10 Years After - A Meditation Technique

After the chaos of the holidays, it's time to rest and repair

After the chaos of the holidays, it's time to rest and repair

Battling a chronic illness is hard. It’s draining physically, emotionally and mentally. While I can control most of the external influences, it is very difficult to control the emotional and mental. When you suffer day in and day out with various and sundry symptoms your perspective on life changes. Which, in turn, effects your disposition. That’s why it’s especially important to take care of your mental health as well. I’m not talking about keeping a positive attitude. I’ll be the first person to tell-off someone who’s telling me to “just think positive.” I’m talking about giving your mind and emotions a break. I’m talking about allowing your mind to check out so it’s not focused on absolutely everything, especially the negative. I’m talking about learning a medication technique called concentration meditation.

A short time ago, I attended a Lyme picnic where I listened to the guest speaker, Jordan Fisher Smith, share some of his own personal advice. It wasn’t the typical eat right, take your meds kind of advice, it was really good advice. It was the sort of advice that chronically ill people need to be reminded of from time to time. It was about how we can help ourselves to heal. One way he mentioned was to take care of our whole being. He went way beyond just “positive thinking.” He guided us through a meditation exercise that opened my eyes to my reality. He asked us to imagine ourselves 10 years after Lyme. It was enlightening.

As any chronically ill person is aware, the person we were before we became ill is often difficult to remember. We may see glimpses of that person in the mirror every once in a while, but overall who we are has changed, significantly. That makes it that much harder to imagine ourselves without the illness. So when Smith asked us to visualize ourselves 10 years after Lyme, I scoffed. How could I when I couldn’t even remember what normal was like? I’ve been sick for 16 years, so it was going to take some effort to see myself as a healthy person, free from the restrictions of my illness. But since he was willing to be our guide, I’d give it a try.

After all, there is evidence that meditation can, among other benefits:

-Lower blood pressure

-Improve circulation

-Lower heart rate

-Lessen anxiety

-Promote deeper relaxation

5 steps to concentration meditation: 

(where you’re focusing on one thought or image.)

1. Focus

Focus on your breath and being; just take stock. Inhale, exhale-just breathing normally. If it helps you focus, play a nice relaxing soundtrack of meditation music or singing bowls.

(I closed my eyes and focused on the hard wooden bench under my derriere, my feet planted on the ground, the rock beneath my shoe. The damp cold and since we were outside, the birds chittering.) In other words, notice everything.

2. Turn your focus inward

Then turn your focus inward and focus on your thoughts, clear your mind. Visualize your safe place. The one place that you always feel at peace. Think about it, put yourself there and use your senses (taste, touch, sound, smell, sight) the more details the better. These steps can take time to master, so you may need to try it for two or three minutes at a time until you can keep your focus. If stray thoughts enter your mind, simply refocus on creating the image.

(For me, my safe place is a forest; moss claiming the old growth trees, trodden litter fall beneath my feet, a cool breeze caressing my face and the smell of damp earth. In the real world, it’s where I’ve always been able to go to ground myself, to calm my mind and to refill my soul.)

3. Expand on your vision

(Smith guided us to imagine another person in our vision. Ourselves, 10 years after Lyme.)

Imagine yourself ‘after.’ Approach that person. How do you look? Walk? Talk? Act?

4. Not to sound like Yoda, but feel the force

Linger here as long as you can. Have a conversation with yourself if you can take it that far, ask yourself the questions you are afraid to consider. Then, step into that new you. How does it feel?

I didn’t have  a conversation, but I did step inside. That feeling, of me taking over the future, healthy, me’s body, well that’s when the tears started to sting the backs of my eyes. Because I could feel it, or rather I couldn’t feel it; I didn’t feel the pain and stiffness and worry and stress. My body moved easily, smoothly, my heart and mind were light and clear. I could feel the force. That’s when I realized that I have not been taking proper care of my whole self. Oh, I was doing everything I could to keep my physical body healthy enough to fight this disease, but I had done almost nothing to make sure that my mind and emotions were taken care of. At that moment, meditation became my new priority.

5. Practice

(Our session took maybe four or five minutes. For the first time, that was long enough.) It takes practice to learn to control your thoughts and calm your mind. Therefore, practice everyday. Try to stay focused on controlling your thoughts and just sit in your safe place for a few minutes. Then try for a minute or so more each time. If you can’t make it into the future you right away, that’s okay. Eventually, you’ll work your way up to visualizing yourself “10 years after.” And once you do, pay very close attention to how it makes you feel. The hope you feel after, the renewed focus and hopefully you’re a little more relaxed.

Let’s face it, chronic illness takes you through one hell of a roller coaster journey. And it adds a weight that can feel like cement blocks dragging you to the bottom of the bay. Having that weight released, even for a short few minutes, is an awakening. That is a feeling that I strive for each time I meditate. Because yeah, now I meditate. I’m cool like that.


Balancing Chronic Illness and Social Life

Balancing Chronic Illness and Social Life.jpg

The hardest thing to find in life is balance. Even without dealing with a chronic condition, it can be hectic. Throw a chronic illness in the mix and it becomes extremely difficult to have a life that is in harmony. When someone finds themselves dealing with Lyme disease or other chronic conditions, it is a long road of ups and downs. Some days you feel worse than others, and this not knowing how you’re going to feel from one day to the next, becomes a social life killer. I personally have had to cancel plans, get togethers, trips, miss out on special occasions and holiday gatherings because of symptoms that come unplanned.

The question is, how do you balance friends and a social life while suffering from a chronic illness?

Plan for recovery: For me, if I go out with friends or do something that I know is going to be very strenuous and cause stress on my body, I make sure that I plan to have enough recovery time. The next day or 2 or 3, (or sometimes even a week depending on the activity), I have to allow my body to rest. Rest and relaxation is very important when you are suffering with any kind of illness and is very important in order for your body to heal itself. In addition to relaxing, I will also try to do things that help my body recover, such as Epsom salt baths or doing some yoga or meditation, or maybe even getting a massage/energy healing the next day.

Invite them in: If your friends are understanding about your condition, you can invite them to come to you and have them hang out and watch a movie with you, have lunch, etc. If you can’t go out, let them come to you. One friend of mine, who also suffered from Lyme but is now fully recovered, always offers to come drive out to see me and she lives quite a distance away, so it’s always nice to get a visit from her. But then, I would also drive out to see her when I was feeling up to it.

Rest before: When you have more formal events to attend such as a wedding, shower, etc., be sure to give yourself plenty of rest beforehand. Also, try not to do any aggressive treatments/supplements right before the event so that you are not herxing or flaring. It might be a good idea to do an Epsom salt bath the day or night before. I found that it’s always a good idea to give your friends/family a heads up if you are having a bad day so that if you have to leave in the middle of a function they will be more understanding about unpredicted symptoms.

Know your triggers: If certain events and situations aggravate your symptoms, try to prepare for or avoid them. For example, if you have light sensitivities and your friend suggests a movie, suggest another activity that is easier on your body. It’s about the time together, not the activity.

Now, if you’re like me and you are good at hiding how you feel and you are the type of person who pushes themselves even though you know in the back of your mind that it’s probably not a good idea, then I strongly recommend that you refrain yourself from trying to do more than you can handle. I know that it’s easier said than done and sometimes we feel pressured into doing things, but sometimes you have to be selfish and do what is best for you and if that means staying home and resting every once in a while, then that’s ok.

On the other hand, most people wouldn’t even consider getting out of bed if they were experiencing the pain levels that most of us with Lyme disease are experiencing. You don’t know if you can do something until you try. You may have to force yourself but start out slow. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I’m lying in bed, or if I’m moving around, the pain is going to be there no matter what. Why should you let it stop you from living your life? I know that this is easier said than done and it’s hard to just ignore the pain, but we have to train our brains to think positively and keep telling ourselves that we are going to conquer this disease. Just because you attempt to engage in normal activities does not mean that you’re having a good day, it just means that you are choosing to be stronger than your illness. You can’t always let it win!

Unfortunately, life is always going to be a balancing act, whether you’re dealing with an illness or not. Try not to worry about losing your friends, because if they are “true” friends they will stick by you. All you can do is try your best and stop worrying about what the rest of the world is going to think.

For more blogs and helpful resources visit us at www.lymewarrior.us.

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