When I was diagnosed with cancer, someone recommended the book, The Biology of Belief, by Bruce Lipton, PhD, a stem cell biologist who writes about the connection between science and spirit. The premise of the book is that our beliefs impact us at a cellular level, meaning that cells under the microscope look different depending upon the context of the environment- ie happier or relaxed environments cause the cells to respond in kind, whereas a stressful environment causes the cells to go into a protection mode. Dr. Lipton states that this happens because our cells are in essence mini humans.
Whether or not you can get behind this theory, I do think that it is at minimum an interesting way to think about our insides. When you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is quite natural to fear what is happening inside of your body, and as a result we need to find ways to support ourselves through it.
Vipassana meditation is a form of meditation in which we actively observe the deep interconnection of the body and mind. Using this style of meditation, we ask ourselves to find and follow a focal point, which I applied to my technique of cellular meditation.
Before we look at cellular meditation, let’s consider how it may be of use when you have cancer:
- To cope with chemotherapy– chemo often stirs a lot of anxiety for people, after all it is a toxin which we are actively choosing to put into our body. Sitting in the infusion chair is a tremendously brave act. When you use cellular meditation, it can help with the transition into the chair and into the treatment, talking to yourself at the cellular level with soothing messages as well as envisioning the chemo being really successful at killing those cancer cells.
- To cope with blood draws, scans, and tests– cancer causes a lot of scanxiety- the anxiety that comes with diagnostic testing. Yet we must find a way to move through it with as much ease as we can find.
- Recurrence fears– as cancer reminds us, we only have so much control over the outcome of our lives. If we are suffering with fears of recurrence, it’s important to check in with our oncs to see if our symptoms are requiring attention. And, we can help tolerate that process through cellular meditation.
- To bring peacefulness and joy– during and following cancer treatment, we have to be realistic with how our bodies and minds are doing at any given moment. Often this means that we need to tap into patience and decrease fear that we will never be the same again. Focusing our cellular meditation on peacefulness and joy can bring a calm to the storm.
A cellular meditation involves taking a few simple steps, which can be applied in a number of ways:
- Withdrawing our attention from the outside to the inside, through softening our gaze or closing our eyes.
- Connecting to our breath- by taking breaths that travel all the way into your belly before expanding into your chest (placing a hand on your belly helps to increase awareness of this action).
- With your minds eye (ie attention) travel down from the top of your head into the core.
- Take a moment to observe what you find.
- Set an intention of the environment you wish to bathe your cells in, let it become the focal point for a period of time until you begin to feel the effect it is having on your system.
- As you notice a shift, begin to see how that impacts your internal environment, your cells, returning to your intention as needed or desired.
- Before ending your session, take a moment to notice how you are feeling now.
Meditations don’t need to happen always from a seated posture, here are some other ways to enjoy a cellular meditation:
- Through art– Dr. Lipton described the cells thru the microscope, which brought to my mind the idea of using a mandala to meditate on my cells. A mandala is a circle that is drawn on paper, in which one draws, and it is used by Buddhist monks for healing. Imagine that the circle is a microscope that is looking inside at your cells. Follow the above flow for cellular meditation using whatever are supplies you have on hand to represent each step- here is an example of one I did for this blog.
- Through yoga– the practice of yoga already asks us to go inside and connect with our bodies. If you select a more slower and gentler style, such as Hatha, it is possible to do the cellular meditation right on the mat.
- Through music– have you ever tried listening to music with your whole body, including your cells? It is quite an experience- you might even create a play list that takes you through different genres and feelings, ending in the final place you wish to reach.
- Through nature– this one is most successful if we imagine the qualities of nature that we enjoy to flow from the outside into our insides, into our cells. Whether you are walking, running or resting, this is a lovely exercise to try!
From my cells to yours, I hope that you find bliss through this practice! Namasté.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, Stephanie works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, a DIY Individual Art Therapy program to enhance any healing work you are undertaking; workshops; and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.