Our bodies are incredible self-healing machines, from the simplest paper cut to the deadliest flu.
But sometimes the body's self-repair mechanisms shut off and you end up with a chronic health condition that completely derails your life. And so you start looking for answers in all sorts of places — some good, some not so good.
Meditation is among the good things to adopt in your quest for better health.
Now, to know how to meditate for healing, you naturally pick meditations designed for the purpose, right? Well, in this article, I discuss one such meditation I use in my own daily practice. But before we get to that, let's first talk about the link between meditation and healing.
HOW MEDITATION HELPS YOU HEAL
Why don't our bodies always recover from illnesses? It's a million-dollar question with many explanations, a couple of which meditation directly addresses: stress and negative thinking.
When you're in a constant state of fight or flight, your immune response weakens, making you more susceptible to illnesses which your body can't defend against. [source]
If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent. – Pema Chodron #meditation
Did you know we have between 50-70 thousand thoughts per day, which works out to 35-48 thoughts per minute? [source] How many of those lift us up versus tear us down? I'd wager most of us have FAR more negative thoughts circulating in our heads. And like stress, negative thinking lowers our immune system. [source]
So, how can you expect to get better when your immune system is running on empty? Well, this is where meditation can help...
Meditation deactivates the stress response and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which puts you in a deep state of rest. It's in this state when self-healing and regeneration take place. It also gives rise to a more positive state of mind which impacts your brain, nervous system, and physical body.
Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in the field of meditation and healing, has shown how meditation improves all kinds of conditions ranging from physical ailments like headaches and chronic pain to mental conditions like depression and anxiety. [source]
In short, meditation can make a HUGE difference in the quality of your life.
IS MEDITATION A CURE-ALL?
As someone suffering from a chronic illness, the "C" word (cure) is a dangerous word to bandy about, especially when there's so much snake oil claiming to cure everything under the sun nowadays. Having said that, there's strong evidence to suggest meditation and positive thinking does aid healing as I've noted with Dr. Benson's work.
One book that drives this idea home is Dr. Lissa Rankin's Mind Over Medicine, which shows just how much control we have over our bodies. It's an inspiring book with lots of examples of sick people overcoming illnesses through the power of their minds.
But it doesn't account for the people who don't get better despite doing all the right things, including maintaining a regular meditation practice.
So, I don't want to get your hopes up and suggest meditation alone is enough to overcome a serious health condition, even if you believe most illnesses stem from the mind/consciousness (which I'm highly skeptical of).
I meditate 30 minutes per day and while it definitely helps my well-being, I can't say it's made much difference to my physical health. But who knows, perhaps that's still to come. I believe meditation is a wonderful and perhaps even essential tool but only when done along with things that treat the physical component of your illness. Assuming you've got that part covered, let's now get into healing with meditation.
HOW TO MEDITATE FOR HEALING
Pick a Time and Place
The benefits of meditation are cumulative so it's better to maintain a regular practice of 5 minutes per day, every day, than 30 minutes once per week. 5 minutes per day isn't a lot but it's enough to start feeling its effects without making great demands on your time. Still, it's easy to forget to do so try to meditate at the same time every day, whether it's first thing in the morning or right before bed.
If possible, find a quiet place in your home to designate to your meditation practice, even a small closet will do so long as no one will disturb you. Also, make sure to shut off your TV and phone before you start. And to set the right mood, use candles and/or incense, if you'd like.
Position Yourself Correctly
Meditation doesn't have to mean twisting yourself into a pretzel just to get into a lotus position. For our purposes, it's fine to sit on a stool or hard chair. Just make sure to:
- Place your feet on the floor
- Place your hands on your thighs or knees
- Keep your back straight
- Keep your shoulders back
- Keep your neck straight
- Keep your head straight
- Tilt your eyes slightly downward and keep them either slightly opened or closed (I try to leave them open since I tend to doze off otherwise)
There are many types of meditation but among the best for healing is the body scan combined with guided imagery. It involves several moments of intense concentration on different parts of the body while imagining healing taking place in those areas.
The healing source can be represented as a bright light or golden light healing every cell of your body or something like tiny Pacmans chomping away at the pathogens infecting you. Basically, go with whatever imagery works best for you.
What you're doing is flooding your body with consciousness/awareness and it's unlike anything you've experienced. Seriously, when's the last time you REALLY focused on your ankle (setting aside pain and injuries)? Probably never, right? Your body will LOVE all this attention and it's almost like your cells bounce back to life after a long slumber.
So here's what to do…
Take 2 or 3 deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Breathe normally afterward.
Count your breaths slowly from 1 to 10, repeating the cycle a few more times until you feel focused and relaxed.
Picture your body filling up slowly with healing white light (or whatever healing imagery you choose).
Direct the healing white light to every area of your body for 10-30 seconds each, feeling the energy as intensely as you can.
START FROM YOUR FEET AND WORK UP TO YOUR HEAD IN THIS ORDER:
8. Entire Lower Body
9. Lower Back
21. Entire Head
10. Upper Back
16. Upper Chest
22. Entire Upper Body
23. Whole Body *
12. Upper Arms
* Feel as a single field of energy
Gently come out of the meditation by wiggling your fingers and toes and slowly opening your eyes if they've been closed.
Acknowledge that healing has taken place and recite the positive affirmation...
I'm healing today and every day. My health is moving in the right direction.
Relax for 1-2 minutes to give your body the chance to absorb your intention.
TIPS FOR YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE
- Don't attempt hour-long marathon sessions if you're a newcomer to meditation. Results won't come quicker and you'll likely quit in frustration. Instead, start with 5 minutes and work up to 20-30 minutes per session.
- If you find it hard to meditate without external stimuli, try the free version of Calm.com for some nice scenery, soothing sounds and a timer to keep you on track. Alternately, watch any number of free guided meditation videos on YouTube. For instance, here's a body scan video I regularly use to combine with my guided imagery exercise (highly recommended!):
- You'll be distracted when meditating, that's a given. No sooner than taking your first deep breath after sitting down, your mind will start to wander…
What should I make for dinner?
I really need to get my car washed.
Should I buy Stephen King's latest book on Kindle or paperback? (okay, maybe that's just me).
Rest assured, there's NOTHING you're doing wrong! EVERYONE has a "monkey mind," even monks who've meditated for decades on end! So, don't get discouraged and think you're not cut out for this. Instead, acknowledge your thoughts by calling them out as they pop up…
Oh, Hi Mr. Criticizer!
Hey there, trip down memory lane!
What's up, party pooper!
With this approach, you instantly diffuse the thought, making it easier to return to your breath and body scan/guided imagery exercise. Just stick with your meditation and in time and with enough consistent practice, the distractions will dial down.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
Have you meditated before? What was your experience like? Leave your comments below!