Tag Archives: benefits of meditation

Meditation Benefits and 4 Quick Tips To Assist You

http://MarnieClark.com/meditation-benefits-and-4-quick-tips-to-assist-youMeditation Benefits and 4 Quick Tips To Assist You

One of the things I teach newly diagnosed breast cancer patients is that meditation is wonderful for helping us to heal our bodies. For the majority of people going through breast cancer, learning meditation is one of the best things you can do, for so many reasons.

First, for stress relief (and going through cancer is NOTHING if not stressful). Another powerful reason is that when you are undergoing the various tests and treatments (some of which can also fill you with anxiety, like MRIs, CT-scans, bone scans and the like) knowing how to calm your mind and focus on something else is absolutely vital. That’s just scraping the tip of the iceberg.

Going back to the stress issue, research tells us that meditation is one of the most effective methods to relieve stress. If there’s one thing I hear about all too often from women going through breast cancer, it’s stress. Most tell me that in the lead-up to their cancer diagnosis they were struggling with some form of unrelenting stress. And this, they feel, is what let cancer in the door. It was the same for me.

So why is meditation so powerful?

According to the latest research, meditation can help you “rewire” your brain, so that you are less stressed, you have improved focus and ability to concentrate, less anxiety, more creativity, and your memory can also improve! How great is that!

Do you need some help getting started? If you’re anything like me, I didn’t really know where to begin. I struggled. My mind would NOT shut up. Here are four quick tips that will help you.

Step 1. Prepare for meditation.

Set aside some time – it doesn’t have to be a long time, perhaps just 20 minutes. If you only have two minutes, take two minutes. Those could be the most important two minutes of your day! Get a drink of water. Go to the bathroom if necessary. Shut the door so you can have some quiet time. Find a comfortable position (but not too comfortable or you might fall asleep). Loosen tight clothing. If you want to have meditation music playing in the background, put it on. You could also breathe in essential oils to help you focus your mind if you wish (frankincense, lavender or sandalwood are helpful). These things are helpful, but definitely not a requirement. When I worked in an office, I would just sit in the ladies room and meditate for a few minutes – it was the only place I could find some relative peace and quiet.

Step 2. Relax.

Once you’re in a comfortable position, allow your body and mind to relax. There are many techniques to help you relax and what works for one may not work for another. If you need some help finding a good relaxation technique, click here. Allow your mind to just let go. Let there be no effort involved with this. If you find yourself thinking about something, just let it go by like a cloud floating past in the sky. Try not to feel irritated with yourself, just let it go.

Step 3. Mindfulness.

One of the ways you can utilize meditation is with something called mindfulness meditation. Without getting into too much detail, begin to focus your mind on your breath. Just feel it moving into and out of your body. Be aware of your body in time and space. Allow for stillness. Be present. If your mind wanders off, gently bring it back to the present moment.

Step 4. Notice.

Just begin to notice your mind growing more and more still. Look for the gaps between your thoughts. As one meditation guru puts it, those gaps are where the magic happens. It can’t be described, you just have to wait for it, experience it yourself. It may not happen immediately, but increasingly the stillness of your mind becomes more familiar to you. You may notice that as you sit quietly in meditation, your cold hands or feet get warm – this is a lovely reminder that quieting the mind helps the energy, the chi, flow through you better. I sometimes see swirling colored lights behind my closed eyes, rather like the aurora borealis. I notice my nervous system quieting and calming. Meditation is like a healing balm for the nerves.

I hope that helps, but if you still have questions, I created a series of 7 videos answering questions about meditation. Check them out, your question might be answered in one of them.

Why Should I Meditate?
How Do I Keep My Mind From Wandering?
How Do I Find Time to Meditate?
How Do You Know You’re Meditating and Not Just Sitting There?
What Is the Best Meditation Technique For Beginners?
Can I Use Meditation for Healing?
Teaching You How to Meditate

From Ian Gawler, cancer survivor, author, and meditation/health teacher:

Having prepared well, we relax.

Relaxing more deeply, we become more mindful.

As our mindfulness develops, the stillness naturally reveals itself.

We rest in open, undistracted awareness.

There is nothing to do. Simply be aware. Open. Undistracted. Aware.

It is as simple, and as difficult as that.”

Need Help With Your Meditation Practice?

Back in 2004 when I was going through treatments for my breast cancer, I knew that meditation could hold the key to my struggle with stress, and thus possibly the key to my healing.

But I had a very hard time finding a good guided meditation for cancer patients that would lead me through a series of calming visualizations and help me to focus my mind. There were lots of meditation CDs available (no downloads then!) and I tried most of them, but each one had something that drove me crazy – it would be intrusive background music or the person narrating it would have some annoying trait. I finally decided to create my own how-to-meditate course, called Change Your Life Meditation Course (click that link to find out more).

I created it for people who lived in small towns without access to meditation classes, for busy people who just wanted some help and guidance with their meditation practice. If that sounds good to you, click here.

Not sure? Want a free sample? Check out my free guided meditation. This is the very meditation I used each and every day (instead of radiation, but that’s a whole different story).

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Fear-of-Dying-Changing-the-MindsetThe Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

One of the things I hear most frequently, as I work with women dealing with breast cancer and all that it entails, is the fear of dying. We talk about it in hushed tones, as if we are afraid to even utter the words “I might die from this.” I went through exactly the same thing when I was working on healing from breast cancer. It is a common thread among nearly every single person fighting cancer. In this post I will share with you some things that helped me with that fear of dying and what you can do to change your mindset.

“Many people facing life-threatening illness begin by being scared of dying. This is not surprising and often this fear leads to a high motivation to get well. However, if the focus is ‘I don’t want to die’, from the mind’s point of view, what is the target, what is the goal? Obviously, the dying! An important step in getting well is to shift the focus onto living and finding what there is to live for – the passion. In comparison with trying not to die, there is far more healing in focusing on living and living well. We are healed by what we turn towards, far more than what we turn away from. When we affirm life, healing is a much greater possibility.” – Ian Gawler, excerpted from “The Creative Power of Imagery“.

I found these words by Ian Gawler to be immensely comforting. They were kind of like a re-set button for my overworked brain when I was going through breast cancer. Reading those words, I realized that he was absolutely right. Changing your mindset from “I don’t want to die” to “I am living each day with passion, love and healing” may not be easy but it’s SO worth the developing this skill. Here are some tips to help you.

1. LEARN TO LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE – Recognize that your inner voice is your touchstone, your guide as to how you are feeling. It’s also good to help you discover whether or not you are making progress. By listening to what your inner voice has to say, you can learn much about yourself. If you find that your everyday thoughts are filled with negative criticism, stress, self-blame, regrets and fear, get some help. Find a practitioner of EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a healing technique that (in simple terms) relies on tapping on acupuncture meridians, employing the use of neurolinguistic programming and positive thinking to change negative thoughts and beliefs into more positive ones, and it seems to do this on not only the mental level, but also energetically and spiritually. It may seem like a simplistic solution, but it can be quite powerful.

2. MAKE A CHOICE TO TURN NEGATIVE THOUGHTS INTO POSITIVE – We all have down days, but by paying close attention to negative thoughts when they occur, you can make the choice to turn away from negativity and embrace more positive, harmonious thoughts. Why is this important? Because we ARE what we think. Engaging in positive thinking changes you, both energetically and physically, from someone who is full of self-blame, stress, recrimination, and negativity to someone who is open, loving toward themselves and others, motivated, and more healthy. Yes, I said that – more healthy. Research shows that positive thoughts actually change your brain! It’s a whole new area of science called neuroplasticity. By engaging in positive thought and positive activity, you can rewire your brain and strengthen areas of the brain that stimulate positive feelings and emotions. Here’s something you can try. When you find yourself in that cycle of negative thinking, worrying or obsessing, there are three things that can help:
a. When the worry and fear hit, mentally yell “Stop!” (I even envision a big red STOP sign).
b. Remind yourself that the worry is not real – it’s something your brain has conjured up. Tell that worry to sit down and shut up!
c. Reframe your negative thinking by focusing on more positive or distracting thoughts. Mentally switch gears and choose to think about something you love. Redirect your actions – go do something uplifting or fun. This might take the shape of helping a neighbor, calling someone you love, taking a walk, making a healthy smoothie. Make a list of things you love to do – and I suggest this because sometimes when you are down and depressed, you have difficulty even thinking of something uplifting to do that will make you feel better. Get the list out! Start doing more of those things!
After awhile, you will notice things changing and improvements in your way of thinking. The key is to do these 3 things EVERY SINGLE TIME you begin to worry or obsess. This breaks the pattern and helps you to rewire your brain.

3. TRY MEDITATION – Another amazing thing to rewire your brain is meditation. One American study on loving-kindness meditation, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015 [1], found that one hour of loving-kindness meditation PER WEEK (and certainly we can find one hour per week) “enhanced a wide range of positive emotions in a wide range of situations” for those taking the time to do the meditation. Interestingly, even after three months post-experiment, the people who practiced meditation daily continued to enjoy increased mindfulness, better social support, purpose in life, and (most importantly) decreased illness symptoms. The reasons for taking up meditation are many. You only have to Google the words “benefits of meditation” to be rewarded with hundreds of studies and articles touting meditation. If you need help with meditation, see my page where I talk about it.

The Bottom Line

What I came to realize is that by living with the fear of dying ever present in my mind, I was closing myself off to living NOW. I was projecting myself to some far-off day in the future when things might not be too good. By learning to live in the here and now, I lost that fear of dying. I came to understand that living in the present moment was one of the most powerful gifts a person can give to themselves. Because what do we really have other than the present moment? If we are truly alive in the here and now, we are quiet observers. We can really taste what we are eating and enjoy every mouthful. We notice the color of the sky. We hear that bird singing its heart out. We see the spark of love in our husband’s eyes. We see our children changing and growing. And really – what is more important than these things? Focus on the things you love and that fear will melt away. And you just may find that the energy you have freed up helps you to heal as well.

Please be aware that someone with a serious mood disorder or depression may require the help of a trained counselor. If you are suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please see a trained professional to help you get to the root of the problem.

References:
[1] Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/

The Creative Power of Imagery by Dr Ian Gawler, ISBN 0855722819

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

10 Anxiety Busters for Breast Cancer Patients

10 Anxiety Busters for Breast Cancer Patients
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and imagerymajestic

Anxiety can be a pervasive and unwanted feeling when you have a cancer diagnosis.   Between worry about the disease itself and the side effects of the treatments (over 50% reported feelings of anxiety and depression while undergoing certain chemotherapy drugs), it can be a very trying time.

Fortunately, integrative medicine can offer many solutions, approaches and strategies for anxiety suffered by breast cancer patients.  I took advantage of most of these at one time or another during my breast cancer journey and they really did assist me with the anxiety I felt.

10 Anxiety Busters for Breast Cancer Patients

  1. Creating Healthier Beliefs – A cancer diagnosis can scare the heck out of you.  The problem with the word “cancer” is that all kinds of beliefs are attached to it.  Those beliefs can unconsciously drive our decisions, feelings, coping abilities, attitudes, life choices, and more.  I’m here to tell you that “cancer” does not mean “death”.  For me, cancer was actually a gift.  It forced me to create a healthier, happier lifestyle, to deal with stress and go forward into a life I really wanted and chose for myself.  Here’s an article I wrote that may assist: Newly Diagnosed – Dealing With Anxiety and Fear.
  2. Destress – Choose what works for you – special breathing, relaxation techniques, creative imagery, learn the benefits of meditation.
  3. Nutrition – It’s true that you are what you eat.  If you choose pre-packaged, soulless foods, it creates havoc in your body and you will feel the effects of that.  Eating organic, raw (whenever possible), fresh produce supports your wellness.
  4. Support Groups, Breast Cancer Forums, Spirituality Groups – This can be hard if you’re not a “joiner”.  But oh-so-wonderful if you can get past that.  A problem shared is a problem halved.  You will be supported by wonderful people who will help you deal with all of the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis.  Research shows that women who join support groups have a much longer life expectancy.
  5. Essential Oils – Use a calming oil like Lavender (put it on your pillow at night) to help you relax and relieve anxious feelings.
  6. Sleep – A restful and deep sleep helps to restore balance.  Healthy adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep nightly, so if you’re healing you might need more than that.  Trouble sleeping?  See Item 7.
  7. Bodywork – Massage, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch: try it all.  Bodywork is so fantastic for destressing, detoxifying, boosting your immune system.  I found it absolutely indispensable.
  8. Exercise and Movement – Daily exercise and movement practices reduce stress and provide many other health benefits to body, mind, and spirit.  Yoga is especially supportive if you’re too tired to walk or go to the gym.  On some days I really had to force myself to roll out my mat and start my practice, but once I did, I felt so much better.
  9. Detox Your Body – Traditional Chinese Medicine has some wonderful herbs to help you detoxify while you’re undergoing your cancer treatments.  If you’re too toxic that can certainly lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.  Herbs can also help with some of the associated chemo-constipation.  After you’re done with chemotherapy, that’s a wonderful time to get a series of colonics to further detoxify your body.
  10. Do What You Love – Now is the time to give yourself permission to shift your focus.  Move your attention into a lighter direction.  Do what brings you joy.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.