Q&A with Chris Murray

Chris Murray is the facilitator for the Tri-Cities Cancer Center’s monthly ‘Mindfulness Meditation for Health and Wellness’ sessions. He has more than 45 years of meditation experience and is the founder and meditation teacher for Insight Meditation of the Mid-Columbia. Some frequently asked questions about meditation and his response are given below.

What is meant by ‘mindfulness’ and how does mindfulness meditation work?
Mindfulness is a kind, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Its main focus is to return to the present moment whenever the mind is caught up in thoughts. For example, we may be caught up by worries about our diagnosis, upcoming treatment, etc., and unable to be fully present with and enjoy our spouse or children. Eventually, as mindfulness is developed we learn to bring that kind and non-judgmental awareness of the present moment to the rest of our lives.

What are the benefits of meditation?
Clinically documented benefits include a reduction in stress as indicated by slowed respiration and a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. Recent studies have found that those improvements can be found after just 2-3 months of practice.

What does the ‘official’ medical community think of mindfulness meditation?
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is an alliance of 27 medical centers that provides evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of cancer. Their ‘Guidelines on Distress Management Version 2.2016’ recommends meditation as part of an integrated therapy plan to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and distress associated with cancer treatment. Their ‘Guidelines for Adult Pain Management Version 2.2016’ includes mindfulness meditation as a tool to assist in the management of the pain associated with cancer. Finally, The NCCN ‘Guidelines on Survivorship Version 1.2016’ recommend mindfulness meditation as a helpful strategy to cope with cancer-associated cognitive dysfunction and distress.

What resources are available to learn more about mindfulness and meditation?
Of course, all are welcome to participate in the Tri-Cities Cancer Center support group mentioned in the interview with Gayle. Some books that are helpful include:
Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery: A Step-by-Step MBSR Approach to Help You Cope with Treatment and Reclaim Your Life, Linda Carlson and Michael Speca, 2011, New Harbinger Publications. The program in this book builds on the original mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program of Jon-Kabat Zinn (University of Massachusetts Medical School) and adopts it to the specific problems of cancer and cancer treatment.

Being Well (Even When You’re Sick): Mindfulness Practices for People with Cancer and Other Serious Illnesses, Elana Rosenbaum, 2012, Shambhala Publications. The author, an MBSR instructor, has undergone treatment for cancer since 1995. She shares what she found helpful through her experience and that of her patients.

Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2013, Bantam Press
Dr. Kabat-Zinn includes a summary of the research that documents the medical benefits associated with mindfulness meditation. Highly recommended for anyone dealing with chronic pain and stress.

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