Mindfulness: Week 6 – Befriending

John in the midst of the BC mountains

John in the midst of the BC mountains

Week 6 – Befriending has been a beautiful week full of kindness, love, friendship and compassion towards myself, and those that I love and care for in my life.

Prior to starting the ten-minute “Befriending” meditation, my trusted guide gave me two options. I could prepare using some suggested meditations from prior weeks, or I could use the brief preparation within the meditation itself.

I was comfortable trying the latter. I took great care to maintain a dignified posture while being mindful of my body and breath. It worked well for me. I felt wakeful, quiet, calm and grounded.

My guide then asked me to consider how I truly felt about myself. Then he invited me to experience a different way of thinking. I would cultivate a sense of kindness and friendship towards myself, and then towards others.

No matter what my outside appearance suggested, I had to acknowledge that there were times when I felt sad, lonely and fearful on the inside. Additionally, that I first needed to wish myself well before I would be fully able to extend the same loving kindness to others.

Then, slowly and silently, I recited these three phrases:

May I be safe and free of suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

Think of a waterfall as a continuing cascade of thoughts - Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Think of a waterfall as a continuing cascade of thoughts” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

“These words feel good, but am I worthy of such loving kindness?”, I wondered. Then my late Mother, to whom I was very close, and my dear wife Marjory, the love of my life, came to mind.

“Mom and Marjory love me unconditionally. So what would they wish for me at this time?” I asked myself.

Again, slowly and silently, I recited these three phrases:

May I be safe and free of suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

I began to feel a warm glow radiating from my heart out to my entire body. I had started to establish a deep sense of love and friendship for myself.

Soon I was thinking of others to whom I might extend my love, friendship and kindness.

First, my dear ten-year old son came to mind. Having just started Grade 5 with a full slate of activities, his world was becoming a little hectic.

Then, there was the kind lady who works at our local recreational centre. I do not know her well, yet she always has a friendly word and warm smile for everyone, despite her ongoing health challenges.

One of my family members then came to mind. Although I struggle with our relationship from time to time, I know that she has a good heart.

A favourite summer hike - Cheakamus Lake

Sweet memories of our summer hike to Cheakamus Lake

Finally, I thought of the billions of people that share our planet earth, many of whom desperately need love, friendship and kindness right now.

Once more, slowly and silently, I recited these three phrases:

May you be safe and free of suffering
May you be as happy and healthy as it is possible for you to be
May you have ease of being

As I recited each phrase, I imagined that I had dropped a pebble down a deep well. Then I would mindfully listen for any reactions in my thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.

First there was silence as each pebble dropped, followed by a distance splash as it hit the water below. As the ripples of water extended toward the wall of the well, I felt that familiar heartfelt warmth extending throughout my entire body.

At the end of my meditation, I took some time to sit with the breath and the body, resting in the clear awareness of the present moment.

Meditation grove - Mundy Park

A favourite “after-running” meditation spot of mine – Mundy Park

For me, spending the week with the Befriending meditation was a deeply moving experience. In reciting the three phrases over and over, it became clear that despite my Mother’s unconditional love, I do not remember ever feeling safe and free of suffering as a child.

Through my adult years, it was much the same, until twelve years ago when I met and then married Marjory and we created our “world of love” together. Despite the many challenges that I still face, I now feel safe and loved.

Having now mentioned our “world of love”, I will tell you a short story about my “World of Love” poem that I shared with you in my “Week 4 – Sounds and Thoughts” blog.

I wrote this poem about a decade ago, and have always struggled with last word of the poem. A part of me thought the word “me” sounded a little self-indulgent, so I changed the last word to “thee”.

Although both words are true, having spent the past week with the “Befriending” meditation, I now know how important it is to love and befriend oneself first. Consequently, I am now entirely comfortable with my poem’s original last word.

Here’s the last verse:

“The world of love is everywhere
It’s right here for us all to see
And the love I feel for everyone
Is a love that I found in me.”

The clouds come and go, but the sky remains - Mark Williams & Danny Penman

“The clouds come and go, but the sky remains” – Mark Williams & Danny Penman

Now here are a few more final words for you, but this time from Albert Einstein:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself; his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restriction us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in it’s beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”

Einstein’s words of wisdom came from Danny and Mark’s book. I wish to thank Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman for writing the amazing book that inspired me to take this pivotal eight-week Mindfulness journey.

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

Finally, I look forward to starting “Week 7 – Learning to Dance Again” on Sunday and sharing my experiences with you in next week’s blog.



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:


Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes



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.



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:


Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes


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.



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:


Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes


Run#51 Apr 22: Burnaby Lake / Piper Spit 7K – Just 5 training runs to go!

Burnaby Lake

Burnaby Lake

With just 5 more training runs to go before I run my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, I have to admit that I am now getting quite excited about race day!

My dedication and commitment to training over the past 4 months is now paying off. I am well prepared for my 21K race on May 5th.

I really didn’t know where I would run when I headed out this morning, which is not unusual for me lately. However, my intuition served me well.

I parked my car off the Caribou Road and planned to run the Burnaby Lake north trail up to Piper Spit and back, which would be about a 5K run.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

The weather this morning was perfect for running. The sky was blue and sunny and the temperature was warm but still comfortable for running.

Having now run many training runs over 10K, I have to say that my 5K short runs now really do feel short.

It felt like no time at all had passed when I turned a corner on the trail and saw Piper Spit.

It was so beautiful on the trail this morning, that I was compelled to just keep going beyond my planned turn-around point.

I ran for another kilometer or so. Then I  saw a spot by the lake that looked like the right place to stop. I decided to take a rest and take in the lake view.

Burnaby Lake - kayaker

Burnaby Lake – kayaker

I spotted a kayaker that was fast approaching along the shoreline.

As he passed by, he waved and said hi. After we had both marvelled at the weather, he asked me if I had run the Sun Run 10K race this past Sunday.

I explained to him briefly that I was saving all my strength for the half marathon. He seemed to understand and smiled as he paddled off down the lake.

About a decade or so ago, I went on a 21-day Outward Bound kayaking trip up in the Broughton Archipelago area off northern Vancouver Island.

It was an amazing trip. I really enjoyed traveling by kayaking and being on the water. The whole experience gave me a different perspective on life.

Piper Spit

Piper Spit

I really should take the kids kayaking this summer, I thought.

Then I headed back down the trail and was soon back at Piper Spit again.

My goodness, it’s busy, I thought. There were lots of children feeding the ducks and the geese. Their parents were watching attentively.

I was very careful when weaving my way through the kids, as I walked out to the end of the boardwalk and then on my way back to the trail.

It was just a short 2.5K run from Piper back to the car. I was running so well that it felt like it went by in a flash.

The sun was warm on my back as I stretched out by my car, I reflected on my run and how I was feeling at that moment.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

I decide that today’s run felt better than it has felt for a long time .

My pace was solid and steady and my breathing was easy. I did not sense any headache and tinnitus symptoms.

Wow – my goodness. I actually feel healthy and fit again.

I just hope that this feeling lasts a long time, this time!

Run#41 Mar 25: Port Moody 5K & hard work and quality training

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day!

This classic Oklahoma favourite just came to me in a wildly enthusiastic musical moment. I was thinking about the fantastic spring weather I had experienced on my 5K run this morning and just started singing it, as one does!

It was warm and sunny as I headed into Shoreline Park, just across the tracks from the Port Moody soccer field.

I was really looking forward to running by the water again, as always.

We’re now into the second week of school spring break for our two children and my 10 year old son is in a soccer camp all week in Port Moody. So while my boy is training his little heart out on the soccer field this week, I plan to be pounding out my training runs around the Port Moody inlet for at least three of the days.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

Although I will be running the trail by the Port Moody Inlet all week, rest assured, I will be seeking out a different route on the trail for the tree days that I run.

If you have read my blogs before, you know all about my need for different routes for my training runs!

I was scheduled to do a 5K short run this morning. Just to think, a few months ago a 5K run felt like quite a long run to me.

Now I have completed 40 training runs, a 5K run is now a short, manageable distance indeed. Amazing what one can achieve in just three months of training!

After watching my son train for a while, I headed out from the soccer field, ran across the railway tracks and then down through Shoreline Park towards the inlet trail.

The spot where I joined the trail was about half way between Rocky Point and Old Orchard Park. Today I decided to head down the inlet towards Rocky Point. I decided not to wear a jacket at all today, and that was a good decision. Within a few minutes, I had already built up a decent sweat and was very much enjoying my run.

Shoreline trail - boardwalk

Shoreline trail – boardwalk

After crossing the boardwalk at the end of the inlet, the wooded trail offered some shade that was welcomed at the time, for a while at least.

Soon enough, I was back into the sunshine and heading along the Rocky Point path towards the pier.

The views looked splendid from the pier, so I stopped for a minute to take them in.

The snow-capped peaks looked magnificent in the sunshine. Soon it was time to retrace my steps back to the soccer pitch.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

Wow – I’m over two-thirds through my BMO Marathon Training program now, I thought, and I am still feeling healthy and strong.

Just yesterday, my friend Jeff remarked to me that I only had 5 weeks of training left before the race. He asked me if I was looking forward to it and I said ‘yes, very much’ without any hesitation.

Although I am looking forward to the race, I am trying hard not to wish the time away. I am going to savour my training time.

After all, as John Stanton pointed out in his weekly column in the Sunday Province marathon section, the real pleasure is actually in the training and preparation for the race, rather than the race itself.

Rocky Point

Rocky Point

There’s nothing more comforting than the knowledge that you have prepared well, no matter what you are preparing for. You could be training for a piano exam, or perhaps a choral recital, maybe a try-out for a soccer team, or like myself, running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

No matter what you are training for, there will come a time when you will realize that all of the effort, energy and the constant repetition that you put into your training were invaluable.

Once you have experienced this realization, then you begin to love and fully appreciate the value of hard work and quality training.

So I plan to continue with my training and enjoy every minute of it. Given my accident and injury, I genuinely appreciate just being able to do it!

Noons Creek Bridge and boardwalk

Noons Creek Bridge and boardwalk

As I approached the trail that would take me back to the soccer field, I realized that if I simply ran back that way I would be quite a bit short on my 5K run.

So I continued running on the inlet trail until I reached the boardwalk and the Noons Creek Bridge.

After crossing the bridge, I then left the inlet trail and followed the Noons Creek trail past the Salmon hatchery and up to the end of the trail, by the side of the Port Moody Recreation Centre. Then I ran around the building and back down to the soccer pitch.

Noons Creek - salmon hatchery

Noons Creek – salmon hatchery

As I stretched against the soccer field fence, I watched my son’s practice sessions. They are being run by an international organization called Coever Coaching.

This was a new venture for our family. We had never tried soccer training from Coever before.

So far I have to say that we are very impressed indeed.

Coever’s practices focus heavily on teaching children the basic soccer skills, offering lots of touches on the ball, and with practice that stress hard work and many, many repetitions. Watching our son working hard and doing those repetitions was music to my ears!

My wife Marjory and I took the kids out for sushi dinner that evening to celebrate the day. We were all saying how happy we were with the spring soccer training camp and also how impressed we were with Coever.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

We also discussed the importance of hard work and quality training in soccer practices.

Marjory then drew the parallel between practicing for soccer and practicing for piano. Marjory, by the way, is their piano teacher.

This week promises to be a great one. While my son is working hard and having fun at his soccer camp, I will be either watching him with great pride, or I will be out on the trails, running and working hard myself.

Hopefully, the weather will be nice and sunny all week!