Mindfulness in the midst of cancer : stopping

One of the interesting things about having cancer is that it forced me to stop. Really stop. This also gave me the biggest gift of all: the experience of being in some strange kind of free-fall. I had to let go of all that had defined me before. This meant no teaching, individual consultations, retreats or workshops in my professional life. It also meant no cooking, cleaning, caring for my home and family, visiting friends …. the list in my personal life was endless.

Mindfulness : Lotus flowers and Buddha nature

I could see this image of lotus flowers from my hospital bed. It reminded me that any of us can blossom and experience the calm serenity of Buddha nature, something that each of us carries inside us.

Thankfully I knew that this concept of stopping is crucial to mindfulness. It allows space to reconnect with the very basis of life itself; my breathing, my body. To connect with the small things that fill my days and add up to my experience of being alive. So my cancer experience became the ultimate gift of pure, uninterrupted mindfulness practice. Yes I felt physical pain, but I could choose either to feed that pain by spinning stories of fear around it, or I could just accept it completely, breathe, and hold myself with compassion and a gentle curiosity. It felt like a strange privilege to have such an extreme human experience. How was I feeling? How did it make me respond? What could I learn from it?

It was during this time that I began to write myself questions. These were little prompts to help me appreciate the wonderful things that were happening to me in the midst of all the trauma. It stopped me dwelling on the past or living in fear of the future: in other words, it helped me to be mindful of the present moment and discover the joy that could be found there.

This practice of gratitude and appreciation is something that I have held on to over these past few months, and I am now starting to share these little questions with you over social media. I hope that they help you to reconnect with the world of your direct experience, and begin to water the seeds of happiness that are within each of us. I also hope that they help you to keep stopping in the midst of the madness of modern life, to take a breath, to ponder for a while, maybe to be amused by your own thoughts, and to experience the joy and liberation that mindfulness can bring, even for a moment.

I send them out with love, and a smile.

Soul Nutrition appreciation cards

Please write your own responses in the comments box below! It will be lovely to connect with you.

Katie Sheen, Founder & Director of Soul Nutrition

Other Mindfulness in the Midst of Cancer blog articles:

Resting

Whispers

Life and Death

Sound

Mindfulness in the Midst of Cancer

5 Responses

  1. Shirley Budden says:

    a great place to put the wine glasses to keep them safe while I wash up the other stuff….
    Loved sitting on the windowsill when I was a child, reading and watching a thrush in the garden
    It’s now where my gorgeous dog and cat leave their muddy paw prints

  2. Alex says:

    Thank you for a beautifully serene blog post to help put a busy day in perspective Katie. Now that I think about it, there are lots of things I appreciate about windowsills! I have a growing collection of beautiful handmade glass pictures which live in the windowsill, where the sun catches them and brings them to life. This also brings to mind early springtime, when my windowsills will become home to the next generation of fruit and vegetable seedlings as I watch them grow up to become strong enough to plant outside. It’s also where my cat loves to sit and contemplate the work outside on a rainy day.

  3. Karen says:

    A great place to put something beautiful/meaningful at a focal point illuminated by natural light.

  4. Pamela says:

    Windowsills…a link between inner and outer… a boundary. From inside you are safe to observe the outer movement, watch the rain fall washing everything clean and creating new life knowing that the sun will shine again.
    From outside, it’s incredible how you feel drawn as you walk by to look in through windows across that boundary without permission to glimpse a look into cool darkness and hidden depths. A snapshot of someone else reality.

  5. Orla Beaton says:

    Dear Katie, thank you for this. I will forward to a dear friend. I’m sure she will appreciate it. Love & smiles, Orla

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