When you live with a chronic illness, such as an autoimmune disease, Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, everyone you know has great advice to offer.
There is one piece of advice that I have recently started putting to the test; and this one gets my stamp of approval.
Meditation. I know, it sounds kind of hokey. For years I would just nod and smile when anyone suggested meditation as a potential piece to the treatment puzzle. I was more than a skeptic. I considered people who meditated to be in the same category as tree huggers and hippies. However, much to my surprise, I find myself on a spiritual journey which now includes meditation.
Hearing Oprah’s interview with Deepak Chopra on the benefits of meditation resonated with me. Perhaps I just needed to be ready to hear the message, but maybe there was some benefit to be gained after all? What could it hurt to just try, for a few weeks? Three weeks to be exact. Deepak and Oprah offered her audience a free Meditation Challenge. Twenty-one days of Deepak’s velvety voice and some sweet yoga tunes and I was HOOKED! (http://www.meditationoasis.com/about/benefits-of-meditation/)
I am now generally calmer. I notice a decrease in how easily I startle and in how easily I become anxious or angry! Twenty minutes a day is all it takes. “Meditation conserves energy,” according to Mary Ricks, the owner of Awakening Point Yoga Studio in Hackettstown NJ. (www.awakeningpoint.com). During meditation the heart rate and respiratory rate slow way down. When I get into meditation deeply, I feel as if I am barely breathing.
Meditation is so easy and can be done anywhere. You don’t have to be in a certain position, just be comfortable (although sitting you are less likely to just fall asleep!) It’s also important to go somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. Any room with a closed door works, as does a car or even the beautiful outdoors, as long as you won’t be disturbed.
Once I am comfortable I take three good breaths. In through the nose as deeply as I can, and out through the mouth slowly. For the next two or three minutes I just sit. Thoughts and ideas run through my mind. I pay them no attention. I just let them come and watch them go, like an observer. Soon my chatterbox brain starts to slow and then I can begin my mantra.
A mantra can help you to transition into meditation. Some people use Om which is the universal sound, (om is the whole universe coalesed into a single sound and represents the union of mind, body, and spirit. (www.yoga.about.com/od/howtospeakyoga/g/om.htm)
but I prefer So Hum, which, in Sanskrit means “I am That”. (“So Hum literally means “I am That” (So = “That” or “Thou” or “Divinity”; Hum = “I am”)… the mantra’s aim is to bring about this union… between your individual consciousness and Divine Consciousness. http://anmolmehta.com/blog/2007/05/16/so-hum-mantra-meditation-technique-free-guided-meditation-book-for-daily-practice/ So, “I am That” means that I am That which is the Divine, or the flip-side of that, That which is the Divine, is within me. It acknowledges that the spirit of the Divine resides within each one of us. I know this is kind of heavy stuff!
Now some days I’m better at it than others. Some days I get jolted out of meditation by a barking dog or someone looking for me. Those days I remind myself that they call it a Meditation “practice” for a reason! I am a student, a novice if you will. Other days I am able to let go of the mantra at some point and just “be” there in the stillness, that space where there is no thought. Time seems to stop, and yet much more time has passed than I realize. These are the moments where you are truly connecting with that part of you which created you.
Eventually I come back to my consciousness and end with a few deep breaths and a gentle stretch before opening my eyes. Once I am “back” and fully aware again, I feel very rested, as if I had taken a really good nap.
Another benefit to meditation is the reduction of chronic pain. (http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/Therapeutic-Centers/Pain-Management.aspx?ChunkID=13571 )
I assume that this works because you get into a level of relaxation that you would not normally be experiencing during your waking hours. One suggestion here is to use what you can to support your best posture. If you need to sit in a certain chair by all means do that. If you need to relax your folded arms on a table then do that, if you need to put a pillow or two in your lap to lay your arms on, try that. The pose we are all used to seeing is “Indian-style” on the floor with your elbows on your thighs and your index finger and thumb pressed together on each hand. But that is a young healthy person’s pose. If it would cause you any discomfort or difficulty in getting back up, find what works for you.
The benefits mentioned so far were kind of expected when I thought about what meditation had to offer. I had heard about the benefits of meditation over the years from different sources, but there were a few surprise benefits; benefits that were completely unexpected.
First, meditation has gotten my creative juices flowing! I have wanted to write two different books for years now. I had started on the one that made more sense to me months ago but put the project on hold back in April when my husband was hospitalized and extremely ill. That book is basically my journey with this chronic illness, however, through meditation; the idea for the other book has just taken over like a runaway train! Ideas and thoughts are flooding my mind. When I finally sit down to write again, I believe that this book will write itself!
And lastly, since beginning a daily meditation practice, I have tapped into a piece of my mind that lay dormant for some thirty years. I have a form of ESP (extra-sensory perception) that I have not tinkered with since I was in high school. I have been experiencing this gift with a frequency and intensity that I had forgotten existed.
So many people over the years have recommended meditation to me. When the entire world has been doing something for centuries, maybe I’d be smart to listen.