Meditation for Cancer Patients (and the rest of us)

Cancer is stressful every step of the way, from diagnosis, through treatment, and as a survivor worried about recurrence.

Stress of all types damages our immune system and makes us more vulnerable to infections and to cancer.

By resting in tranquility and equipose, even for five or ten minutes, we begin to repattern our nervous system, our immune system and our stress response. In doing so our Natural Killer cells, the cells in our immune system that fight cancer and infections increase.

Stress hormones such as cortisol decrease.  Our heart rate slows. Our breathing deepens. Our muscles relax. And even better….a little peace of mind just might save your life.

Relax. Have A Massage. Watch the Sunset. Gaze at the Moon. Sink into a hot bath. Take a deep breath. Stop.

Stop for just a few minutes and restore yourself. The benefits to your immune system are immense. A few minutes of simply resting on the breath can be extraordinarily restorative.  Doing so on a daily basis we engage in an act of profound care and kindness towards ourselves and cultivate a new skill that will serve us over and over again in the midst of life’s challenges.

Sitting Meditation Instruction by Jack Kornfield (more on his website)

Let Your Mind Settle Like A Clear Forest Pool

To begin meditation, select a quiet time and place. Be seated on a cushion or chair, taking an erect yet relaxed posture. Let yourself sit upright with the quiet dignity of a king or queen. Close your eyes gently and being by bringing a full, present attention to whatever you feel within you and around you. Let your mind be spacious and your heart be kind and soft.

As you sit, feel the sensations of your body. Then notice what sounds and feelings, thoughts and expectations are present. Allow them all to come and go, to rise and fall like the waves of the ocean. Be aware of the waves and rest seated in the midst of them. Allow yourself to become more and more still.

In the center of all these waves, feel your breathing, your life-breath. Let your attention feel the in-and-out breathing wherever you notice it, as coolness or tingling in the nose or throat, as a rising and falling of your chest or abdomen. Relax and softly rest your attention on each breath, feeling the movement in a steady, easy way. Let the breath breathe itself in any rhythm, long or short, soft or deep. As you feel each breath, concentrate and settle into its movement. Let all other sounds and sensations, thoughts and feelings continue to come and go like waves in the back ground.

After a few breaths, your attention may be carried away by one of the waves of thoughts or memories, by body sensations or sounds. Whenever you notice you have been carried away for a time, acknowledge the wave that has done so by softly giving it a name such as “planning,” “remembering,” “itching,” “restless.” Then let it pass and gently return to the breath. Some waves will take a long time to pass, others will be short. Certain thoughts or feelings will be painful, others will be pleasurable. Whatever they are, let them be.

At some sittings you will be able to return to your breath easily. At other times in your meditation you will be mostly aware of body sensation or of plans or thoughts. Either way is fine. No matter what you experience, be aware of it, let it come and go, and rest at ease in the midst of it all.

After you have sat for twenty or thirty minutes in this way, open your eyes and look around you before you get up. Then as you move try to allow the same spirit of awareness to go with you into the activities of your day.

The art of meditation is simple but not always easy. It thrives on practice and a kind and spacious heart. If you do this simple practice of sitting with awareness every day, you will gradually grow in centeredness and understanding.


Books I recommend: (most come in audio so you can listen in the car or while walking)

*Good place to start

Jack Kornfield *Seeking the Heart of Wisdom

Matthieu Ricard *Why Meditate?: Working with Thoughts and Emotions (comes with a CD)

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill

Pema Chodron

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Download My Free Report on Creating an Anti-Cancer Healing Lifestyle: How to Remove the Threat of Toxic Cancer Causing Chemicals from Your Home which is packed with information on how to change your body, your environment and your home to support health and healing.

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