Do you remember back in school when your teacher asked you to take a deep breath to become more mindful? Have you done that since then? I hadn’t until my cancer journey counsellor, Deb reminded me of the technique. That brief reminder triggered mindfulness practices that helped me conquer cancer. Thank you Deb Conway, you helped me thrive. But I hadn’t realised just how much it had helped me through my cancer journey, or how it had helped me prior to my journey, until I started exploring it. I wasn’t being mindful of my mindfulness.
To me, mindfulness is about being in the present moment, to purposefully bringing your attention to the world, and understanding what is happening around you and to you.
Practicing mindfulness has so many benefits. Most importantly it helps clear my brain and helps me think more clearly about work and life. Which is so important for me after an infection infiltrated my brain causing a cognitive impairment. But mindfulness can help everyone deal with tough situations. It also helps me to be more resilient, as it allows me to be not caught up and consumed by bad feelings, when bad things happen to me. It helps me acknowledge those bad feelings, which then allows me to focus on developing strategies to combat the bad things happening to me. I now start every day, not dwelling on the past, or being worried about the future, but focused on today.
Before my cancer journey, mindfulness helped me to deal with tough events. For instance when the Centre for Precision Technology shut down, before I’d completed the five-year program and I could no longer work in a job that I loved so much, my mindfulness helped me to assess my emotions, but not judge them. I didn’t become embroiled in my emotions, which could have made me angry, which I probably would have turned against the government, because they had closed the centre down. My mindfulness helped me respect the governments’ decision because I respected that most of the graduates escaped to the mainland. So I didn’t get angry, I didn’t get upset. I accepted that the decision had been made and concentrated on figuring out my next steps.
As it turns out, mindfulness changes your brain. Science and studies have shown measurable changes in the brain around memory, emotions, sense of being, etc. when you become more mindful.
But whilst I’d always been somewhat mindful, it has been my cancer journey that has forced me to be more mindful and it’s just so delightful. My journey has slowed me down, which has helped me be more mindful. Walking slower, eating slower, thinking slower. It allows me to feel and see all the beauty in the world. Which leaves me more peaceful, which helps me listen to my inner voice intently, which guides me to do the best things for me, and wouldn’t you know it, that includes mindfulness. As it turns out, mindfulness changes your brain. Science and studies have shown measurable changes in the brain around memory, emotions, sense of being, etc. when you become more mindful. So being mindful is helping me fix the cognitive impairment I suffered during my journey. Thank you brain, you are helping me fix you, by being more mindful. Please let me explain how.
The cognitive impairment I suffered, has forced me to become more mindful to take brain breaks, so I’m more productive and think clearer. This includes getting up for a glass of water or going for a walk in nature. My short-term memory issues, force me to mindfully slow down and listen intently, which means I understand things better. With my nerve-prone feet and cutoff toes, I have to be more mindful about where I’m walking, so I don’t step on sharp rocks which threaten to cut off my remaining toes. But even the smallest rocks can cause me to stumble and fall. So I no longer just rush by, I scour the path ahead looking for obstacles, but I also see kangaroo paw prints in the mud, and I hope that we’ll cross paths so I can say hello.
I see birds in the trees. But I don’t just look, I watch them gathering food for their young, I watch them building nests to live in. It’s just so delightful. I watch the trees blossoming, as I too blossom beautifully into a new life after my cancer journey.
I soak it all in because I’m more mindful of just how beautiful the world is. But it’s not just nature, as I walk through suburbia I see people building fences and seats in their gardens and I can’t wait to be able to do it again. I see fathers teaching their kids. I see workmen, working hard for their money, building houses for people to live in. But I don’t just look, I watch them proudly building a home, for someone else to live out their lives. It’s just so wonderful to watch all of this, feel it, and understand it. I no longer just hear things, I listen intently. I no longer just see things, I watch intently.