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Seeking Serenity

Posted 10/15/2015

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  I first became seriously (as opposed to just knowing about it) interested in meditation ten or more years ago when I became friends with a couple who have been life-long practitioners. They are both from India and grew up with meditation as part of their daily routines. Before I knew about their practice, I noticed their joy and their serenity. They beam the same way that the monk at an isolated monastery that we visited in Egypt or the monk at a temple in Laos did. It is remarkable.

  Five or so years ago, I took a course in meditation and have tried to sustain a daily practice. Sometimes it goes more easily than others, but I surely notice a difference. The hardest part is establishing the habit; it is similar to making time to exercise every day. Once I mostly do it, I surely notice (in a negative way) the days that I don't. Sadly, I don't glow. But I do feel less stress and tension and more softness inside.

  We know that mediation and mindfulness are particularly helpful when going through difficult times. I recommend it regularly to my patients and have sometimes taught a short version to someone in acute need. It is important and reassuring to remember that you can't do it incorrectly. All you have to do is try, and that is good enough. If you are near Boston, one of my colleagues and the BID Buddhist monk together offer a free weekly meditation class for oncology patients. Ask me about it if you are interested. If you want an easy and entertaining introduction to the possibility, read Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo.

  And this lovely article from Cure Today is quite convincing:

Finding Calm in the Face of Cancer

It's 1:00 a.m. and I'm still awake. I've been waking up every hour all night long. I have a
new pain spot on my back and I have become convinced that the cancer is growing. So I
am scared ... very, very scared.
Cancer is terrifying. Michael J. Fox describes his experience of Parkinson’s Disease as
crossing the street and getting stuck in the middle of the road as a bus hurtles towards
you. You know that the bus is going to hit you, you just don’t know when and how bad
it’s going to be. Learning to remain calm while watching the bus fly at you is one of the
greatest challenges of living with metastatic cancer.
The hardest part for me is that when the panic comes, it comes in the middle of the night. Normally, I would call someone to find support, but calling after bedtime is not a popular move. So I’ve had to learn how to calm myself. While I do have a prescription for Ativan (I joke that having cancer makes me a legalized drug addict), I try not to use it unless the panic is really bad. I don’t want to build up a tolerance for the drug and not have this aid when I am truly desperate. I have a few calming methods I’ve used over time, but lately I’ve been more scared than usual and I need more tools in the toolbox. So I asked the women I know in a private group for metastatic breast cancer and they suggested a bucketload of calming methods. Here is the list in an easy-to-use format


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