You know I’m one for acronyms, what with the name CALMERme, and our programs for clients –CAPABLEme and RESTOREDme. So when I heard about the website named KARA, I wanted to check it out. KARA, the acronym, stands for Kindness, Awareness, Rest and Allowing. But what is it?

Kara is a website of guided mindfulness-based meditations for cancer patients. It’s a simple and easy to use stress reduction website. 

Stress and illness

Stress is a huge component in many chronic illnesses – not only in increasing our susceptibility to illness but also as a driver of illness. Thus, looking at ways to reduce our stress can have many benefits to our health.  

In fact, I remember very clearly hearing a speaker at a cancer conference say that the first thing he recommends to patients at cancer diagnosis is “before you make any decisions or do any treatment (assuming the situation doesn’t need urgent surgery, etc., ), go home and learn some stress reduction techniques first.” The stress reduction techniques help with decision making and getting through all the upcoming treatments and life changes.  

Frequently, the cancer is slow growing at the time of diagnosis, so taking just that little bit of time to adjust to the diagnosis itself and learning some stress reduction techniques can have a greater, more positive impact than just jumping on the typical, fast moving, “conveyor belt” of cancer treatment. Yes, you might get the impression of urgency, but taking a couple of weeks could help make the next six months much better and more tolerable. Obviously, this needs careful consideration. 

But even if you aren’t able to delay treatment, no one should underestimate the value of learning stress reduction techniques after a cancer diagnosis.

Naturally, we want our stress reduction techniques to be healthy ones too! Not like the extremes of eating four bars of chocolate, or over-exercising for hours of the day, in order to relax!

So this is where Kara enters the scene. Using the guided mindfulness-based meditations on Kara can be an effective way to improve our ability to deal with emotional and physical difficulties.  

Buddhify – Kara’s older brother!

Kara was developed by Mindfulness Everywhere, in partnership with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) CancerCenter. The people at Mindfulness Everywhere are the creators of the well-known meditation app, Buddhify. I have been recommending Buddhify to my clients ever since I discovered it.   Rohan Gunatillake is the guy behind Mindfulness Everywhere and you might be interested in his first book, “Modern Mindfulness.” His take on meditation is that we should do little bits of meditation throughout the day rather than have just one long meditation session each day. So – whether it’s taking four minutes between meetings or some time while eating lunch and taking a walk, rather than an hour long meditation when you get up in the morning – I think his approach is a lot more accessible to people. 

Meditation can develop a lot of different qualities within us, and the developers found the four most valuable qualities for people were cancer were:

  • Kindness, to self and others
  • Awareness 
  • ability to Rest when we need to, and
  • ability to Allow the difficult when it is here

and thus KARA got its name.

What types of meditation are within Kara?

There are two types of meditations to choose from – four core meditations and eight contextual meditations. The four core meditations relate to the KARA bullet points above – kindness, awareness, rest, and allow.  Improving our development of these four qualities helps us in moments of real need. 

The other contextual meditations are based on the most common challenging emotions and mindstates that affect people faced by cancer. These are:

  • I feel overwhelmed
  • I can’t sleep
  • I’m in pain
  • I feel like a burden
  • I’m eating
  • I feel alone
  • I feel afraid
  • I’m angry

Yes, not all of these are emotions but, for example, “I’m eating,” relates to a particular situation that can help remind us of a time for meditation. And indeed, eating can become very emotional for people when it is difficult due to the side effects of treatment. Similarly for sleeping. 

The length of each meditation varies. Some might be useful while in a waiting room for an appointment, while other longer ones can be good for when at home.

Kara – a website not an app?

Image showing the Allowing meditation from KARA, by CALMERmeKara is a website https://thisiskara.com/ rather than an app such as  Buddhify. The developers felt this reduced the barriers to discovery of the site, and that cancer patients could easily start using it themselves at home, at hospital, or anywhere else. This also means that you don’t have to deal with App updates etc.

If you are unsure of the availability of internet access, the meditations are downloadable in MP3 format so you can access them anywhere. 

Is Kara just for cancer patients?

Yes, Kara is principally designed for cancer patients. However, it can also help other people affected by cancer – such as family members, friends, colleagues – as they too can benefit from stress reduction. 

To this end, listening to the meditation together can be a lovely experience to share – so you both benefit. 

That said, however, the content of the guided meditations doesn’t reference cancer at all. This means the meditations can be used by anyone dealing with an illness or the emotions discussed above. 

I also think that combining KARA with Buddhify is a good way to go; it gives you lots of options, and many on Buddhify are shorter in length.

The voices behind the guided meditations

Different people/voices are used to read the meditations. If you don’t particularly like one person’s voice, you can try another one. I like this fact, because we all have different preferences for voices, and while one voice might sound relaxing to one person, it might grate on another person’s ears. 

In addition to guided meditations

As well as the meditations, the site also includes “Reflections” and “Real Stories.”

The reflections are short pieces of text, outlining a key mindfulness principle related to dealing with difficult emotions or long-term conditions. The reflections help deepen the understanding and insights from the meditations. More of these principles, models, and concepts, i.e., how and why meditation works, is given in Rohan Gunatillake’s book, mentioned above.

The real stories came from feedback on Buddhify. Rohan found that some of the feedback was so powerful in that it showed the reality of how using mindfulness at incredibly challenging times in our lives could have profound effects. Adding the “real stories” enabled the sharing of this. They also felt that it also personalized Kara.  

Using Kara

Just click on the link to give it a try.  http://thisiskara.com  Kara is new and has only just launched. The authors are asking for feedback – and acknowledge that there is scope for development.  

I know I will be recommending it to my clients and their families. Not just those with cancer – but to those with other chronic illnesses too. 

Let me know if you give it a try – and let them know too. 

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