I have found daily meditation/visualization to be an extremely positive influence in my life both before my breast cancer diagnosis and after. Being able to release the stress of the day and visualize the “me” I want to be has brought me great comfort, peace, and healing. I know we all have busy days and it is difficult to find time to be in your “own space” to practice meditation. I find the most effective time for me is when I go to bed at night. Sleep disturbances/having problems falling asleep is a common symptom of trauma. Meditating at this time serves two purposes for me: all is quiet which creates the right atmosphere, and the pre-sleep time seems to be my most difficult period regarding any negative thoughts that might be running through my head. So, once the lights are out and all electronics are shut down for the day, I begin by focusing on my breathing. Just gentle waves of inhalation and exhalation (I also have placed some lavender oil on my pillow and on my wrists. Lavender is an essential oil that promotes relaxation). My previous post explained my Metta Meditation technique. Now we are going to add a one minute preparation for your Metta Meditation from Five Weeks To Healing Stress by Valerie O’Hara Ph.D. As you are gently inhaling and exhaling (preparing for your Metta Meditation) visualize wave after wave of the ocean washing through you releasing tension. As you are “noticing” your breath if any negative thoughts come up, visualize a blackboard with your thoughts written on it. With each exhalation mentally say the word “erasing” and watch the thoughts being removed. Don’t judge the thoughts or yourself, just erase and focus again on your breath. When you feel a sense of calm and loving acceptance and kindness toward yourself begin your Metta Meditation. This whole process can take anywhere from six minutes to as long as you’d like. But, I find that I am relaxed and ready to drift off to sleep after about 10 minutes. Give it a try.
Self-empowerment helps us to cope with the trauma, fear, and stress of a breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and life after treatment. During the diagnosis period, surgery, and treatment period, fear and anxiety become a constant “partner.” Not a welcome “partner,” but there nonetheless, always seeming to linger in the background. We become habituated to that “partner” with negative thoughts running through our minds like a loop on a recording. The power to change those thoughts is essential if we are going to lose our unwanted “partner.” In her book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” Dr. Susan Jeffers tells us “if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” No one can change that negative thought loop for us; we have to do it ourselves. Self-belief and self-empowerment come from within.
In the book, “Learn to Relax” by Mike George, he states that “when we undertake to change, we are the heroes of our spiritual journey; we must slay the demons of illusion with the sword of knowledge and the shield of courage.” For us, those demons are all the negative thoughts to which we have become accustomed. He gives us the “Alphabet of Change” Awareness, Belief, Commitment, and Discipline.”
“Awareness”: First, become aware of what you need to change in yourself. What is preventing you from attaining peace? What habits or negative thoughts are blocking the way to realizing your full potential?
What do you want to be or how do you want to feel in the future” What is your vision? When I do my Metta Meditation (this is a Loving-Kindness meditation that is described in a previous posting under Meditation/Visualization) I visualize what I want to be now and in the future: I want to be 1) Safe from inner and outer harm, 2)Healthy and strong, 3) Happy and peaceful of heart, 4) Filled with a sense of ease and well-being. As I meditate, repeating these positive thoughts/affirmations to myself over and over (for about 10 to 15 minutes), I visualize myself as I say “May I be safe from inner and outer harm”…I visualize my body free of disease mentally scanning my inner body and then I visualize myself with an imaginary protective shield or fence to protect myself from outer harm. When I say to myself “May I healthy and strong,” I visualize myself with a healthy strong body jumping into the air with my arms outstretched or running on a path through the woods. When I say “May I be happy and peaceful of heart,” I visualize myself with my eyes closed smiling and an aura of peace centered around my heart. When I say to myself “May I have a sense of ease and well-being,” I visualize my whole being relaxed, confident, and at peace.
“Belief: Many people entertain change in their minds as a kind of fantasy. But, in fact it is a reality that lies with your power.” This loving-kindness meditation directed toward yourself “plants a seed” in your psyche that overtime will grow. This nurturing of yourself helps to reduce your fear and anxiety banishing that unwanted “partner” from your life.
“Commitment: Motivation is the key to commitment. Personal power is released with every promise to yourself that you fulfill.” Making meditation a part of every day is a commitment to yourself; taking 10 or 15 minutes to visualize what you want to be: a person empowered to reduce their fear, stress, and anxiety.
“Discipline: We cannot change unless we are able to maintain a steady course over time.” You need to have patience with your practice of Metta Meditation (or any type of meditation). The changes won’t magically appear overnight. But, with time, you will begin to notice a difference. If you are a person that finds visualizing difficult (at least in the beginning), you can design your own bulletin board or a piece of oak tag with pictures that relate for you to the positive statements/affirmations that your are repeating. You can clip them from magazines or pictures from the internet. Life coaches teach this method of change all the time. As you do your Metta Meditation, look at your pictures that relate to your positive affirmation. You can become the person you want to be.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over, but for survivors being aware of breast cancer is a daily experience. Since I have written this blog I have become involved with an amazing community of women on-line. Every website or blog has something different to offer. But, what they all have in common is to provide an outlet for survivors to share their stories, their fears, and their courage. When I first started this blog I stated that I was not fond of the word “survivor” and I suggested that I didn’t want cancer to define me. But, through my blog, all my new connections, and a cancer forum in which I participate, I have gained many new insights. I said that I did not want survivor to be my identity; I did not want cancer to define me. But, I have realized that the two are very different. I still don’t want cancer to define me, although it has definitely changed me. But, I have a new respect for the term “survivor” and I am proud to identify with all survivors everywhere.