Pain, illness and stress walk hand in hand together. They feed off each other in a vicious cycle that leads to ever greater suffering and disability.
Nothing creates stress with such brutal efficiency as the feeling of being trapped by illness. Painful questions can begin nagging at your soul: Is it getting worse? Maybe they've missed something? Perhaps it's terminal and they won't tell me...
Such negative thoughts are incredibly powerful and almost impossible to stop. One thought triggers the next, and the next, in a vicious cycle that can leave you burnt-out and broken.
But it's often far worse than this because such thoughts create tension in the body, aggravating illnesses and injuries. Stress also dampens the immune system and shuts down the body's self-repair mechanisms. Stress isn't just a miserable experience, it erodes physical health too.
Although it's impossible to prevent stress from arising, you can change what happens next. You can stop the spiral from feeding off itself and triggering the cycle of negative thoughts that makes suffering far worse.
Mindfulness helps you step outside such vicious cycles by teaching you a different way of dealing with stress. With practice you come to realise that stress (like pain) is a 'message' that tends to melt away of its own accord once it has been 'delivered', or felt with full mindful awareness. When this occurs, an extraordinary thing can happen: a profound sense of happiness and peace fills the void.
Such bone-deep contentment isn't just pleasant, it also boosts the immune system and restarts the body's self-repair mechanisms. Even if you have an incurable condition, it will substantially improve your quality of life.
In previous weeks I taught you how to reduce pain using the Body Scan and Mindful Movement meditations. These were taken from our book Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing. This week you will learn to reduce stress with the Tension Release Meditation. Follow the instructions below or download the audio track from www.franticworld.com/huffington
You'll find Week One of the course HERE.
And Week Two is HERE.
Tension Release Meditation
The aim of this meditation is to move your awareness around the body, paying special attention to areas of tension and discomfort, and then to gently breathe 'into' them.
If sitting, choose a straight-backed chair and adopt an erect but relaxed posture. If lying, allow your legs to gently fall away from each other, arms at your sides.
Close your eyes. Allow your shoulders, neck, back, and face to soften. Feel the points of contact between your body and the floor or chair.
Gather your awareness around the sensations of breathing. Can you feel it in the chest, the stomach, the back? Feel the whole body expand and contract as you breathe.
Guide your awareness to the first area of tension. Allow the breath to soothe and massage it for a few minutes. Saturate the breath with kindness. If it feels too intense, broaden your awareness to include the whole body.
Focus your awareness on the next area of tension. Follow your breath into it for a few minutes... Then focus on the next area...
Open your eyes and gently move your body.