You'll find this article on page 49 of the magazine.
REAL PEACE IN TIMES OF STRESS / HEALTH
The Healing Moment
SUSAN BAUER-WU helps us ease the physical, mental, and emotional stress of illness.
illness and other health problems challenge us in many ways,
physically, mentally, and emotionally. Physically, we may experience
pain or other discomforts, and everyday activities may take more time
and effort. Mentally, our thinking may be fuzzy and we may struggle to
come to terms with our medical condition. Emotionally, we may feel
anxious about things beyond our control, fearful of the unknown, or sad
that we cannot function in the way we used to.
faced by the stress of illness, it is helpful to recognize that the
quality of your moment-by-moment attention can have a profound effect on
how you feel and the quality of your life. Cultivating mindfulness is
foundational to fostering greater ease and joy in the face of difficult
Ground Yourself in Present-Moment Experience
you are overcome by strong emotions, discomforts, or a sense that your
life is spiraling out of control, you can ground yourself in
present-moment experience with this practice:
• Bring awareness to the sensations of breathing.
• Attend to other senses such as hearing, seeing, or tasting.
• Simply notice the nuanced qualities of your experience.
• Open to now with gentleness and acceptance, without judging or resisting.
Tune In and Befriend Your Body
facing a serious illness, it’s common to feel betrayed by your body and
to either tune out or overreact to internal bodily sensations. Tuning
in to your body is an entry into accepting and befriending your body as
it is, with its frailties and imperfections. It can help you to discern
important body cues requiring wise responses and to realize that
unpleasant physical symptoms actually change from moment to moment.
Tuning in is also an opportunity to recognize that all of you is not
broken and that you are much more than a medical diagnosis.
Do a mini body scan. With curiosity, notice the qualities of your
internal sensations as you shift awareness to different parts of your
• Bring awareness to the parts of your body that are comfortable and working well.
• Listen to your body and thoughtfully respond to what it needs.
Recognize and Let Go of Stories
mind naturally conjures up stories or narratives around what is
happening in the body or what may happen in the future. An unpleasant
sensation like a body ache can turn into a complicated story that
creates or perpetuates fears and worries, not grounded in fact or what
is known for sure in the present moment. When living with illness, these
stories are often angst-filled and contribute to unnecessary added
• Catch yourself when your mind automatically creates unhelpful stories.
• Learn to recognize, observe, and not identify with your thoughts to lessen their power over you.
Connect with Simple Pleasures
up to the small things in life. They are accessible to you at any time
and can relax the mind and body and nourish the soul. These simple
pleasures are boundless, changing, and personal. You and only you know
what stirs you in wonderful ways that make you feel alive and your heart
• Rest in awareness and notice the simple pleasures available to you.
• Consider what you can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel.
• Reflect on connections with nature, family and friends, and animal companions.
* For each simple pleasure that you connect with, pause, smile, and be grateful for that moment of unfiltered goodness.
Susan Bauer-Wu is associate professor of nursing at Emory University and the author of Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully With Serious and Life-Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion, and Connectedness.