Every human is born with a time limit on this earth. While a lifetime may seem long to some, for others it can be cut suddenly short with little to no notice. For example, a terminal diagnosis—or learning that your chronic disease or condition is no longer medically treatable—can feel like a fast-approaching death sentence. It’s enough to leave a anyone feeling imprisoned by their own thoughts and concerns.

“This is when some people mentally shut down and are basically living in their heads thinking about the past and regrets or the future, like what’s going to happen to their family,” says Susan Bauer-Wu, Ph.D., R.N., the director of the Compassionate Care Initiative at the University of Virginia, and author of the book, Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious & Life-Limiting Illness Through Mindfulness, Compassion, and Connectedness. “Because they are pulled in the past or the future, I think mindfulness can help them live more fully.”

In this video interview with Sonia Jones, Bauer-Wu explains how a contemplative practice can help patients facing a life-limiting illness learn how to be more calm, think more clearly, accept love and care, and make the most of the time they have.