When many people are faced with a cancer diagnosis, there is a common tendency for many people to take on an attitude of indignation and profess to want to "fight" the disease. The result of this attitude is often an increase in stress hormones which tend to decrease the functioning of the immune system, the body's internal arsenal. So, by choosing to 'fight' the disease, you are actually disarming your immune system.
Instead of 'fighting', embrace your diagnosis with a quality of 'surrender.' By bringing a sense of letting go to the body, you are helping to arm the immune system and allowing your body to help you heal. So, what does this mean??
Every day, take a few minutes and close your eyes. Notice your breath and how you feel. Try to be nonjudgmental. Instead of labeling sensations as either 'bad' or 'good,' tell yourself, "it is what it is." Because the reality is that 'good' and 'bad' have no meaning. 'Good' is usually what we want to happen and 'bad' is what we don't want to happen. Start at the top of the head and scan your awareness down the body checking in with every part of your anatomy. Try to be an objective observer.
Then take a few moments and notice how you feel. Ask your body what it needs today and be prepared to honor the response. If you are feeling sluggish and need to rest, then rest! If you have energy to do something, then do whatever you think will best serve your body's needs.
Dis-ease is your body's way of asking for attention and when you give it the attention it deserves, it will function better. Sometimes the ego mind does not want you to listen to your body. See if you can distinguish thoughts coming from the ego instead of the body. As an example, you may be feeling tired and know you need to rest, but the ego mind keeps nudging you to do the laundry or run an errand, because the ego mind always has to be doing something. We should be called 'human doings' instead of 'human beings!'
Start to choose what is best for your body. And after practicing the body scan, take a few moments and check in with your emotional body. Notice how you are feeling and try not to be carried away with the feeling, but just notice, again as an objective observer. You can also do the same with your thoughts. The more you practice awareness without becoming engaged with the thoughts and feelings, the easier it will be to choose healthy behaviors without being carried away by your emotions and again, you will be helping your body's immune system to function better. The less we allow emotions and thoughts to take over, the better chance our immune systems will help our bodies heal.
By adopting an attitude of 'surrender' you can affect your mind, body and spirit in positive ways. And you will be saving precious energy that can be used to help you heal.
Bonnie Berk, MS, RN, HNB-BC, ERYT
Bonnie is a Board Certified Holistic Nurse and co-founder of the Partners in Wellness Program administered through the YWCA Carlisle and partially funded by the Carlisle Area Health and Wellness Foundation. Bonnie is also a 500 Level Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Practitioner and Clinical Musician Intern playing harp for both hospital and hospice patients. She has been working with cancer patients for over 20 years and teaches a course at Dickinson College called Spiritual Dimensions of Health. Bonnie is an author, speaker and consultant to a broad range of institutions addressing wellness issues for people with cancer and chronic diseases. She offers the Yoga for Health Teacher Training Program and has produced a Yoga for Health DVD.
This summer, in coordination with Dickinson College and with a grant from The American Holistic Nurses Association, Bonnie and her 'Partners' will be researching the long term benefits of a cancer wellness program on quality of life issues. For more information, visit www.bonnieberk.com or call (717) 258-4641.