Mindfulness for Cancer Support

I am often asked how I can work with people who are coping with trauma such as cancer. People find it difficult to understand how you can enjoy being around what is often deemed as such a negative energy. 

Last week I was reading an article in the Nightingale Cancer Support Centre. I deliver regular Mindfulness courses to cancer patients and their families at the centre, so to be featured in their magazine was a privilege.

What moved me the most was that Liz, one of my group participants, explained how Mindfulness had changed her life.

"I attended their six week Mindfulness course. The whole experience changed my outlook on life and taught me a mindful way to remain positive on a daily basis" - Liz

She reflects on her state of mind before attending the course

"Mentally, I was in a bad place. I found I was overthinking and felt I had to find a way of accepting what was coming up"

Mindfulness and Cancer

Cancer can hit any of us at any given time, just as can any other life threatening disease. In reality, what cancer does is shake our reality. It wakes us up to the fact that life is not infinite nor guaranteed. 

Even people who survive and go on to live normal healthy lives are affected emotionally from the whole experience. Many cancer survivors say they feel they have changed, they can not go back to being who they were before the cancer.

And this is often the case for anyone who has been through an traumatic life event. When we stare our vulnerability in the face, our reality is rocked at it's core. 

Mindfulness is used to help people going through cancer deal with what is, to be able to focus on the now and to calm the constant chatter in the mind. We do this through beginning to pay attention to what is going on in our mind and practice how to let our thoughts flow. 

The Hidden Rewards of Mindfulness

And so I come back to my opening paragraph, why do I work with people who are dealing with such difficult times in their life? 



Because the reward is all mine - when you see people overcoming and coping with life even when it is so challenging, it makes you appreciate how lucky you really are.

When you see how vulnerable we all are, you learn to love every moment of your own life.

This is my reward.


Mindfulness is not a quick fix

I’ve had a few interesting conversations recently about mindfulness. Some people are comparing mindfulness to the multi billion dollar self improvement industry which is a misinterpretation of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is not a quick fix.

Mindfulness is a practice that dates back centuries, it has the backing of some of the most prestigious universities in the world and has scientific evidence to prove it’s effectiveness on mental health and well being.

To become a mindfulness practitioner, to fully embody mindfulness takes hard internal work, it does not happen over night. Mindfulness does not pretend to mend you, it teaches self acceptance, self compassion and far more than I can cover in this short space.

Why is there an increase in stress, anxiety and depression, when there is so much self improvement advice available?

I’ve read every self development book published, starting from Anthony Robbins to Napoleon Hill and attended too many workshops and seminars to remember. There is no doubt that developing the ability to see things from a brighter perspective is better than always seeing things negatively.

However this constant high, always living in a state of positiveness is unsustainable because it is unnatural. Unfortunately life is made up of good, bad and ugly. The sooner we can come to terms with that the better it is for us.

Self improvement is always forward thinking:

“When I look better or get that better job or find that perfect person, life will be great!!”

So let’s improve our appearance because right now, right this minute I’m not good enough.

Yes let’s work hard to get that better job because the one we have right now is not enough.

Oh and when I meet that Mr or Mrs Perfect, life will be perfect because right now, being me and being with me is not good enough.

Always looking forward to when things get better or looking backwards to all the things we did wrong.

Until one day you break because you get what you thought would make you happy and yet it’s still not good enough. Or you keep aiming for something that is unobtainable until you just run out of life.

Hence the emotional sickness going around today.

To a degree the self improvement industry is to blame because it tells us to think positively, to turn negative inot positive, to think positive so that we attract positive things.

What do we do when things don’t go our way? How do we live with that?

Life doesn’t happen in the future or in the past. Life only happens in the now and before you even grasp that it’s gone.

So why is it so difficult for us to accept that now is good enough?

What would happen if we suddenly woke up to our life, today and said “hello, life is great right now!”

What would happen if we could embrace everything, the good, the bad and the ugly and just learn from every experience?

But what if life isn’t great right now?

I’d be naive if I didn’t acknowledge that of course some people’s lives are not great, some are barely living a life at all. Poverty, war, hunger, crime and horrific acts against humanity going on everywhere. But what does living in a state of anger, uneasiness and anxiety do to elevate any of this?

Perhaps instead of moaning about the state of the world and the way some people are forced to live, we lived our lives to the full and where possible we actually do something to help. Is that not more beneficial?

So if you are looking for a quick fix in life be warned, mindfulness is not going to fix you it’s going to wake you up to who you are. If that’s too hard to face, then perhaps come back to mindfulness when you are ready.