Content is organized into departments such as “Mindful Living,” “Mindful Practices,” “Insight,” and smaller sections that include “Bookmark This” (which touches on the latest writings, recordings, and apps), “Mindful Science,” and, “Research Roundup.” In general, Mindful is well-written and includes many good photos and graphics, making it quick and easy to read. In particular, the “Mindful Eating” section has beautiful photographs that certainly encourage readers to attempt to make the recipes.
Mindful also includes a number of feature articles. For example, the December 2014 issue has an article on the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll and his different, more mindfulness-based approach to coaching his team. He asks his players to go inside themselves and focus on their personal best—essentially competing against themselves, rather than the opposing team. Another article, “Bringing Mindfulness into Your Relationships,” includes key ways to bring mindfulness home, such as not taking things personally when someone speaks to you in a rude way, and really listening, instead of just hearing, when someone is speaking to you.
And this issue offers a timely guide to enjoying the holidays, listing 11 ways to take time for what really matters and to be more mindful during this joyful but often stressful season. Tips include scheduling time to meditate, and managing expectations for a “perfect” holiday.
For those who have taken any of the Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management (MBCPMTM) courses through the NeuroNova Centre, much of the information presented in Mindful will not be new. Mindful is a fast, easy and light read. The articles are very general and introductory, and perhaps better suited to someone who is new to the concept of mindfulness, rather than those who want to learn more about mindfulness and expand their knowledge beyond MBCPMTM, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) courses.
Print copies of Mindful can be purchased at newsstands; print or digital copies can be ordered by subscription; and, selected articles are also available for free online at www.mindful.org. In addition to the magazine, the website contains further general information and articles on mindfulness.
Picture courtesy of Ajimol Mohan, Alumni (Firecracker Lens)
Sharing Your MBCPMTM Experiences
The following are contributions and feedback from MBCPMTM
Alumni. We hope that you find them helpful and inspiring.
The Body Scan
When first introduced to it, many of our participants have a difficult relationship with the body scan meditation. This feedback is from an alumnus who first entered the program about four years ago.
By Sherry, MBCPMTM Alumn
My perception of my body—prior to learning of, and participating in, the body scan meditation—was that:
- It tires easily and its muscles are weak;
- It cannot sit or stand in any one position for long without whining;
- It is in constant pain and the pain message is always negative;
- It often loses sense of what is up and what is down;
- Its inner workings no longer communicate effectively with one another;
- It no longer knows how to be still and quiet; and,
- It is confused about how it relates to my mind and spirit.
However, after taking dedicated time to frequent the body scan (and other daily meditations as introduced to me via the MBCPMTM
programs)... My body and mind and spirit are reconnected. The body scan in particular has taught me how to be with my body, how to sit with it... how to accept its challenges much more quickly and genuinely than ever before... how to become more aware of the parts of my body that are strong, are still or moving, are learning to function in new ways, adapting, and evolving. I have become more aligned with my body and how it works for me, endlessly working for me, striving to keep me well. I've learned just how forgiving my body is of my judgments of it... of how extraordinary its inner workings really are—speaking to me lovingly in many ways—including through pain... advising me, warning me, taking care of me. And, I have learned to be forever grateful for my body despite the sometimes confused and difficult choices it seems to make. One day, I will leave my body. I will move on. But, until then, through use of the body scan, I will continue to be thankful that my body is steadfastly working hard for me, cheering me on, and wishing me well
By Marilyn, MBCPMTM
I had dreamed, visualized, and could taste the delicious raclette that I was to dine on for Thanksgiving dinner. A long way from the traditional turkey dinner, but a meal that would satisfy the culinary palettes of our various families. But alas, nature had another path for me—a viral infection took over the weekend and I was unable to attend. Did I feel sorry, have regrets? Oh yes! Poor me, it always happens to me—sound familiar?
Last week, not in my plans at all, I purchased a large turkey breast. I would put it in the freezer and keep it for when I was having friends or family over for a festive dinner. And then a thought came to mind: Am I not important enough to have a delicious turkey meal, even if I am alone?
And yesterday was the day. I cooked the turkey and trimmings and had a wonderful dinner. I selected a firm acorn squash from my crisper. Yum, I could taste it…a hint of garlic…a bit of the forbidden butter, lovely succulent green peas, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, beet pickles made with my daughter’s loving hands, gluten-free bread. I could smell everything cooking.
The table was set with a new seasonal tablecloth and napkins, my best china, crystal glasses and grandma’s cutlery. A vision to behold!
Time to dress. Would I wear a dress, slacks, or stay in my jeans? It was a special occasion, hair in place, make-up done…I was a vision for my eyes.
I placed the food on my plate. What a delight to behold, so colourful and the smell…indescribable. And I sat in the glow of candlelight and the melody of soft music and felt truly loved. What a memorable meal…each bite eaten with thanks to the Creator. A meal to remember—my Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is every day. All of us have much to be thankful for.
Creative Work in the MBCPMTM Course
A contribution from a course participant explaining her journey with her art:
Most of my years I have practiced being silent, holding my strength and not speaking about myself and my reflections, feelings, strengths or weaknesses, and most of all, pain. This started instead to exhibit through my drawings, which I only recently started to share. Through my recent experience of increased onset of pain, hand-in-hand with death in the family, and many other categories of challenges that life brings on, since then I have painted so many pictures, tried to practice meditation and yoga, and started to read about mindfulness.
Since I enrolled, I have created a mini-pictionary that I would like to share and reflect on as they are a compilation of my journey in this time, as I have come to get acquainted with myself and with my pain while experiencing high-stress exposures all simultaneously. Primarily my intention is to help others through my work and encourage them to use art to express and dissect. Also, through this participation, I would like to share my art to help myself by reflecting and digging deeper in my work and to see if I am able to connect it to words. Because I don't really pre plan the paintings; they just happen.
Attached is one of my works. I’d like to write about. In it you can see a lot of things: nature's echo of peace and harmony, silence, beauty, pain, patience, growth, age/time. And me and my spine (with my two rods). Thank you for witnessing it.
Genetics and Autoimmune Disease
By Dr. S. Ansari, edited by Dr. J. Gardner-Nix
In the Summer 2014 newsletter, we discussed autoimmune diseases and their apparent link to childhood adversity. Autoimmune diseases include such disorders as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Celiac disease. They are thought to arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. The consequence of autoimmunity is that the over-activity of the immune system causes chronic inflammation leading to pain from tissue injury, which may in some instances prove life-threatening, and especially “quality of life”-threatening.
Genetic Predisposition to Autoimmune Disease
A common feature of autoimmune diseases is their tendency to appear in families, which suggests an underlying genetic susceptibility. However, the genetics of autoimmune diseases in humans and animal models are complex. And any analysis of the genetic predisposition to develop an autoimmune disease is complicated by the existence of "protective genes," which may mask disease susceptibility and modify the risk imposed by "susceptibility genes." This has been demonstrated in a mouse model for systemic lupus erythematosus. On the plus side, the identification of such "protective genes" may hold clues to new targets for therapeutic use.
Families that seem to develop several autoimmune diseases, a phenomenon known as “clustering,” have long been recognized, and this concept supports a role for shared genetic predisposition. A study by Criswell and colleagues describes a unique collection of 265 families assembled by the Multiple Autoimmune Disease Genetics Consortium (MADGC) . The core diseases in these families include: rheumatoid arthritis (RA); systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); type 1 diabetes (T1D); multiple sclerosis (MS); autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto thyroiditis or Graves disease); juvenile RA; inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis); psoriasis; and, primary Sjögren’s syndrome. In layman’s words, this report states that a piece of a gene common to these families confers the risk of four separate autoimmune types in these families: T1D, RA, SLE, and Hashimoto thyroiditis. There was no association shown between the risk gene piece and MS. This data provides a valuable resource for the study of the complex genetic factors that underlie autoimmune susceptibility [3-10].
A complicating factor about genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease is the lack of similarity in identical twins for any of these five diseases, as well as other autoimmune diseases that have been studied. Autoimmune disease appears in less than 50% of the twin siblings of an affected identical twin; thus, this poses a major problem for any simple explanation of the genetic control of autoimmune disease development. To explain this low similarity rate among identical twins, one has to consider an initiating external event, such as the response against an environmental infectious agent  or other environmental challenges, which “pull the trigger.”
Therefore, to reach a consensus on the factors that predispose one toward development of an autoimmune disease, there is a need to incorporate immune malfunction, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors. The genetic makeup of mice studied in labs, and humans, determines not only how the immune system deals with challenges from the environment, but also how the immune system is regulated to remain tolerant towards itself. During infections, failure of the body/mind to regulate the immune mechanisms appropriately, and/or an overactive immune response to cross-reactive self-antigens can occur, which can lead to autoimmunity.
To Sum Up
Autoimmune disorders may tend to run in families, but it is not a simple genetic inheritance. It is likely that common underlying genes are involved in these disorders; however, along with a genetically programmed susceptibility to develop such a disease, there can also be genetically programmed protection and an environmental agent or challenge that likely begins the expression of the autoimmune condition.
- Somers EC, Thomas SL, Smeeth L, Hall AJ. “Autoimmune diseases co-occurring within individuals and within families: a systematic review.” Epidemiology. 2006; 17(2): 202-17.
- Criswell LA, Pfeiffer KA, Lum RF, Gonzales B, Novitzke J, Kern M, Moser KL, Begovich AB, Carlton VE, Li W, Lee AT, Ortmann W, Behrens TW, Gregersen PK. “Analysis of families in the multiple autoimmune disease genetics consortium (MADGC) collection: the PTPN22 620W allele associates with multiple autoimmune phenotypes.” Am J Hum Genet. 2005; 76(4): 561-71.
- Wandstrat A, Wakeland EK. “The genetics of complex autoimmune diseases: non-MHC susceptibility genes.” Nature Immunol. 2001; 2(9): 802-9.
- Michou L, Rat AC, Lasbleiz S, Bardin T, Cornélis F. “Prevalence and distribution of autoimmune diseases in 368 rheumatoid arthritis families.” J Rheumatol. 2008; 35(5): 790-6.
- Barcellos LF, Kamdar BB, Ramsay PP, DeLoa C, Lincoln RR, Caillier S, Schmidt S, Haines JL, Pericak-Vance MA, Oksenberg JR, Hauser SL. “Clustering of autoimmune diseases in families with a high-risk for multiple sclerosis: a descriptive study.” Lancet Neurol. 2006; 5(11): 924-31.
- Alarcón-Segovia D, Alarcón-Riquelme ME, Cardiel MH, Caeiro F, Massardo L, Villa AR, Pons-Estel BA, Grupo Latinoamericano de Estudio del Lupus Eritematoso (GLADEL). “Familial aggregation of systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases in 1,177 lupus patients from the GLADEL cohort.” Arthritis Rheum. 2005; 52(4): 1138-47.
- Anaya JM, Castiblanco J, Tobón GJ, García J, Abad V, Cuervo H, Velásquez A, Angel ID, Vega P, Arango A. “Familial clustering of autoimmune diseases in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus.” J Autoimmun. 2006; 26(3): 208-14.
- Anaya JM, Tobón GJ, Vega P, Castiblanco J. “Autoimmune disease aggregation in families with primary Sjögren's syndrome.” J Rheumatol. 2006; 33(11): 2227-34.
- Prahalad S, Shear ES, Thompson SD, Giannini EH, Glass DN. “Increased prevalence of familial autoimmunity in simplex and multiplex families with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.” Arthritis Rheum. 2002; 46(7): 1851-6.
- Gleicher N, Barad DH. “Gender as risk factor for autoimmune diseases.” J Autoimmun. 2007; 28(1): 1-6.
The Light Goes On: Discovery Provides Encouraging Evidence
Reviewed by Shaaron, MBCPMTM Alumni
For the first time, Canadian researchers have shown that practicing mindfulness meditation or being involved in a support group has a positive physical impact at the cellular level in breast cancer survivors.
In a study published online in the journal Cancer, researchers at Alberta Health Services' Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the University of Calgary’s Department of Oncology have demonstrated that telomeres—protein complexes at the end of chromosomes—maintain their length in breast cancer survivors who practice meditation or are involved in support groups, while they shorten in a comparison group without any intervention.
So, what does that mean? Although the disease-regulating properties of telomeres aren't fully understood, shortened telomeres are associated with several disease states, as well as cell aging, while longer telomeres are thought to be protective against disease.
According to Dr. Linda E. Carlson, PhD, Principal Investigator and Director of Research in the Psychosocial Resources Department at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, "We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology."
One of the study participants, Deanne David, said, "Being part of this made a huge difference to me. I think people involved in their own cancer journey would benefit from learning more about mindfulness and connecting with others who are going through the same things."
The news release can be found at:
The study can be found at:
Carlson LE, Beattie TL, Giese-Davis J, Faris P, Tamagawa R, Fick LJ, Degelman ES, Speca M. “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors.” Cancer. 2014; Nov 3. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29063. [Epub ahead of print.]
You Asked: How do you establish that the MBCPMTM courses are helping chronic pain sufferers to suffer less?
An essential component of all Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management (MBCPMTM
) courses is the evaluation completed at the end of each course. Among other things, evaluation offers an important tool to measure what participants thought of the course, what they have learned and whether they were able to apply it to their own lives, and ways to improve the course for future participants. And more importantly, since mindfulness and meditation can be difficult to quantify, it presents real, measurable data and results that support the benefits of these approaches to chronic pain management and helps to underscore the valuable work being done in these types of courses.
So, if you have wondered whether mindfulness and meditation really help, and been curious about people’s experiences with the courses, the following are measurable results experienced by actual participants of various NeuroNova Centre MBCPMTM
courses (2013/14), as indicated by their post-course evaluations.
Regarding medication use
- Of those who reportedly took prescribed medication:
- 34% took less medication for chronic pain
- 26% took less medication for anxiety
- 18% took less medication for hypertension
- 17% took less medication for depression
- 30% took less medication for insomnia
- 30% of MBCPMTM course participants reported that they are taking less over-the-counter medications after 13 weeks of classes
Other impacts of MBCPMTM
The Lumina Spark Course
- 73% reported they were more productive
- 60% reported seeing family and friends more
- 18% of participants, who were not retired or did not work before, returned to work in some capacity
- Increased engagement in:
- Favourite hobbies—35%
- Recreational activities—33%
- Physical activity—42%
- Volunteer activities—15%
Data was also analyzed for MBCPMTM
alumni participants of the Emotional Skills: Lumina Spark course. The Lumina Spark course is a tool used by corporations to enable teams to improve their understanding of themselves and others. By allowing people to read each other better, it increases their communication skills. It is based on a psychometric tool developed in the United Kingdom to provide insight into individuals’ blended characteristics, and thus identify their strengths, and also aspects that need improving. Here are some significant post-course results from Lumina Spark, using various different scales for measurement:
Using a validated test of suffering, the Pictorial Representation of Illness and Self Measure (PRISM) results after the 13-week Lumina Spark course showed that:
- 69% reported that pain was less intrusive
- 44% felt closer to their partners
- 56% reported less interference with recreation
- 38% felt closer to family members
- 38% reported less interference with work activities
Pain Disability Index (PDI) results:
- 63% of respondents reported lower overall disability scores at post-test
Chronic Pain Acceptance Questionnaire (CPAQ-R) results:
- 67% of respondents reported higher scores on the Activity Engagement scale at post-test
Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for pain ratings results
- 63% reported lower “usual” pain scores at post-test, four months after course conclusion, by as much as two points on the 0 to 10 numeric pain scale
The following major themes emerged from the qualitative data:
- Feeling better about self
- Improved relations with others
- Learning about the impact of stress
- Better insight into self
- Making Healthier choices
Clearly, mindfulness and meditation can have a positive impact on those who suffer from chronic pain. Although it may cause pain to increase in the short-term as people face unpleasant feelings instead of avoiding them, in the longer term people report less pain and increased engagement in activities. Taking courses and doing the work associated with them involves a serious commitment from participants, but that effort can lead to considerable benefits that may improve daily living.
To find out more about NeuroNova Centre MBCPMTM
courses, visit the website at www.neuronovacentre.com.
We are grateful to Nikita Arora, summer Research Intern with the NeuroNova Centre (NNC), for analyzing the MBCPMTMdata for 2013/14. And to Rosa Raponi Newton, Occupational Therapist (OT), for generating the research design for the St. Michael’s Hospital (SMH) Research Ethics Board and analyzing the data for Lumina Spark.
Scholarly articles, with older data, published about the MBCPMTM course include:
- Gardner-Nix J, Barbati J, Grummitt J, Pukal S, Raponi Newton, R. “Exploring the effectiveness of a Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management course delivered simultaneously to on-site and off-site patients using telemedicine.” Mindfulness. 2014; 5: 223–231.
- Gardner-Nix J, Backman S, Barbati J, Grummitt J. “Evaluating distance education of a mindfulness-based meditation programme for chronic pain management.” J Telemed Telecare. 2008; 14(2): 88–92.
Did You Know?
Now that the days are shorter and there is less light, many people will feel the influence of reduced daylight on their moods. Some will be particularly affected by a type of depressive disorder called, "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (SAD). It is treatable. Here is a link to a recent newspaper article about it:
Also, The Globe and Mail
recently reported on a research study looking at the effect of meditation in comparison to exercise for enhancing the immune system. Meditation proved better! Here is a link to the article:
View from NNC Office at Dawn
Update on Other Ontario MBCPMTM Facilitators' Future Courses:
Dr. Paulette Licorish's MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
is being offered Mondays starting January 5th
from 4:00-6:45pm in Mackenzie Health, Richmond Hill. On site only: no telemedicine. Physician referral required: cost of enrolment and materials: $135, otherwise covered by OHIP. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for more info.
Dr. Trudy Lynn Mahood’s MBCPMTM Level 2 Course
is being offered at 55 Plus Center in Thunder Bay. On site only: no telemedicine. This course will run on Tuesdays starting on January 6th
from 1:00 – 4:30 pm. Physician referral required. Please contact Dr. Trudy Lynn Mahood via email at email@example.com
Dr. Trudy Lynn Mahood’s MBCPMTM Level 3 Emotional Skills Course
is being offered at Clinical Institute in Thunder Bay.
On site only: no telemedicine. This course will run on Wednesdays starting January 7th
from 12:45 – 4:30 pm. Please contact Dr. Trudy Lynn Mahood via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Adam Bletsoe’s MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
is being offered in East York, Toronto,
at the following times:
- Tuesday mornings from 10:00 – 12:00 pm starting on January 13th to April 7th
- Tuesday evenings from 6:30 – 8:30 pm starting on January 13th to April 7th
Please contact Janice May at 416-694-4800 x 1 for cost and enrolment, or you can register at info@FallingbrookFamilyChiropractic.com
Dr. Kim McKenzie’s MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
is being offered Tuesdays starting January 13th
from 6:00 – 8:30 pm in Barrie, Ontario. Physician referral required. Administrative and course materials cost: $300. Course is otherwise covered by OHIP. Please send an email to email@example.com
or phone 705-795-7629 to register.
Annie Hebert’s MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
is being offered at Sudbury East Community Health Centre at St-Charles location on Thursdays starting January 15th
from 9:30 – 11:45 am. This course will run simultaneously, linked by telemedicine with Noelville, Sudbury, Mindemoya and Parry Sound. Please contact Annie at 705-898-2594 to register.
Deirdre MacDonald’s MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
will begin February 2015 in Campbellford. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for times and location.
Barb Fraser’s MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
will begin on Tuesday March 24 from 1:15 – 3:45 pm in Haliburton. For information or to register please call 705 455-9220 x 312 or email email@example.com
Barb Fraser’s MBCPMTM Emotional Skills Course
will begin Thursday March 26 from 1:15 – 3:45 pm in Haliburton. For information or to register please call 705-455-9220 x 312
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Louisa Mailis's MBCPMTM Level 1 Course
will be offered at the Pain and Wellness Centre
in Vaughan. The dates and times have not been finalized yet. Administrative and course materials cost: $475. For more information about the upcoming schedule for 2015 please contact 1-800-597-5733 or email@example.com
Cecilia Wan's MBCPMTM Level 1 Course for Sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis (MS): The program will be held at St. Michael's Hospital but the dates and times have not been finalized yet. For more information please contact Cecilia Wan at 416-864-6060 x 4026.