Mindfulness In Healing Sangha Celebrates 10 Years of Continuous Practice

We are extremely happy to announce the tenth anniversary of our Mindfulness In Healing sangha on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. The sangha was founded by Jerome Freedman, Ph. D. on the summer solstice in 2009 as a means to give back to his community after being in remission from bladder cancer which began in 1997 and flared up in 2003. After four or five more bouts of bladder cancer, he is now cancer free once again, thanks to immunotherapy.

The sangha has consistently met at the Pine Street Clinic in San Anselmo (Marin County, California) on Wednesday nights. We are totally grateful to Michael Broffman and the Pine Street Clinic for letting us use their facility for the past 10 years. The clinic is famous for their research on dogs sniffing ovarian and uterine cancers.

Soon after forming the sangha, Jerome invited Carolyn de Fay, LCSW to join as a co-facilitator so that we could hold sangha when one of us was indisposed. We have been facilitating together most of the time.

Our practice begins with inviting the bell followed by an invocation and thirty minutes of sitting meditation. This is followed by tea breaks and the evening program, which consists of dharma sharing, dharma discussions and / or dharma teachings by Jerome or Carolyn. We end with the dedication of merit.

Vivian Taube joined the sangha in 2014, as a regular member. She is grateful for a sangha, where she can discuss her healing from schizoaffective disorder openly, as the sangha’s original intent was to support people and care givers in their healing process.  In 2017, she decided to aspire to the Order of Interbeing, and she chose Jerome and Carolyn as two of her OI mentors. 

Healing Story #1: Micah Freedman

Could you be inspired by the story of a seven year old child who was stricken with a usually fatal kidney cancer (Wilm’s tumor) in 1976 and is still thriving today? If so, please view two episodes of In Search Of on YouTube, from 1976 and 1980:

This child is my son, Micah!

The same day that I found out that Micah had cancer, I started working with him using a form of mindfulness practice which was later dubbed, “Mind Stories”. I trained Micah at the age of seven to create mind stories about his cancer using guided imagery and creative visualization techniques. How I learned these is the subject of another article in this series (link to be provided).

After more than four weeks in the hospital, which followed a complete resection of the infected kidney, Micah was brought home. It was at that time we hired Dr. Sheldon Ruderman to be his therapist and continue working on mind stories.

You’ll be happy to know that beyond all expectations of the attending physicians, Micah is still alive today and thrives in Fairfax, California with a new born daughter. We see him often and every time I see him I recognize the miracle of his healing and the miracle of mindfulness.

Anti-Cancer Revolution

Sign up for the amazing Anti-Cancer Revolution, June 17 – 23, 2019 and receive a copy of my best selling book, Stop Cancer in its Tracks as a PDF download.

What is Mindfulness?

Sterling Silver Buddha
Sterling Silver Buddha | Collection of Jerome Freedman

We begin with the question: What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the act of deliberately paying full attention to what is going on in the present moment without judgment. I’m sure you have experienced moments of mindfulness sometime in your life. These moments of mindfulness can come when you see a beautiful sunset or gaze down on your infant child in awe or in many other common circumstances. You know where you are and what you are doing. The only difference between mindfulness and what you do in everyday life is the quality of awareness. If you are eating something from a fast food restaurant on the run, this is not mindfulness. If you are carrying on a conversation with someone and your attention is on what you will be doing next, this is not mindfulness. But if you are listening to someone with your full attention as if there were nothing else to do in that moment, this is mindfulness.

I am reminded of the Japanese poem:

Sitting quietly,
Doing nothing,
Spring comes,
And the grass grows all by itself!

As the poem states, mindfulness in sitting quietly implies “doing nothing!” In order to achieve this, all you do is sit there!

When we are mindful, we know what we are experiencing in or body, feelings, mind and the contents of the mind. When we pay attention to what is going on in our body, we recognize the life force pulsating throughout our whole being. We recognize the miracle of being alive, which we usually take for granted.  Even so, the miracle is still here, nonetheless. At any moment, we can become aware of our breathing, whether at our nostrils, in our chest, or in our belly. When we do so, we return to the present moment. When we feel our heart beating in our chest or notice our pulse in our feet, legs, torso, arms, or head, we return to the present moment. When we are out in nature and notice the green leaves, flowers, birds, insects, rocks, yes, and even dog poo, we can return to the present moment.

Our feelings are also gateways to being present. Most of the time, we spend a lot of energy avoiding our feelings by watching TV, eating when we are not hungry, going shopping, or simply denying them. However, if we can experience our feelings in our feelings,they too, can be a doorway to being mindful in the present moment. You may ask, “What does it mean to experience our feelings in our feelings?” It means to simply experience our feelings directly, without adding our thoughts, opinions, judgments, criticisms, notions, or anything else to them. We have to let go and allow our inner wisdom to feel what we are feeling. From this, compassion for ourselves develops and we find more freedom of expression. Good explanation!

Our thoughts consist of images, impulses, feelings, memories, opinions and judgments, plans, worries, fixations, mental constructions, and self-talk– the constant chatter that goes on inside our minds. We also have moments of creativity and insight when we are concentrated on something we love or experience awe at a truly wonderful sight in nature. Our thoughts can get the best of us as they circuit around through our brain. However, with mindfulness, we can bring our mind back to our breath or our body and return to the present moment.

Lessons Learned

To continue my story, I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in dealing with cancer. First and foremost is the love and support of caring friends and family. For this, I am very thankful, and don’t know exactly what to say beyond how difficult it would have been without them.

Secondly, I learned the value of doing my own research, and, at the same time, having the support of competent physicians and healers. I could not ignore the input of the doctors, but I knew enough to present a viable alternative. I am grateful to Doctors Harry Neuwirth, David Gullion, Francine Halberg, Sara Huang, Robert Belknap, Peter Carroll, Jeffrey Norton, Peter Klaphaak, and William Shipley for their willingness to put up with my radical approach to healing. When I think about the possibility of having had a radical cystectomy and compare it with the treatments I’ve had, I really count my blessing at having made the right decision for me. The radical cystectomy could have led to complications too numerous to understand at the time of the surgery. I am happy that I bypassed this option.

Thirdly, I don’t have any clue about the direct effect of the cancer support groups, alternative medicine, supplements, body work, and psychotherapy had on the physical healing of my illness, but they were all indispensable for my emotional and mental healing. To this, I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Martin Rossman, Thich Nhat Hanh, Leslie Davenport, Anna Halprin, Michael Broffman, Gail Teehan, Elyse Genuth, Dr. Van Vu, Dr. Patricia Frisch, and Alan Sheets for their contribution to my healing efforts, be they of the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. I guess I’ll never know whether these methods had anything to do with my healing, but I don’t want to think about how it would be if I hadn’t done them.

Finally, even with all the love and support of the people I’ve already mentioned, I have to acknowledge my own part in this process. I did my research, found a creative outlet for my experience in these pages, practiced mindfulness during critically ill times as well as healthy ones, and continued to look forward to a happy and healthy life beyond cancer. My goal has been to maintain as much mindfulness in all my activities as possible, including, but not limited to time on the tennis courts, walking meditation, computer work, and enjoyable outings with family and friends. My experience has been beneficial to other people, as well, through my web site, support groups and contact with friends taken ill by a similar disease. I am happy that I can help them, but not quite happy with the path that led me to the knowledge I have to do so.

In conclusion, let be state once again how important I think it is to combine the best of Western medicine with natural healing methods to come up with a treatment plan that can result in a cure. The process of healing the body must be accompanied by the process of healing the emotions, the mind and the spirit.


Gabrielle Roth

This evening, I attended an evening with Gabrielle Roth, and American Shaman.  Back in 1975 and 1976, I spent much of my time with Gabrielle, as her student and assistant.  Her main contribution to my life at that time was to support me through the worst of my son’s bout with cancer.  In addition, I learned a lot about movement from her.  She actually had trained with Anna Halprin. On the day my son went into the hospital for surgery of his tumor, I was supposed to go to Eselan with Gabrielle to assist her in her workshop.  However, this was not to be.  A month earlier, Gabrielle and I put on an amazing event to honor Rajneesh.  We had about 250 people attend, and it was wonderful.

This evening was very nice for me.  As Gabrielle entered the auditorium, I greeted her and she remembered me by name.  She had just recently told someone about my son’s miraculous recovery 21 years ago.

After about thirty minutes of movement, Gabrielle began to speak about trialectics (although she didn’t mention the name).  From my understanding, trialectics teaches that for every active force and its corresponding passive force, there is a neutralizing force to go along with them.  Gabrielle spoke about awareness, attention, and action in the context of ourselves, our one-on-one relationships, and our relationships to a group.  These last three concepts fit nicely into the three instincts of the enneagram.  In respect to awareness, attention, and action, Gabrielle spoke about thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations – the three centers of intelligence.  At an appropriate time in the discussion, I delivered a little speech about the advanced stages of these centers.  I used my concept of playing tennis with mindfulness as an example of being about to move before you know how you will move, that is, very instinctually.  The phenomena occurs in athletes when the enter the “zone” of ultimate capability.  This was an example of body awareness that goes beyond the normal range of effort.  I similarly spoke about feeling things before you know what you will feel, giving rise to lucid dreams, clairvoyance, and other psychic phenomena.  Finally, I spoke about having thoughts that seem to come out of no where in which you just simply know.  With these capabilities in place, one being to experience what it is like to be another.  Gabrielle was pleased with what I had to say, and told the crowd that this was the essence of what she was teaching.

By the way, earlier that day I had a wonderful session with Leslie Davenport.


Moon Set Over Corte Madera Creek

I was invited to play tennis with some of my favorite players this morning, but by ten o’clock, one person did not show up and the other person left without checking out the situation. I was rallying with the fourth person and someone he had found to hit with until the whole group was there. But just rallying like that is still to strenuous for me, and so I decided to attend the Feldenkrais class in Tiburon. This turned out to be a good choice because my back and knees were starting to hurt and the Feldenkrais lesson help remove the tension.

In afternoon, I went to a session with Leslie Davenport. I had been feeling jittery all day for unknown reasons, and Leslie help me relieve the tension. In the guided imagery, I felt myself return to mindfulness and I experienced a great sense of peace as I left her office.

Since it was too late to go home for dinner and get back to Marin General for Anna Halprin’s class I invited B. F. to meet me at Pacific Cafe for dinner. After dinner, we went to the class taught by Liz Damtsey and Julie Emden. The focus of the class was different from all of the other classes, but it was definitely a refreshing change. We spent about thirty minutes talking about the pros and cons of body work in the context of our class situation, and finally, after a demonstration by out two leaders, we all agreed to give it a try. It turned out to be magnificent! I partnered with B. F., and we really connected quite well.

The massage began on the occipital part of the neck where the neck meets the head. We moved from there to massaging the scalp. Next, we placed our palms over the eyes of our partner and began massaging the face, cheeks and jaws. Next we placed our hand on the top of the chest, and just left them there for a few moments. From there, we moved to one shoulder, which we simply raised and lowered at the scapula. Then we worked on the arm by stretching it, and moving the joints of the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. After doing the other shoulder and arm, we began working on one of the legs. First we pulled the leg gently, and rotated it in the hip socket. Then we moved the foot to a standing position near the other knee. We lifted the leg at the knee and gently moved it towards the chest. After testing just how far we could go, we pressed on. Next we rotated the leg at the knee to loosen up the hip joint. We finished with the first leg by massaging the feet and then stroking the entire leg. After doing the same procedure on the second leg, we ended the session by placing our palms on the soles of the feet.

I felt that it was equally good to give as to receive. I enjoyed working with B. F., because she was really loose and trusting. This inspired me to be loose and trusting also.

We then did a quick drawing of whatever images came to us during the massage. I drew a picture of one person giving a massage to another in such a way that the giver and receiver couldn’t be distinguished. They had merged and become one in the process. At this point, it is a bare sketch, and would not photograph to well for this page.


An Incredible Transformation

Even though I felt better after the group last night, I woke up feeling terrible again. The feelings were mostly about diet and that I still had a long way to got with my illness. I was turned into myself when I showed up for a massage with Gail Teehan. For me, this woman is the most remarkable healer. After about thirty minutes, I felt my heart starting to open again, and the pain and suffering over diet and disease seemed to lessen to such an extent that I was finally present again. I could, once again, bring my awareness to my breathing and re-establish mindfulness. It was one of the most remarkable transformations I’ve made in my whole healing process! I left her office feeling really great.

This was topped off by a extremely exciting session with Leslie Davenport. I spoke about the diet and disease feelings a little, but they had lost their sting. I began to focus on getting guidance on how to develop the workshop on “Zen and the ART of healing” with Gail Teehan. I began to see old images from the seventies coming back this time with a specific goal in mind, and in the end, Leslie invited Gail and I to practice teach in her Wednesday class on July 26!


Another Busy Day

I began my day by trying to solve a problem at work, and I’ve been at it almost all day, except for my consultation with Michael Broffman and my acupuncture session with Marty Rossman.

The meeting with Michael Broffman produced some unexpected results.  In the first place, what my wife has been saying about my diet is true. Michael told me to eat a low fat, high fiber diet, which eliminates many of my favorite foods, such as prawns and muscles. He is going to provide me with details about what I should avoid and what I should eat. Secondly, I had the startling realization that I’m not through with my disease. I still have a long way to go and the test procedures are not fun! I felt depressed from these two realizations, and I have been having difficulty dealing with them.

Since my wife took my appointment with Leslie Davenport, I took the opportunity to take a walk in the Cascade region of Mill Valley. The path leads to a waterfall, which is very nice, even now that it is not gushing with water. I spent about forty-five minutes there, practicing mindfulness and listening to the sound of the waterfall.

During my acupuncture treatment, I felt a burst of energy, and this gave me enough energy to continue working on the bug I’m trying to fix. Now I’m exhausted, but I continue to push on.

In the evening, my wife and I went to the Center for Attitudinal Healing for our respective groups. I spoke about my diet changes and feelings about not being finished with my disease. I also spoke about my wife’s difficulties. The group was really supportive in a unusual way this evening.


No Pot stickers for my Chop Sticks

Today I’m back to healing. I went to see Gail Teehan this morning and spent about an hour teaching her how to do a mind story. Then I thought I was scheduled in for a Feldenkrais Functional Integration lesson, but it turned out to be an hour and a half massage, and was it wonderful. It took me a little by surprise to have the massage, but she did such a good job, I didn’t mind! I remember crying several times, as she was working on my shoulders, and she said that she felt that all of the poisons are out of my system at last. We then had lunch together in the shopping center at a Chinese restaurant.

Next, I went to see Leslie Davenport. While I was waiting to see her, I managed to get a little work done. The session with her was so fine! I seem to come out of there with profound insights and a lot of wisdom. She really validated my use of mindfulness in my healing process. I am really fortunate to have three such remarkable healers in my life who I love very much. Of course I’m referring to Gail, Leslie, and Anna Halprin, who is getting a life-time achievement award for choreography at Duke University as I write. I’m grateful for my physicians, Drs. Neuwirth, Gullion, and Halberg, and I feel that they were wonderful technicians who implemented a protocol that I found in my own research. But I really feel that a lot of my physical healing and all of my mental and emotional healing  has come through the hands of Gail, Leslie, and Anna.


A Scare in the Night

In the middle of the night last night I woke up from a dream and I was lying on my left side. I noticed a somewhat painful feeling in my left thigh half way between my hip and my knee. When I felt around, I noticed a lump, and was panicked immediately. I felt for sure I had a metastasis in my leg. After feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes, I collected myself, returned to mindfulness and thought rationally about it. I hadn’t read that bladder cancer metastasizes to the soft tissue, but I was still worried. I called the hospital to leave a message for Dr. Halberg. I hardly slept the rest of the night.

In the morning, Dr. Halberg’s office called to say that she was off for the day, but they moved my follow-up appointment from July 2 up to June 24, so I’ll see her on Tuesday. In the meantime, my friend, Dr. Marty Rossman called about another matter and offered to look at the lump. I went to his office and he confirmed what I now suspected was a lipoma – a fatty tissue that is no threat to anything. I’ve had a rather large lipoma on my back for as long as I can remember, and I don’t have a clue where it came from.

I was a basket case for the rest of the day! I couldn’t work, and I could barely function. I had to take care of one of my daughters, and we met a few friends for lunch at Kitty’s Place. This was the nicest part of my day.