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Interview with Charlotte Bell about Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation, and Breast Cancer

by NinaBeautiful World by Rene MagritteI’ve been admiring Charlotte Bell, yoga educator, writer, and writer, from afar for quite a long time. I especially desire the posts she has written for the Hugger Mugger blog over the years. Recently, because I wanted to learn more about mindfulness meditation and I knew that Charlotte was a long-time practitioner of mindfulness reflection as well as a long-time yoga teacher, I accumulated up my gallantry and asked her if she wanted to talk sometime! To my rejoice, she concurred, and after a very stimulating conversation, I questioned her if she would do written interview with me about how her long-time experience with reflection cured subsidize her through a recent bout of breast cancer. I’m leaving it unedited because, as ever, Charlotte has numerous important things to say.Nina: Tell us a little about yourself and what your life was like before your breast cancer diagnosis.Charlotte: Before my cancer diagnosis, my life was extremely busy. I coped Mindful Yoga Collective, educated weekly yoga courses, wrote a monthly column for Catalyst Magazine, drove a part-time job doing social media and writing Hugger Mugger Yoga Products’ blog, and edited all the content on Yoga U Online. I too frisk oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and at the time, played in a chamber folk sextet called Red Rock Rondo, which will continue technically together, but is currently dormant because of all our other projects.Nina: Why did you decide to study Buddhist style mindfulness meditation in addition to yoga, and what character did your meditation play in your life? Charlotte: I was first introduced to vipassana meditation at a yoga retreat at The Last Resort in the Cedar Breaks area of Southern Utah. At the retreat, we rehearsed vipassana 3 times per day. After the retreat, the schoolteachers, Pujari and Abhilasha Keays, felt I was ready for one of their five-day silent vipassana withdraws. I couldn’t attend that year, but decided to take a deep dive the subsequent year and attended a retreat in January of 1988. I surely didn’t take to meditation immediately on that first retreat. In fact, I expended the first three days plotting my escape.( The Last Resort was only accessible by snowmobile in the winter, so my projects had to be somewhat elaborate !) On the evening of the third day, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and preparations for bunked, still feeling immense exasperation, but still trying to be mindful. As I reached for the doorknob to the bathroom, I felt the members of the movement of my limb; the cool smoothness of the grip; the process of turning it; my biceps flexing as I gathered the grip toward me; and the intricate the two movements of my mas as I marched through the door. The ordeal was graceful. It was as if I was turning a doorknob for the first time in my life. It drew me realize the richness–and the importance–of being mindful, of even the most pedestrian of life assignments. The next day, I fell into a nation of serenity that I couldn’t have previously imagined. Of route, that uttered method to the usual monkey mind later on, but a seed of possibility had been planted that met me witness the value of practice.Since then, mindfulness has been an essential part of my daily pattern. I’ve gone through periods of practicing 20 to 30 minutes, and currently pattern 60 minutes a day.Nina: What happened when you were diagnosed with breast cancer? How were you feeling? Charlotte: I received my breast cancer diagnosis on the first day of an 18 -day metta( kindness )/ vipassana( mindfulness) retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in 2016. I had had my annual mammogram 12 daylights before the retreat. A week later, the clinic announced me back because they wanted to check something that they studied “couldve been” questionable. I had an ultrasound and needle biopsy two days before leaving on departure, and the timing worked out that the first day of the withdraw would be the day they got the biopsy makes back.When I firstly sounded the words “invasive ductal carcinoma” I felt an immediate shoot of adrenaline. This lasted through the working day. My partner was on the withdraw with me. Since the recede was speechless, we had decided beforehand on a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal for me to let him know the results. I committed him the signal when we were in the musing residence, preparing to sit in the afternoon. I recollect being more concerned about his response than my own during that reflection. Nina: You told me that your long-time meditation practice was really helpful during this time. Can you cause us know how it works? And what did you tradition over this period? Charlotte: The day of my diagnosis was the first day of the nine-day metta portion of the departure. I consider this to be fortuitous. I had rehearsed metta regularly and on long withdraws for years, so I was aware of the route that metta can soothe the leading edge around agony and difficulty. But a cancer diagnosis was completely new territory for me. Fortunately, the hideaway administrators allowed me to use the phone in the agency to constitute the necessary appointments for after the hideaway so that I could hit the ground running when I got home, and I could be confident that I’d done all I could. That way, I could let go of am concerned about items and focus on practice.After 28 years of practise metta, this withdraw was the first time I felt compelled to do a lot of kindness practice for myself. In metta practice, you traditionally start with yourself and expand your metta outward to mentors, friends and family, and others. But metta to myself had always been a challenge, probably due to growing up in a family that rated selfishness as basically a mortal sin. So it made a cancer diagnosis for me to finally feel compelled to practice for myself. I practised for others as well, but I invested more day with myself than I had in the past. When I returned home, I be pointed out that my normal practice of berating myself was no longer my first response when I made some sort of mistake. The self-metta practice had changed a longstanding unhealthy pattern. Throughout the hideaway, I was satisfied and stunned to be noted that my psyche never went into any theatre about the diagnosis. While “its not” the diagnosis I had hoped for, my memory never descended into “why me? ” or “poor me” or “what did I do to deserve this? ” or any other such machinations. I viewed the diagnosis simply as a new situation for me, and I felt so grateful to be in a region where I could integrate this new context without distractions. I felt a profound sense of equanimity throughout the entire retreat. In a practice meeting with Joseph Goldstein during the second half of the retreat, I told him about this. I said, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to remove[ to start to freak out about the diagnosis ], but it really isn’t happening.” He replied, “This is why we practice.”I’ve known this and instruct this many times to my yoga and meditation students: We can’t restrain what happens in our lives, but we can moderate our response to it. The equanimity I maintained throughout cancer know-how was a testament to 28 years of mindfulness rehearse. Throughout the hideaway and beyond, I’ve manifested many times on how grateful I am to have found this practice, and that I’ve put in the time and effort to be consistent with it. It has truly been transformative.Nina: How about your yoga practice? Did yoga help support you during this time? If so, how? And which practices and/ or logic in particular? Charlotte: Yoga practice has supported me in much the same way as the meditation tradition. In the past 20 years or so, I’ve been practicing from the perspective of the three yoga sutras that are concerned with asana: 2.46: The physical posture is advisable to steady and cozy. 2.47: It is mastered when all struggle is tightened and the brain is absorbed in the Infinite. 2.48: Then we are no longer upset by the play of antonyms. Having been born in a flexible person, I focused for years on doing extreme poses, largely for my own self-esteem atonement. My dad was a gymnast, so I acquired some of his physical cleverness. But in the early 2000 s, I shifted my aim more fully to the sutras’ version of mastery–relaxing all effort and letting my judgment be absorbed exclusively in the present physical knowledge of the pose. This has helped me develop equanimity in practice and beyond.I first learned how satisfying it is to combine mindfulness with asana practice on recedes at The Last-place Resort. Pujari and Abhilasha were students of B.K.S. Iyengar in the 1970 s and ’8 0s, so there was a slow, attentive yoga practice each morning on their recedes. These discussions is not simply helped utter the long daylights of sitting and ambling meditation more comfy, but they also allowed me to experience the pleasures of focusing inward in my rehearse rather than focusing on how I might push my organization even further. So certainly, asana practice before, during and after my cancer diagnosis has been mostly another avenue for practice mindfulness. Since long before I was diagnosed, I’ve learnt yoga for cancer cases. Currently, I teach at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Think about the language we use around cancer–“battling cancer, ” “war on cancer, ” etc. I feel that this sets up an hostile rapport with our torsoes. Practising simple asana from a more internal, and less forceful, perspective can reminds us of all we can still enjoy about is in accordance with a living organization. I feel delighted to see that I had the opportunity to explore this in my own person while going through the cancer experience.Nina: What was the medicine and convalescence point like for you? How did your reflection rehearse buoy you during treatment and convalescence? And how about your yoga practice? Charlotte: I was fortunate that my cancer was diagnosed at a very early stage( 1A ). It was an invasive type of cancer, triple negative, but the tumor was only 7mm. My oncologist said that chemo was an option, but she didn’t feel strongly about it in my event. I chose to have a lumpectomy and targeted radiation. I really felt pretty good throughout the process, although I suffered some fatigue a week or so after the radioactivity. I continued both yoga and reflection practice, and stood at a somewhat even keel the entire meter. In countless access, the process felt like a renewal of the recede. I left the retreat so inspired by the equanimity I’d felt that there was a reincarnated appreciation of commitment that hasn’t faded. It was likewise helpful to return to my yoga class sangha. Most of my students have been practising with me for decades. There’s a cohesive, encouraging culture that has worded among my students. Karma yoga is very much alive in my students, whenever anyone is going through challenging terms. They stepped forward to help with undertakings such as yard work and studio maintenance while I was going through treatment. Practicing metta for the supportive sangha was an important dimension of my yoga and meditation rehearsal during that time.Nina: Did you feel changed by this whole experience? If so, in what rooms? Charlotte: Of track. I’ve enjoyed a low-maintenance body for most of my life. I took good health for granted for a very long time. However, the year before my cancer diagnosis, I had to have my left trendy replaced due to hip dysplasia. Three months after my lumpectomy, and two months after radiation, the right one was replaced. Having so many major health incidents in a span of less than two years unquestionably drove home the impermanent sort of these bodies. Yet, through all of it, I never felt that any of these issues were somehow a mistake. There’s a autobiography of hip replacings and breast cancer on my mother’s side of the family. These things are written into my DNA. What shifted–or perhaps deepened is a better word–is my commitment to practice. While I’ve had a relatively serene four years in this body since my last-place trendy replacing, I know that other things are going to come up. This is just the truth of living in impermanent, aging mass. I’m terribly grateful for the years of practice that will help me navigate these challenges with charm. Nina: Do you have anything else you’d like to tell our readers? Charlotte: I can’t overemphasize the importance of regular rehearsal. Even if you can commit to as little as five minutes a day, pattern those five minutes. Consistency is the most important thing. As a classically instructed musician, I’m intimately aware of how practicing scales and arpeggios can be mind-numbingly boring. But practising melodic exercisings gives people the skills to approach the music you want to play with confidence and ease. It’s the same with meditation. Over years of practice, you are able to reached plateaus, eras when it seems nothing is really happening. But rely the process and continue to practice. In my own rule, I’ve realized that the plateaus are often times of integration, when the benefits of practice sink in deeper. When your rule integrates more deep, it becomes your foundation, a state that you come from while negotiating the ups and downs of their own lives. And that’s the point of practice.Charlotte Bell began practising yoga in 1982, and started teaching in 1986 and has learnt yoga endlessly since then. Certified by B.K.S. Iyengar, she schools years, seminars and teacher trainings. In 1988, she began practicing Insight meditation. She is currently finishing the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. Author of three books, Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice, Yoga for Meditators, and Hip-Healthy Asana: A Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain. Charlotte has written for Yoga Journal, Yoga International, CATALYST Magazine, Yoga U Online and the Hugger Mugger Yoga Blog. For more information visit charlottebellyoga.com.Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email deg Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook deg To ordering Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being, go to Amazon, Shambhala, Indie Bound or your local bookstore.

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