I spoke to a good friend of mine tonight – she is a breast cancer survivor of over 20 years. She dealt with breast cancer back when treatments seemed archaic to today’s modern methods. Then treatments consisted of high dose radiation and chemo, a wink and a prayer. During or around that time she clinically died, but she eventually bounced back and survived.
She is long past the insecurity of having a mastectomy. She jokes about having “chemo-head” when she forgets things. She no longer lives with the constant fear of metastasis, or thinks about cancer every day. She has evolved into a happy, fulfilled person with a rich life. But the real question is, how did she beat it when it seemed so dire? How did she survive in spite of such poor cancer-fighting tools by today’s comparison? Her answer: meditation.
Plagued with nightmares as a child, I’ve long had a hypothesis about dreams and the subconscious. While we all know the subconscious part of our brains run amuck at night I think our dreams have more to do with physical maintenance than just synapses gone wild on melatonin. This is one of the reasons I always told my children to complete the dreams that woke them up, and to finish them to the conclusion they wanted – not as their nightmare might conclude on its own.
I think nightmares can indicate the method of repair for your body at night, as well as a way to sort out problems mentally as our conscious bean-counting brains rest. In modern-day factories, second shifts always outperform day shifts, and similarly the real repair work of our bodies and minds begins when we sleep.
I personally think our nightmares can indicate the need to construct neural pathways as we learn a new task. It could be fighting infections otherwise unnoticed by us. I told the kids that completing these dreams – daydreaming, in effect – until they ended as they wanted them to end, was the way you communicate to the night crew that maintains your body. They could choose their own endings of their dreams – peaceful and happy, or as a knight slaying the enemy, or a powerful fairie turning the enemy into something nice with a magic wand. These imagined scenarios – I think – deal with the language of the subconscious.
I decided dreams were the subconscious’ way of communicating to the conscious. This can also work both ways – sending messages back and forth. In other words, that side of our brain speaks through imagery, but it also listens.
As an adult, bad allergies caused my asthma to spiral out of control. At night I had nightmares I was drowning, which woke me to use my inhaler. Better meds solved this problem, but I thanked my subconscious for the symbolic thump on the head to awaken the walking and communicating side of me to help my body.
Good meditation is why my friend says she was able to beat cancer while cancer care was still in its infancy. I’ve heard of kids using imagery such as a Space Invaders video game idea to visualize blasting cancer cells. Personally, I’ve always taken issue at the idea of being at war with my own body, even when dealing with rogue, unwanted cells – which is why my friend’s idea appealed to me. But whatever imagery works for you or motivates you should be best.
How do you do it? Think like a kid. Play with the toys you like, but in your mind.
Being a highly empathetic and gentle person, my friend instead used empathy and sympathy against cancer cells – and it worked. She spoke to these little, misunderstood ‘bad’ cells and told them they were simply in the wrong place and time. She told them they weren’t hated, they were simply in the wrong place. They needed to belong elsewhere in the universe, and someone was probably looking for them. She mentally dressed each one in a shiny, black, safe jacket and told them this would take care of them on their journey. She blessed each rogue cell, and sent it on its way, over and over and over again.
When you think about it, all she was gently doing was telling cancer cells it’s okay to die, and to not be afraid of dying. This is precisely what cancer cells do – they refuse to die.
I think the brilliance of meditation like this is that it works with the subconscious mind that speaks in terms of imagery, senses, scents and emotions, not words or numbers. With imagery it may be possible you can help your body by prompting it to symbolically become aware of the biological secrecy cancer has (the inability for t-cells to recognize it) or its seemingly impervious, undying growth by visualizing heroic white blood cell military men to simply have a key, unlock the cell and simply shut down it’s power.
This takes imagination. It also takes quiet. Fortunately for you, the cancer patient, you have a little forced slow-down time. Before resting, before treatments, prepare as athletes do – with your mind and a single focus, eye-on-the-prize kind of thinking. Not as work, but with excitement. Play, not with fear. That means if you were a kid and monster trucks would be cool, work an anti-cancer role into that fun imagination. If you think ruling the world would be fun, work within that theme. If you like gardens, imagine gorgeous areas you tend, and simply replant or sell the bad, ugly plants to a market across the universe which prizes them, far away from you. Or imagine the sap or nectar of each plant you lovingly tend to drip into your veins, creating a healthy, protective serum that cancer cells just happen to hate the flavor of – so much so, they need to go.
I often use imagery before I go to sleep or when I pray for someone who is sick. I imagine a large rectangular, soft, scrubby, effervescent gel that happily flows from head to toe of the person I’m praying for, creating a ticklish, happy sensation for that person, and simultaneously cleansing them. Depending on the illness, I’ve noticed the color changes. Generally for me it’s aquamarine, but often for others it’s pink. The gel is always clear, never foggy. What does this mean? I don’t know, but I go with the flow and offer blessings to my body or of others. I do what feels good.
Happy thoughts are the candy our brain craves, so I use mental play smartly. It’s like eating – if I crave sugar, I’m sure to mix cinnamon with it – a delivery system mixed with a powerful, healthful, but great tasting spice. With your brain, under the auspices of play and indulgent daydreaming you can slip helpful messages and signals to your subconscious. I’m no doctor, but perhaps this is a beneficial and safe way to work with treatments, chemo and radiation, instructing the body how and what to do with the treatment. To work with it.
Lo and behold, this method worked for my friend. She did this meditation constantly. It was filled with positive emotion. It offered specific to-dos for the cancer cells by convincing them to essentially die. Plus, it was relaxing.