Make space for enjoying your life

I just listened to an amazing podcast on This American Life about an elderly lady who’s family didn’t tell her that the results of her latest health check noticed a tumour on the lung and gave her only three months to live.

The family decided not to tell her and opted instead to protect her from the stress and worry, and carried on as usual.

That was in 2015 and amazingly the old lady is still alive and well today.

When I heard this podcast it reminded me of wise words from great masters, such as Thích Nhất Hạnh and the Dali Lama, that speak of the power of equanimity, or a balanced mind, and the destructive affect of negative thinking. Is it possible that the old lady has survived 4 years because she has been protected from the stress of a terminal diagnosis? We may never know for sure but the idea certainly resonates with me and what I understand about mindfulness.

The whole idea of being mindful is to be aware of how we feel at any given moment – how we really feel I mean. Knowing the attitude of the mind, and feeling the energy in the body is the direct line to our authentic self.

Being connected to our inner landscape enables us to ‘see’ unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and emotions in motion, and only when we are aware can we work with them and be in control. If we remain unconscious of them they will spin out of control and affect everything we do, in turn, this influences our character and our health.

I feel very privileged to be a mindfulness teacher because it encourages me to practice all the time. As well as sitting meditations, I practice opening to the joy of life at any given moment, even when pain or discomfort is present. For example, I recently had a UTI flareup and felt pretty grotty, but even in this state there were plenty of enjoyable things to focus on, and while this didn’t make the pain go away it made space for other experiences. I let in some joy and research shows how positive this little adjustment can be.

Research is confident about the health benefits of mindfulness, but proving that reducing stress can prolong life, even with a terminal diagnosis, might take more time. Meanwhile, it clearly hasn’t done the lady in the story any harm, and long may that continue.

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