Mindfulness: Week 4 – Sounds and Thoughts and a Poem

John at meditation grove - Mundy Park

John after his Mundy Park 5K run

I was blessed with many peaceful meditations, some moments of profound insight and a few fond memories of my Mother during Week 4 of my amazing eight-week mindfulness meditation journey.

This week’s daily practice was comprised of the “Breath and Body” meditation, and “The Three-Minute Breathing Space” meditation. Although this was my second week of practice with these two meditations, I still enjoyed a new and exciting voyage of self-discovery every time I meditated.

My Week 4 practice also included an eight-minute meditation entitled Sounds and Thoughts that proved to be enlightening for me. Let me share with you.

As I sat and listened to the soothing voice of my trusted guide, I spent a few brief moments paying attention to my posture and my body sensations. Once I was settled and grounded, I brought my attention to the breath.

After spending a few minutes with my breath, I turned my focus and attention to the many different sounds that were around me. I was amazed at the number of different sounds that I heard and where they came from when I paid attention.

While listening to those sounds, I took great care to listen without judgment or criticism and just accept the sounds exactly as they were.

Then I let the sounds that were surrounding me fade into the background and brought my awareness to my thoughts. My thoughts were of what I was doing right now, thoughts of past events, future hope and dreams.

Meditation spot - Port Moody Inlet

Meditation spot – Port Moody Inlet

I realized that these thoughts were having the same effect as the sounds that surrounded me. I was creating stories based upon the sounds I heard and that I was experiencing a variety of feelings and emotions based upon these stories.

It was at this point that I experienced what was for me a significant revelation.

I realized that being surrounded by my thoughts was essentially the same as being surrounded by sounds. The stories and scenarios that resulted in emotional responses were generated from thoughts that were not true.

Mindfulness meditation is hard work and requires discipline, but the rewards are profound. It helps me remain non-judgmental and avoid creating stories based upon untrue thoughts. It brings peace and calm to my life.

Mindfulness meditation enables me to be an observer of my thoughts within the present moment. When my mind needs clarity, I remind myself that the breath is always there to anchor me to the peace and calm of the present moment.

My “Sounds and Thoughts” meditation helped me understand that I am not my thought, and they need not control my emotions, feelings and actions.

Pitt River Dyke trail

Pitt River Dyke trail

During this week of profound realization, I was reminded of another moment of realization that occurred some 20 years ago.

It was shortly after my Mother’s sudden passing in 1993. I was sorting through her personal things, when I came across a small jewelry box. Removing the lid revealed a number of sentimental items from my Mother’s past. They included my first dog’s identity tags and a necklace that I bought her for Christmas when I was about 7 years old. I was deeply touched that she kept these things.

At the bottom of the jewelry case, I saw a round piece of green sponge. I then removed the sponge and found a folded piece of paper with a poem typed on it.

As I read the words, I knew that my dear Mother had placed that poem at the bottom of the jewelry case just for me. This short yet profound poem helped me come to terms with my Mother’s death. It also gave me understanding and meaning to what was happening in my life.

That piece of paper was lost and I do not remember the words, but I will always remember the title – “Look through another window, take another view”.

I always knew that my Mother was spiritually aware, even though she seldom made mention of it. She chose to let me grow at my own pace, but was always there to give me reassurance and guidance when needed.

Even after death, she was still there lending me a hand, helping me understand.

John's 5K run - Rocky Point

John’s 5K run – Rocky Point

My Sights and Sounds meditation this past week gave me an understanding and meaning to what is happening in my life right now.

As for the future, my mindfulness meditation practice enables me to continue cultivating a deep stillness and peace within myself. Fully aware in the present moment, I will then be fully able to support my family and be of service to others.

The same can be true for you.

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.

Meanwhile, I look forward to starting Week 5 on Sunday and sharing my experiences with you in my next blog.

In closing, here is a poem that I wrote a decade ago. I hope that you enjoy the words.

World of Love

There is a world beyond this shore
A land where there’s no shame
With a life that’s free of guilt and fear
And a home where there’s no blame

There are hands that feed the hungry
And a soul that cares for the weak
With a heart that holds no secrets
It’s the world of love we seek

You may find it high on a mountain
In a city that’s next to the sea
This love that’s for a lifetime
The world that’s meant to be

It’s a love that has no boundaries
And a world that has no end
Seek love with pure intention
And you will find a friend

This world of love is everywhere
It’s right here for us all to see
And the love I feel for everyone
Is the love I found in me

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 2 – The Body Scan

John after his 5K run at Burnaby Lake

John after his 5K run at Burnaby Lake

I have really enjoyed completing Week 2 of my eight-week mindfulness meditation course. However, it has been quite challenging at times.

Upon reflection, it’s been an exceptionally busy week around our house, and I have found it difficult to find some quiet time for my two daily meditations.

After some thought, I have decided that my meditation times during Week 1 did not work well at all for Week 2. So I am planning to try different times for my upcoming Week 3.

I will do my morning meditations after I get up, but before having breakfast with Marjory and the kids. As for my evening meditations, I will do them earlier too, after the kids are asleep, but before we retire for the night.

Although it may take some time for me to find meditation times that work for me, I am comfortable going through the process and know it will be well worth it!

I started my Week 2 meditations by lying comfortably on my bed and closing my eyes. My trusted meditation guide first explained that the intention is to spend time with each region of the body, cultivating an awareness of what is already here.

Then I reminded myself that I am not trying to ‘get anywhere’, or striving to achieve any special state. Additionally, that I am not looking for anything special to happen, but allowing things to be just as I find them.

First, I acknowledged the sensations that I felt from my entire body as a whole, and from the contact between my body and what was supporting me. Then I brought my attention to the sensations of the breath in my abdomen, and stayed there for a short while, resting on the sensations of the breath.

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park

Moving my attention down to my feet, I then noticed the sensations in my toes, the soles of my feet, my heels, and the top of my feet.

Again, I reminded myself not to have expectations, and that there is no right way to feel. I must simply acknowledge the sensations that are there already. If there are no sensations, that’s totally okay too. I will register a blank for that region and then move my attention elsewhere.

After focusing on my feet for a short period, I took in a deep breath, and then on the out-breath, I gently ‘let my feet go’ and they quietly ‘dissolved’ in awareness.

Then I slowly worked my way up from my feet to other regions of my body. As with the feet, I focused my attention on these regions, and then ‘let them go’.

Periodically during the meditation, my mind would wander off the breath, and thinking about memories, plans, worries or daydreams. I took great care not to judge myself, or to be upset with myself. I simply registered that my mind had wandered, and then gently escorted my attention back to the breath.

Several times, I would imagine that I was filling a region of my body with life-enriching oxygen on my in-breath. Then on the out-breath, I would let the expended breath flow out of that region. I finished my body scan by imagining my breath flowing in and out of my head and then my entire body.

Butterfly garden - Burnaby Lake

Butterfly garden – Burnaby Lake

The awareness and sensations realized from this week’s meditations were exhilarating and transcendental!

As mentioned, this past week has been a challenge for me. However, I gather that the second week of the eight-week plan is challenging for many people.

The body scan requires the mind to focus its attention on many regions of the body for relatively long periods of time. It takes time and lots of energy for the mind to reconnect with the body.

Given that my ongoing mindfulness meditation practice may well be hard work at times, I have now concluded that I must ensure that my mind gets adequate rest during the week, above and beyond getting a solid sleep each night!

Then, somewhat fortuitously, I received a tweet this week from Elisha Goldstein Ph.D. that linked me to an article he wrote about why and how to rest the mind.

Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist,  the author of ‘The Now Effect’ and co-author of  ‘A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook’.

In his article, entitled ‘7 Tips to Create the Essential Habit of Resting’, Dr. Goldstein discusses why the brain needs rest, and suggests the following activities to help rest the brain:

– Go out in nature
– Engage in a hobby
– Do a mindful check-in
– Read a book
– Listen to music
– Take a bath
– Count your blessings

These seem excellent ideas for resting the brain, but as Dr. Goldstein points out, they are only effective if you actually do them.

Meditation grove - Mundy Park

Meditation grove – Mundy Park

What especially resonated with me was his running analogy at the beginning of the article.

As Dr. Goldstein points out in the analogy, when someone is training for a marathon, any credible trainer would emphasize the importance of resting the body. If you don’t, the probability goes up for injury.

Similarly, given our hectic lives, if our minds do not get proper rest (besides good sleep), we are likely to burn out with symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.

I have  been a runner for over 30 years, and have completed 9 marathons and many other half-marathon and 10K races, so I fully comprehend these words of wisdom.

Thank you, Dr. Goldstein. Your analogy makes total sense to me, especially after my week. I will ensure that I take the time to rest my mind in future, doing some of the activities you suggest.

In fact, I will start right away by reading more of my latest book that I haven’t found the time to read lately. It’s a terrific book, entitled ‘Into the Silence’ by Wade Davis. It’s an extremely well-researched, true story about the Great War, Mallory, and the conquest of Everest. I highly recommend it.

Dr. Goldstein’s timely article is highly recommended too!  Here’s the link:

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2013/08/7-tips-to-make-an-essential-habit-out-of-rest/

Still creek - Burnaby Lake

Still Creek – Burnaby Lake

Given this week’s challenges, my daily meditations definitely helped me stay calm, feel less stressed, and better able to cope with the busy times at home.

As for the future, I look forward to Week 3 of my eight-week mindfulness course this coming week and to getting lots of physical and mental rest too.

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.

I look forward to sharing more Mindfulness 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: Finding peace in a frantic world in eight weeks!

Rock garden with Hydrangeas in bloom

Our rock garden with Hydrangeas in bloom

There’s great joy and peace to be realized if we live our lives mindfully in the present moment, rather than mentally in the past or the future.

Awareness is the key to mindfulness, but it doesn’t come easily for most of us. It requires commitment, discipline, hard work and daily practice.

Meditation is our practice; mindfulness is our reward.

I have certainly been fully committed, disciplined and have worked hard to rehabilitate and self-manage my chronic pain after my accident and head injury.

As a result, I have overcome many setbacks and have managed to resolve many serious symptoms over the past 2½ years. However, I am still dealing with some chronic pain and post-concussion trauma issues that have yet to be resolved.

An ongoing concern for me is that my wife Marjory and I have two young children who need both parents for their ongoing support. Therefore, I am always open to new and innovative ideas to try and get back to full health and a normal family life.

Most recently, I have been wondering whether I am missing a vital piece of my rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management puzzle, so to speak.

Then, out of the blue, I received word about something new for my rehabilitation and chronic pain management that really excited me – Mindfulness Meditation.

Twitter sent me an email to let me know that Danny Penman was now following me @johnalexmurphy. I didn’t know him so I looked at his profile.

Rocky Point - Port Moody

Rocky Point – Port Moody

Danny is an award-winning journalist based in London, UK. Along with Mark Williams, he co-authored a highly acclaimed and hugely successful book called ‘Mindfulness – an eight week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World’.

That’s great, I thought. I decided to follow @DrDannyPenman on Twitter myself!

It’s not so surprising that Danny chose to follow me, considering my work facilitating the University of Victoria’s chronic pain self-management workshops and my running rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management blogs published in The Province.

I have to follow my intuition on this one, I thought. So I quickly made a call to our local Chapters bookstore where I located and reserved a copy of the book. Then a few days later, I drove over to the store and picked up the book.

My intuition was telling me loud and clear that I should follow Danny and Mark’s eight week mindfulness plan and see where it takes me. I had actually decided to do this even before I picked up the book. The stars were aligned.

I should mention that I am no stranger to meditation, although I had never felt the need to adopt it as a life-long practice. My late Father introduced me to meditation when I was about 5 years old. Dad practiced yoga and meditation and was intrigued with Eastern philosophy.

Meditation Grove - Mundy Park

Meditation Grove – Mundy Park

As a young boy growing up fearful of the dark, I remember meditating with a focus on my breath as I lay in bed at night trying to get to sleep. It helped a great deal; much more effective than counting sheep!

I have a vivid memory of an interesting ‘out-of-body’ experience while meditating one night. I ‘left my physical body’ and gently ‘floated’ up to the ceiling. It was fascinating looking down at myself lying on the bed. I was not frightened at all.

Since that time, I have periodically taken up mindfulness meditation as an adult primarily in times of great sadness and loss. It helped a great deal.

When I sat down in my armchair and initially perused Danny and Mark’s book, I was so excited and impressed to see that the book Foreword was written by Jon Kabut-Zinn, the renowned mindfulness practitioner, doctor and author.

Jon has been a mentor of mine for many years. When I first read his book, ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’, it was a revelation for me.

In Danny and Mark’s book Foreword, Jon was highly complementary of the  eight week mindfulness plan and it’s two authors, which reassured me that I was on the right track.

In reading the Contents page of the book, I was thoroughly impressed with the way the book has been structured. It’s logical, clear and easily understood.

The first four chapters of the book explain mindfulness meditation and the purpose of the eight week program in understandable language that’s enjoyable and easy to read. The next eight chapters describe in depth the eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world, week-by-week.

Emphasized throughout the book are the many proven benefits attributed to mindfulness meditation:
• Decreased stress, anxiety, irritability and depression
• Improved memory, faster reaction times
• Increased mental and physical stamina
• Better, more fulfilling relationships
• Reduced chronic stress indicators e.g. hypertension
• Reduced impact of serious conditions e.g. chronic pain, cancer
• Improved immune system for fighting colds, flu and other diseases
• Happier and more content, living a longer and healthier life

They also dispels many myths about mindfulness meditation, such as:
• It’s not a religion, it’s simply a method of mental training
• You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor
• You can meditate anywhere
• It doesn’t take a lot of time, in fact, many find it frees up time
• It’s not complicated, nor is it about success or failure
• You will benefit psychologically by overcoming meditation difficulties
• It will not deaden your mind
• It will not dampen your desire to strive for career or life goals
• It’s certainly not about accepting the unacceptable

John's back sun deck

Our back sun deck

After reading the first four chapters, I was convinced that I would benefit hugely from the eight week program.  However, I know from facilitating UVic’s chronic pain self-management workshops that long-term success with any rehabilitation or self-management tool is most often dependent on hard work, commitment and self-discipline.

Therefore, I know that I must approach this venture with the same dedication and commitment that I applied to my University of Buffalo 12 month running rehabilitation program, and also my 4 months of training prior to running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon this past spring.

Given that my ongoing concussion symptoms and chronic pain are stress and fatigue induced. So a life long practice that includes mindfulness meditation and running is very appealing to me.

My hope is that mindfulness meditation and running rehabilitation working together will dramatically improve my stress-management skills and enable me to get back to good health and a normal family life.

So I invite you all to share my 8-week mindfulness meditation experience through my weekly blogs. I hope that you find them interesting and informative, especially if you or someone close to you is dealing with rehabilitation and chronic pain.

Last but not least, I wish to thank Danny Penman and Mark Williams for writing the book and Danny for following me on Twitter @johnalexmurphy and inspiring me to start on this exciting eight week journey towards mindfulness.

You can connect with Danny on Twitter @DrDannyPenman and through the book’s website at http://www.franticworld.com.

Peace in a frantic world – wouldn’t that be wonderful!

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 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

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Week 2 – Chronic pain self-management: what chronic pain means to me!

Noons Creek - 4K walk

Headed down Noons Creek on my 4K walk

I decided to a take a complete break from running for two weeks. It seemed like a prudent thing to do after training hard for 4 months and then running 21K in the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon race!

I really love to run, as you know. So taking a two week break is quite hard for me, especially given that I can run again following my accident in 2010. It took a good year and a half’s rehabilitation before I could run for any length of time again.

When I am not running, my body and mind seem to miss the endorphins. So I have to get back to my running routine by the end of this week, at the latest!

This past week has actually been a tough one for me, and not just because I haven’t been running. Last Sunday, I was bending down, got up quickly and hit my head on the corner of a piece of wood shelving in the house. It was a freak accident, it happened in a flash and it really hurt!

The top of my head was cut and there was quite a bit of blood. Although I knew that it was nothing like as bad as my accident and brain injury back in 2010, it was bad enough. I was dizzy, in pain and my headache and tinnitus greatly increased. I was also experiencing that same ‘mental fogginess’ that I had for a long time following my 2010, and still get with extreme stress and fatigue.

For the next few days, I was concerned that I might be dealing with a serious setback in my recovery. I was also very frustrated and upset with myself for ‘letting this accident happen’, especially considering that I was feeling so good after completing over 4 months of ‘running rehabilitation’.

Fortunately, my increased symptoms and the ‘fogginess’ had subsided by the end of the week, and I am now almost back to where I was before this accident.

Megan's butterfly garden

Megan’s butterfly garden

Given all the stress around the accident, re-injuring my head and the increased symptoms, I really needed to rest and relax this past weekend.

So I did some gardening on Sunday with my 7 year-old daughter Megan. We created a butterfly garden together by the side of our house. We first cultivated and then we put in lots of wild flowers that we think will attract the butterflies.

Megan is so proud of her butterfly garden. It looks really beautiful and she can hardly wait for the butterflies to arrive.

I have come to love gardening over the past 2 years. There were times when gardening was the only exercise I could do without bringing on my symptoms.
I have found gardening to be extremely therapeutic and fulfilling.

Gardening also offered me quiet times and the solitude I needed at the time to reflect on what had happened to me and contemplate my future.

Another activity that I often recommend for chronic pain self-management and rehabilitation is to volunteer your time and help others in your community.

I am currently a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC, where I facilitate our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops.

Shoreline Trail - 5K run

My 5K run – Shoreline Trail

It’s continues to be an incredible experience for me. I feel honoured and blessed to have this unique opportunity to serve others in need within my community.

As a workshop facilitator, one of the first and most interesting discussions that I have with our participants is when we ask ourselves ‘what is chronic pain?’.

Most of us agree from our personal experiences that it’s a pain that lasts for more than 3-6 months, it typically varies in intensity from mild to excruciating, and it can affect one or multiple areas of the body.

Also, we realize that chronic pain has no survival value. In other words, the pain no longer warns us of any immediate danger. Although the mechanisms of chronic pain are not well understood, we know that it’s typically a long-term situation with no cure.

For most of us, it seems that our chronic pain seems to somehow be inter-twined with chronic stress. Additionally, we agree that physical activity, balanced with rest, is key to managing our chronic pain and stress. I have certainly found this to be the case, having utilized running rehabilitation a great deal over the past year.

Another question that we discuss as a group early in our workshops is ‘what does chronic pain mean to me?’

Shoreline Trail - wild flowers

Wild flowers – Shoreline Trail

For many of us, our chronic pain means that we are unable to work due to chronic pain, stress and various other symptoms. Given this situation, most are concerned how we will support ourselves, and our families for the future.

Chronic pain for most of us means that there are many physical things that we used to do that we can no longer do. Personally, I can still no longer do any sport or physical activity that involves sudden movement and/or rapid starts and stops that causes my brain to be shaken around, such as playing soccer with my kids or even coaching their soccer teams.

As a group, early in the workshop we all seem to intuitively know that becoming a good self-manager is our ultimate goal and will serve us well.

Once we are good self-managers, our healthcare providers then become our highly valued ‘teachers and advisers’ helping us self-manage our own chronic pain. After all, no one knows our body and chronic pain better than ourselves!

In next week’s blog, I will talk about the ‘chronic pain and symptom cycle’ and also about what we refer to as our chronic pain ‘Self-Management Tool Box’.

Shoreline Trail - 5K run

My 5K run – Shoreline Trail

In the weekly blogs that follow, I will share more with you about the various tools and techniques within our ‘Self-Management Tool Box’.

As for myself, after a tough few weeks, I am back to feeling optimistic and philosophical. My accident served as a reminder that I must still stay vigilant to avoid further head injuries.

It has become clear to me that my stress and fatigue-related headache and tinnitus symptoms are indeed chronic and may always be with me just beneath the surface, so to speak

It’s time for me to move forward and focus on honing my chronic pain self-management skills rather than looking for a rehabilitation program that will completely ‘cure’ my symptoms.

After all, I now have many tools and techniques that I know work well for me to break the pain and symptom cycle. Tools such as running, healthy eating, meditation, quality sleep, adequate rest, and volunteer work.

It’s time for me to live life in the present moment again, and to be thankful for all of my blessings. I want to enjoy more time with my wife Marjory and our two children. I also want to find additional work where I can serve people in need.

In closing, 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. Use the link below to find out more information.

Thank you!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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 workshop, available free of charge across BC, to adults and their partners and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on the Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and several other free of charge workshops, go to http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

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