Munira Premji

A most curious gift has been showing up at my home over the past few months.  Friends and family have been giving me books and articles on mindfulness.  I have been piling them all up with very little intention of doing anything with it.  After all, I figure, I am the queen of mindfulness.  And then it occurred to me that maybe the universe is sending me a message and I need to pay attention.  So during the recent ice storm, I started to tackle the books – – one by one – – and embarked on this journey called mindfulness.  My favourite book is “The Mindfulness Revolution”, edited by Barry Boyce.

Mindfulness.  It’s a pretty simple word.  The concept is that we all need it and we can all do it.  It’s about paying attention to what you are doing, without distraction.  Its about being aware of each moment, without thought of the past or worry about the future.  It’s about living in the moment.  Easier said than done!  The reality is that mindfulness can slip away from us in an instant.  Just like that.  So where do you start?

I started by paying attention to my breathing and my thoughts.  I realized, very quickly, that I am a shallow breather.  Shallow breathers do not take in sufficient oxygen to help our brain, nerves, glands and internal organs.   Our brains need more oxygen than any other organ in our body.  When we don’t breath properly, we are deprived of oxygen and our vitality and health suffers. This has been a timely reminder for me to take time throughout the day to breathe slowly and deeply.  It is an exhilarating feeling and easy to practice when you make time for it.

Mindfulness is also about approaching life with acceptance, patience and curiosity.  Again, easier said than done, particularly when your natural state is to be impatient and somewhat judgmental, as I can be!   I am working on this and have a great role-model in my mom who practices mindfulness without even knowing it.

Mindfulness is simple but not easy.  It is simple to take time to be in the moment; but less simple to remember to be mindful.  Our world demands us to be productive, fast, busy and efficient.  Stopping and slowing down is frowned upon.  One of the greatest lessons I have learned from cancer is the benefit of just being and living in the present.  There is a heightened awareness and connection with the world and people around you when you are fully there , even in the midst of everyday activities.  So I now take time to pay attention to everything around me.  I savour the tea I am drinking.  I appreciate the crunch in my salad.  I listen with full attention when someone is talking to me.  I am aware of sounds and sights around me, that I did not notice before.  Much to my surprise, the biggest change I had to make in my life to practice mindfulness was to stop multi-tasking (something I pride myself on!).  Last week, within a 5 minute timeframe, I noticed that I was on the phone with a relative, partially listening to a documentary on TV, responding to emails and working on my nails – – all at the same time.  Think brain traffic!  I have  noticed that I am addicted to technology and am constantly on my phone, email, facebook, google, etc. – – while doing other things.  It is a tough habit to give up but I’m working on it.  The  benefits are tangible when we are attentive.  What is ordinary can become extraordinary.   It is like living life in discovery and wonder.  So, here is to mindful living!

I invite you to watch another segment of Munira’s Journey called “What if Your Life had an Expiry Date?”.


  • Derek Strachan , February 6, 2014

    Munira, WOW!! Bob@ PMH passed along your contact information. This site is remarkable as is your resiliency and spirit. The video, “…Expiry date?” is powerful on so many levels and inspires the viewer to explore the deeper questions and individual values in their own life. I love that YOU are designing your life not cancer. Derek (Spiritual Care TGH)

    • Premji Family , February 7, 2014

      Wow back Derek! You know how often I have thought of you in the past two years. I never got a chance to say thank you to you for coming to see me when I was in Intensive Care. You helped me get through some of my difficult hours. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not stopped by to chat. I’m so glad you went on the site so we could reconnect. The work that you do is important work. Thank you for being you!

  • Anonymous , February 4, 2014

    Munira, I think this is really powerful. Thanks for recommending some great resources. I’ve had a chance to go through all your “Munira’s Journey” segments as well and I’m just so moved and impressed. The Zurich office recently moved to First Canadian Place, so if you’re ever downtown, let’s get together and I’ll impress you with how well I’ve learned the underground pathway! Love, Patti.

    • Premji Family , February 7, 2014

      Hey Patti! Nagib is also in the First Canadian Place so I’m sure we will be seeing each other soon! My plan is to come downtown on Friday next week. I’ll let you know beforehand. Can’t wait to have you show me the underground pathway. Have a great weekend! Munira

  • bobboulton , January 31, 2014

    Hi Munira. It has been far too long since we connected. I am retired, relocated to Sarnia with my wife, daughter, grandson (& dog), had prostate cancer, am fine, thought about you, have read your blog but couldn’t figure out how to comment or get in touch with you otherwise, gave up, am back!

    You were always a source of joy and inspiration on the JVS HR Committee (true, yes true) and were very much missed – not only professionally (true again, yes true again), but personally (triple true).

    You have clearly accomplished more than most people while you’ve been ill than I have with 98.5% health.

    I am now a follower of your blog; will read in the archives as well; and will think nothing but healthy Anglican thoughts to beam in your direction.

    You are clearly loved by your family and those who know you. What a great gift you have insoired them to give you. Bob.

    • Premji Family , February 7, 2014

      Hi Bob – – I accept all your healthy Anglican thoughts and prayers! Soooooo very nice to hear from you Bob! I did not realize that you had retired. I’m glad you are fine from the prostate cancer (sorry I was not there for you). I see Barb all the time and we talk about JVS. Really enjoyed serving with you on that committee. The blog has been a great way for me to keep connected with people. Every once I a while I think I should stop writing. Your email gives me the encouragement to continue. Wishing you much joy and fulfillment in your retirement Bob. Enjoy your family!

  • Nancy , January 29, 2014

    I took a Mindful Meditation course shortly after being diagnosed with MM. I think that it saved my life. Being able to be in the moment helped me to not go into panic mode, depression, etc about having cancer. When I find myself beginning to spiral out of control I’m able to stop, breathe, and let go. Such valuable lessons to learn and to put into practice.

    • Premji Family , February 7, 2014

      Hi Nancy! I learned last week that when you are in massive panic mode, a good solution is to douse your face with very cold water. It somehow balances stuff in your brain and helps you get out of the panic. I am learning to get better with mindfulness every day!

  • Mina , January 27, 2014

    Hi Munira, I totally believe in that. I have an audio called Mindflness Meditation for Pain Relief, it is by Jon Kabat-Zin and he also has another audio called Full Catastrophe Living, highly recommended.
    Take care and God Bless

    • Premji Family , February 7, 2014

      Hi Mina! I will definitely check out the resources you’ve recommended. Thanks so much for responding. Take good care yourself, Munira

  • Elizabeth Lorimer , January 27, 2014

    Very cool, Munira! I have been taking Mindfulness Meditation classes off and on for some years, and when I can remember to stop the multi-tasking and the heavy brain traffic I do try to preserve at least some of what I do in class to the outside world! Interestingly, my meditation teacher used to be a really senior exec at CIBC, who has turned away from the corporate world to pursue her passion for teaching mindfulness and meditation. If she could slow down and manage it, I figure I should be able to as well… 🙂

    • Premji Family , January 27, 2014

      Hi there! I so love hearing from you! That’s a pretty cool story about the senior exec at CIBC. There is definitely something to be said about meditation and mindfulness…

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