Mindfulness Meditation to Support Recovery and Well-Being

Tryout three mindfulness mediation exercises to relieve stress, help manage pain and improve quality of life.

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Mindfulness Meditation to Support Recovery and Well-Being

May 2, 2024

Presenter: Lisa Thomas-Prince MPH, CYT200, UW Health Carbone Cancer Center

Presentation with mindfulness exercises is 51 minutes followed by 16 minutes of Q&A.

(15:18): Mindfulness is not about completely clearing our mind of all thoughts. Rather, it’s about becoming more aware of our thought patterns.

(16:10): Mindfulness is not meant to be peaceful and calm all the time.

(17:18): Mindfulness meditation isn't easy and involves a lot of experimentation and a willingness to explore.

(17:50): As with most new things that we're learning or new habits we're trying to build, we need repeated practice over time.

(18:17): Neuroscience and psychology studies indicate that a focused mind is generally a happier mind.

(20:15): A study of 100 stem cell transplant patients found that mindfulness - focusing what is happening in the present - supported resilience and recovery during the first six months after transplant better than distracting the mind from what’s happening.

(21:24): Maintaining awareness of what is happening in us, even in difficult moments of pain and fear, can improve our ability to manage pain.

(35:53): Mindfulness sometimes is referred to as a very radical practice. It is radical in that it's very different from the way our brains have been conditioned to behave.

(37:01): Mindfulness is a form of complementary care used in conjunction with and to support many other forms of medical and healthcare treatment including medications, physical therapy, mental health therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

(47:44): There are several very good online resources to practice mindfulness including  Self-Compassion Break, Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Mindfulness Self-Compassion.

Transcript of Presentation

(00:01) [Marla O’Keefe]: Introduction. Welcome to the workshop, Mindfulness Meditation to Support Recovery and Well-Being. My name is Marla O’Keefe and I will be your moderator for this workshop.

(00:11): Introduction of Speaker. It's my pleasure to introduce today's speaker, Lisa Thomas-Prince. Ms. Thomas-Prince is the program manager of the University of Wisconsin's Mindfulness Program and has been teaching with the program since 2014. She has studied, practiced and integrated mindfulness meditation into her life for nearly 25 years.

(00:32): She's been influenced by a longtime study of yoga, martial arts and Qigong, and is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor. Please join me in welcoming Lisa Thomas-Prince.

(00:47): [Lisa Thomas-Prince]: Overview of Lecture. Thank you very much, Marla. And hello to everyone here, everyone viewing the recording later and welcome to this session. As Marla said, my name is Lisa Thomas-Prince. I'm a health educator as well as the program manager here with the UW Health Mindfulness Program in Madison, Wisconsin.

(01:08): I'm really pleased to be here with you and I hope to offer today an informative, engaging and most of all, a nourishing session for you.

(01:20): Defining Mindfulness Meditation. As a starting place, I want to make clear what I mean when I refer to mindfulness meditation. So, I'd like to share a definition that is used in the evidence-based programs that we teach. The concept of mindfulness has roots in contemplative traditions that date back over 2,500 years. It's a time-tested and age-old concept. However, more recently, especially here in western cultures, it's become quite a buzzword and it's being used now in a lot of different contexts and with a wide range of meanings.

(02:07): To clarify for our session today, when I refer to mindfulness, I'm referencing something each one of us already has within us — which is the awareness that is uncovered when we pay attention in a particular way. Mindfulness is made possible when we tune our attention to what's happening within us and around us, here and now, in the present moment without getting carried away by what's happening and without needing things to be different. In other words, to the best of our ability, we bring a sense of curiosity and most importantly, kindness to whatever may be happening with us right here, right now.

(02:56): On the surface, it might seem like kind of a simple thing. You might even be thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I pay attention all the time." We've probably heard this since we were kids, "Pay attention!" But when we try to stay tuned — keeping our attention attuned to the present moment in this way — oftentimes we find that it's a lot more challenging than it might seem.

(03:23): So, throughout this session, I'm going to offer three different opportunities to practice this idea of paying attention in the present moment, intentionally tuning to what's happening right now with kindness and with curiosity, and I hope you'll be willing to give it a try.

(03:46): Practice #1: the Point Practice. This first practice that I will invite you into is a brief practice called the Point practice. All of the practices that I offer are very much an invitation. You're welcome to follow along with what I might be sharing. What I'm sharing comes from what I've learned through my own practice and what I've learned as a teacher of meditation. But perhaps what I'm offering may not be what you most need today. So, I want to be sure to encourage you to modify this in any way that feels right for you or feel free to just kind of let my words wash over you and do what works best for you.

(04:35): In this Point practice, we're going to choose to tune our attention to an anchor point as a way to focus our attention and stabilize the mind. So, you might think of it like an anchor resting on the floor of the sea, holding a boat from being swept away by the winds and the waves. Similarly with our mind, we can use our anchor point to stay connected to the present moment. And fortunately, we have several handy tools readily available to us that can only be in the present moment.

(05:13): These are our bodies, including all five or six of our senses, as well as our breath. So, you have an option here as to which anchor point you might like to choose to work with for this short practice. One suggestion you might consider working with is your sense of hearing, so maybe keeping the attention attuned to sounds that are happening around you, or within you, or just the sound of my voice coming through the speaker.

(05:47): Or you might tune to the sense of touch and feel — the contact points that your body makes with the chair you're in, or maybe the feet touching or a foot touching the floor, or something else that you're touching, a pillow behind you, anything like that. Or a third option is to notice the movements of the breath as it's moving in and out of the body.

(06:13): Perhaps noticing qualities of the movement of the chest or belly expanding and contracting with the breath or you might even feel the sensations of air moving in and out of the nostrils. There's no right or wrong anchor point to choose in this practice. Just choose one to stick with and as we go, you'll notice, perhaps, how quickly the mind likes to start paying attention to things other than this anchor point you choose.

(06:45): And when that happens, we can just notice that we've gotten swept away a little bit and then smilingly and gently, we bring our attention right back to our anchor point. No big deal. We might need to go through that process of noticing we've gotten drawn away and coming back to the anchor five times, or 50 times, or 500 times in these few minutes. Not a problem. No matter how many times, we just keep beginning again, bringing the attention right back to our anchor point.

(07:24): So, settling in here for a few moments of mindful awareness, choose that point. Anchor your attention right here, right now. You may notice the mind is starting to wonder, "Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing? Am I doing this right?" As best we can, we're going to shift our attention now away from the thinking mind down into the feeling body. Noticing again, perhaps the sense of hearing, noticing sounds around you, or maybe noticing the absence of sound when I stop speaking, tuning into the sound of silence.

(08:45): We might notice the mind wanting to name what we're hearing or creating questions about what we're hearing. And we can notice that that's happening and then tune our attention right back to just noticing the changing landscape of sound around us.

(09:20): Or if you're working with the sense of touch, just noticing the heaviness of the body, maybe touching the chair. And again, you might notice the mind going off into thoughts about the body or about something that's happening.

(10:01): Again, smilingly and gently, we bring our attention right back to that feeling of contact, feeling the hip points resting on your seat, feeling your feet connected to the floor. We might notice we're drawn away and we come right back.

(10:51): If you're working with the sensations of breathing, just noticing the ebb and flow, the movement of expansion and contraction with the breath. Letting yourself be breathed here for just a few more moments. Letting whatever anchor point you're choosing hold the attention there, like an anchor resting on the floor of the sea.

(11:46): Keeping the mind, space, right here, right now in this present moment, with a sense of curiosity towards what we notice. And the sense of stability so you’re not getting carried away by it. Resting in this way, maybe, for three more rounds of breath.

(12:48): And then maybe taking a deeper inhale and an exhale — a little bit of a sigh, maybe even a verbal sound with the exhale. If you're willing, we have an opportunity here to share something you noticed as you were attempting that Point practice of keeping the attention focused in the present moment. So, using the chat box or the Q&A function on your screen, we invite you to just list a word or two of something that you noticed as you experimented with that practice.

(13:41): Perhaps you noticed a sense of confusion or difficulty. Perhaps you noticed a sense of calm. There's no right or wrong. Mindfulness is truly a practice that is so personalizable. Not only will different people respond differently to it, but each individual might have a different experience on any given day.

(14:26): Yeah, thanks for adding some thoughts here. So, somebody mentioned noticing our heart rate slowing or a sense of relaxation somewhere in the body. Yeah, feeling the busyness of the mind, the brain feeling like it's in overdrive. Yeah. Or noticing how quickly the mind goes to areas of pain in the body. Yeah. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

(14:58): I really appreciate that because it really helps us to understand just how varied this is, and I really want to highlight that there's no way to do this wrong. It's really important to know that sometimes we have a misconception that mindfulness is supposed to always be calm and relaxed. The wonderful thing is that sometimes it is, but not all the time.

(15:18): Common Misconceptions about Mindfulness. So, I want to make sure to highlight on this next slide a few things that mindfulness is not about. Mindfulness is not about clearing our mind of all thoughts completely. We don't need to clear anything from our minds in order to practice mindfulness.

(15:39): Rather, we become more aware of our patterns and our habits of thinking through mindfulness. The more aware we are of them, the more familiar we become with them and the less trapped we can be with them. Mindfulness is also not meant to be peaceful and calm all the time. Fortunately, oftentimes when we give ourselves a chance to pause or slow down in this way, we do experience qualities of calm or ease or relaxation.

(16:10): But mindfulness practice can be just as powerful — or maybe even more so — when we practice and we notice qualities of fear or anxiety, even dread or deep sadness present. It's all part of the practice. Mindfulness isn't an end in and of itself. We don't practice mindfulness just to become expert at meditating. We practice mindfulness so that we can bring it into our daily lives and support our bodies, hearts and minds through the challenges we're facing as patients, as cancer survivors or as family members, partners or as a human being.

(16:51): Mindfulness isn't a panacea. It won't make all of our problems go away, but it does give us a chance to have a different relationship with the challenges, as well as with the joys in our lives. It's not one-size-fits all. As I said, different types of meditations impact people differently, and we might find that we benefit from a certain type of a practice more at different times in our lives depending on what we're going through.

(17:18): Mindfulness involves a lot of experimentation and a willingness to explore as many of you have already offered through your comments shared. And lastly, mindfulness meditation isn't easy. We often say that as a practice, it's relatively simple, which is great actually. It doesn't require a lot of equipment. We can do it anytime, anywhere, but honestly, it's not an easy task. And that's one of the reasons that mindfulness is often referred to as a practice.

(17:50): As with most new things that we're learning or new habits we're trying to build, we need repeated practice over time. And recent neuroscience is pointing us to new understandings of the brain's plasticity — or its ability to change over our lifespan — and to the fact that awareness and focused attention are skills that we can cultivate through practice.

(18:17): It's like we're building our muscles of mindfulness with practice. And neuroscience and psychology also tell us that a focused mind is generally a more happy mind. So, some of you may have noticed that in that first practice that our minds like to wander. They're very busy — it's what they do. One Harvard study summarized this, saying that a human mind is a wandering mind.

(18:47): Sometimes when we practice a meditation, we're hoping to stay tuned to the present moment and we notice our mind has a plan of its own. And it does! We need a thinking, active mind in order to get us through our days. But if we get carried away by our thinking habits — believing some of the thoughts our minds create that might not even be true — we might be creating more suffering for ourselves.

(19:16): Sometimes we may best be served by allowing our mind to be quiet and stable, or at least not trying to control the mind. So, we have this practice that can be challenging even on a good day. And to be quite honest, working with a wandering mind can be even more challenging in the midst of acute pain, stress, fears and anxiety.

(19:44): Pain tends to draw away our mind's attention, as well as the fact that pain is a draw on our energetic reserves. So, you may find yourself thinking, "There's no way I can do this with what I'm facing right now." Many mindfulness teachers, however, would tell you quite the opposite. In fact, when it feels like we have no time or energy for meditation, that might be the best time to pause and to get tenderly curious about the present moment.

(20:15): A study of 100 stem cell transplant patients found that mindfulness - focusing what is happening in the present - supported resilience and recovery during the first six months after transplant better than distracting the mind from what’s happening.  In fact, there is science now pointing to the benefits of mindfulness meditation for cancer patients in general, and a small but growing amount of research considering benefits specific to the population of patients undergoing stem cell transplantation. In a study conducted with over 100 stem cell transplant patients, mindfulness was found to support resilience and recovery through the first six months post-transplant. In this study, mindfulness was compared to a practice of experiential avoidance — or, essentially, distracting the mind from what's presently happening.

(20:55): Now, distraction can sometimes serve. It can be a helpful short-term strategy. But mindfulness was found to be more valuable over a longer period of time — in the way it supports patients in being with the difficult thoughts, emotions and physical symptoms that inevitably arise in treatment and recovery with an open, aware and non-judgmental perspective.

(21:24): Maintaining awareness of what is happening in us, even in difficult moments of pain and fear, can improve our ability to manage pain. This last piece is so critical. Maintaining, as best we can, an openness to what's happening in us, even the most difficult or intense moments of pain or fear. Holding those truths within a broad context of other truths of life and allowing our bodies, hearts and minds to rest with things just as they are. Even if for a brief second or two.

(21:53): This capacity for non-judging, tender awareness can support and improve our ability to manage pain both during and following stem cell transplantation. It allows us to navigate the social isolation of treatment and disease and can help to improve our overall psychological and emotional health.

(22:18): Practice #2: the Big Sky Mind Practice. So, let's try another practice. This invitation is to a practice called Big Sky Mind. In this practice, we'll begin with a few moments of stabilizing the mind with an anchor point, as we did earlier. And then after a few moments, I'll invite you to open up our attention with a really wide-angled lens. We're going to rest this time, not trying to anchor the mind, but rather resting into an openness and expansiveness.

(22:54): You might imagine this image as it's on the slide of a wide expanse of blue sky above you. As I said earlier, we all already have this capacity within us — this capacity for mindful awareness — and it's truly as big and broad as this expanse of blue sky. Our awareness really can hold all things — the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual aspects of our present moment.

(23:28): So once again, settling in for a few moments of mindfulness practice in whatever way you may be sitting, resting or lying down, feeling your body connected with something beneath you once more.

(23:48): Maybe feeling the weightedness of the body resting down. You may be noticing the mind being drawn to areas that are experiencing some intense sensation or pain. We can encourage the mind also to notice if there is an area of the body that's not experiencing pain in this moment.

(24:24): Sometimes I think of my pinky finger or an earlobe — some part of the body that's feeling perhaps more neutral, or even just at ease — in this moment. Of getting curious to notice: are there areas of the body that aren't experiencing pain right now? And then as we rest in here, again, feeling a few rounds of inhaling and exhaling with the breath.

(25:12): Letting your body, heart and mind know that for these next few moments, there's nowhere else you need to go. Nothing else you need to do other than bring kindness and curiosity to this present moment. So, we can allow the body to be as it is right now with all of the multitude of sensations, letting our experience in the body just unwind in its own time as we rest into this moment. We'll let the breath do its thing. We don't need to control that either.

(26:22): And for this practice, let the energies of the mind unwind in their own time as well. Seeing if we can invite this curiosity, noticing a sense of our mind extending outside of the bony structure of our head or skull. Opening into this expansive sense of the mind's knowing, extending outward in all directions.

(26:58): Our awareness as wide and vast as the big blue sky. And when you notice a thought or an emotion present, imagining those in the shape of the clouds that move across the sky. Noticing how those shift and change, morph into different shapes as they move. But if we let them, they do keep moving.

(27:56): You might notice some darker, heavier clouds depending on what emotions are present right now. You might notice just streaks of wispy light clouds. There's no right or wrong here. We're just noticing thoughts as they move across the mind's eye. You might even consider the sensations present in the body like a cloud. Again, moving through.

(28:37): And that vast blue expanse of sky is our awareness — watching, observing it all and shift and change, moment by moment. If, at any point, it starts to feel challenging to stay that open, you are always welcome to shift back to your anchor point as needed. This is your practice and we encourage you to make it your own.

(29:30): So, you might even swing back and forth a little bit between that open, expansive sense of awareness, noticing all the things happening within and around you, and then coming back to simply feeling the breath, or feeling your body connected to your seat. Bringing these qualities of openness, awareness and non-judgmental perspective. Not critiquing, not getting attached to things. Observing them as we might watch the clouds move across the sky.

(30:34): It is the nature of our mind to be this expansive, this open, this vast. It's always here. Even on those days where we can't see the blue of the sky, when it feels like there's such a thick, heavy layer of clouds. We can trust that behind or beyond whatever layer or storm might be moving through us, that wide blue sky is always here.

(31:33): It's with us even when we find ourselves caught up, we're carried away by the winds and the clouds. So once more resting. Resting with the mind wide open for a few more rounds of breath, maybe three more rounds. And then just being in some way as we bring this brief practice to a close and maybe inviting a little bit of movement into the body.

(32:31): We've been resting here for some time now. Taking a nice stretch if it's possible, or opening and closing the eyes, the mouth, enlivening the body in some way that helps us move now into this present moment. And if you're willing once more, I invite you to use that chat or Q&A function to share any thoughts of what you noticed in this practice.

(33:03): The Big Sky Mind practice can sometimes feel enlivening and welcoming to recognize we have this capacity for open awareness, and sometimes it can be a little challenging. Again, knowing there's no right or wrong way to experience these practices. You are strengthening your muscle for mindful awareness with each moment of practice.

(33:46): We'll have time at the end of the session as well if you have questions about what you're experiencing. So, for now, I'm going to move forward to this next slide, which is just a reminder that — as we're experiencing here, even — there are many different options for exploring mindfulness meditation. You may have already noticed that either one or the other of the practices that we've just experimented with felt more comfortable or more feasible for you.

(34:26): And I would say, choose what works and keep noticing what arises over time. One of my teachers said to me, “The best mindfulness practice is the one that you do.” So, when you spend a few minutes in meditation, you might feel calm and peaceful, or you notice all sorts of anxious or angry thoughts and feelings, or heavy, dark clouds or storms. Somebody even mentioned, "Yeah, a tornado." Sometimes that's present, sometimes that's what's happening in our life. Whether you feel one or the other, both of those experiences are equally valuable.

(35:10): They're both helping us to strengthen our mind's concentration and stability. Both of those experiences are valuable in helping us to interrupt the cyclical recurrence of fearful thoughts that can lead to so much distress, especially when we're going through something as challenging as what many of you are.

(35:35): So, now I see a few comments. Some folks are experiencing that sense of restfulness and calm, and some people are saying, "I'm not getting it." And you know what? I just want to encourage that — that's okay too! Thank you for naming that. Thank you for being honest.

(35:53): Mindfulness sometimes is referred to as a very radical practice. It is radical in that it's very different from the way our brains have been conditioned to behave. Our educational system has been training us to be so involved in this part of our mind that's thinking, figuring out, trying to understand. And what I'm asking you to do in these practices is very different.

(36:20): So, my suggestion — if this feels confusing or you feel like you're not getting it — is to bring kindness and curiosity to that feeling as well. And see if — we're going to have one more opportunity to explore this — you can just notice what arises again with this sort of non-judging perspective, not needing it to be a certain way. Maybe just noticing, "I feel like I'm not getting it. Where does that feeling of confusion reside within me? Is it up in the head? Is it behind the eyes? Is it in my chest or my arms?" Get really curious.

(37:01): Mindfulness as Complementary Care. Mindfulness is this form of complementary care. It can be used in conjunction with and to support a whole host of other forms of medical and healthcare treatment you may be involved in, including medications that you take, physical therapy, mental health therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. All sorts of procedures and processes.

(37:35): And the great thing about mindfulness is that it's associated with very few detrimental side effects. Mindfulness can offer a balm for the trauma of the transplant experience — the loneliness, or the isolation of extended treatments, or other aspects of emotional distress that are associated with transplant procedures.

(38:01): Mindfulness programs specifically for HSCT (Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation) patients have shown positive outcomes in reducing anxiety, depression and fatigue, decreasing psychological distress and improving quality of life. Learning to know ourselves and our thought patterns better and honing new ways of how we relate to life's challenges can not only support our resilience and recovery, but can also spill over and create unexpected benefits in other areas of our life as well.

(38:38): Practice #3: the Compassion Practice. To give you another opportunity to practice these muscles of mindful awareness, I want to offer one more short practice. And this one is a practice of Compassion. The word compassion in its Latin origin literally means ‘to suffer with.’ Compassion is the practice of being with suffering and pain, with care, with warmth and with tenderness. It might seem counterintuitive to turn our attention towards those things that bring us most pain. Instinctively we want to avoid or turn away from those things.

(39:17): But pain is a part of life, and particularly so when we're dealing with medical and health crises, or long-term recovery and treatment. We might find it possible to turn towards these experiences with qualities of mindfulness and compassion in ways that allow us to respond with care.

(39:43): So, for this practice, I'm going to lead you through a three-step process called the Self-Compassion Break. And we'll begin again with an anchoring, a settling in, feeling your body resting here. Perhaps noticing again the movement of the body as the breath comes in and the breath goes out.

(40:17): Once again, letting yourself rest into a sense of not needing to do anything or go anywhere. You might even let the eyes softly close. This practice of self-compassion is responding to our own suffering in the caring way we would respond to a dear friend or a child who's struggling.

(40:50): Perhaps bringing into this practice one aspect of life that is feeling difficult or challenging right now. Noticing and feeling any discomfort — or pain in your body or your mind — as you're considering this. And with this difficulty present, saying to yourself slowly, "This is a moment of struggle." That's what mindfulness is about. Just recognizing what's true now. Recognizing the struggle while we're struggling and validating how we feel while we're experiencing it.

(41:34): We might also say to ourselves, "This is hurting. This is stressful. This is a moment of struggle." Sometimes even just using the word, "Ouch." The second step of the Self-Compassion Break is to say to ourselves, "Struggle is a part of life." This step we call ‘common humanity’ — recognizing that we are not alone in encountering struggle. You might also say to yourself, "We all struggle in our lives. Many other people, even here on this call today, are struggling just like me. This is how it feels when a person struggles in this way."

(42:57): Sensing right through your feeling into what others might feel too. In this way, we sense this feeling is not just our own but as our deep connection to many other people. So, we begin by noticing this is a struggle. This hurts. Our next step is to recognize we are not alone: many other people struggle just like me.

(43:43): And the third stage of this practice is to experiment with offering yourself a simple gesture of compassion. You might include a form of soothing touch, maybe placing a hand over your heart space or a hand on your shoulder, crossing the arms in front of you, doing a little self-hug. Feeling the warmth and gentle touch of your hand. Asking yourself, "May I give myself what I need in this moment? May I be patient with myself through this process?"

(44:33): Or any other words that might support you in this moment. Perhaps there are other words of kindness or support that you need to hear right now for what you're encountering. What simple message might be a caring response for you right now?

(45:15): Breathing in with the in-breath, this wish of kindness for yourself. And then with the out-breath, sending this wish of kindness to all others who might be in a similar situation. Then setting aside any steps or effort around this practice whatsoever. Just letting the body, heart and mind rest in these qualities of compassion and mindfulness.

(46:02): Really letting your whole body and mind open to what's here. Noticing perhaps a simple sound, a simple breath. For this moment, letting qualities of kindness and curiosity and compassion fill every corner of your body from head to toe. And then as you're ready, again, maybe moving the hands or feet or taking a brief stretch. We're coming toward the end of my presentation and we'll make space for questions.

(47:09): I do want to mention that a practice like this — this self-compassion practice — is something that you could do in 30 seconds or 10 minutes or 30 minutes. It's very modifiable. It's portable. It goes with you wherever you go.

(47:44): The Self-Compassion Break is a practice that comes from the work of Dr. Christopher Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff. It's an easy resource to find online with the three steps that I've mentioned today and described. I encourage you to remember that it's a practice. We practice over and over and build that muscle for compassion.

(48:03): I wanted to offer a few other resources for those of you who might be interested in going further with this practice. Some resources to support you are those similar to what we offer here at UW Health. Many hospitals, health centers or mindfulness centers around the country offer classes like these.

(48:27): Mindfulness Resources. Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery is a nine-week program developed by researchers in British Columbia of Canada. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program that's been offered as a way to initiate or build a mindfulness practice for supporting ourselves through various forms of stresses in life. This was developed at the UMass Medical Center and is now taught worldwide. Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is another multi-week program developed by Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff.

(49:02): They're all using similar practices as the core. They meet weekly and many courses are available now online. We offer some online classes and you can do a search for other hospitals or healthcare centers around you. Those are wonderful opportunities to be a part of a community of people practicing together where you see the richness — as we even saw today — with people sharing what they're noticing and questions coming forward. We all have a chance to learn from each other.

(49:33): A few other resources to support you include joining a community of practice. I see somebody mentioned that in one of the questions. There are a few options here on our UW Health website. We offer mindfulness meditation drop-in sessions virtually through Zoom. They happen twice each week. Anybody is welcome to join. You can find those at the top website address listed there: uwhealth.org/mindfulness.

(50:03): And at the second one, we have audio tracks that you can listen to anytime, anywhere. There are also a number of different apps now easily available. So, these that I've listed here are some highly recommended apps with high quality guided meditations. Some similar to — and some different from — what I offered today, for you to explore your own meditation practice in the comfort of your own home.

(50:36): So, with that, I think I will open it up. I'm going to take a look at a couple of the questions that are listed here and ask our moderator for support with any other Q&A that may come forward.

Question and Answer Session

(50:54): [Marla O’Keefe]: Thank you, Ms. Thomas-Prince, for this excellent presentation. We will now begin the question and answer session. If you have a question, please use the chat box on the left side of the screen to submit your questions. We will answer as many questions as possible. Our first question is, I found myself using my eyes to fixate on a point in each picture. Does that dilute the mindfulness experience?

(51:26): [Lisa Thomas-Prince]: Not at all. I would generally recommend either finding a gazing point if it's something in a picture like that, or you can look out a window and find something on the horizon where you can let your eyes land. That actually helps to, I think, support our mindful awareness because we're giving our eyes a chance to rest. Our eyes like to take in information all the time. So, if we can either let the eyes rest on a single point or allow the eyelids softly to close and let the eyes just be quiet. Both of those are strategies to help us tune our attention to what is going on within us, rather than to be tuned externally to what's going on around us. Great question.

(52:18): [Marla O’Keefe]: Thank you. The next question is, do you recommend practice of Tai-Chi if physically able for mindful meditation?

(52:28): [Lisa Thomas-Prince]: I do highly recommend Tai-Chi and also Qigong. And I see that's another question there as well. Tai-Chi and Qigong are both forms of a moving meditation. And if they're taught in a way that focuses not so much on getting the form exactly right but taught in a way where you're harnessing our capacity to feel into the body, notice the breath — breath is an important component of those practices — and focusing the mind, then those practices become a form of meditation.

(53:05): It's just a moving meditation. I would just caution — depending on what your intention really is — if it's a Tai-Chi practice where you're just really focused on making sure the toes are pointed in a certain direction or getting the form exactly right, then that can take us out of our present moment experience. So just look for a form of Tai-Chi or Qigong that's really meditative in its nature is what I would recommend.

(53:32): [Marla O’Keefe]: Thank you. Next question is, I enjoyed this meditation. Is there a time of day that is better to meditate?

(53:42): [Lisa Thomas-Prince]: So that's a question I would turn back to the person asking the question and just recommend that you experiment with meditating at different times of day and see what works best for you. I will say for myself — and maybe some of you notice — that when we slow ourselves down in this way, it's really easy to get sleepy.

(54:04): Our bodies and minds are pretty well-trained at this point, that when it gets quiet — and especially if we close our eyes — it's like nap time. The practice of mindfulness is really meant to help us wake up to what's happening rather than to fall asleep. So, for me, I find it's easier for me to practice earlier in the day. If I try to set myself up late in the evening to do a practice, I just go more quickly into sleeping.

(54:34): But it's different for each person, and it's probably different depending on the state of our bodies and what we're going through. If we're in the midst of treatments, it might just be right after you eat lunch when your body is nourished and has some energy, to do a short practice or something like that. I really say there's not one right answer to that. It's really dependent on your life and your body.

(55:00): [Marla O’Keefe]: Thank you. Someone asked, this is a little different. I have neuropathy and struggle with balance. Do you think that chair yoga would be helpful?

(55:10): [Lisa Thomas-Prince]: Yes, very much. And also chair Tai-Chi and chair Qigong. On our uwhealth.org/meditation website — the second one listed on this slide — we have some videos of instructors teaching a Qigong practice that can be done in the chair. Because the movements are so slow, yes, it can be challenging if you have neuropathy and have a difficult time with balance, but you can still reap the benefits by doing the movements in a chair.

(55:42): And there's also been science that points to the benefits even through visualizing the movements. If your body is in a state on a particular day where you just don't even feel capable of doing movements, you can visualize going through the movements and reap some of the benefits.

(56:03): [Marla O’Keefe]: Thank you. The next question is, are there any detrimental side effects to meditation?

(56:14): [Lisa Thomas-Prince]: This is a big question. There is some research that has been published around detrimental side effects. Those usually come in retreat settings where people are doing a long period of practice, over many days and not being given options to modify based on their bodies or based on their condition. So, I would say that sometimes when we slow ourselves down, things — issues, problems or traumas that may have happened earlier in our life and have been kind of stored in different parts of our body that we haven't dealt with — might start to arise.

(56:58): And so that's why I always suggest making the practice your own and modifying it as you need. If sometimes you notice an enhanced sense of fear or anxiety happening, you are always welcome to just set the practice down for a little bit, go outside, get some fresh air, take a walk. Modify it to your needs and don’t feel like you have to do it a certain way. I would say the detrimental side effects really just come about when people feel like they're limited and they don't have agency over their own practice.

(57:36): [Marla O’Keefe]: Thank you for that. Okay. I think that was all of our questions. So, on behalf of BMT InfoNet and our partners, I'd like to thank Ms. Thomas-Prince for a very helpful and mindful presentation. And thank you, the audience, for your excellent questions. Please contact BMT InfoNet if we can help you in any way.

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