Paloma Olavide, Student MBSR with Amanda Blackley Jan-March 2018, Zentro yoga (Barcelona)

The day I found Mindfulness

Seven years ago, breast cancer shook the very foundations of the happy life I was living until then as a wife, mother of six and doctor by profession. It was an intense struggle. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and everything just sped by me. I felt like a heroine of a film fighting the unknown. Just one year after treatment had finished, against any prevision, my illness advanced and I was diagnosed with metastasis of the bones and liver.  

I joined the Mindfulness training programme, as a way to improve the anxiety of my day-to-day life with cancer. I have learnt to bring my mind to the present moment, to look for the sensations and emotions that are present right here and now. I am able to leave my thoughts and worries related to my illness and the future, more frequently, and I am saved a great deal of ‘anticipation’, often over things that may never occur.  

In the past I was always looking for ways to avoid thinking. Mindfulness has helped me not to be afraid of being alone. I am training my mind so it is attentive to what is occurring in the present moment, rather than anticipating an uncertain future.  

The tests, continual medical controls, and huge uncertainty that surrounds each new exploration of my condition, is going to continue to be a part of my life. Yet it is up to me how I live each of these moments, those that came before and those yet to come. I have seen how an MRI scan or mammogram can seem much more accesible, faster, if I am simply paying attention to the present moment, without analysing. If I can accept and live the moment as it is (rather than what I would prefer it to be), if I don’t judge it, and I can allow it to be as it is.  

I have learnt to be kinder to myself, to love myself more, and to feel gratitude. If I begin my day by feeling grateful for what I have, I realise that ‘what I don’t have’ (excellent health, absence of pain, ability to live the same personal and professional life I had before my illness), are less overwhelming. I focus on what I do have, here and now, at this moment in time.  

By writing these words, I want to encourage everyone who is fighting a similar battle to me, to explore other avenues, to look at training the mind to be happier with what we have with us here and now. Even if that something includes a really tough illness. I only hope that today might be your day for finding Mindfulness in your life.

I cannot conclude these words without thanking from the very bottom of my heart, the great feelings and teachings that Amanda has transmitted to me. Dear Amanda, thank you for sharing your knowledge, your presence and your heart.