Mindfulness has become a buzzword in today’s landscape of wellness, media and pop culture. I’m sure you can remember when someone advised you to “just relax,” “try meditation,” or “go to a yoga class,” but what does that even mean? And what does mindfulness have to do with health and healing — especially in the face of cancer?
Mindfulness is our shared capacity for paying attention to present life experiences in purposeful, open and kind ways. “Mindfulness is a core experience in Buddhist psychology that is central to healing traditions like yoga,” says Rashmi Bismark, MD, MPH, a physician, author and certified yoga and mindfulness meditation instructor who focuses on holistic, mind-body approaches to well-being. “We all share this capacity for awareness, and by tapping into it, with practices like mindful movement and meditation, we have an opportunity to find focus, steadiness and ease from within. These practices also help us connect with innate resources for resting, knowing, caring and relating to ourselves and life in nourishing ways.”
In recent decades, research has explored the physical, mental and emotional benefits of mindfulness. In addition to reducing stress and emotional reactivity, mindfulness promotes focus, memory and mental flexibility, enhances self-compassion and empathy, increases creativity and leads to a greater sense of connectedness and well-being. How the practice of mindfulness can help the well-being of cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers is the focus of a research study at Roswell Park by Elizabeth Bouchard, MA, PhD, Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement.
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With funding from a Quality of Life grant from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, Roswell Park will offer a virtual, six-session mindfulness self-care course. Led by Dr. Bismark, participants who enroll in the Caring with Awareness course will learn a variety of evidence-based mindfulness practices such as:
- Centering and breath awareness
- Mindfulness of the body
- Mindful eating
- Mindful walking and gentle yoga postures/movement
- Awareness of sounds and hearing
- Mindfulness of thoughts and emotions
- Mindful self-compassion
Participants may choose either the daytime or evening class and will attend the weekly live sessions via Zoom on a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone. Each 90-minute session includes instruction, practice and group sharing. Beginners and experienced practitioners alike are welcomed. Classes will build upon each other and attendance is encouraged for enriching group discussions. Assignments each week offer opportunity to learn more about mindfulness, to practice the technique, reflect and journal.
The study aims to enroll approximately 100 participants and all Roswell Park patients, survivors and caregivers are welcome. There is no cost to participants. Winter sections begin in February and spring sections will begin in April. For more information, or to enroll in the course, please contact Fran Harfouche at (716)-845-4887 or via email at Frances.Harfouche@RoswellPark.org.