By: Jodie (c2020), Photo By: Jodie (c2020)


The sign on the door reads,

“Mindfulness Course.”

My preceptor waves goodbye.

I walk inside.


One, two, three, four – four participants and a bearded therapist.

I know their backstories, these four strangers.

I begin to try matching files to faces.

Before I can complete my task, the request comes-

“Close your eyes. Focus on the breath.”


In… Out…

In… Out…

Cool… Warm…

Nostril… Tongue…

Chest Falling,

Abdomen Filling,

Noise Humming- Noise humming?

What is that noise I hear?

I cannot turn my ears off; they betray my mindful intent.

My thoughts are drawn out into the room,

In search of the noisy culprit.

Huummmm – Whoosh. Huummmm – Whoosh.

“What makes this jaunting sound?” I wonder,

Soft purring, punctuated with satisfying bursts of air-


Woops, I notice my distraction.

“Come on mind,” I tug it back to being.

Moments pass, Solitude, Solitude…


We wake up.

Back to solving my mystery.

Scanning the faces of my companions,

Seeking the source of the humming,

I find it.

I find her.

Black box, whirring, spurting,

Sitting beside her feet.

Long tube, clear plastic,

Slinking up across her lap,

Wrapping gently behind her ears,

And coming to rest just beneath her nose.

It sends oxygen whooshing into her nares.

Huummmm – Whoosh.


Now, who is the woman behind the machine?

One, two, three, four – She must be Stage 4.

I remember the file now.

Her pale skin and hollow cheeks tell the story.

Her bright eyes and astute words tell another:


“In some ways I’m ready to die,” she offers,

“And in some ways I’m not.

Because I know that things will carry on without me.”

“Like this course,” her friend chimes in.

“We’ll be here every Monday.”

“Yes,” she laughs, “Even after I’m dead.”

“Actually,” she interjects, “I’ll be here either way.”


A hand reaches out to wrap around,

Her long and boney fingers.

The hand belongs to a young woman,

Rosy face shaded beneath a ball cap.

As she turns her head towards mine,

My breath and eyes both catch-

As the pink ribbon tacked on to her white hat,

Comes starkly into view.

Could this be, number two?

The second stage 4 participant?

My mind wrestles to reconcile the record with her youth.


“I am ready too, but he is not,” she points across the table.

Stoic man, downcast eyes, participant #3.

A backstage figure begrudgingly yanked into the spotlight.



A duo desperate to heal each other,

Neither knowing how.

Fears fall on cowering ears,

Until the weight becomes too much,

And we turn again to practice.


And so it goes for the remainder of the meeting.

Breathing, calmness, stillness, quiet,

Then we join together,

Voices layer, slowly, faster,

Adding burden to the bars on which our weariness rests.

Comfort is tossed across the table,

Hearts unloaded, piling up within the space between us.

Cancer, pain, depression, shame,

It’s all laid out for viewing,

To which the therapist calms the swells,

With words of meditation.



“Focus on the breath,” he says,

“As it moves between your lips.”

But I focus instead on the single tear,

Slipping down my cheek.


“So much suffering,” number four,

Whispers between our reprises,

The therapist points out simple math,

“Suffering = Pain x Resistance”

None of us had learned this equation,

In all of our education.

He instructs, “Be with the pain,

Accept it in its fullness.”

He’s giving us the tools we need,

To complete the calculation.


Breathe in, Breathe out,

Four strangers sit around me.

In the stillness of my practice,

Joanie’s tank seems louder,

Making salient the bodily function that,

Occupies our attention.


Mind full, Mindful,

Mind full, Mindful,

The session’s hour passes.


The therapist makes a closing remark,

As we gather our belongings,

“This course has morphed into something different,

Than I originally imagined.

It seems that I forgot about,

The lives that drove you here in the first place.”


Group, palliative, family therapy,

The chameleon of Mindfulness courses.

We will gather again a week from now,

In all our states of being.

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