MEDITATION

Meditation for Healing

Someone following my professional Facebook page reached out to me recently asking for any spiritual exercises to help relieve the pain, fear and discomfort associated with having cancer.  Meditation, creative visualization and dance movement are the core modalities of my INsideOUT program.  While I am not struggling with disease, I have experienced the benefit of these mind-body tools to help relieve stress, let go of judgment, and bring healing in profound ways.  I put together this list of exercises and resources to hopefully bring a little more comfort to those dealing with cancer, and for those that want to enliven their self-healing abilities.

Mind-body tools like guided imagery, guided meditation and hypnosis for cancer have been used for decades by oncology patients seeking help for pain, fatigue, anxiety and treatment-related nausea, but it’s only recently that research has demonstrated the full range of what these techniques can do.

Not only do these methods help enormously with the side effects, fears and discomforts surrounding cancer treatment that involves chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplantation, biopsies, medical procedures and surgery, but we’ve learned it can actually boost the body’s natural cancer-fighting abilities, heightening the activity of NK cells, T-cells and other immune mechanisms.

Similarly, yoga, affirmations and mindfulness meditation have also been found effective in helping cancer patients manage stress and support their bodies’ built-in, self-healing abilities.  Relaxation techniques and other mind/body practices can help calm your mind and sharpen your ability to focus. These techniques offer creative ways to reduce stress caused by cancer and to maintain inner peace. For example, some people use these techniques to help them relax as they wait for treatments or test results.

Here are some techniques that can help you cope with the challenges of cancer:

Breathing Exercises

At the core of life is breath. Laughing and sighing are the body’s natural ways of getting us to breathe deeply.

That is why we often feel calmer or rejuvenated after these experiences. Anxiety and stress can make us take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing, which does not allow enough oxygen to enter our bodies, can make us even more anxious. Try this four-step breathing exercise. It can be done anywhere, anytime:

1. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm (this is the muscle between your lungs and abdomen).

2. Hold the breath for several seconds—however long is comfortable for you—and then exhale slowly.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two more times.

4. Afterward, relax for a moment and let yourself feel the experience of being calm.

Meditation

Repetitive prayers are a form of meditation. Two other traditional forms of meditation include one-pointed and two-pointed meditation.

One-pointed meditation focuses on a word or sound called a mantra. Many people create their own mantra from an affirming word, such as “peace,” “love” or “hope.” Once you choose a mantra, find a safe, quiet place and repeat it to yourself during 15- to 20-minute sittings. The goal is to relax the mind, which has a natural tendency to jump from one idea to the next—and from one worry to the next. Do not try to force your mind back to your mantra when you notice it has wandered. Simply guide it back gently, accepting that it may stray again.

Two-pointed meditation is also called mindful or insight meditation. With this technique, you relax your mind by focusing on your breath. As your mind jumps around, practice non-judgmental awareness—simply observe the pattern of your thoughts and gently guide them back to focus on your breath. Non-judgmental awareness allows you to separate yourself from emotions and sensations rather than getting pulled into them. One benefit of this type of meditation is that you can practice it while seated quietly or when doing daily activities.

Guided Imagery

This stress-reducing technique combines deep breathing and meditation. As you practice deep breathing, imagine a peaceful scene or setting, perhaps from a memory. Once you are relaxed, you can create a “wakeful dream” in which, for example, you envision pain being washed away or your body becoming stronger.

Many people practice guided imagery exercises while listening to recordings of ambient sounds. These are usually music or sounds from nature, such as waterfalls or ocean waves. Sometimes just listening to ambient sounds is enough to relax your mind and briefly transport you emotionally to a place in which you feel safer and more secure. Other mind/body practices are yoga, dance movement and tai chi.

For my free guided meditation, go here.

For free guided imagery audio downloads, including an introduction to guided imagery from the Comprehensive Cancer Center, click here

Other resources:

*Free recorded guided visualizations that you can download, go to the Sound Mind, Sound Body link. Enter User Name:  SandraJ    Password: Healing

Recording titles that are relevant: “Break Time”, “Cancer Be Gone”, “Oasis of Comfort”

*Return to Wholeness,  a Mind Body approach to healing cancer, DVD by Deepak Chopra.

*Cancer, Discovering your Healing Powers audio download by Louise Hay

*Deep Meditation for Healing audio download by Anita Moorjani

I hope these exercises bring a little more peace and comfort to you.

Love,

Tara xo

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Tips for Creating a Daily Meditation Practice

What happens when we are so busy pushing and doing in life? I’ll speak from experience. I wake with worry and lots of thoughts in my head, usually a conversation with myself continued from the day before. I get distracted and irritated easily. I muscle my way through things, exerting a lot of energy. I race around attempting to complete every item on my to-do list, to no avail. I get caught in thought patterns that go round and round and don’t resolve. 

With all the busyness of life, work, family and domestic responsibilities, it is easy to feel depleted and overwhelmed. My daily meditation practice has become even more important in my life, and helps to anchor me and creates an energy reserve that I don’t get in other ways. 

When I begin my day with meditation I have a completely different experience than the stressful one described above. I feel more calm and in tune with the flow of my life. I have trust that everything is as it’s supposed to be, and I am guided and supported. I sleep better. I am more patient with my children. Time seems to slow down and actually warp in my favor. I get more done. Solutions and creativity flow effortlessly. I feel at peace and excited for my future. I am clear and knowing and trust my instincts.  The list goes on and on from this place of connection and calm, and I have to say it's so much better this way.

The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily.  It’s easy to say you don’t have time, but spending 20 minutes daily opens up a world of possibilities and it’s really about quality of life at this point, isn’t it? Twenty minutes of nourishing time that is worth a million dollars. 

Here are a few tips to help you set up a daily practice.  

  • Set your meditation at the same time every day. If it’s not scheduled, it probably won’t happen. Carving out a specific time each day helps establish a routine. For me, I meditate after I drop my kids off at school. Maybe it happens after your kids are in bed (if you have kids), or when you first wake. It doesn’t take long to center and connect with your breath.  Set aside 20 minutes, or more if you can, in a quiet, uninterrupted space.  

  • Create an inspiring space that feels good to you and is inviting. It could be as simple as pillows propped up on your bed, or an altar in a nook in your house somewhere, or outside in nature under a tree. I use a meditation cushion and an altar with images, crystals and objects that remind me of the light and beauty I have around me. 

  • Begin with a ritual. Doing the same thing every time when you begin your meditation creates a habit and sets an intention for your practice. I always light a candle, burn a few pieces of sage and set an intention.  Sometimes my intention is just to empty out. Sometimes I want clarity and direction on something in my life.  Other times I ask for assistance with something specific. Trust your instincts on this. 

  • Read a passage from an inspiring book to help you connect to the larger lessons and truths of your life. There are universal spiritual truths that have been shared and expressed in many beautiful ways, and sometimes the perfect message can be just for you at the perfect time. Many of my poetry and self-transformative books are read before my meditation practice. The words of wisdom create an opening and help me to see things in new ways.  I bring that with me into my practice. 

  • Do it, even when you don’t feel like it.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Sit in your space and let the heaviness of where you are turn into fresh sacred ground. Let the earth catch any worry or upset, let the heavens flood you with beautiful light. You don’t have to do a thing except deepen your breath and soften your heart.

  • When you meditate, gently close your eyes and focus on your breath. I like to use the Ujjayi breath, an ancient yogic breathing technique that releases feelings of irritation, and helps calm the mind and body. With your eyes closed, gently close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 5 seconds and then gently release through your nose for 5 seconds. If your mind is very active, you can use a mantra, a single word like "love" or "peace" to help you to relax. Focus on your inner third eye or gently gaze at the ground and let the breath take you deeper into yourself. 

Wishing you all luck and fun as you greet yourself through meditation. I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below to let me know how it is going. I will be leading a 30 day meditation challenge beginning August 1st for those who want to join. Follow me on Instagram for intention setting, guided video meditations, inspiration and support!

Can’t Sit Still to Meditate, Try This!

From Tara's article on Mind Body Green 

Do you have a hard time unplugging from your fast paced life of work, to-do lists, life responsibilities?  Do you have a desire to meditate because you know it will quiet the mind and bring inner peace, but it’s challenging to sit still?

I absolutely relate!  I can easily get caught in trying to do more, be more, accomplish more, and most certainly get distracted with the habitual checking of my phone, emails and texts.  Now, more than ever, we are bombarded with the constant stream of stimulation and the pressure to keep up; all the more reason to find a way to gift ourselves the quiet, however we find it.  That space where we can actually hear the inner callings of our soul.  Where we can receive the guidance that reveals the path to greater fulfillment and happiness.  I believe happiness is cultivated from within.  This thought is the cornerstone of my INsideOUT workshops, using meditation, journaling, visualization and dance to connect to the peace inside.  

Meditation is one of the ways I unplug, but going straight to the meditation pillow from an agitated, stressed-out place can be a challenge.  As a professional dancer and choreographer, I know how getting grounded in the body through movement can be a bridge between the chattering, overworked, stressed mind, to the quiet and still space within that brings calm, peace and a sense of well-being.

If it’s a struggle to slow down to meditate, try using movement to help you. 

1.  Put on something comfortable and create some quiet, uninterrupted time for yourself, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

Sit on a yoga mat or blanket with your legs crossed, closing your eyes or gazing gently at the floor.  With your hands on your knees, slowly rotate your torso in a circle (clockwise), breathing in as you move forward and to the right and exhaling as you move back towards the left.  Continue for one to two minutes and then rotate counter-clockwise for one to two minutes. 

2.  Begin to connect with your breath. 

With a long inhale and exhale through the nose, allow your breath to deepen.  The breath will oxygenate the cells and the movement will release tightness or holding in your hips and back.  You may even hear and feel your spine adjust.  Continue with this slow, gentle circular movement as your eyes are closed and your breath deepens.

3. Extend your chest forward. 

As you get more comfortable in the body and in tune with the rhythm and pace of your circles, you may want to extend your chest forward to your knees even more and rotate to the back more fully, allowing a deeper stretch in your hips.  If thoughts or worries come up, just observe them, let them go, and come back to the breath.

4.  Focus on the movements of your body. 

When you feel ready, bring your torso center above your hips.  With your eyes closed and hands on your knees, Inhale as you push your chest forward, at the same time drawing your shoulders back. On the exhale, contract the spine in the opposite direction keeping your head parallel to the ground.  Repeat this 26 times.

5.  Stop the movement and let the energy vibrate inside.

And now, stop the movement and sit still with this energy vibrating inside.  Allow your body to relax with a straight back and soft front.  All tension melting away with a gentle focus at your inner third eye or gazing at the floor. 

From this place, stillness can be experienced.  Allow yourself time to bask in this blissful energy.  Stay in this space as long as you can.  When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes, gently move your body and come back to the energy of the room.  You may want to write down any impressions and insight that came up for you.   

Doing this movement before meditation always helps to center and ground my energy.  I hope this helps you in your practice and sending good vibes for a peaceful inner experience, subsequently bringing more ease to your outside world.

Photo Credit:  Lesli Matta

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