Building Mindfulness

Now that we are starting to treat our bodies well, let’s focus on fostering our mindfulness. Being mindful is about allowing ourselves to be in the present moment by slowing our mind and breath so that we have the opportunity to be in touch with our inner thoughts. Meditating/focusing on your breathing is a great tool to achieve mindfulness. Slowing down our minds and focusing only on the moment is an extremely hard task to accomplish; we are all surrounded by so much internal and external noise that it is hard to listen to what we are truly feeling and thinking. Thoughts, anxieties, and emotions race around our head constantly and can make us feel lost and confused. We lose the ability to think and act rationally because many of us are unable to connect to our inner desires and beliefs in a single, present moment. When I began to drown in anxieties and worries, I grabbed onto meditation and exercise as a life raft to keep me afloat. I started mediating as soon as I was diagnosed with cancer and returned to New York City to begin treatment. Meditating was my way of holding onto my inner self in the face of uncertainty. I did not want to lose my hair or my identity.

I could not believe that I had been ripped away from my abroad experience in Argentina to begin a 6th month long chemo treatment. The world did not make sense to me. My sister went through the same treatment just four years before me. How could three women in the same family all go through chemo within five years of each other? How could a mother and daughter plan their chemos at the same time so they could sit next to each other with IVs in their arms? Nothing made sense to me, but all I could do was embrace what was about to happen. I used meditation as a way to train myself to only focus on the moment at hand. I only allowed myself to be concerned with the present since I learned there is nothing you can change about the past or control about the future.

I targeted my energy to focus on my breathing. Almost every morning, I sat by our terrace overlooking Central Park and practiced being mindful of my breathing and how my body was feeling. When I first sat down, I noticed how I was not breathing in fully and how tense my jaw, neck and shoulders were. I released that tension by siting up straight with my legs crossed and my head held up high. I would focus on my breath by breathing in for five counts and exhaling out for five. This was my tool to catch my breath and get control of the rhythm of my mind and body. I visualized the breath entering my body to give me strength and health, and exiting my body, ridding me of toxic thoughts and emotions. Sometimes I could only sit there for 2 minutes- other times 10 or 20 minutes. The most important thing was getting me to sit down so I could create that awareness, which grew stronger over time.

Being mindful and in control of my breath was one of the best tools I have been able to teach myself. It not only was my life raft, but also became my lifeline when unfortunate events took a turn for the worse.

Suggestions: Get yourself to stop and listen to your own breath and mind at least once a day. If you do not have the time or obedience to do it every morning or evening when you are home, then try to do it sometime during your daily routine. This could be during your commute to/from work, on your lunch break or anytime you find yourself alone. It is important to stop yourself: put away your phone, ipad, or newspaper and just try to create that mindfulness connection. Be present in the moment and be in touch with your breath, which helps you connect your body and mind. It is ok if there is noise or commotion around you since that is the world we live in. However, this time is meant for you to check in with yourself: make sure you are breathing and ask yourself:

"What could make me feel better at this moment?"

"What does my body need?"

If you can only do this 1 minute a day, that is ok. The important point is to be mindful of the moment, expel all your cluttered thoughts, and find your inner self. Knowing your inner self is crucial to living and acting well, as you must always stay true to your own intentions.

One body, one mind.