Friday, October 13, 2017

Awareness and Breast Health


The month of October is one I truly enjoy. The cool, crispness in the air, the scent of warm apples and cinnamon, the vibrant color that seems to explode overnight, and the simple fact that it is time for my annual mammogram.

OK, so you got me! I am not overly thrilled to have my mammogram done. Once you have had breast cancer, as have I,  it does make the annual or semiannual check up a bit of a nail biter. But here is the thing, I go to a wonderful hospital in a town I love: Peterborough, to have it done each year now. For years before, I made the long trek to Boston, and before that to NYC to have my mammograms and check ups.  The advantage to Sloan-Kettering in NYC was results were the same day. A wonderful thing for many, especially those among us who want this immediacy to help move on and do what needs to be done. Boston was not the same day, but they were very quick and efficient.
Peterborough is a small town in the heart of the Monadnock region of NH. Breathtakingly beautiful views as you drive here of mountains and autumn splendor all around. The town is very laid back and art/culture inspired. Wonderful restaurants, shops, museums, art galleries, cafes, and places to sit and just pause are everywhere here. It is a true gem and an place that happens to house my favorite bookstore on the planet: ToadStool!
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, 15 years ago, the first place I went for inspiration was the Toadstool Bookshop. I loved the aromas from the cafe there, that tuck in around you as you browse making you feel warm and safe. Even the books smell particularly delicious! (Yes. In case you are wondering,  I do sometimes judge a book by its smell!)
I stood in the self help, inspiration and nature sections of this delightful bookstore and let my hand and heart draw me to the books, not my overthinking and overloaded brain. In the nature area I discovered a book called “Inner Gardening: Four Seasons of Cultivating the Soil and the Spirit” This book made my heart sing and still does to this day! Next, I moved more cautiously toward the section filled with books about breast cancer. I was much more cautious here, as I did not want to read stories of battles won and lost with cancer. You see, everyone’s journey is uniquely different. I wanted to find inspiration, and find it I did, in a little book called “Hope is Contagious: The Breast Cancer Survival Handbook by Margit Esser Porter who oddly enough, lives in Peterborough!
This book was my light thru the darkness and kept me smiling, and hopeful, through out my journey. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer years after me, I gifted the book to her, so it could lighten her journey as well. The book is so inspirational and I have passed it on to many others. In fact, I am not even sure if I have it anymore…..but, the hope it gave me rang loud and clear, and will never leave me. It might dim now and again, but its always there!
Breast Cancer Awareness month is mislabeled….it should be Breast Health Awareness Month. I don’t think it is a month to focus on cancer so much as the prevention and eradication of this disease. It is a time to tell ALL women to be proactive in your health care. Get mammograms and don’t be lulled into a false sense of security about your odds of being diagnosed. So many women I talk to think they have no risk since no one in their family had been diagnosed with breast cancer. But this is a misleading sense of security.
Here is a blurb about your risk factor from Breast Cancer.org:  “Absolute risk also can be stated as a percentage. When we say that 1 in 8 women in the United States, or 12%, will develop breast cancerover the course of a lifetime, we are talking about absolute risk. On average, an individual woman has a 1-in-8 chance of developing breast cancer over an 80-year lifespan.”
Now, here is the part where SO many women still get very confused: If you have a history of breast cancer in the family your risk goes up considerably, …..but if you have no history, as I did too, you STILL are at risk……you are not risk free.  Keep in mind, I ate healthy, kayaked, walked daily, practiced yoga and meditation, seldom drank, was non smoking and was a healthy weight and size…..and I was one of the eight women.
Let me repeat: having no history of breast cancer does not mean you are RISK FREE! Don’t make that mistake. My breast cancer was caught SO early I did not require radiation or chemotherapy. It was microscopic and DCIS. My decision to have a mastectomy was MY CHOICE and one I have never regretted to this day!
So, here is my take away this month to you all: do not put off those mammograms and be lulled into a false sense of security. Have one done. If your breasts are particularly painful and cystic, have one done. If you have large, dense breasts, have one done. And if you are putting it off out of fear, remember this: the EARLIER you catch it, the better your statistics are for treatment and recurrence.
Breast Health Awareness…..October.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mindfulness Strategies for Stressful Thoughts

Stress.....it's part and parcel of all our lives. Sometimes it comes in roaring like a lion, demanding attention and immediate relief, and at other times, it builds up over time, slowly, until we are finally overcome with our reaction to it. And still, at other times, it ebbs and flows in such a way that we are able to ride it out, so to speak, with mindful attention, so that we do not get caught up and swept away in the storm.

Mindfulness is awareness of what is happening in the present moment without judgment. The judgment comes in when we get lost in the barrage of thoughts that seem to tumble rapidly, one on top of the other, in our minds causing us to misread, misinterpret and many times mistakenly arrive at judgments that are not helpful to us. The result can be adding more stress to our already overloaded day/weeks/months.

I often refer to this as "A to Z Thinking." Let me give an example of how this works:  If upon waking you discover your shoulder is aching and sore, and you felt great the night before, you might start to focus on the pain thinking what did I do? Is it my bed? Is it how I was sitting last night? Is it going to hurt all day? Will I be able to focus on anything else? What if it gets worse? What if my other shoulder starts to hurt? What will I do if I can't move it? Should I have an Xray? Maybe I need an MRI? Who will I go to about this?  Why does this always happen to me? I hate myself and my body! This really sucks! What if it is bone cancer? What am I going to do? I feel so lost. Maybe I will just call in sick.

Now this might seem like extreme example, but it is indeed what many of us do. We go from one thought to another to another in such rapid progression that we are unaware of the "thought train" our mind is traveling on!  We go from waking with a sore shoulder to having cancer in sometimes, a very short span of time.

This way of thinking can indeed, catch us by surprise, and make us feel very stressed.

Now, let's try the same scenario with mindful awareness: Yes, I can feel my shoulder is sore this AM although it did felt great last night. Maybe I slept in an odd position or perhaps it is from something else. I know I can get caught up in over thinking things like this when they happen. So let me just stop and get off the A to Z thinking train right here and right now. I will get up, take my shower, move around and just see what happens as the day goes on.

The biggest difference in the second example is the ability of the aware and present thinking mind to acknowledge the pain, not discount or over inflate it. Making a choice to not get lost in rumination and making a choice to recognize what simply is present with kind and compassionate self talk.

Meditation, which is what I like to tell people is the formal practice of mindfulness, helps us to catch that thought train more and more often so we don't get so caught up in looking for blame outside ourselves, or making ourselves suffer more by this habituated pattern of thinking. It enables us to learn how to focus our attention so that we react less to life and learn how to instead, respond. Responding instead of reacting reduces stress, allows us to focus more and feel more at ease with ourselves and our life.

So, with meditation practice and patience, next time you catch yourself on that A to Z thought train, acknowledge it in a way that derails the thoughts. Doing so with kind, compassionate self-talk can be tremendously helpful toward reducing any added stress to your day/week/month/year.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Grief, Loss, Trauma and Reiki



All of us have heard the expression “life is a process” or “grief is process” and indeed it is, especially for those among us who have  experienced grief, loss or perhaps even some form of trauma. It seems to be part of “this being human” aspect of life that can both bring us to our knees and lift us up in profound and moving ways.  However,  becoming embroiled in the midst of all this pain and suffering can indeed feel overwhelming to even the most hale and hardy of us at times.
It is, at times like these, an especially healing process to work with someone who is trained in the mind/body connection process.
All of us store much our personal emotional history within our bodies. Learning to explore into these places with Mindful Presence Reiki, along with a bit of gently guided meditation can be an opportunity to learn more about yourself, feel more in control and better able to withstand the ebb and flow of human emotion.
It is a process. Leaning into those places that need your tenderness with awareness, kindness and love is indeed so healing. I am reminded of the Leonard Cohen quote “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” We often say things like “our hearts feel broken” in times of deep pain, and indeed they do! But knowing too, that through this break, the light can begin to shine in, allowing us to heal ourselves, is so comforting a thought!
Trusting yourself to know what you need, when you need it, is the first step in your wellness process. Let Mindful Presence Reiki be one of the many “tools” in your personal healing toolkit. Knowing you have alternatives to wellness, especially when used in conjunction with the many wonderful, more traditional healing modalities, is so comforting and empowering!
Mindful Presence Reiki was developed from my past experience teaching the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, leading mindfulness classes, teaching meditation and as a result, helping hundreds of people feel more at ease in their life, more in control and developing greater resilience to face the ups and downs of every day living. 
This powerful, deeply relaxing process combines two things I love so much: mindfulness and Reiki. Together, they are yet another tool to have in your personal wellness process.

Visit Mindful Presence Reiki to learn more or to schedule your appointment online today:


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Weekly Meditation Class in Bedford, NH






SETTLE INTO THE MOMENT WITH A COMBINATION OF SOME GENTLY GUIDED AND SILENT PERIODS OF MINDFULNESS MEDITATION BY ELECTRIC CANDLELIGHT.

MINDFULNESS MEANS: PRESENT MOMENT, NON JUDGMENTAL AWARENESS. THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SETTLE INTO THE STILLNESS, BE PRESENT, AND ALLOW YOURSELF TIME TO JUST SIMPLY BE!

So, unwind, relax and find more calm moments in the midst of all that is happening in your life right now.

This class is for anyone, regardless of your experience with meditation: beginners to the more advanced.

Wear loose, comfortable clothes, bring along a yoga mat, pillows, blanket, cushion, etc. or anything else you may need for your comfort. Chairs are provided.

About the Instructor: Cecilia has been teaching meditation and mindfulness classes for the Town of Bedford for 6 years now. She also teaches the full 8-week traditional Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program as taught at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she received her training. In addition, Cecilia is a 23 plus year practitioner of both yoga and meditation. Those who have taken her classes are typically engaged by her enthusiasm, warmth and willingness to share her knowledge of mindfulness practices. Making people feel at ease by debunking the myths and iconic images of meditation is what keeps people coming back again and again to her classes.

If you are nervous or have any questions about joining a meditation class, be visit my recent post on my Blog called:

"Nervous to Try Group Meditation"



See below for details as to specific class dates.

2017 Jan 5, 12, 19, 26 Feb 2, 9, 16, 23 March 23, 30 Apr 6, 13, 20 May 4, 11, 18, 25 June 1 SEPT 7, 14, 21, 28 OCT 5, 12, 19, 26 NOV 16, 30, DEC 7, 14, 21

LOCATION: Old Bedford Town Hall (across from the Library) Plenty of parking behind the building on Meetinghouse Road.

COST: Fee is donation-based (suggested donation $5-$20 per class, paid by cash or check directly to the teacher each week.

CLASS CANCELLATION DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES: I change the outgoing message on my cell phone 603-801-8945 if class is cancelled and notify everyone on Meet Up site thru email, so make sure you are set up to receive organizer notifications on your own Meet Up Profile. I also update all my websites to reflect the cancellation notification.

SPONSORED BY: Bedford Parks & Recreation Department
Visit our website: http://www.BedfordRecOnline.com or call 472-5242

Weekly attendance is most beneficial, but never required.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meditation at the Londonderry NH Senior Center


Classes Are EVERY Monday  
9:45AM to 10:30AM

Check the Londonderry Senior Center Calendar for specific class dates.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mindfulness Workshops Manchester and Concord NH

Join me at HOPE for NH Recovery in both their Concord (1st Monday 1:30 to 2:30PM) and Manchester (1st and 3rd Wednesdays 1:15 to 2PM**)  NH locations. 

The Manchester group is open to anyone in the community, however, due to space the Concord group is limited to those working through their recovery process. 

Thank you and please email me anytime directly at cbhoward@mac.com for more information!