I have moved this blog to
please go there for all future postings..
Monday, April 16, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I recently attended a week-long meditation retreat with Jack Kornfield at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. I had gone thinking I would learn more about Buddhist psychology, which I have been attracted to for the past few years, mostly for their focus on HAPPINESS as the key to life.
Kornfield, an American trained as a Buddhist monk, is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist practices to the West. He is truly a spiritual being; he just radiates love and compassion. When I spoke to him I felt his total presence and connection with me. Being around him and watching the way he interacted with everyone else was what mainly motivated me to embrace his teachings. I’d like to be more like him!
There were almost 200 of us at the retreat, people from all over the U.S. (he’s very well-known and has quite the following). Jack shared his teachings, bringing them alive with moving and funny stories. And we meditated....and meditated....and meditated.
I’ve never been a meditator. I’ve always thought it is a good practice to have, but I could never seem to find the time to sit still and focus. I am now convinced that the commitment is worth the effort. And I know I can find 15 minutes out of each day to meditate (I’ll just subtract some of the time I spend on the computer!)
What I learned from Jack (and the other two speakers), from the other participants (many seasoned meditators), and from all the books I’m reading, are the many potential benefits of a meditation practice:
*Creating mindfulness; learning to be totally in the present: BE HERE NOW.
*Letting go of suffering; easing the mind
*Creating more joy
*Learning to forgive
*Reducing patterns of unhelpful worry and obsession, destructive views and opinions
*Becoming less judgmental
*Clarifying confusion; making better decisions
*Reconnecting with our heart and discovering an inner sense of spaciousness, unity, and compassion
*Reflecting more deeply on what we value
*Being grateful each and every day; developing an attitude of gratitude
*Focusing on Loving Kindness in myself as well as in others
*Finding peace and happiness
These potential benefits sure motivate me to commit to a daily meditation practice!
Being mindful will surely help me be more present to my coaching clients and to friends in distress. It should help me be less distracted and forgetful. Most importantly it will help me be more present and thus live each day to the fullest.
From Jack’s book A Path with Heart:
Meditation can be thought of as the art of awakening. Through the mastering of this art we can learn new ways to approach our difficulties and bring wisdom and joy alive in our life. Through developing meditation’s tools and practices we can awaken the best of our spiritual human capacities. The key to this art is the steadiness of our attention.
Meditating isn’t easy. Basic meditation practice means focusing on the breath. I find it very hard to keep my focus on the breath as my mind is constantly focusing on plans for the future, memories of the past, or other random thoughts. I’m assured that the more I practice meditating the more I will be able to stay with the breath. Like any new skill it takes time to learn it. So my intention is to meditate daily, even if only for 5 minutes, for one month. (They say it takes 4-6 weeks to create a new habit). I know that my efforts will be worth it; I trust that I will reap the benefits.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
As a Professional Certified Life Coach with over 12 years of experience, I focused mostly on career coaching. However, for the past few years I have been living with lung (and breast) cancer, now managing to live my “new normal” life quite well. My friends and colleagues have encouraged me to share my knowledge/experience/skills with other cancer patients, so I have decided to change the focus of my coaching to cancer coaching. A life coach who has experienced cancer will most likely be the best cancer coach. I want to support other people, newly diagnosed with cancer or surviving cancer, in living a full and meaningful life. This is part of my legacy - to help others benefit from what I have learned and experienced.
More and more hospitals and clinics are hiring life coaches to provide wellness coaching for cancer patients. Life coaching has been around for several decades, but has recently gained more prominence in the cancer community. This arose out of a growing awareness - especially among patients themselves - that treatment often didn’t focus on the whole person but rather on the disease.
In a recent research study 30 cancer patients participated in wellness coaching over a three-month period. Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, the results showed various improvements including decreased depression and anxiety, increased physical activity, better motivation, and healthier diet. Other studies have indicated coaches can help patients communicate better with their doctors, make better health care choices, manage transitions, and maintain better relationships with family and friends. Life and wellness coaches provide cancer patients with support and guidance in the following areas: nutrition, exercise, work, relationships, and stress management. Coaches can help patients adjust to living their “new normal” life, managing all the changes and losses related to cancer. Alternatively, coaches can help patients face and deal with the very real prospect of death and dying.
Life coaching assists people in identifying, then prioritizing, specific goals, taking action to reach those goals faster and with greater ease, providing a structure and process that holds the client accountable for the chosen actions.
In addition, Cancer coaching supports the client in dealing with all the challenges related to living with cancer.
I will support clients during their cancer journey by helping them...
....deal with hearing the cancer diagnosis for the first time
....accept receiving negative results from follow-up diagnostic procedures
....celebrate positive results from follow-up diagnostic procedures
....manage treatment side effects
....manage change; live in transition
....learn to live with all the losses associated with cancer treatments
....explore new options; making new choices
....take risks for personal growth
....make difficult decisions
....set realistic goals for the future
....learn to lead a healthier life style through proper nutrition, exercise, stress management
....provide helpful tools, resources, and referrals, as needed
....help reframe beliefs and offer different perspectives and ideas
....create a nurturing support system; minimize unsupportive behaviors.
....set boundaries necessary for personal care
....develop an attitude of gratitude
....face and plan for the end of life
MOST OF ALL....I will help clients learn to live well in their “new normal” life
My goal is to guide clients through their cancer journey by empowering them, providing emotional support while helping them build their strength and develop courage to face all their challenges. I want to help clients be proactive in their own health care by sharing resources, tools, and information that I have found helpful in my journey. I will be a listening ear, a trusted friend, an encouraging and supportive partner, and a fellow traveler on this difficult cancer journey.
I offer complimentary phone consultations -
Contact me at email@example.com or call 617 947 7430
For more information, go to www.ingearcoaching.com
Thursday, January 5, 2012
It must be a good sign that I am planning for the new year, don’t you think? I guess I expect to be around for a lot longer, continuing to enjoy a rich and fulfilling life.
*I plan to continue to spend as much quality time as I can with my family and friends
*I plan to keep on traveling: Costa Rica and California to visit family, and now planning a trip to Asia in November!
*Since it looks like I am going to live longer than expected, I plan to reve up my work schedule and start offering coaching to other cancer survivors (as I continue to offer career and retirement coaching)
*I plan to continue to work as a consultant for Right Management, Teacher Education Institute,
and Outward Bound Professionals
*I plan to keep on dancing, sailing, kayaking, swimming, hiking, biking, skiing, yoga...
I even found myself planning, along with my special girlfriends, to live together in about ten years when we all will want a community of caring and support.
I continue to feel great so it’s easy to forget that I have Stage 4 lung cancer!
It’s because I feel so good: I always have a lot of energy and I’ve learned to manage (and mostly ignore) the multitude of side effects from my chemo-pill, tarceva. (see other blog posting for the long list).
I’m sure that eating well - mostly a plant-based diet minimizing sugar and dairy - contributes to my positive energy and well-being. Maintaining an attitude of optimism and hope is certainly helping also. It’s a “new ball game” now regarding (lung) cancer treatment and care, so I am optimistic that new drugs and treatment options will be available to me as the years go on. I plan to be one of the many long-term survivors!
2011 was a good year: tumor free after each cat scan/MRI/mammogram.
I did my best to “live each day as if it were my last.” Receiving a cancer diagnosis has a way of focusing our attention on what is most important in life and helping us appreciate every day and each relationship. This is what I focused on.
I worked less and played more.
*I spent lots of special times with friends (especially my women’s group) and family (especially my 3 grandchildren, my two sons, my niece, my cousin, my mother)
*I traveled to Costa Rica, France and Spain, California, New York, Cape Cod, Australia and New Zealand.
*I sailed, kayaked, biked, hiked, skied, and danced (zydeco) a lot.
*I focused on healthy living: eating well, exercising, stretching/yoga, getting massages...
*I continued to educate myself about ways to live well with cancer
*I wrote in my blogs in order to share my journey with you
The year wasn’t all good:
I lost three special friends to cancer (and a stroke): I will always cherish, and never forget, each of them. They remind us all, once again, to live mindfully and gratefully each and every day.
A recent article describing a study of women who survive cancer really resonated with me (see recent Facebook posting). Women who survive cancer:
*Face down death and live each day as if it were their last
*Give up “being beautiful” and focus on “being”
*Take care of their body (through healthy nutrition and exercise)
*Say “I love you” often
*Say “NO” and get “feisty” (they say what they think and set boundaries)
*Prioritize freedom (they do what they want, not what they should)
*Live Mindfully - Be Here Now and Do it Now!
*Have an Attitude of Gratitude
I do my best to live like this. You can live this way too: you don't have to wait for a cancer diagnosis!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
As I get caught up in all the stress of Christmas - what to buy for whom, how much to spend, letting people know what to buy me - I realize how unimportant all this stuff is, really. I have enough stuff; I don’t need more stuff. And I’m sure this is true for most of us. Years from now we won’t remember the stuff we got, but we’ll certainly remember our relationships.
I get anxious about buying Christmas presents since I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by giving the “wrong” present, or forgetting to give a present to someone, or not spending enough money on a present (unfortunately it sometimes seems that the value of the present represents the value of that person to you!). It's so silly to get anxious about all this!
What really matters during the holidays are the extra special connections to family and friends. Friends, especially old friends, make more of an effort to connect; it’s a great time to catch up on our lives. Families make more of an effort to get together too; Christmas is often the only time I see both my sons and all my grandchildren at the same time. And I love spending Christmas with my grandchildren, watching their excitement and enthusiasm. They love receiving their surprise presents, but I know they also love giving gifts that they have thoughtfully created. I know I get so much more out of GIVING than RECEIVING. However, most importantly for me, Christmas is all about just being with my grandchildren and my sons - being in their presence and sharing my presence - not sharing presents.
I’ve recently been reading a lot about the concept of mindfulness, an important Buddhist principle which has us focus on the present moment in non-judging awareness and attention. Western psychologists have called it present -centered awareness or unconditional positive regard. Buddhism asserts that the very foundation of well-being is mindfulness.
I really resonate with that, and now more than ever I want to live my life mindfully as much as possible.
Alan Watts says: The art of living consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.
A well-known quote also says it well:
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift and that is why it’s called the present.
So for this Christmas holiday I am focusing on being mindful and being grateful for all the real gifts in my life: my loving family and friends. I will do my best to give them the most valuable gift I can: my presence.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Living with cancer means living with loss.
When I recently wrote about dealing with the loss of my hair, I realized that the loss is much bigger than that. I’ve lost my body as I knew it.
I’ve lost a part of my left breast; I’ve lost a lobe in my right lung (and a piece of the lower lobe); I’ve lost the normal functioning of my bowels; I’ve lost the normal texture of my skin and finger nails; I’ve lost a lot of weight; I’ve lost some clarity of vision, and more.... (see blog about side effects).
These losses have side effects: hiccups whenever I first eat, the more frequent need for reading glasses, constant yawning, occasional vomiting, frequent stomach cramps with unpredictable diarrhea, skin rashes, itchy dry skin, painful nail splitting and paronykias, dry mouth, dry eyes, extreme sun sensitivity resulting in severe lip burns, difficulty catching my breath when exerting myself aerobically, etc....
The loss of my self image ...my identity...might be the most difficult; I am not the same person.
But I think I like the new Me!
There is another side to this story. In many ways my life has become richer and more meaningful. I have learned to appreciate what I have gained rather than what I have lost.
I am more engaged and present and empathic; I live more in the moment; I appreciate the beauty of each day; I do my best to practice what the Buddhists call mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to quiet the mind in order to sense the body and the world anew. It means listening to the crunch of snow on the winter path, hearing the wind in the trees, listening to the birds and bees, noticing the flowers, feeling the sun on my face. I try to BE HERE NOW.
I am especially mindful of my relationships. I do my best to appreciate all the good things within people; I try to be less judgmental. I notice that my relationships have become much more intense and intimate. I appreciate having my friends and family in my life much more than I ever did; they are what matters most to me. I feel their love directed at me and all around me. What a gift!
I have put things in perspective; all my losses are minor in the grand scheme of things.
I’m focusing on what is really important in life - I’m here and I’m loved!
What can be better than that??
Monday, December 12, 2011
....that's what I tell myself at least. But now my hair is not MY hair - it's some alien outcropping that I am having a hard time liking (and numerous hair dressers have a hard time styling). My friends are kind; they say it looks "interesting" "different" "unique" - but I think it looks "unattractive" "unappealing" and just plain "boring."
Losing my hair to chemotherapy three years ago was a shock, but expected. I didn't mind being bald as much as I thought I would. I had fun wearing different types of wigs and scarves, and even the bald look was quite attractive, I was told. At least when one is bald people know why; there's a certain sympathy and understanding. (And there are many compatriots in the "bald club.") My hair grew back in unrecognizeable curls, but eventually MY natural straight blonde (and some gray) hair emerged. For the first time I had short hair and it did look cute (everyone said).
But lately my hair has been turning curly again - even frizzy; it feels like a brillo pad. The reason for this hair change is Tarceva: the chemotherapy pill I have been taking for almost two years. The chemicals in the pill are causing permanent chemo-hair! Of course I need to stop whining and be glad that the pill has been keeping the tumors away all this time. And I am glad! I prefer no tumors with frizzy hair to tumors with beautiful hair. We all hope I can tolerate being on this pill for many more years, so I just have to get used to my new look.
Losing one's hair is a humbling experience. It is a loss of identity - a loss of one's image of oneself. I often thought my hair was my best feature. But when I think of all the women who have had to deal with the loss of their breasts, I realize that my hair loss is nothing compared to dealing with their breast losses.
I need to have an "attitude adjustment" and have an “attitude of gratitude” that I'm still here today, feeling healthy and happy, surrounded by friends and family who care about me and not about how my hair looks!