Meditation and mindfulness

Dianne Lee
Dianne has been nursing for over 40 years. She tells us about the personal benefits she has experienced from developing a regular meditation practice.
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When I began my nursing career in 1972, these ‘M’ words were never mentioned. They were ancient practices from a foreign land that had no relevance in our modern western world.

Stress was experienced daily (and nightly) but rarely spoken about – like a dark secret or something that only happened to weak people. Real nurses would never succumb to human distress. That role was assigned to patients and their worried relatives.

meditation and mindfulness

I lived in the nurses’ home with young females from across metropolitan Melbourne and rural Victoria. We were a diverse group with a range of strategies for coping (or not) with the endless demands of our role as frontline nurses. Fresh from school, we were caring for sick and dying children. We weren’t supernumerary students; we filled the rosters.

In second year many of us moved to share houses around the inner city. I lived with five other nurses in a house on Flemington Road, Parkville – the same street as the Royal Children’s Hospital. Our home was filled with music and laughter. We socialised endlessly and held parties regularly. Home and friendship became the glue that kept us going during the tough times.

In 1975, I moved to St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy for my graduate nurse year. I chose the psychiatric unit as I’d always been interested in the mind and behaviour. It was exciting to work with psychiatrists who used experimental therapies to tap into the workings of the human psyche. Insanity was weirdly appealing to me. 

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Meeting Dr Ainslie Meares
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I remember vividly one working day in particular. We were instructed to attend a lecture by Dr Ainslie Meares, a local medical practitioner who had written extensively on hypnosis and meditation.

Many of the hospital surgeons were hostile towards Dr Meares, in response to his books and articles about cancer and meditation. His 1970 book Relief Without Drugs was widely read internationally. Ainslie explained how the process of meditation could heal the mind and body. To simply ‘cut and medicate’, without tapping into the wealth within, was unacceptable to Ainslie Meares.

A row of agitated surgeons was waiting in white coats and scrubs. I sat in the front row in my starched cap and uniform. A tall willowy man entered the room. He was calm in the face of overt hostility. He spoke about the stress response and its effect on the body and emotions. His words were like music to me.

As Ainslie gently answered everyone’s questions, a peaceful energy descended on the room. He guided us through a meditation practice. I went into a deep trance state. When my awareness came back into the room, Ainslie was standing in front of me. We were the only people left. He talked to me about the connection between mindfulness and healing. He encouraged me to practise regularly. I left the room with a sense of stillness and calm. It was clear that these sensations came from within me. The skill was to take a break from my chattering, critical mind. This is easier said than done, as the mind doesn’t like being bypassed by our inner wise mind.  

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A regular meditation practice to reduce stress and promote calm
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Since then, I have practised a range of techniques to reduce stress and promote awareness of the present moment. The skill of creating a calm energy even in the midst of chaos is such a bonus. This regular mindfulness practice has assisted me to manage the stressful events that life inevitably throws up. It also helps to calm the repetitive negative mind chatter. Eventually, a state of stillness will happen automatically. The breath can reconnect us to inner peace wherever we are. 

 All humans experience stress, anxiety and panic. Spending time in the peaceful place that exists within is vital for emotional and physical health. Even a few minutes daily can make a difference. As with every new endeavour, regular practice is required. It’s important not to judge your practice. Just let the process happen. If the mind wanders, return gently to the breath or the guidance of the facilitator.  

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Finding the right guided practice
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When beginning a mindfulness practice, it’s a great idea to try a few guided sessions by different presenters to find one that resonates. Search online and you will find there are many, diverse techniques explained.

Some you might like to to:

 

 

Mindfulness Exercise (4 minutes)
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Body Scan (29 minutes)
Mindfulness Bell (5 minutes)
Meditation with Eckhart Tolle (36 minutes)
Guided Mindfulness Meditation on Sleep (22 minutes)
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What can I do next?
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We have more information on mindfulness or you could check out some of our other articles on staying healthy:

Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.