Friday, September 30, 2016

Advice: I Can't Stop Thinking When I Meditate!

Advice: I Can't Stop Thinking When I Meditate!

by Kathleen Lisson

As a meditation teacher in San Diego, I have found that many beginning meditators become discouraged after their first few meditation experiences. They believe that they cannot meditate because they simply can't stop thinking. Many of us approach meditation with the same 'get it done' attitude that we do with other "must-do" parts of our lives, like going to the gym, cleaning the whole house or getting to work in rush hour traffic.

In a TED Talk titled 'A simple way to break a bad habit,' psychiatrist Judson Brewer explains positive and negative reinforcement. He shares how he learned not to "force" himself not to think during meditation using the reward based learning process and curiousity.

After listening to Brewer's talk, I invite you to try to meditate again, this time using curiousity instead of 'forcing' - let me know your experience in the comments below!

Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Safe Relaxing Massage for Men and Women with Cancer and Lymphedema in San Diego

Safe, Relaxing Massage for Men and Women 

with Cancer and Lymphedema in San Diego

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT
(CAMTC #70128)

Do you already know the relaxing, pain relieving effect that massage has on your body but concerned that a cancer or lymphedema diagnosis means that you can't enjoy the benefits of massage anymore?

Are you overwhelmed with traveling to medical appointment after medical appointment and wish you could have the benefits of a massage in the comfort of your home, on your schedule? An in home massage means that you can take a relaxing bath in your own bathtub or go to sleep in your own bed, right after your massage.

Hello, my name is Kathleen Lisson. I am a Board Certified Massage Therapist with oncology massage training and a Certified Lymphatic Therapist in San Diego. I provide massage to men and women with a metastatic cancer diagnosis, a cancer diagnosis, a cancer history or a lymphedema diagnosis in the comfort of their homes in the San Diego area. To book a massage click here:

I studied massage therapy for people living with cancer with Teri Polley-Michea, RN, MA, HHP in San Diego and have assisted her in teaching Touch, Caring and Cancer classes to family members of those with a cancer diagnosis. My hands on work included shifts providing massage to patients receiving chemotherapy in the Moores Cancer Center infusion center in La Jolla and providing full body massage to patients with cancer and a cancer history at the UCSD Cancer Center in Encinitas.

I recently finished my training in Complete Decongestive Therapy for lymphedema with Gunter Klose and Linda Roherty from Klose Training. Gunter received his initial Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) and Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) training in 1984 at the Foeldi Clinic in Hinterzarten, Germany.  In 1990, Guenter came to the United States to assist Dr. Robert Lerner in establishing the first CDT treatment center for lymphedema patients located in New York City. Guenter’s work was instrumental in establishing the field of lymphedema therapy and training in the United States. Linda was elected to the Lymphology Association of North America’s Board of Directors in 2000, acted as Vice President of LANA from 2002–2005, and has served as Secretary since 2010.

I also volunteer in the Moores Cancer Center Patient and Family Resources Center and provide free massage to underserved communities in San Diego with the Alternative Healing Network.

If you or a loved one has a lymphedema or cancer diagnosis or history and prefers to receive massage services in the comfort of their home, please consider using Solace Massage and Mindfulness.

Click here for more information on what I offer, my schedule, prices and to book an appointment:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Best Tip for Exercise Recovery

How to Recover from a Hard Workout

san diego running tips

by Kathleen Lisson

Have you ever done a hard workout and felt like you just couldn't recover in time for your next run? Scientists have found that it could be because of what you are doing AFTER your workout as much as during your workout. Brad Stulberg writes in the Outside article 'Recovery Is All in Your Head' that a meta-analysis titled 'Psychosocial Factors and Sport Injuries: Meta-analyses for Prediction and Prevention' finds that "athletes are most likely to sustain physical injuries during times when psychological and/or social stress is high."

This makes sense because our bodies are recovering and rebuilding from our workouts in the hours after we shower and leave the gym or running trail. Adding stress forces our bodies to choose between dealing with stressful situations or healing and building muscle.

How can endurance athletes increase recovery after a hard workout?

I use activities like taking a nap, meditating and getting a light massage to reduce stress after my hard Sunday runs. A recent Times of San Diego story by Debbie Sklar featured a University of California San Diego School of Medicine study that found an participating in an Ayurvedic routine including meditation, yoga, vegetable-based diet and massage "experienced measurable decreases in a set of blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk and cholesterol regulation."

What do you do to maximize your workout recovery?

Read the 'Psychosocial Factors and Sport Injuries: Meta-analyses for Prediction and Prevention' meta-analysis here:

Read 'Meditation + Yoga + Veggie Diet + Massages = Good For Your Health' in the Times of San Diego here:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nutrition Classes for Breast Cancer in San Diego

Nutrition Classes for Patients with a Breast Cancer diagnosis in San Diego, CA

by Kathleen Lisson

There are a wide variety of nutrition classes for those with a cancer diagnosis, including breast cancer, in the San Diego area. Here are a list of classes:

Cancer Nutrition Resources in San Diego

Scripps Healthy Living ClassesThose who attend will "learn what foods and exercises protect against many lifestyle-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease."

Sharp Chula Vista Nutrition Class for Breast Cancer Patients - Those who attend will find a class that "has been designed to address common diet- and nutrition-related questions and concerns that are unique to patients with breast cancer. The most current diet and physical activity guidelines and strategies for making positive changes in these areas will also be discussed."

UCSD Moores Cancer Center - Healthy Eating Program's Monthly Nutrition Seminars "provide participants with evidence-based nutrition information and an opportunity for discussion with a nutrition professional. Each month our seminars explore a different topic on food, nutrition and cancer survivorship."

Online Cancer Nutrition Resources

AICR Guidelines - The American Institute for Cancer Research offers nutrition guidelines For Cancer Survivors

AICR's list of healthy recipes:

American Cancer Society offers online information -
Nutrition During Treatment PDF -

American Cancer Society Nutrition During Treatment online class -

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Should I still meditate if I cannot stop thinking?

How to Use Meditation for Frustration, Anxiety and Stress

by Kathleen Lisson

Have you ever said something you instantly regret when you're feeling stressed?

Have you ever read the same paragraph over and over and not 'got it' because you feel frustrated about something that happened earlier in the day?

Have you ever 'blanked out' for a test you have studied before because of anxiety?

A regular meditation practice can help with these situations, especially when seated meditation is full of thoughts. In this fun 13 minute talk, San Diego based Warriors at Ease and Mindful Schools curriculum trained meditation teacher Kathleen Lisson shares the role of the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus in stressful situations and how meditation can help us think straight and improve test anxiety.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Stage 0 Lymphedema in San Diego

Heavy Arm after Cancer Surgery - What is Stage 0 Lymphedema?

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CMLDT

The National Lymphedema Network states that people with stage zero lymphedema in an arm or leg can feel sensations of heaviness or fatigue in their limb, even when there is no difference in the size of their affected arm and unaffected arm. I have also heard that in stage zero lymphedema, people will feel like their rings and shoes feel tighter than usual, even though their arm doesn't look different.

Find out more about State 0 Lymphedema from the National Lymphedema Network here:

These symptoms may be connected to lymphedema. It's a good idea to mention them to your primary physician. Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage may help to reduce the feelings of heaviness and fatigue in arms and legs with stage 0 lymphedema.

Advice for those with secondary lymphedema in San Diego

The National Lymphedema Network offers a one page information guide to healthy habits for those at risk for lymphedema. View the guide here:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Five Fast Tension Tamers for Busy People

Five Fast Tension Tamers for Busy People

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT

Want to fit relaxation into your busy schedule? Here are five ways you can relax during the day, no matter how busy your schedule is.

If you have five minutes - try a body scan. Sitting or lying down, find a comfortable position and gently focus on different parts of your body in this relaxing technique. Start by feeling your toes for two breaths, then feel each different body part, switching every second inhale. Breathe and feel the feet, ankles, lower legs and knees. Continue to focus on how your body feels from the inside of your thighs, hips, lower back, abdomen, upper back, shoulders, chest, arms, hands and fingers. Finish your body scan by feeling inside your neck, jaw, face, ears and scalp, each for two breaths. Finally, focus on your entire body breathing peacefully for a few breaths. This can be done at night in bed or when you are a passenger in a car.

If you can spare two minutes, twice a day, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends a 4-7-8 breathing technique. Find out more here:

If you have one minute - focus on your breath. This exercise can be done at your desk or even in a tense meeting! Take a slow deep inhale through your nose, then exhale through your nose. Count to two, then inhale again. Pausing in between breaths brings relaxation.  

If you are waiting in line - whether at the grocery store or for your morning coffee, take 30 seconds to notice what is going on in the body. With each breath, focus on relaxing the muscles around the eyes, then the forehead, then the jaw, then letting the shoulders be at ease.

For a custom relaxation primer, try this trick - imagine you are making a business presentation and were just asked a question you can’t answer. Feel that anxiety in your body. Now, notice what parts of your body tensed up. Your hands? Your face? Your belly? Focus on relaxing your personal list of tense body parts the next time you need a dose of relaxation.  

Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Have you tried ‘everything’ and still can’t get to sleep?

Have you tried ‘everything’ and still can’t get to sleep?

by Kathleen Lisson

Does your room have blackout curtains, a humidifier and the finest bed linens on a comfortable mattress and you still can’t get to sleep at night? The answer may be in your pre-bedtime rituals.

Why Is Sleep Important?

As a San Diego meditation teacher, I know that our number one way to detoxify from the stress of the day is through a good night’s sleep. Meditation can also release stress, but sleep is key to robust health.

How do Insomniacs Try to Go To Sleep?

A Detroit-based study of sleep hygiene among insomniacs found that drinking alcohol, smoking near bedtime and taking naps during the day were common practices in those with insomnia. Read the study, ‘Sleep Hygiene Practices in a Population-Based Sample of Insomniacs,’ published in the Journal of Sleep, here:

My biggest battle is limiting contact with electronics within a half hour of my bedtime. Looking at just one more website or Facebook update is simply too attractive to me and I can easily stay up an hour past my bedtime and then spend another half hour lying in bed with thoughts spinning in my mind.

How Sound Sleepers Fall Asleep

A better bedtime ritual? Set an alarm on my phone for a half hour before bedtime and spend that time reading or performing my pre-sleep essentials - brushing my teeth and applying lotion to my face, arms and legs. Maybe spending time with loved ones or petting my dog? Gazing at the stars or the moon, which are beautiful in San Diego when we don't have a marine layer. Reviewing the needs of the next day and making sure I have prepared everything so I am not stressed or rushed in the morning. Making notes of everything left to do so I won’t have to try to remember them right before I fall asleep.

Fellow meditation teacher Douglas Elam of the Mind Rest Center in Twin Falls, Idaho uses Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breath to fall asleep. Watch a video of this breath practice here:

A Meditation Teacher’s Top Four Tips for Falling Asleep

  • Set an alarm 30 minutes before bedtime, start your bedtime rituals
  • No television or other distracting electronics in the bedroom
  • Don’t use your bed for lounging, train your body to associate the bed only with sleep
  • Use a meditation or breathing technique if thoughts are preventing sleep

What tips for getting to sleep have worked for you?

Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Quiz: What is Healthy?

What Does Being Healthy Mean - a Quiz

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT

The word healthy describes a level of complete physical, mental and social well-being in an individual.

Are you able to do all the activities you want to, like run around with the kids after work, or are you so run-down that most evenings are spent on the couch and most mornings are a struggle to get out of bed? Take a moment to relax your forehead, jaw and shoulders. How much tension are you holding in your body day after day?

Mental well-being is at risk in our overstimulated, always-on world. Can you remember people’s names? Have you experienced arriving at a destination having no idea how you got there? Have you said something you regret because you react to situations before you have a chance to take a breath and consider your response?

Social well-being is changing as our interactions become more digital. Do you give people you love half your attention because you are also concentrating on social media? Do you feel alone in a group when everyone else is texting? When is the last time you had a deep, meaningful hug?

How many signs did you see in yourself? If nagging pain is stopping you from doing everything you want to do, consider getting a massage. It is amazing how much of life we let pass us by because we are too tired to experience it. Meditation has been a powerful practice in my life. I find that I am more present and can remember names better, respond to situations instead of react to them and I have many more moments of awareness during the day where I am able to focus on tasks without gettting distracted by my thoughts. If these things concern you, consider taking a meditation class.
The downside of learning to meditate is that I am much more aware of being distracted when I am on social media with friends and loved ones. I am still taking baby steps to reduce my smartphone usage when I am with friends or occupied with other tasks.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Top five meditation books for new students - a teacher's reading list

San Diego Meditation Teacher's Top Five Meditation Books

by Kathleen Lisson

The text I use to teach mindfulness to my students at IPSB in San Diego is Simple, Easy Every Day Meditation Method by Sarah McLean. I like this text because it is small, portable and gets to the point, offering a number of mindful practices as well as solid advice for many beginning meditator's concerns. This book is sometimes hard to find on Amazon, so I will mention five others that are easier to order.

Many students find meditation a very valuable wellness practice and want to read more about the scientific research behind mindfulness practices. I recommend the following books for further reading.

The Relaxation Response, Herbert Benson, M.D.

Benson is an early pioneer in bringing meditation to the practice of medicine. Find instructions on how to elicit the Relaxation response and more resources here:

Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson, Ph.D

This book offers several practices that will use your mind to change your brain.

Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D

This is the first meditation book I ever bought. Kabat-Zinn offers over 500 pages of advice and experience in meditation.

How God Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, M.D.

Some new meditators and loved ones of aspiring meditators are concerned about whether mindfulness is a religion. A deeper search into the link between ourselves and spirituality can be found in this book.  I especially appreciated the exercise in yawning.

Fully Present, Susan Smalley, Ph.D and Diana Winston

I took an online meditation class from Winston through the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. This book is offers a guide to meditation and the science behind it in a reader-friendly way.

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Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

You know you're a runner that likes to eat - you'll probably enjoy reading this article about eating!

What to Eat Before a Run

What to Eat Before a Run

by Kathleen Lisson

Get a few long distance runners chatting and soon one of them will mention his/her favorite part of the sport - the Eating. Eating before a run is one of the most enjoyable things about running - sneaking one of the kid’s bananas or spooning dollops of peanut butter systematically on everything on the menu makes us feel like a Runner with a capital R even when we’re not in neon-bright ridiculously overpriced running shoes. Runners rely on a few tried and true ingredients and switch up the menu depending on the speed and distance to be covered during the workout.

Here are a few examples:

Breakfast before a jog around the block - the Elvis. Casual days mean portable breakfasts. Enjoy a peanut butter and banana sandwich just the way the King of Rock and Roll liked it before you tune your ipod to the Elvis Presley mix and get “all shook up.”

Sunday morning jog - before I drive up to Carlsbad, CA to run 5-10 miles along the ocean, I fix a full breakfast. Scrambled eggs, toast and oatmeal with peanut butter. Since I will be running aerobically the whole distance, I can handle “real” food as long as it has at least an hour to digest. Scrambled egg burps optional.

Morning of a 5K race - Plain oatmeal as soon as I wake up and then ‘racing hot chocolate’ - protein powder with warm soymilk. Early mornings can be chilly in race day gear, and heating the soymilk turns an ordinary protein shake into a hot drink. Running a 5K race will be 16-30 minutes of hot pursuit and heavy breathing, so make sure even an ‘iron’ stomach is done digesting before the race starts.

Half marathon breakfasts follow one ironclad rule - no new food on race day. Whatever worked before your last long run, that’s what you eat. NOT some newfangled bar or powder you picked up at the race expo. I choose a bowl of oatmeal with protein powder thrown in it and dry toast. I am nervous, so the ‘comfort food’ carbs are easy to keep down.

In every case, focus on eating and enjoying your breakfast, don’t wolf it down in a few quick bites. Envision a relaxing, effortless workout as you slowly chew (or sip) and savor your meal and feel the effect that mindful eating has on your digestion and your morning run. Then put on those obnoxious neon running shoes and have some fun!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Can Meditation Help a Controlling and Judgmental Person?

Why I Meditate - A Pitta / Type A Personality Confession

by Kathleen Lisson

When I was in my thirties, I felt like I had everything under control. I had a great job in the New York State Legislature and had just married wonderful man. We decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro a month after my 40th birthday. During the hours spent slowly walking to the top, I first realized that I could not control everything in my life. Approaching the summit of the mountain at over 19,000 feet was truly a one step at a time process. As long as I took one step and one breath, I was able to continue. Any time I thought ahead or wondered about what time it was or tried to go faster, I became overwhelmed and short of breath and had to slow down. I spent 8 hours that day living in the present moment.

Meditation for Endurance Athletes

After I returned from Africa, I began to realize how much I had been structuring my life around being in control. I would yell at a driver if I was cut off instead of silently feeling scared. I would be overly critical of myself and others at work, silently judging others and demanding perfection. If a goal was unattainable, I would find reasons why I didn’t want to do it. My mind would work to place blame on someone, anyone, instead of letting my body feel insecure or uncertain.

Meditation for Type A Personality

A cross-country move took me out of my old, familiar job and I enrolled in massage college to fulfill a life dream. I was suddenly in a constant situation of being a beginner instead of an expert. I turned to meditation to gain a deeper understanding of what I learned on Mt. Kilimanjaro - that the only way to really reach my goals was to allow my body to go through the moment to moment experience without pressure from my ego to please others or be competitive, to win.

Meditation and Skin Cancer Diagnosis

I recently put this new way of living to the test when I was diagnosed with skin cancer in June 2016. Both my parents died from cancer (breast and lung) and my diagnosis could have been much more distressing if I focused on the negatives instead of listening to my body. Now, instead of ignoring or trying to hide my diagnosis and my scar, I am becoming comfortable talking to others and exploring what beauty and wellness mean in my life.

Here is more about my new search for beauty and wellness:

Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

Friday, September 2, 2016

Memorial Day 2017 - How to Enjoy a Mindful Trip to Disneyland

Tips for Introverts: How to Practice Mindfulness at Disneyland

By Kathleen Lisson

Squeezing up against strangers to dodge a stroller, hearing the shrieks of excited and terrified children catching sight of cartoon characters, the temptation of an ice cream cone on a steamy day. Many call it ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ but for an introvert all the noise, heat and constant motion of a Disney park can be overwhelming! I enjoy time with my brother and his family at Disneyland, but struggle with the fast, colorful, sugar-fueled pace of the park.

STOP is a wonderful mindfulness practice that helps me enrich quality time with my family, especially during during a visit to Disneyland or another amusement park. To practice STOP, we simply follow four steps and after less than a minute we will be able to more fully focus on and enjoy the present moment.

  • S stands for Stop. Simply take a moment to pause our body and mind, whether we are roasting on the hot pavement in a crowd at Disneyland or stressing over something instead of enjoying a delicious dinner.
  • T stands for take a deep cleansing breath. Just this one moment for ourselves. We can even close our eyes if it feels comfortable.
  • O stands for Observe - what can we sense with our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and hands? The energy of a child’s smile? The smell of the campfire? What do we notice now that we didn’t before? Take a quick inventory with our senses.
  • P is for Proceed. Now that we are oriented to the present moment, enjoy it as we move forward in our day.

I find that there are a few ‘best’ times to try STOP.
  • I start by practicing STOP while riding down the escalator from the Disney parking garage to let go of the stress from sitting in traffic in the morning.
  • I remember to STOP again in the mid-morning when I can feel the park really start getting packed after those first one or two easy, short lines on the kiddie rides.
  • Lunch can be a frustrating time as dozens of hungry families crowd lines in every restaurant. Children can get cranky and food choices can be much different than what our bodies are used to. STOP is a good way for me to take a moment to enjoy the feeling of my family gathered around the same table.
  • Leaving the park for dinner is another emotional time, especially if the family won’t be returning for fireworks. Reflecting on what was good about the day instead of what went wrong can reduce feelings of disappointment, and practicing STOP can give us a good memory of this special trip.

What should you say if a relative catches you practicing STOP? You can explain the technique and encourage them to try it, too, or just smile and mention how you are really enjoying spending time with them. No one has to know you are using mindfulness to make an overstimulating situation easier to handle.

Using STOP has given me an emotional oasis in the churning sea of a hectic, overscheduled vacation. I hope this simple technique can give you similar peace in the midst of busy holiday weekend activities.

Kathleen Lisson is a certified Meditation Teacher and Labyrinth Facilitator and teaches Meditation and Mindfulness at IPSB college in San Diego. Sign up for a private meditation lesson or labyrinth walk in the comfort of your home here:

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