are really two types of problems.

Problems associated with the health care system itself, like getting a timely appointment. Then there are problems that arise when working directly with our health care professionals.

In our workshops, we identify situations, problems and potential solutions using our newly acquired brainstorming and problem solving skills.

It’s important to mention that at no time do we bring up the names of any specific organization or health care professionals. We ask that participants keep this information strictly confidential in our first workshop.

We also advise our participants how to communicate effectively with their healthcare professionals, including how to prepare a pain profile, how to best describe pain, and how to express pain intensity.

Ferns - Coquitlam River 9K

Ferns – Coquitlam River 9K

In conclusion, learning and using these ‘relationship’ tools and other ‘physical and mental’ tools from our Self-Management Tool Kit will enable us, indeed empower us, in becoming a highly informed, capable and confident self-manager of our chronic pain.

Given my personal experience over the past 2½ years while self-managing my own chronic pain and rehabilitation following my accident and injury in 2010, I have found that sustained self-management requires some additional qualities and skills.

From my experience, successful chronic pain self-management over the long-term specifically requires a great deal of self-discipline, determination and hard work. Additionally, I have found that ongoing planning and goal-setting has been critical for my ongoing self-management. Additionally, I remain an eternal optimist with a good sense of humour, which helps.

Ritt River Dyke trail

Pitt River dyke trail

While on the subject of goal-setting, as promised in last weeks blog, I have set myself another running rehabilitation goal for the fall. I will run a local half-marathon called the Trail River Run along Hyde Creek and the Pitt River dyke in Port Coquitlam, BC.

It follows a beautiful trail run that I first discovered during my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon training this past spring. The Trail River Run is scheduled for September 22nd and it’s on a Sunday. I am now looking forward to signing up, creating a training plan and getting started!

Next week, I will write my final blog in this Chronic Pain Self-Management series. I am planning to summarize what we have discussed over the past 5 weeks and what our UVic workshops offer for chronic pain self-management along with my own personal perspectives.

Additionally, I will talk to you about the qualities and skills that I have needed for successful long-term chronic pain self-management.

In closing, I wish to remind you all that, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop.

Please use the link below to find out more information.

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 5 – Chronic pain self-management: The incredible power of the mind

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

My late father, Alex Murphy, who was practitioner of yoga and meditation long before it became fashionable, often told me about the incredible power of the mind.

Upon reflection, my Dad was ahead of his time in so many ways. Although I did not have the maturity and life experience required to appreciate his guidance at the time, I did intuitively know that his intentions were good and that I should retain his words of wisdom for a future time. My intuition was good!

As a facilitator of Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, offered free of charge through the University of Victoria, one of my key objectives is to fully equip the participants with proven and effective chronic pain self-management tools.

Learning to use the ‘cognitive’ self-management tools, such as better breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery for relaxation, and visualization for positive thinking, is initially quite challenging for most workshop groups.

Participants are generally less familiar with these types of tools compared with the more ‘physical’ tools like healthy eating and physical activity and exercise.

Piper Spit trail 5K

Piper Spit trail 5K

Consequently, we take great care to introduce our cognitive tools slowly and respectfully, paying close attention to our participant’s comfort level. Here are some examples:

– During our 2nd week workshop, we learn our deep breathing exercise and a modified version of the Jacobson’s muscle
relaxation technique.

– In the 3rd week session, we take a calm and relaxing ‘walk in the country’ together, using guided imagery.

– Our 5th week session includes taking a journey forward in time for a positive look at our future, using visualization.

Typically, once a group has experienced the first ‘cognitive’ tool together, they are quite keen to try the others.

Later in the workshop, when participants begin to realize the potential self-management benefits from using a combination of cognitive and physical tools together, they really get excited!

I have personally had many moments of realization over the last 18 months when following the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic’s running rehabilitation program, and while training for and running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

Brunette River

Brunette River

I now know that it’s critical for me to have at least one major near term goal and a corresponding action plan in place that will enable me to reach that goal.

Setting a running race goal and then following a detailed training Action Plan works well for me. It involves many of the physical and cognitive self-management tools that I most enjoy, such as well-managed running, controlled breathing, music therapy, positive thinking, visualization and time in nature.

I have learned incredible lessons both from my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon experience, and from my blogging about those experiences.

Consequently, I am looking for a fall race to run. I will tell you what I find out in next week’s blog.

In my role as a facilitator, I see many profound moments of realization by my participant groups on a regular basis. They are powerful, moving and fulfilling moments for everyone. It’s always an honour and a privilege for me to be there.

Butterfly garden - Piper Slit 5K

Butterfly garden – Piper Spit 5K

As I bid you all farewell for this week, I would first like to give thanks for all that is good in my life right now.

Additionally, I wish to remind you all that, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop.

Please use the link below to find out more information.

 

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease
– Diabetes

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Run#40 Mar 22: Port Moody 11K & managing change

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

They say that the only thing that’s guaranteed in life is change. Death and taxes are inevitable too, I realize that, but tax time comes but once a year and death comes just the once.

Change, however, is a constant in our lives and the most drastic and complex changes seem to happen suddenly and often at the most inopportune times.

I have to admit that I am finding it hard right now to find the time to run and then write my blogs given that our two kids are off school for two weeks for spring break.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

Sitting here in the comfort of my red Ikea armchair, it’s already 12:30am on Sunday morning. My dear wife Marjory and the children are fast asleep and I am typing up my blog.

I have Chet Baker playing softly and singing sweetly for me as I try to find the right words to describe my long run experience on Friday.

I have taken my time writing this blog since I was not yet sure what I had gleaned from my Friday run other than the 11K run.

I have been patient knowing that it would come to me eventually, and it did, of course. I was getting clues through out the entire day and then the weather on my run made it quite obvious, when I think back. Let me tell you all about it.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

It’s spring break so it’s been busy and different all week. I have had to be flexible and willing to change my normal running times. Some days it’s been tough to find a time to run, and Friday was no exception.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 10:30am and Marjory was starting work early at 1:15pm and I would have the children for the rest of the day.

My son had a piano lesson with his Grannie at 3:15pm so my only chance to run was right after my doctor’s appointment.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

My well-laid plans all changed on Friday morning when Marjory went shopping with our son and our 7-year old daughter was adamant that she wanted to come with me, which meant that I would not be running after my appointment.

Despite the change in plans and the diminishing odds, I decided to stay optimistic and open to finding another time to run that day.

When I arrived back home after my doctor’s appointment, my wife had just arrived with a huge number of grocery bags.

As we were putting them away, she reminded me that our son’s piano lesson with his Grannie was at 2pm at her Port Moody apartment rather than at 3:15pm in Coquitlam where she usually had his lesson.

Old Orchard Park - Shoreline trail

Old Orchard Park – Shoreline trail

Thank you, I said, when the opportunity to run presented itself, at last. I would drop our son for his lesson and my sister-in-law, who is currently staying with Grannie and had expressed n interest in going for a walk with our daughter, could take her for an hour and I could get out for a run. A quick phone call confirmed the arrangements. We even agreed to meet up at the local Starbucks if I was running late. Now I was really in business!

My mother-in-law’s apartment is situated quite close to the Shoreline Trail that goes around the Port Moody Inlet, so I headed down that way for my long run. It’s a beautiful trail and I always enjoy running there.

I ran past City Hall and the Port Moody Recreation Centre, past the soccer field and then over the railway tracks and on to the trail, where I took a left turn and headed towards Old Orchard Park.

Old Orchard Park - beach

Old Orchard Park – beach

The sun shone brightly on the water as I ran down the rail at a good pace. Phew – I was really hot and felt way overdressed already, in my fleece-lined MEC vest.

I knew that I would have to run a fair way beyond the park if I wanted to get in the long run that I had planned.

I was soon running through the park and headed out along Alderside Road by the water’s edge.

Alderside Road

Alderside Road

It was around that time that I first noticed a bank of dark black clouds over the North Shore Mountains ahead of me that seemed to be coming my way. They looked spectacular in contrast to the blue sky and puffy white clouds over the opposite shore.

I had just left Alderside Road and was headed down Ioco Road when my Strava Run app announced that I had now completed 5K.

I picked up the pace a little and I was feeling quite good given that gravity was now giving me a helping hand down the hill.

Ioco United Church

Ioco United Church

As I passed the old United Church at the edge of the now-abandoned Ioco worker’s town, a quick glance up confirmed that the sun had gone behind the ever-increasing black clouds that now dominated the once blue sky.

I then headed up the hill towards the barbed-wired fences and an unmanned security gate at the terminal entrance.

As I went up the slight incline towards the terminal gate, I was mysteriously drawn to a boarded-up grocery store and the streets of abandoned houses to my right.

Ioco ghost town - grocery store

Ioco ghost town – grocery store

I would later discover that this abandoned town site is known to the locals as the Ioco ghost town.

The buildings were desperately trying to tell me their dark and ominous story from the past.

As I turned around at the terminal gate and headed back down the hill, the sky was now black and  inclement weather was imminent.

Wow – quite a change from when I first started my run 35 minutes ago!

Ioco Road - hailstorm

Ioco Road – hail storm

As I headed back down Ioco Road and then up the hill towards Alderside Road, I thought that the darkness ahead was a rainstorm.

Within minutes , I found myself running headlong through a heavy downpour of hail.

I was now rather glad that I had put on that sleeveless MEC vest!

Fortunately, the hailstones were not of the ‘rock hard’ variety, so I was not too ‘peppered’ by them and was not forced to seek shelter.

Port Moody Inlet - oil tanker

Port Moody Inlet – oil tanker

Once back on Alderside Road, I was able to admire a huge oil tanker across the water at the Petro-Canada terminal.

Although I am opposed to having oil tankers going up and down our beautiful west coast waters, this tanker did look impressive in an ‘industrial art’ kind of way.

Majestically sitting high in the water, the tanker had not yet been loaded up with oil.

Old Orchard Park - Shoreline trail

Old Orchard Park – Shoreline trail

By the time I reached Old Orchard Park again, the hail had stopped completely but the sky was still black with clouds overt the water.

I reached the 9K mark and was feeling very good, but I had some groin pain. So I decided to run slower with caution for the rest of my run back.

As I approached my mother-in-law’s apartment, I thought about how much change Margaret has had to deal with since Carl, her husband of 55 years, passed away a few weeks ago.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

I am sure that there will also be many other changes that she will have to face in the next few months, as she decides where and how she will spend her time. What an incredibly difficult and challenging time this must be for her, I thought.

Although I am still dealing with major changes in my life following my accident and injury 2 years ago, they seem smaller now, when compared to Margaret’s.

Of course, Margaret and I are not alone in having to deal with change. We are all having to deal with constant change throughout our lives. As mentioned, it’s the only thing that we can truly guarantee in life!

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

When I was leaving Grannie’s apartment for my run earlier this afternoon, my son casually suggested that I listen to my George Michael album on my run, which I did.

In his song “Older’ there is a topical line that goes like this – ‘change is a stranger you have yet to know’.

It’s a matter of perspective, I personally would prefer to think that ‘change is a friend I have yet to know’, although this perspective does take constant work.

In the past, when I have been unwilling to manage and work with change and I have resisted and been in conflict with change, my life often became more stressful and chaotic. As a result, I was less able to take good care of myself, and those that depended on me.

Once I was able to accept that change is an ongoing part of life, I was more able to manage and work with change, and then I was able to take better care of myself, and those that I love and cherish.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

As I ran past my mother-in-law Margaret’s apartment, I thought it best to go straight to Starbucks, given the time.

Sure enough, there was my daughter, sitting at the window sipping on a drink, with a big smile on her face!

I made my way up to the counter where my sister-in-law and son were waiting for their drinks. My son told me excitedly that the barista had accidentally made an Americano for him instead of the decaffeinated iced mocha that he had ordered.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

‘Goodness knows how he could have mixed up those two names’ he said with glee. My sister-in-law offered me the Americano, explaining that it would otherwise be thrown out.

I looked over at the barista, and he nodded and smiled. I smiled warmly in return, and then took a small sip of my coffee. It was quite delicious!