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ASK THE EXPERT – Ziona Friedlander

Mindful Meditation
-Ziona Friedlander-


“Having cancer was one of the greatest gifts I was given, after marrying my husband and having our children.”

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People who haven’t been touched by cancer think I’m nuts when I say that. And while I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, I’m grateful to the diseasethat prompted me to take a long, hard look at what I was doing in my life, how I was conducting myself and what I was bringing to all my relationships.

This introspection brought me to energy healing, specifically Reiki, and to working with dreams as a healing modality, and to mindful meditation. All these practices are contemplative, but meditation is always available to me whether I’m making time to sit in meditation or finding myself becoming tense or triggered during the course of my life and can focus on my breathing to calm my mind and my body.

Now at 10 years of cancer “thriver-ship” I am now teaching meditation. I’m grateful to the Cancer Support Community for allowing me this opportunity to bring these techniques and my insights to others confronting this disease or caring for or loving someone who is.

Perhaps Pema Chödrön says it better:

“Why Meditate? Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness…[We] work with cultivating gentleness, innate precision, and the ability to let go of small-mindedness, learning how to open to our thoughts and emotions, to all the people we meet in our world, how to open our minds and hearts.”  – Pema Chödrön

Be well.


Ziona Friedlander, a member of the CSC and a cancer thriver herself, is an experienced meditator as well as a certified Reiki Practitioner and Dream Tending® coach. She facilitates meditation classes for groups and individuals on a regular basis and upon request.




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How did you hear about Cancer Support Community?

In 1991 I moved to Thousand Oaks and the very next day I was diagnosed with retinal melanoma.  I was 8 months pregnant and didn’t know a soul other than my Ob/Gyn.  He referred me to CSC.  I am probably the only one who has walked into CSC very pregnant and sobbing.  It was truly a lifeline for me.  I had my baby and when she was two weeks old, I began attending weekly support meetings.  The compassion and caring I experienced carried me through treatment and the critical early stages of motherhood.

How long have you been coming here?

I first came to CSC in 1991 to join a support group, and over the years participated in a variety events including being a team member for the Big Sur Marathon fundraiser, and volunteer for the Holiday Homes Tour.

I came back to the CSC in 2015 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

How has cancer impacted your family?

Because the melanoma in 1991 caused blindness in one eye, my family, especially my kids always knew I had experienced something very serious.  I always told them the truth and we had so much fun with the fact that I only saw out of one eye.  I had to wear a eye patch for awhile, so I played pirates with my 4-year old and his friends!  And when my daughter was about six, she thought it would be the coolest thing if I could lose sight in the other eye too so we could get a seeing-eye dog!

My experience with CSC came full circle when my daughter who I was pregnant with when I walked into CSC for the first time, chose to volunteer at CSC for her high school community service project.  CSC gave so much to our family and she was honored to have the opportunity to give back.

Why did you participate in the Cups of Courage event?

In 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through chemo and radiation.  Again, in the spirit making the most of a scary situation, I immediately knew I wanted to do my small part to raise awareness, and have a great time doing it!  The camaraderie of the other survivors was so inspiring.  How often do you get to sit in the middle of a mall with a pile of bras, decorations, and glue guns, laughing and sharing stories for such an amazing cause?

Tells us about the bra you decorated and why you decorated it that way.

I chose a sweet theme using the colors for breast cancer awareness… I decorated my bra with Good & Plenty candy!  My life is Good, and I have Plenty to be thankful for.

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Mindfully Working with an Angry Brain–Lindsay Leimbach


Do I have an angry brain? At times I sure do, I have a brain that will blow up like a volcano if it was not trapped in my skull. I do not have an angry brain all the time, just some of the time. It can happen when my teenage boys forget to do the chores, even though I left a note on the kitchen table. Or when someone tells me upsetting news and I do not have any control of the situation.  You know the irritating life stuff that we all face. Anger is a normal response of the brain when a situation appears threatening. It is a primary emotion that is well established at birth. Yes, it is actually a good thing. It is our internal radar that screams “life threatening situation! Be prepared to fight, defend, and concur”. It serves all animals well in protecting their lives, their families, and their territory. However, the issue is that this emotion is triggered over chores not being completed or situations we cannot control. I do not need the flight/ fight response to be activated to conquer my teenage children or in a situation I cannot change. Actually I have found that I make things worse when trying to solve an issue from an angry brain. I evaluate income information incorrectly, I cannot truly understand another point of view, I over react, and often say something off topic that just escalates the anger. I also have found that my angry brain is contagious. It seems that when I let it leak out others catch it and it multiplies. Then I don’t just have one angry brain but an epidemic of angry brains on my hands. The epidemic creates misery for everyone.  I have chosen to make sure that the epidemic of angry brains will not start with me. I know that anger is a normal emotion that I will continue to have. I am okay with this. Through mindful living I learned how to work with my angry brain instead of fighting it. I able to listen to the warning signs that my brain is telling me, and still not feeling like a need to fight and concur my family or the serves representative.

Mindful Living has made me aware that stuff happens, good stuff and bad stuff. Things are always happening. It is what life’s about, things change every moment. I realized that if I want to be an influence in my own life then I need to start living my life in the present moment. To notice what is happening in my own thinking moment by moment. I use to be frantic in my thinking. I was completely caught up in the past worry or future anxiety. I was not even aware that I was becoming angry until my volcano blew. Those around me were often as shocked I was to the amount of anger that now possessed me. I have learned through mindful awareness my feelings and thoughts that there are common cause that promote my anger: mostly when I am too tired, stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed. I have learned there are other common causes; physical or emotional trauma, chemical or biological issues with the brain, alcohol and drug abuse, and learned through families and cultures that promote anger.

I became aware that I have some well-established habits that I slide right into when I get angry. I am trained to a response just like Pavlov’s dog that starts to salivate when he hears the dinner bell. Example is when I feel my family is taking me for granted then the angry bell rings. I am not salivating, I am fuming. This negative reaction does nothing to make the situation better, and I never feel better. My fuming actually makes things way worse. I found that what you think about you bring about. As I felt angry and taken for granted, I am connecting neurons in my mind saying that I am angry person, no one cares, I am forgotten. The path ways become deeper in my thinking and reinforced. Then my brain looks for outside events that support these negative path ways.  I find myself on the poor me angry loop that I cannot jump off. The good news is that I have learned the brain has neuroplasticity. In short the brain is always changing, neural networks are building and reinforced with what you think about and other neural networks are falling apart when they are not being used. I realized I can be the master builder of my own brain!

Mindfulness has taught me that I can jump off the loop of past angry behaviors and responses anytime I choose through awareness in the present moment. It sounds easy. It is easy to say, but it takes practice, practice, practice to execute. Mindful living is actually not one skill, it is more a way of being. It takes lots of skills and techniques to live mindfully. These skills help you stay in the present moment without judgement.  Two Mindful Living tools that work for me when dealing with my angry brain are:

  1. Event Happens + Being Aware of Thinking +Skillful Response = Positive Outcome

Events happen so I am not surprised. Some of these events bring forth the emotion of anger. That is okay. I am listening to myself; I can sit with my anger. I know that feeling the angry won’t hurt me and in time I always calm down. I know that when I calm down I can clearly judge how angry I am. I often place it on a scale 1 to 10. This gives my brain some objectivity on how intensely I should react to the event. Now that I am calmer I am ready to make a skillful response. My response is what I want the world to know and hear. I might be doing a skillfully planned battle cry as a response or maybe I need skillfully to just let it go and know stuff happens. Whatever I choose, I know that I am reinforcing my outlook on the situation in my mind and in the mind of others. I will mindfully implement a skillful plan of action to achieve a positive outcome. I am ending any angry brain epidemics starting from me.

  1. Breathing 4x4x4:

When I am aware that anger is arising I breathe in for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4, and do this for 4 times. Breathing should not be a big surprise. We instinctually tell others that are upset “catch your breath, breath, breath, breath”. Breathing at a slower rate calms the body and the brain down. The brain is able to shift out of a flight/flight response and have better impulse control and planning ability. Being aware of what you’re thinking and feeling cannot happen if you feel your head is going to explode. Breathing slower and more deliberate will decrease your blood pressure and clear your tunnel vision.  With a calmer state of mind you can Event Happens + Being Aware of Thinking +Skillful Response = Positive Outcome.


To learn more about Healthy Mindful Living please visit





Jilla Redman is a breast cancer survivor, and has been a part of the Cancer Support Community since 2008. In addition to attending a weekly support group Jilla enjoys participating in yoga and guided imaginary classes. Jilla comes to CSC because of the ongoing support she receives.She is a strong believer of paying it forward. “I learn from the ladies in my group, we share our experiences and concerns. We are hope for each other. You don’t feel alone. For me it’s a second home. Cancer Support Community has really helped me”.

Friendly and engaging Jilla enjoys welcoming new participants to CSC. You will always find Jilla and her husband, Chuck laughing hysterically at Comedy Night. Jilla’s passion for gardening was demonstrated at a recent “Cups of Courage” event, where she decorated a bra with a floral theme. Her bra was featured in our Paint the Town Paint event at The Oaks. It’s not unusual to find Jilla with a watering can tending to the flowers and succulents around our building. She says this is her “small way” of giving back but here at CSC we want to acknowledge Jilla, and thank her in a “big way” for her spirit and generosity. She is truly an inspiration to all.



Maku Cuison is a Tai Chi master who has been teaching Tai Chi and Chigong for many years throughout the Conejo Valley and the San Fernando Valley. Big thanks to Maku, as we now offer two weekly classes at Cancer Support Community Valley Ventura Santa Barbara, Mondays, 11:45am to 12:45pm, and Wednesdays, 11:00am to 12:00pm.

Originally developed for self-defense, Tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that is now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as “meditation in motion,” Tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Tai chi also helps increase flexibility and balance, and since Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, it is generally safe for all ages and fitness levels.

Maku’s Tai chi demonstrations and interview are available to browse on Youtube at makutaichi-youtube.