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: 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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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

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

Week 4 – Chronic pain self-management: the importance of physical activity and exercise!

Facilitating at the Dogwood

Facilitating at the Dogwood

Last week, I finished facilitating a 6-week chronic pain self-management workshop at the Dogwood Pavillion in Coquitlam. It’s a beautiful seniors facility where the people are warm and hospitable.

It was a highly successful workshop given that our participants are now well on their way to becoming excellent self-manangers of their chronic pain.

My co-facilitator Ursula and I were very pleased with what the group had accomplished together.

One of my primary objectives when facilitating a workshop is to equip our participants with a variety of different tools and techniques they need to become good self-managers of their own chronic pain.

One of the most effective tools for chronic pain self-management is physical activity and exercise.

As facilitators, we believe that all of our participants are able to enjoy the benefits and pleasures associated with regular activity and exercise. In fact, this may be the single most important thing a participant can do to help reduce their chronic pain.

This was certainly the case with me.

1983 Toronto Marathon

1983 Toronto Marathon

Prior to my 2010 accident, brain injury and concussion, I was an avid runner for over 30 years, having completed 9 marathons and numerous half-marathons, 10K’s, triathlons, and relay races.

After my injury, I could not run for more than 5 minutes or even walk for more that half an hour without experiencing major headaches and tinnitus.

Intuitively, I  knew that I needed to find a way to exercise. I could not run so I took up gardening. I really enjoyed puttering around in the garden. It was mental therapy as well as a good way to stay active.

After about a year, knowing my passion for running, my neuropsychologist and physiotherapist at the Coquitlam Concussion Clinic recommended a rehabilitation program developed by the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic specifically for athletes. Needless to say, I was keen to try it.

After 6 months on the U of B program, I could run for up to 30 minutes without major symptom increases. I was absolutely thrilled with my progress.

Then, after another 9 months of well-managed running followed by 4 months of race training, I successfully ran the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon last May. It was an amazing experience!

Of course, I do appreciate that there are very few people that come to our chronic pain workshops who are former marathon runners and able to take on a running rehabilitation program like myself. However, I believe that everyone can enjoy and benefit from regular activity and exercise.

It’s a matter of trying different activities and exercises until you find one or two that you can do and enjoy.  Some examples might be walking, gardening, swimming and yoga. You could then put together a weekly Action Plan that included these activities and exercises.

At our workshops, we provide our participants with a 12-minute guided exercise program on a CD called the Moving Easy Program (MEP). It’s an excellent, head-to-toe stretching program that’s simple and easy to do.

Notre Dame de Lourdes - Maillardville 5K run

Notre Dame de Lourdes – Maillardville 5K run

In addition to the verbal guidance from the CD, the participants can follow along as the facilitators demonstrate the MEP for them. There are also diagrams in the workbooks given to every participant.

In my experience, everyone in the workshops seems to love the program. Many of them adopt the program as their regular exercise program at home.

For those that struggle with maintaining a regular exercise program, I like to remind them that all they need to do is find a spare 12 minutes in their day and then put on the CD. The rest will take care of itself.

Regular exercise can be that easy!

Personally, I have always enjoyed the Moving Easy Program. I regularly use it to stretch out and relax after my long runs. It always feels so great!

I will close, as always, by saying 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 the 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