Concussion Rehab & Chronic Pain: A Spiritual Journey

John after meditating in Mundy Park

John after meditating in nature

Three years ago this past October, I was at a local elementary school with my daughter for her soccer team practice. After the practice ended, I went back to the gym to retrieve her water bottle. A side door to the gym that was normally closed was open. It was down a modest slope from where our car was parked.

I remember vividly what happened next. As I headed down the slope, my feet suddenly went skyward. There was a loud crack as the back of my head bounced off the concrete, followed by a throbbing pain that radiated from inside my head and a blaring mid-tone ringing noise in both ears.

Dazed and confused, I lay on the slope for a minute or so trying to make sense of what had happened. I felt around and found a large bump on the back of my head. As I tried to pick myself up, my hands touched the oily slime that covered the entire unkempt slope. Then, I understood why I had slipped on such an unassuming slope.

A kind lady who witnessed the accident came over to see if she could help. Obviously in shock herself, she told me that she was fearful for my life and offered to call 911. Still in a state of shock and denial, I declined her offer saying that I would be okay. I could not have been more wrong on that matter.

Although I declined the lady’s assistance, a part of me did intuitively know that  I might be seriously injured. However, I did not know the full extent of my injuries at that time. Neither could I have anticipated all the hard work, dedication and commitment required to self-manage my rehabilitation and chronic pain.

Looking back, I have experienced many profound moments of physical and psychological growth and healing. Additionally, there have been many inspiring moments of spiritual revelation, growth and healing. When you are close to the edge, you are close to truth. Here are just a few examples:

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Beautiful vista from Sasamat Lake trail

• I experienced many spiritual healing moments and revelations while I was immersed in nature and running along the beautiful forest, mountain and ocean trails near my home, during my University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic Running Rehabilitation program and while training for the Vancouver Half-Marathon.

• As a volunteer workshop facilitator with the University of Victoria’s Chronic Pain Self-Management Program, I benefit greatly from the spiritual energy generated through the love, caring, kindness and empathy shared by our participants.

• After completing an eight-week mindfulness meditation course, I have felt the benefits of spiritual healing and peace through my daily meditation  practice. Meditation has become one of my most valued self-management tools. My daily mediation practice enables me to spend more time in the present moment and less time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, which significantly reduces chronic pain and supports my ongoing rehabilitation.

• I have experienced spiritual healing by simply looking into the eyes of the kind souls that came into my life to help me when I needed them. When you see the God in others they see the God in you.

Twilight at Mundy Park

Twilight on Mundy Park trail

As a result, I now realize that my spiritual awareness is key for my rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management and helps me resolve my symptoms and issues.

Although the past three years have been the most challenging years of my life thus far, they have offered me physical, mental and spiritual learning and growth opportunities that I would not have otherwise experienced.

My life has changed forever as a result of my accident and injury. However, I have concluded that my life has actually changed for the better.

I have been gifted with the knowledge and experience to serve others in need. For this, I feel blessed.

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 8 – Your Wild and Precious Life – final week

John - always at home in the mountains

John – always at home in the mountains

“Week Eight is the rest of your life!”

As I read this bold statement in the last chapter of my Mindfulness book, I was briefly taken aback, but then it made complete sense.

After all, my mindfulness meditation experiences over the past seven weeks have been amazing. I am now able to self-manage my thoughts and spend more time living mindfully in the present moment. As a result, I feel calm and more at peace with my life exactly as it is right now.

I have also discovered that mindfulness meditation is an extremely effective tool for self-managing my ongoing rehabilitation, concussion symptoms and chronic pain. Therefore, I now have a valuable addition to my self-management toolkit.

As I embarked on my final week of my eight-week program, I felt quite confident in my ability to cultivate my own mindfulness life practice.

However, I also knew that I would need a detailed mindfulness plan in place soon.

Therefore, my primary objective during week eight was to create a sustainable three-month plan, using all of the information, tools and experiences that I had gleaned over the past seven weeks.

The concept of creating a plan during the last week was very familiar to me.

John - equally at home facilitating a chronic pain workshop

John facilitating a UVic chronic pain self-management workshop

It’s the same situation as we have in our University of Victoria six-week chronic pain self-management workshops.

As a workshop facilitator, I help our workshop participants as they develop their own sustainable three-month action plan during the final week’s workshop.

Having a daily routine for my mindfulness meditations will be critical to my long-term success.

Consequently, I first created a daily mindfulness meditation plan that I will use for the next three to six months of practice. I then followed the plan for the past week, making adjustments as needed. It worked very well.

Here’s a synopsis of my long-term daily routine, although I’m sure that it will require further adjustment and fine-tuning over time:

Early morning:
– Five deep, mindful breaths
– Gentle body stretch
– Mindfulness of Body & Breath meditation

This fifteen-minute routine first thing in the morning enables be to be fully awake and mindful in the present moment.

Mid-morning:
– Short trail run
– Leg stretches
– Mindful Movement meditation

Three times a week, I go for a short trail run. I follow a running rehabilitation program developed by the University of Buffalo concussion clinic. After I have finished my run and stretches, I do the Mindful Movement mediation that further adds to the peace and calm that I feel after running.

Mid-afternoon:
– Breath and Body meditation

My Breath and Body meditating around mid-afternoon ensures that I am fully awake, mindful and calm for my afternoon and evening time with our children.

Late-evening:
– Befriending meditation

Doing the Befriending meditation is a wonderful meditation to do before going to bed and sleep. These phrases from the meditation are especially comforting.

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

Befriending affords me the opportunity to offer a gift of kindness, love, friendship and compassion towards myself and indeed everyone on our beautiful planet. It’s the perfect way for me to be mindful and thankful before I lay down to rest.

Meditation bench - Hyde Creek, Port Moody

A favourite meditation spot – Noons Creek, Port Moody

Other Meditations – as required:
These are other guided meditations that I use as needed

The Body Scan – a longer meditation that I use when I need to fully re-connect with my body and the sensations of the body and breath.

Exploring Difficulty – an excellent meditation that I use for facing and overcoming major challenges, difficulties and fears that I periodically experience in my life.

Sounds and Thoughts – a meditation that I tend to use when I am stuck in a noisy environment. Rather than feel disturbed by the noise, I examine the sounds and my thoughts through this meditation.

The Three Minute Breathing Space – a quick and effective meditation that I use for those hectic moments when I need to feel calm and grounded.

Mindful Activities:
Since taking my eight-week mindfulness course, I now take advantage of everyday activities, such as shaving, cleaning teeth, dishwasher, laundry, cooking, eating, and housework, to practice being mindful in the moment.

Finding peace in a frantic world is not easy. On occasion, stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. During these times, I always remind myself that when you are close to the edge, you are close to truth.

A place of stillness - Mundy Park

A place of stillness – Mundy Park

My new mindfulness meditation practice has given me renewed hope for finding peace, by being mindful in the moment and okay with myself as I am right now.

However, maintaining my mindfulness meditation practice over the long term will not be easy. Staying the course requires commitment, dedication and hard work.

The rewards however are huge!

It’s really encouraging to hear from others that mindfulness meditation is already having a noticeable impact on my life and the lives of others. My wife Marjory recently told me that I had become calmer and more at peace over the past few weeks. She feels that my mindfulness meditation is responsible for the change.

When I first started my eight-week Mindfulness program, I thought that it might at least help me self-manage my rehabilitation, concussion symptoms and chronic pain. It has done this and also so much more.

Mindfulness meditation has made my life richer and it has changed all aspects of my life for the better.

Here are some final words from Danny and Mark’s Mindfulness book that for me capture the essence of mindfulness meditation.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
empty of it’s furniture,

still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite
them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jalaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth-century Sufi poet, in The Essential Rumi,
translated by Coleman Barks, 1999

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

In closing, remind yourself 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 the world, the mind and the body to be just as they are for now, moment by moment, and breath by breath.

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

As you might expect, I thoroughly recommend that you consider buying their book for yourselves. It includes a link to download all of the guided meditations.

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

If you enjoyed this blog and wish to read others in my Mindfulness series, please go to http://blogs.theprovince.com/tag/mindfulness/

Thank you for reading my blogs. Following a short break, I hope to be back with other similar blogs in the near future.

Warm wishes to you all.

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 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.

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

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

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

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

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

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

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

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

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

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

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

Piper Spit trail 5K

Piper Spit trail 5K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brunette River

Brunette River

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

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

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

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

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

Butterfly garden - Piper Slit 5K

Butterfly garden – Piper Spit 5K

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

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

Please use the link below to find out more information.

 

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

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

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

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

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

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