The visualization that I used during radiation treatments came from being a young adult during the Viet Nam war era. I had vivid pictures in my mind of the napalm bombs used in Viet Nam. The fire and destruction from these bombs always stayed with me. During the few minutes each day of radiation, I visualized the radiation destroying cancer cells in my body in the same way napalm bombs destroyed everything in their path.
To use visualization as a form of relaxation place yourself wherever you are comfortable and in whatever position you are comfortable. Sometimes following chemo the only place I was comfortable was lying down. You can meditate/visualize in any position. Visualize yourself someplace that you consider safe and peaceful, i.e. a favorite beach, meadow, mountain, stream, etc. Focus on your breathing for a few minutes, taking deep breathes and “scan” your body for tension. Start at your toes, feet, calfs, thighs, buttocks, abdomen working your way up your body and consciously with your breath (deep inhale and exhale) relax each area. You can wiggle your toes, shake out your legs, shoulders, whatever area feels tight. Pay attention to your facial muscles. Tighten your facial muscles, scrunching up your face, then release your facial muscles with an exhale of your breath. Soften your eyes and lips, make sure your tongue is not jammed up on the roof of your mouth, but gently touching the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Check your jaw, is it clenched. When your body is as relaxed as you can feel at the moment (this can take some practice), begin your visualization. Here is an example: See yourself walking along a warm, sunny beach at the edge of crystal-clear blue water. The waves are gently rolling in, hear the gentle sound, smell the salt air, listen to the sea birds calling to the wind, feel the warm sand under your feet. See yourself spreading a towel and sitting to absorb the sounds and smells. Feel the sunshine caressing your body and visualize the sunshine as a yellow healing light. Let this light permeate your body, starting at the top of your head and working your way down your body. Concentrate this light wherever you feel you need it the most. Then visualize yourself walking up and over the sandy dunes. Healing does not necessarily mean just physical healing. There are times that what we need most is spiritual healing, a sense of comfort and peace. If you believe in God, then picture this healing yellow light coming from Him to you. If you are not a believer, then picture the healing light coming from the universe or whatever fits your belief system. With some practice you can decrease your stress by remembering the feeling of relaxation from your visualization, taking a deep breath and as you breathe out, and seeing yourself in whatever place you find relaxing.
The visualization that I used when my white blood count plummeted was one of a factory of workers in my bone marrow. They were working overtime manufacturing new white blood cells. I just kept visualizing these tiny workers “banging out” white blood cells. My doctor was amazed at the increase in my white blood cells in a 24 hour period (of course, I had an injection of Procrit also, but my doctor still thought my increase of white blood cells was beyond the expected). I always use what some call alternative or holistic healing methods in conjunction with Western medicine.
A favorite meditation of mine is a Metta meditation. Metta is translated in English as “loving kindness.” A Metta meditation offers yourself “loving kindness” and then you can offer it out to others. To begin, take a few moments to get comfortable and quiet your mind. Focus your attention on the experience of loving kindness. Close your eyes, deepen your breath and release any thoughts from your mind. Begin by reciting the following phrases to yourself at a pace that keeps you comfortable and alert.
1) May I be safe from inner and outer harm
2) May I be happy and peaceful of heart
3) May my body be healthy and strong
4) May I be filled with ease
Then you may replace the “I” with someone who supports you. Picturing this person in your mind while reciting the phrases can be helpful.
You can “offer” Metta to yourself and others for just 10-15 minutes per day, or for any amount of time that feels comfortable for you. Finish with a few slow, deep breaths, feeling compassion, love and kindness flowing through your body. Take a few moments before going on with your day.
Our bodies and our minds are under an assault from the disease, the diagnosis, through treatment. Having loving compassion for our bodies and our minds in an “in the moment” purposeful way allows us to positively affirm a warm hearted feeling towards ourselves and others.