healing

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

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

How to Let More Light In

I have come to realize that every day is a new beginning and an opportunity to reassess, realign and move forward in a way that honors our intentions, our hopes and goals for our lives, and also brings love and light to ourselves, and those around us.  

Sometimes the anger, the divide, the disappointment, the struggle, the fear - leads the show.  Impulsively defending my position and working hard to keep it all together.

WORK. PARENTING. FAMILY. FINANCES. CHORES. THE DAY TO DAY. THE FUTURE.

In a moment of struggle today, I stopped and went to my writing. What feelings are beneath the holding and defending?  How can I soften to myself and others, moving the doubt and fear, and making space to let more light in.  

In this place I AM CHOOSING . . . 

  • to add to the goodness that is surrounding me, by expressing my gratitude.
  • to be gentle and kind with myself as I learn and grow and see things in new ways.
  • to slow down and sit in the stillness, allowing the empty space to show me the way of a compassionate and tender heart.
  • to turn to words of poetry and wise scripture to inspire me and remind me of what I already know deep inside from moments past.
  • to forgive myself for being unkind and expressing my hurt.
  • to listen more, yielding a quality of connection and communication that feels so good and creates solutions and magic.
  • to see the opportunity and the gifts of this present moment.

This is the healing. It can be simple. Focus on the good.  Create space for more light and love.  In the quiet, I come back to myself.

How do you move from upset to calm?  From anger to understanding? How are you gentle with yourself through the process?

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

Capturing Grace, Dancing with Parkinson's

Who knew that a simple hour in a dance studio with strangers could move me so deeply and be so transformational, to the point where I slowly and discreetly slide tears from my cheeks, as my heart swells and my body dances.   

This beautiful hour happened yesterday when I decided to join and witness dance as a healing source for people with Parkinson’s disease.  I first heard about Dance for PD through a posting that the Michael J. Fox Foundation shared.  I was perusing the internet, looking at research and information as my father has been struggling with this debilitating and progressive disease for over 12 years.  I see him bravely face the changes in his body, the grueling tightness, the fatigue, the tremors, difficulty walking, and other nonmotor symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression.  

When I saw that the Mark Morris Dance Group had collaborated with the Brooklyn Parkinson Group to create Dance for PD, I was immediately inspired and wanted to experience it.  Luckily these classes are offered throughout the states and in 11 countries around the world, and a beautiful documentary called Capturing Grace literally captures the essence of this healing work and the lives who are benefited from it.      

I know and understand the power of dance to heal, through my work as a professional dancer and choreographer and from the program I created INsideOUT, using dance to relieve pain in the body, bring joy to the soul and peace to the mind.   

As the participants filed into the studio yesterday I saw the familiar symptoms, the swinging gait, the shuffling feet, the far away glance, the scared look of uncertainty.  As the class began, those limitations sort of fell away.  It’s not that all of a sudden they were sky bound and leaping, but the heart and soul, the childlike freedom and joy is what rang so loudly in that room.  The music swept all of us up, and each of us brought our concerns, and placed them on the dance floor.  No longer patients, but dancers.  We each spoke a word to describe one of our current struggles, flexibility, feeling alone, can’t communicate clearly, exhaustion, and then we put those feelings into movement.  In a circle, facing each other, we strung our gestures into a linked dance, a story of our human experience, our highs and lows.  And again, the tears streamed from the corners of my eyes.

To finish, hand in hand, passing love and acknowledgment from one person to the next, was so incredibly moving.  To slow down, to be present to another’s experience, to give love, was truly a divine moment for me and kind of life changing.

May my father and others enjoy the benefits of this fitting and healing program.  Thank you to Lineage Performing Arts Center for having me and for all the other studios bringing this beautiful work to their communities: Find a class 

Love and blessings, 

xo Tara

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

5 Ways Dance Can Help Clear Your Mind & Bring Inner Peace

From Tara's article on Mind Body Green

Photo by Ron Hamad

Photo by Ron Hamad

For many years I believed dancing was a type of escape:  from fear, worry, judgment, tough teenage years.  Especially when I was young, my analyzing and worrying mind was so active and my emotional life was vulnerable, hidden and confusing.  Yet, when I stepped on the dance floor, those worries and uncertainties fell away.  Something about the rhythm and the vibration of the music and getting lost in the movement allowed me a gateway to expressing, giving voice and ultimately releasing those emotions of sadness, fear, loneliness.  And what poured in, as I went deeper into the dance, was a wellspring of freedom, happiness, calm, a feeling that I am going to be okay in this world.     

I realize now that dance wasn’t an escape, but a way of moving closer to myself, to my feelings, to my needs and my dreams.  Dance brought me closer to my inner peace and by giving over to the movement and the music, my soul took care of the rest.  Kind of like soul therapy.  I needed to quiet my mind and express my emotions.  Dance is wonderfully emotional.  I LOVE that quote, “If you don’t let emotions live, they will never die.”  Through dance, we can honor our emotions.  

And now as an adult, I still use dance, in addition to my meditation practice, to get in touch with that divine yumminess.  We all, at some point or another, have challenges that keep our mind reeling and questioning and spiraling and going.  The self-doubt, the uncertainty, the day to day struggles, the emotional roller coaster of life.  This chaotic mental dance can be channelled into the dance of the body to bring greater peace and happiness.  

You don’t have to be a professional dancer to dive in and feel connected to yourself and to that source that fuels us.  Whether you’re in a dance class, or you choose to dim the lights and play your favorite song in your living room, you receive the benefit of the energy that flows and the new information that comes in.  

Here are my 5 simple steps to dancing bliss.  I invite you to try it.  Who cares what you look like.  What matters is how you feel and sometimes all it takes is the willingness to do something different and be open to what appears.  There can be great healing in the dance.     

1.  Take off your shoes and put on something comfortable.  Feeling the wood floor or carpet beneath your bare feet gets you in touch with the support that is there for you always.  Allow your body weight, energy, any tension or worry to fall into the ground and melt away.           

2.  Dim the lights so that it is an internal experience.  You want to be cocooned and safe in your own private world.  This is not about perfect moves or performing outwardly, it’s not about judging yourself and deciding whether you are “good” or not.  Closing your eyes helps to tune into yourself and your journey.    

3.  This can be a beautiful journey of discovery, reflection, expression.  Set an intention for how you’d like to feel, what you’d like to get out of this dance meditation.  Maybe you’d like to let go of something, bring in something new, reframe a difficult situation.  Or maybe you just want to feel good.  Whatever it is, state it internally or out loud.  

4.  Put on a song or album that you love.  Pop music with lyrics can be fun but a soundscape feel that is more about the mood, and less about the words, can be helpful for soul traveling.  Play it on repeat or with a continuous stream, so that you are not interrupted with an abrupt ending.      

5.  Let yourself go.  Close your eyes, let the music move your body and don’t be afraid to release.  It’s a wonderful practice in surrendering to what is.  Let the energy flow as your body heats up and let instinct guide the way, allowing your body to move in different ways, shapes and expressions.  Let the anger out.  Let the happiness ring.  Let the giddiness ride.  It’s a beautiful thing.    

And when you’re done,  thank yourself for having the courage to explore and express.  Many times I go to my journal afterwards to write down any inspirations or insight that came forward.  Dance is a gift that we all have access to.  Love and light to you.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS

I Won't Give Up, A Film

It was incredibly inspiring being a part of this short dance film, honoring and celebrating the amazing and brave Donna Russo.  Donna has danced nearly all her life, but over the past seven years muscular dystrophy has taken away much of her ability to move.  Despite her condition, dance is still alive in her heart.

After sharing this film, the response was so positive and amazing.  The Abilities Expo, an event for people with disabilities, asked us to come perform this dance with Donna.  The expo is a celebration of what you can do and boy, is it inspiring!! 

On a concrete floor at the LA Convention Center, with no raised stage and no stage lights, we danced for a mostly wheelchair bound audience.  My heart filled with gratitude for the gift of life and the gift of dance, and I was humbled. 

The audience members were invited to join in learning a short dance with us after the performance.  All those who participated were in wheelchairs and I was so moved at how much passion, love, joy and openness was shared in their “restricted” movement.   

I was reminded of how healing dance is.  It connects us to our humanity, to our core.  It allows us an expression beyond words.  It allows us freedom!!  

Thank you to Donna for bringing me this opportunity and for my dance partner Kelleia Sheerin and choreographer Tam Warner.

Projects like these make me so proud to be a dancer, proud to be a human being. Gifts come in so many unexpected ways. 

And, check out what the dance team at Walk and Roll Foundation can do!!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UPCOMING EVENTS