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).
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