What is medicine?
It’s usually thought of as a substance that you think or hope will make you feel better. In other words, a remedy. But medicine isn’t only a substance. It is also a healing art, a way of diagnosing, treating and preventing ‘dis-ease’.
Can meditation and mindfulness be used as medicine?
But surely it would be much easier to pop a few pills, you might be thinking? Well yes, popping pills IS easy but they rarely solve the problem, they frequently just mask or suppress it…. And then there are the side effects….
By the way, if medication is now vital to keeping you functioning I am not suggesting that you come off it without consulting your Doctor first. What I am talking about is that many ‘dis-eases’ start off in our minds; in how we feel and respond to our family, our work, our life.
Every time you worry, feel anxious, angry, frustrated, sad or scared that has a physical effect on your body. Over time this effect builds up. When you are in your twenties your body copes. But when you are forty plus your body struggles. That is when you really notice aches, pains and not having as much energy as you would like!
Meditation and mindfulness strengthens your health
Good medicine gets to the source of your problem. It strengthens your health so you have the resilience and flexibility to overcome the cr@p that comes with being human. Meditation and mindfulness give you that. They wake you up out of your mindless autopilot way of living. Then you can mindfully make healthier decisions about what you think, feel and do.
My mindless autopilot
This was my autopilot life pre-mindfulness:
- Getting up every day and going through the motions at work and trying to climb the promotions ladder.
- Studying for a degree at the same time as working full time (because I wasn’t busy enough already!).
- Spending time going to the gym to burn off what I thought was excess energy but in fact, it was pent-up frustration and anger.
- Teaching or participating in daily exercise classes because the exercise boosted my mood. This was on top of the full-time job and the study.
All was not well in my head as I avoided thinking too hard about my life and instead buried myself in busy-ness. I went out of my way to avoid any emotions because I didn’t know how to deal with them. I had never learnt how as my parents were of that generation that didn’t ‘do’ emotions.
I had a few wake-up calls which signalled to me that all wasn’t well. Things like:
- Suffering from painful Irritable Bowel Syndrome every day. Though it’s a pretty mild complaint compared to what some people have to put up with, it was still very draining.
- Bursting into tears for no obvious reason just before my period started and sometimes at other times of the month too.
- Realising my marriage was struggling because I was neglecting to allocate any time to be with my husband.
Below I share with you the steps I used and that I still use to maximise the health-giving impact of meditation and mindfulness.
4 steps to using meditation and mindfulness as medicine
1) Calm your mind
Sit in a quiet place, in a comfortable position. Bring your attention to your breath. Follow the movement of your body as you breathe in and out. Be aware of when your mind wanders away (because it will!) and bring it back to the movement of your body as you breathe. This is a simple meditation. If you want a bit more guidance, then download this mini programme.
Try my Nine Breaths for a Calmer Mind download
2) What are your symptoms?
When your mind is calm and quiet you can see more clearly what is going on in your life. Ask yourself these questions:
- How did/do you feel this morning?
- How did you feel last night?
Possible answers might be:
- A sense of unease, but you can’t really say why?
- Dissatisfaction with how your life has turned out?
- A feeling of simmering anger all the time?
- Or of feeling guilty?
- Feeling lost
- Physical symptoms such as a backache, neck ache, headaches, or a lump in your throat that won’t go away?
3) What might be the cause of your symptoms?
When your mind isn’t rammed full of endless thoughts, you get insight into yourself, your feelings and your behaviour, as well as insight into the people around you. You can draw more helpful conclusions about why your life is happening the way it is.
- Write down what you think may be the causes.
- Read back over your thoughts the following day (after doing another meditation session). How do those thoughts ‘sit’ with you today? Do they still ‘feel’ right?
- Talk through your conclusions with someone who knows you well and whom you trust. Again, do this after meditation as you will be able to listen and hear what is being said without your own thoughts and emotions jumping up and getting in the way.
- If you still feel unsure about what the causes might be, keep up a daily meditation for another 4 – 7 days and then ask yourself the question again.
4) How can these causes be eliminated?
First, do your meditation and then ask yourself…
- Think about how you can simplify your life. How could you have more time for your mind and body to calm down, to slow down?
- Could you be more mindful of how you are thinking, feeling, moving (or not moving) during your day?
- Can you get more rest? Better sleep? What gets in the way of having this at the moment?
- Where is there time in my day to get some gentle exercise and fresh air?
- When can I find time to nourish your body with good food every day?
- How can I have better relationships with your family, work and friends?
If you are not sure of the answers then who could you ask to help you? This could be professional help from a talking therapy or by having some bodywork (like massage, reflexology, acupuncture, chiropractor, osteopath, physiotherapist) or even your GP. Solutions could come from discussions with your friends, family or boss.
We know that medicine can be used to treat many diagnosed problems. Meditation and mindfulness can also be a remedy for a broad range of symptoms. So perhaps it’s time to give this medicine a try…
Further reading about learning how to meditate
Achieve more calm in your day – Try my Nine Breaths for a Calmer Mind download