On Monday 20 September, there's two introductory sessions to our mindfulness courses. Our nine-week course is hosted by Phil Startin and here you can find out a little bit more about him and how mindfulness can benefit people living with MS.
I’m excited to be leading the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course for MS-UK. For me, it draws on three important and consuming parts of my life – my own meditation practice, teaching the MBSR course to the general population and to people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and living myself with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis for over 14 years. I’ve been practising mindfulness meditation for over a decade now, and have gone from being really quite sceptical of it ('hippy tree-hugging' was my view of meditation before I started), to it being an important part of my life and a really positive contribution to my health and well-being, which is why I started teaching mindfulness.
So, what’s helped change my view of mindfulness? Well, there is now considerable medical evidence of the benefits of mindfulness in alleviating stress and anxiety, and that stress and worry can contribute to exacerbation of MS symptoms, relapses, progression of the condition, and perhaps even to the on-set of the condition itself. I know that mediating makes me feel better and has helped me deal with some of the huge changes in my life since diagnosis, and if it can help improve the trajectory of this degenerative condition I have then, fantastic!
Mindfulness has also helped me deal with some of the symptoms of MS. I think regardless of when you were diagnosed and where you are on your MS journey, typically those of us with MS need to deal with the unpredictability of the course of the condition in terms of disease activity and relapses, as well as progression. But we also have to deal with the wide-ranging uncertainty around future physical and cognitive levels, with the associated impact that these will have on many aspects of our life – dealing with loss of function and the impact this has on our hobbies and careers, and how it affects our relationships – with our partners and family, and our friends. This includes too our relationship with ourselves and who we are, our personal values and goals, and our relationship with the condition itself. Pain and spasticity can also arise and have a significant impact on day-to-day life.
Symptoms vary widely from person to person and all these changes can be frequent and dramatic at one extreme, or almost imperceptible at the other, but living with changing 'norms' is often part of the MS lived experience. I’ve personally found mindfulness helps me deal with the consequences of living with this condition, and recent research indicates mindfulness can improve the “quality of life” of those with MS, enabling us to live better with many of the MS symptoms.
I started my MBSR teacher training at Bangor University over six years ago now, and am still supervised by a member of the staff there. For this MS-UK MBSR course, we have made some modifications to the standard MBSR course to make it even more relevant and helpful to those of us with MS, including a whole new session on lifestyle changes.
To take part in the free mindfulness introductory session, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.