Meditation can provide important benefits to cancer patients and caregivers, including stress relief during uncertain times. Cancer patient Jed Surdyk reflects, “Meditation compels relaxation, but cancer typically does not. It’s a contradiction in terms until you realize that cancer and meditation go hand in hand.” A relaxed mind helps relax your body. “If you view meditation as a physical state, and not an attempt to stop thinking, progress can be made,” says Surdyk.
How Meditation Helps
Born and raised in rural Missouri, Jed Surdyk lost his eyesight as a byproduct of cancer when he was five. The noise around him, lacking visual context, made him restless and anxious. Meditation helped resolve that. “When I first lost my eyesight, shares Surdyk, “noise reminded me of what I lost. Meditation reminded me of what remained and what I could still experience.” Meditation brings a person outside oneself whether their vision is impaired or not. Still, for Surdyk and those with cancer, it also ushers them into a world that allows them to cope with circumstances beyond their control. “It’s even greater if it enables you to tap into the senses you still possess,” says Surdyk.
Benefits of Meditation
There are many benefits of meditation for both cancer patients and their caregivers. Below are just a few:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood circulation
- Lower heart rate
- Less perspiration
- Slower respiratory rate
- Less anxiety
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- More feeling of well-being
- Less stress
- Deeper relaxation
Meditation allows the brain to sink into what can be called a “brain hammock.” Hammocks are enjoyable when we are in them because we relax and let go. The brain, too, needs to relax, especially during the cancer journey. It is relentlessly processing and analyzing. Modern society views a busy mind as productive, but meditation teaches us that being busy is not always a virtue. Too much thinking scatters our energy and focus and can lead to high levels of anxiety. The Dana Foundation in New York released a study in 2006 titled ‘The Ethical Brain.’ The study examined ways in which the brain is like a muscle and can be strengthened in its resilience and adaption to change. Meditation is one such strengthening mechanism, and its fruits are boundless. “Peace of mind starts with exercising habits that cultivate peace and serenity,” Surdyk asserts. In this vein, meditation is a reliable conduit amid struggles with cancer that reliably purges the mind, providing peace and serenity.
How to Meditate: Simple Techniques for Beginners
- Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair or cushion.
- Close your eyes
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally
- Focus your attention on the breath and how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus to your breath.
- First, maintain this practice for two or three minutes, then for extended periods after more practice.
Types of Meditation
There are nine popular types of meditation: mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra, transcendental, progressive relaxation, and loving-kindness meditation. We suggest, for our purposes, that you emphasize stillness and calmness of thoughts as you meditate. This can help you feel the interconnection to life, which can be called “heart wisdom.” Some have said their most successful results from meditation came when they realized that calmness of thoughts and heart wisdom are interrelated. By opening your heart, you can become more present, and by becoming more present, your heart will open. As you enjoy a relaxed, tension-free body in your “brain hammock” along with long, easy breaths, you will likely feel your heart more luminous.
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By Frank Kane