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Meditation

The monkey mind and the mandala

Lets talk about the body/mind connection.

How does it work, exactly? For starters, let's consider the monkey mind.

At any given moment, we all have a load of chit-chat streaming through our thoughts.

You recognize this phenomena: the familiar little monkey mind skittering up, down and all around your inner landscape, ceaselessly chattering, never at rest.

What's your monkey mind saying?

Do you ever get quiet and listen?

It may be repeating worries, fears, or other negative memes. I know mine does. Sometimes it gets the upper hand, like in the middle of the night when I'm lying awake, and it seems like everybody else on earth and their dog is snoozing peacefully.

Can this inner voice and its repetition of fears create underlying physical stress?

Some healers believe that negative thoughts, repeated ad nauseum by our monkey minds, can actually soften the way for infection in our bodies. I don’t know for sure.

One thing that's for sure is the amazing connection between the body and mind. One way to access and strengthen this body/mind connection is to draw. This is where art – the act of making art, that is – can actually help open the doors to healing.

Yep. Just pick up a colored pencil or marker, nudge your inner kid awake, and just draw.

Or you might want to try coloring in a delicious looking coloring book of mandalas. Coloring book for adults! What a country.

The claim is that many people who are ill or in the throws of a healing crisis find the act of coloring is quite helpful.

Hold on. Coloring is good for you?

Now we’re talking.

Mandala studies shows that when you are coloring, your conscious mind is turned off. The chatter is turned down at least. Similar to being in a dream state.

As the standard chatter recedes, your unconscious mind, which is vastly larger than the conscious tip of the iceberg, is able to get a word in edgewise. Answers to conundrums may suddenly pop into your mind. You may receive key information about the next step on your healing journey, because healing mechanisms can be triggered by the simple act of coloring.

When I heard about this, my inner coloring-book lover did a happy dance.

If there are inherent lessons in illness, I suspect it has to do with realizing that we must give 100% participation in our own cure. It's learning to accept that we've embarked on the hero’s journey.

A hero who has stepped onto a landmine and can't move off.

So let's face it. The hero needs tools. And maybe a fistful of colored markers.

Any kind of coloring will work. However, mandalas are special for many reasons, and probably the best kind of design to bring harmony to your senses because of their circular symmetry.

Try it.

You might think it's pure synchronicity, but while you are fully concentrating on coloring, you may be given a reprieve from your pain. If it works and you feel better, who cares if it's synchronicity or if it's some sort of mandala magic?

Art saves lives.

At the very least, it can calm the monkey mind for a few minutes and give us a break from its tiresome chatter.

With practice, it may strengthen the bridge between that vast part of us that is perfectly well, not affected by disease, and give our body the rest it needs to heal deeply.

No matter what the doctors say, no matter what anybody else says, no one lives inside our bodies but us.

Only we can really know how we feel, what we need, and in any given moment, what can make us healthier. Our bodies are magnificent, and capable of self-repair and self-healing beyond our wildest imaginings. I believe this.


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3 keys to better sleep

When was the last time you got a really good night of deep sleep? Sleep is a soothing tonic for anyone suffering with Lyme symptoms, yet peaceful snoozing can be elusive when you're in pain.

3 keys to better sleep:

1 - Therapeutic massage. Gentle, healing touch can help you relax and get a better night's sleep. Massage is helpful in lowering the anxiety which naturally arises when you have Lyme symptoms. Just the simple act of being touched with compassionate intention can be healing in and of itself. Before you make an appointment with a professional massage therapist, talk over your situation with them. Be certain you can communicate your needs clearly. She or he should be made aware of your illness and your threshold for pressure.

The Bowen Technique, developed by Dr JoAnne Whitaker, is similar in principle to acupuncture. It is a type of gentle massage designed to unblock energy and help the body maintain equilibrium so that healing can take place. Many people struggling with Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME report that this technique has accelerated their healing. (Incidentally, Dr Whitaker is one of the experts I interviewed for the LDRD Interviews with Experts series.)

2 - Maintain a regular schedule. Go to bed and rise at the same time every night and day. Even on the weekends. This is a good health-habit to cultivate even for people who aren't sick. Former surgeon Dr Christine Horner, author of Waking the Warrior Goddess: Harnessing the Power of Nature & Natural Medicines to Achieve Extraordinary Health, which received the “Best Book of the Year” for 2005 award from the Independent Book Publishers association in the category of health, medicine and nutrition, strongly believes in the body's innate ability to heal from any disease. Dr Horner recommends going to bed no later than 10 pm and rising at 6 am each day. (Note: LDRD members, please read the transcript of my interview with her, or listen to the audio version.)

Keeping a regular sleeping schedule helps your body to regulate its other autonomic functions, eating and making bowel movements. All of this can lead to more effective healing therapy. In addition, I'm a big fan of afternoon snoozing, and I usually get in about 20 minutes to one hour, daily. I'm convinced that my napping habit saved me during the worst of my illness. However, if you struggle with insomnia, you might get better results at night by limiting your naptime during the day.

3 - Allow yourself time to wind down before bedtime. This is a personal challenge for me. I'm either online with work or friends, or deep in conversation with my favorite person in the world, my partner Evan. I'm also a natural night owl, so if you are too, I'm sure you can relate. It can be tough to find the discipline to slow down at night, especially if you aren't in the thick of the disease and your mind is back to working order.

Cultivating a meditation practice, simply using breathing techniques from your yoga class, or relaxing in bed with an inspiring book can do wonders. Don't exercise for up to three hours before bedtime. Avoid stimulating drinks--especially during the afternoon and evening. No alcohol. Take a warm bath, and listen to soothing music. Let your loved ones know that they can help by gently rubbing your shoulders or neck. Stretching your arms and legs slowly and methodically before you get into bed can signal your body that it's time to drop off into dreamland.
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