Thursday, 29 January 2009


I have found over time a number of breathing and visualisation exercises to calm the mind and body. Some time ago I read Betty Shine's Mind Workbook. In it she gives a number of visualisations. In one she gives instructions for constructing a pharmacy in your mind. This pharmacy is clearly described to make visualising easier and it is stocked with whatever medication you need. Whilst undergoing chemotherapy I would often journey to this pharmacy and treat myself. Over time the area developed. I built rooms off it to rest. Magically, I found I could fall back asleep quickly when I woke in the night if I visited this place. I visualised medicines - magic bullets (one for each ovary )that I would take from a box ( think Peter Cushing and vampires !!), the elixir of life ( in a chalice - think Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail or the sequel ), sleeping pills, and the hormone melatonin which your body makes in your sleep and is crucial for your immune system. As my sleep is interupted I now visualise and taste ( sometimes) the hormone in drug form boosting my own broken production. ( It comes in a glass ampule I break and it tastes like cats wee. Why, I don't know. I should have made it taste good. I don't even really know what cat's wee tastes like, but you get my drift.) Whilst having chemotherapy I would visit this place every night and it would give me comfort. These days I don't visit it quite so regularly. I have found other exercises which take my time.

The exercise I do each night now involves breathing and monitoring the breath. This one I found in the book "Living Proof : A Medical Mutiny" by Michael Gearin-Tosh, and he quotes from Jan De Vrie's and his book 'Cancer and Leukaemia : An Alternative Approach' . What you do is you feel your breath moving throughout your body. You start at your feet. Begin with your left foot and breathe up from the soles of your feet to the hip, and then exhale down to your foot again.. Do this seven times. The number 7 is an auspicious number in China and that is where I believe this exercise originated.. So I say lets believe in its magic! Move your attention over to the right foot and do the same again - 7 times. Follow this with breathing again from the left foot up to the hip, but now breathe across your hips and down the right leg to the right foot.. Swap sides and do it again another 7 times. Move on to the left arm starting in the hand and breathe up to the shoulder and back down again - 7 times. Do the same on the right side. Follow this by breathing up the left arm and across the shoulders, breathing up through the hand, across the shoulders and down the other arm. and repeat starting on the right and finishing on the left.Now move to your spine. breathe up and down your back bone 7 times. The penultimate part, and the one I find hardest is breathing through the skull. This takes concentration and is the hardest for me. Finally breathe through the whole body, starting at your feet and working up your arms and spine and skull, and breathe out going in the opposite direction, ending at your toes and fingertips. This exercise takes me about half an hour. And it does get easier to visualise and feel, though my experience is that some days are easier and more fluid than others.

There are benefits to doing this, though it does take discipline and I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel it did me good. It firstly calms the body. Deep breathing affects your nervous system. It is a physical fact. Just take three slow deep breaths and you will feel different. This exercise gives you 77 deep breaths. It oxygenates your body, and very importantly deep breathing makes your body more alkaline. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, and creates it's own little pond of acidity from its waste products. Anything that moves your body towards an alkaline state is very important and should be actively pursued. Breathing is free. There are substances, which I'll mention another time, that will make your body more alkaline, but breathing is free !! This breathing through your feet or through the bones as it is known also stimulates the immune system, or that is my theory. Blood cells are made in the bone marrow. When breathing through the bones I visualise the oxygen moving the bone marrow up and down and stimulating new cells to grow. I do feel a change (A tightening of the muscles perhaps - I don't know exactly, and it doesn't matter to me because it is said that where the mind goes the body follows. ) The brain doesn't differentiate between imaginings and reality. If you imagine a really scary scenario you live it for the time you are thinking about it. Your body pumps out hormones and feels the stress you would feel if it were something happening right now, right this second. I take the view that if I'm having positive thoughts that my immune system is being massaged, then it can only have positive results. It will certainly do no harm. So I have these positive thoughts at least once a day. The last benefit is that it does relax me. I do it religiously each night when I get into bed and have no trouble falling asleep. When I first started doing it I would fall asleep during the process, and when I awoke would be able to carry on from where I left off !! It gives the mind something concrete to concentrate on and stops the incessant chunterings , fears and irritations of the day.

A very simple technique is to simply watch your breath going in and out as you would watch the sea waves. Count up to four breaths and then start again at one. Counting isn't necessary, but gives the mind something to focus on. It is also nice to listen to calm music as you do this. Classical music is perfect where there are no distracting words. My spiritual healer made a cd for her patients that has music carefully chosen to enhance this healing effect. She has also suggested to me visualising a golden healing and protecting light that arises at the crown of the head and encircles the body.

One other suggestion that my healer made and which I have found useful is to pack your thoughts , worries and doubts into a balloon, breathe it into a balloon and then let it go and off away it floats , or leave these pesky thoughts (for that is all they are ) in a rubbish bag outside the door.

This reminds me of one other process that I find very useful for relaxing when other things fail. I don't know the source or where I got it from. Imagine sitting in a chair or lying on a couch. Imagine that you are wearing a suit of armour. Now imagine the armour being removed piece by piece. I start at the toes' taking off toe guards, shoes, shin coverings, etc. Once I've come to the top I look down and often find there are additional protections which must also be removed. Obviously these coincide with where I hold tension. For me it is my abdomen ( isn't that where my ovaries are !!) It may be additional or alternative places for you. We evidently also hold a lot of tension in our jaws, so pay some attention to removing armour and masks from this area. This has an immediate de-stressing effect on me, but it's not something I would practice out in public ! We all need our armour on out in the real world.

One last technique which is widely practised is to create tension in muscles and then release it to gain greater relaxation in the muscles. For example, you tense your hand and forearm, hold it for a count, and then release it. In this way you feel the difference between tension and relaxation. You once again work your way along the body. You can start in the head or the feet, or wherever you want I suppose. I have used this technique in the past and found it very effective, but I use the other techniques more often. I don't feel a need to create more tension these days.

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