Meditation is part of my daily routine, a part that I’m rarely tempted to miss because of the ways I believe it helps me and because I always feel better afterwards. I believe that there are three levels of benefit from meditation.
1. Relaxation and stabilising the nervous system
The first and most immediate benefit of meditation is relaxation. Actively choosing to spend time in quiet stillness is wonderful gift to your body. This gift is amplified as you learn to be present in the moment observing your breathing. As you learn to let go of your thoughts you can disengage from the way in which your thinking can keep your body in a state of high arousal. You can break the cycle of anxiety and nervous tension. When your nervous system is not being fed by anxious thoughts it calms down. When your nervous system is calm you are less likely to have anxious thoughts. Relaxed deep breathing will calm the nervous system and counter the maladaptive stress response that is so often referred to in relation to this illness. This balancing effect on the adrenal hormones reduces the negative impact on other bodily systems whose imbalances all contribute to this illness.
I often think my body goes into a kind of out of control overdrive. I relate the painful, overworked muscles and a difficulty sleeping, to a sense that my body just doesn’t switch the work message off, perhaps because energy production is so inefficient it keeps stimulating to try to get the job done. Meditation helps bring me to a state where the off switch will work. As I’ve become more experienced with meditation I’ve also been able to bring my awareness into the here and now more often. When I notice my body moving towards overdrive I can immediately take action practising the relaxation I’ve learnt through meditation and yoga. I hardly ever get stiff and painful muscles now and I also tend to sleep a lot better.
2. Getting in touch with your inner self
Another benefit of meditation is the opportunity it affords to bring me into contact with my inner self. I believe that we often become disconnected from our essential being, learning instead to relate to the way in which those around us expect us to be, taking on our families and societies values without questioning how they resonate with our true being. We are taught to think things through, not to trust our gut and our sense of connection with our inner wisdom is easily lost. The quiet, stillness of meditation gives us an opportunity to reconnect with that wisdom. When we stop doing, and let go of our thinking we can only ‘be’. The first time I really managed to still my mind for the majority of my meditation session (something that I still don’t achieve all the time!) I had a major insight a couple of hours later. It became suddenly very clear to me that I couldn’t continue to work in the same way if I was to give myself a chance to recover from this illness. There was such clarity to this knowing that I felt compelled to act on it. Within a couple of months I had given up work and started to write my self-help book.
Apart from the healing effect of balancing the nervous system meditation can be used to promote healing in a more direct way. There are various types of meditation where visualisation and the force of will are used to promote healing. I understand that the idea of a universal force of vital life energy (prana) that can be directed at will, will not appeal to everybody but it makes sense to me. I practise a prana directing, healing meditation every day and have faith that it is contributing to gradual improvements in my general health. For those of you that cannot relate to such a concept I would urge you not to dismiss the idea of healing meditations and consider the power of positive intention. Consider the ‘placebo’ effect. Just the belief that you are receiving an appropriate treatment can bring about improvements in health. So much so that all drug trials have to have their effectiveness balanced against a placebo group. Basically believing something is doing us good can actually make that good happen. So if you actively spend time intending to heal yourself and you believe that you can make a difference then it’s very likely that you will.
In future blogs I will share with you some of my meditation practises, but in the meantime if you don’t already practise meditation find a class and give it a try! It takes a while to learn how to meditate though; it takes a lot of patience so be prepared to give it time. It can be even more challenging for a ME/CFS sufferer because of the nervous system overdrive, but the benefits are extremely important. Remember that everyone struggles at first, so be kind to yourself. Accept yourself for being human when you mind is continually distracting you, just let the present thought go and try again. Patience will be rewarded!
Please could you take part in my quick poll top right of this blog, I’d be really grateful! thanks!
Also what do you think of this bigger font? Do you prefer it to the smaller one?