The MATCH Study: Mindfulness And Tai chi for Cancer Health. This innovative clinical trial conducted by the University of Calgary/Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is now recruiting cancer survivors! As a participant you get to choose which treatment approach you want, or let us assign you to a group if you are equally interested in both. We will measure program effects on psychological, physical and biological outcomes including quality of life, mood, stress, balance, blood pressure, heart rate, immune function and more! Visit www.thematchstudy.ca for more details.
by Joan Hunt, MSW, RSW and certified teacher of MBSR. Joan is one of the MBCR instructors for the Toronto site of the MATCH study. She taught the first group of MATCH study patients in the program in the Spring of 2017. Below are her reflections on the importance of the attitudes that participants bring to a practice of mindfulness, or any approach to healing, for that matter. Our hope is that these reflections may resonate with cancer survivors and care providers generally and serve as a reminder of the imperative of self-compassion when coping with any challenging life situation.
“Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.” – Rumi
Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book “Full Catastrophe Living,” (1990) described seven attitudinal qualities that underpin developing a mindfulness practice. The adoption of these attitudinal qualities are a significant part of the training of the Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery Program (MBCR). These attitudinal qualities will determine its long-term value to participants and will help develop a framework from which “to be with” experience as it emerges, moment by moment.
The attitudinal qualities described by Jon Kabat-Zinn are non-judging, patience, a beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.
Non-judging is cultivating kindly awareness to the stream of experience just as it is, without adding interpretation or judgment. In this way it becomes possible to see more clearly the internal process of adding judgment and reaction to experience. There is no need to “judge the judging”, but merely to notice its omnipresent quality, and notice how it influences the nature of experience to constantly be thinking “this is good”, or “this isn’t good”. Only then are we able to choose deliberately to step back from this habit.
Patience is simply working with things as they are right now and allowing that change takes place in its own time. We are often so rushed and hurried, looking for a quick fix to what ails us. Applying patience is a recognition that most healing and learning takes time, then sitting back and allowing change without pressure.
Beginner’s mind is bringing the intention of curiosity to experience, staying in the present moment, rather than looking at the experience through a lot of preconceptions. It’s like seeing ourselves and our experience for the very first time, through the lens of curiosity and open-mindedness.
Trusting your experience and learning to validate your own sensations, thoughts, feelings and intuition. There is also a component of trusting in the practices being learned, which have a history over thousands of years
Non-striving is about not trying to fix problems or find solutions, but embracing a willingness to let the experience be as it is. Non-striving is paradoxical as it turns out the only way to achieve desired outcomes (like learning to cope with stress), is to simply let go of striving for that outcome, and learn to simply “be” in the world.
Acceptance involves seeing things as they actually are with an attitude of kindness. This does not imply one is happy with the way things are, or is giving in to negative outcomes; it simply recognizes the reality of one’s life situation with kindness, freeing us from the weight of denial.
Letting go involves the acknowledging of the ever changing nature of experience such as thoughts and emotions, arising and passing without forming attachment to them. It recognizes that the only certainty in life is change, and that we cannot fight against the force of this inevitability. It’s better to learn to “ride the waves” of change, than struggle to keep things the way we want them to be.
For more information visit our website: www.thematchstudy.ca
Joan Hunt is a clinical Social Worker MSW RSW currently in private practice, who offers Psychotherapy. She has worked since 1979 in Canada in a variety of clinical and non-clinical roles and settings in the mental health and addiction fields. She is also a Certified Teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) who received her certification to teach MBSR from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.