Cancer Composium Resources

Posted on Sep 24, 2020 in Community Events

Thank you for joining us at the 2020 Cancer Composium.

In our conversation about cultivating calm in challenging times, we discussed these resources:

Perceiving Our Emotions Differently

Emotions as Weather Exercise — see below.

TED Talk on Emotional Agility

RAIN mindfulness technique

Post traumatic growth

Parenting and Caregiving Resources

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

Janet Lansbury’s blog, books, and the Unruffled Podcast


Golden Milk Recipe. Add a few saffron threads to brighten mood and calm the mind. I sweeten mine with allulose.
Paleo cookies. A sweet treat without the blood sugar blues.
Emotions As Weather Exercise

Walking Through a Thunderstorm: A Guide To Emotional Healing

The most important thing about emotions that I’ve learned over the years is that they are nearly identical in function and form to the patterns of weather that we experience every day.

Just as every part of the earth’s weather system is necessary to the overall balance of the planet, there are no unnecessary emotions.  Further, as every cold front, drought, or thunderstorm is a result of the complex patterns of air flow, the emotions that we experience arise from the complex system of self-regulating feedback loops that govern every system of the body. These feedback loops generate electromagnetic fields that are similar to the electrodynamics of weather.

The earth’s weather is powered by an uneven distribution of energy from the sun and, to a lesser extent, the core of the Earth itself.  Our own system is powered by energy obtained from food and water. They are both complex, dissipative systems that exist on the edge of equilibrium (just a step away from chaos), powered by an outside energy source.

I arrived at this metaphor after noticing that the most powerful way for my patients to work with their painful emotions like anxiety, sadness, and anger was to stop trying to make them go away.  I found that when I guided my patients to forget about why they feel the way they do, and to instead just feel the way they do, things very quickly changed in a variety of ways.  The emotion would often get more intense for a few minutes and then fade away.  Sometimes, the first emotion faded into another emotion (fear was replaced by sadness, for example), other times the feeling of the emotion led to a particular sensation in the body (a tightness in the abdomen, for example), and still other times the emotion simply left.

It was while observing this phenomenon with one of patients that I was struck by how similar the experience was to watching a thunderstorm roll through.  The intensity of the emotion could be frightening, but if the patient didn’t fight it, the intensity quickly dissipated, and we were left with the emotional equivalent of a sunny day.

This is not just a medical intervention, but rather it is a lifestyle change. The goal is for you to be able to mindfully relate to your emotions. Like establishing any other habit, it takes practice, and you will at times fail. Allowing myself to experience my emotions has become second-hand. Now, instead of stewing over something for hours or days, I can take five minutes to honor and listen to what my body is telling me. The intense emotional reaction dissipates and I can go on about my day unburdened. That is the goal for my patients as well.

Treating Your Emotions with Respect: A Step-by-Step Guide

1) Notice what you are feeling (i.e., sadness, frustration, pain in arm, etc.)

2) Ask yourself, “Where in my body am I feeling that emotion?”

3) Focus on how the emotion and the sensation in your body feel without trying to figure out why it is there or how you can make it go away.

4) Be open to whatever happens next. Let yourself “swim” in the sensation and/or emotion as long as it is there. If a new emotion comes up (i.e., guilt, fear, anger, etc) then allow it to come into focus and begin again with step 1.

Note: It is very helpful to combine a physical sensation with an emotion. If you are starting with an emotion, try to locate a corresponding sensation in your body. If you are starting with a physical sensation (most likely pain), then let yourself explore the exact location of the pain in your body (“Can I feel the edges of the pain?” or “ Is the pain deep or on the surface?”) and ask yourself if there is an emotion associated with the pain. If there is an emotion that goes along with the pain, let yourself feel both of them together.

The most important thing is the intent to honor what your body is telling you. We are not smart enough to always know why our body does what it does. By listening to your own body in this way, you are cultivating a sense of respect and honor. By not getting in the way of your body’s processes, many emotions and pain can move through you like a passing thunderstorm.