Mindfulness and Mammaries: Grinning With Gratitude

By: Maya Talisman Frost

I am truly inspired by a most mindful group of breast cancer survivors. Referring to themselves as 'The Golden Mammaries', these women gather weekly to support each other, share stories, and mostly, to laugh. In their fifties and sixties, they've lived through cancer--some more than once--and they never miss their cue to grin.

Picture this: white hair, no hair, carefully-coiffed hair, wigs. Pale faces, robust and beaming faces, tense and drawn faces, I'm-at-peace faces. Pink ribbons, Race For The Cure sweatshirts, designer blouses, colorful tunics. Sensible Birkenstocks, knee-high suede boots, running shoes, clogs.

These women come from all walks of life, but this is one walk they share, holding hands along the way and skipping whenever they get a chance.

Despite scalp-scalding radiation, gut-churning chemo, hold-your-breath biopsies, painful surgeries, and unspeakable fear, the 'Golden Mammaries' are riding high. They know what really matters, and they laugh their heads off at everything else.

There's a trick they use to keep things light. Whenever they hear the word 'memory', they mentally replace it with 'mammary'.

So, if they hear someone say, 'I have many happy memories' they would simply change that to 'I have many happy mammaries.'

It has a way of making you grin. Happy mammaries? Now, there's a perky mental image! Think of a pair of smiley faces. How uplifting!

Sad memories? Sad mammaries. Droopy. Down-turned. Moping.

Losing your memory? Losing your mammary. Heck, many of these women have lost their mammaries--and all have lost good friends. If they can laugh about this, it should be a piece of cake for the rest of us!

By using this simple mindfulness technique, these women have given themselves a cue that will prompt them to be grateful for all the good things they have to celebrate. Using a key word--and in this case, a particularly charged one--empowers them to attach a positive concept to one that has become associated with fear and pain.

We don't have to wait to find our own key word. If you have a body part, a place, a holiday, or anything else that prompts a negative gut reaction, take charge of it. Intentionally choose a new positive word or concept and attach the two in your mind. Use your custom association whenever you hear, see or say that word.

Look for humor. Search for silliness. Grab hold of every opportunity to replace fear or anger with something far more healing--laughter.

Cancer survivors are often described as courageous, but every one I've talked to has said the same thing: you simply rise to the occasion. Every one of us has that potential to be bold, brave, wise and lighthearted in the face of uncertainty. We have the power to gain perspective, the will to ignore petty differences and the open heart capable of ceasing judgment of others.

Why not start now?

Don't wait for a diagnosis. Seize your own destiny and start being courageous today. Use mindfulness to help you move forward with gratitude and start perfecting that lusty laugh of yours.

Thanks for the mammaries.

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