Meditation is an ancient form that has been practiced for many centuries with its roots in religion. The origins of meditation come from Eastern cultures; India being the main example. The basic purpose of meditation is as a form of healing which does not require any medications, relying only on the individuals mind and belief and how it may be finely tuned to achieve the desired effects on the mind and body. The very purpose of meditation is to go beyond “normal” thinking and psychological state  and elevate to a higher level of awareness and consciousness ultimately achieving a relaxed state of mind and the ability to focus clearly.

Meditation involves a wide range of spiritual and psycho physical practices.

As mentioned, meditation does have religious roots including customs developed from the practice of the Baha’i faith, Christianity, Buddhism,  Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Jainism.

The practice of meditation can take on several forms including focusing  on a single object or a process such as a mantra. Meditation can also be performed while walking or engaged in a repetitive task. The object of meditation is to concentrate while minimising disruptions in order to achieve the desired goal of inner peace, self awareness and spiritual growth, transcending the mundane and disruptive cares and thoughts that we all experience.

Meditation practiced in India, has its roots in the Hinduism and Buddhism faith. The original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama, is believed to have achieved enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree.

Buddhist meditation has 2 forms: the Samatha and the Vipassana, both of which are necessary to achieve enlightenment.

The practice of the 2 forms have been known to merge into one another, with a meditation session starting out with Samatha characteristics while ending up with a Vipassana practice. The Samatha form is based on focusing the attention single-pointedly, the Vipassana form is aimed at seeing things as they really are, in the true nature of reality.

In Vipassana meditation, the focus of awareness is centered on the rise and fall of the breath and when the mind and heart are still, the focus is then placed onto and object such as a symbol or a candle flame.

Meditation has been practiced in Eastern cultures for centuries and there are meditation practitioners and teachers in India who have further developed the practice and principles of meditation into a fine skill which will help other practitioners develop a sense of peace, awareness and greater well-being.

A Complementary Treatment for Relieving Secondary Symptoms in Cancer Patients

Human touch and therapeutic massage have long been noted for producing significant improvements in physical and emotional well-being. Indeed, massage has a long history of use and effectiveness that dates back to the first time that an early human received an injury and instinctively rubbed the affected area to unconsciously stimulate circulation and release pain-fighting chemicals in the brain. Massage therapists combine this instinctual premise with specific professional training to provide relief of symptoms for their clients.

Benefits of Massage

Massage increases the flow of both blood and lymph within the circulatory system, driving out toxins and oxygenating the body. It may contribute to improved flexibility and suppleness within the muscle fibers and joints. Massage also stimulates the release of potent hormones within the brain that signal a reduction in stress, increased pain tolerance, and an overall sense of well-being. It is believed that the majority of these results are produced by the autonomic nervous system in conjunction with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These systems allow a cascade of chemical messengers, or hormones, to promote stress reduction and positive feelings. In particular, massage decreases the “stress hormone” cortisol and increases the “bonding hormone” oxytocin while releasing pain-relieving endorphins.

Professional Research Supports Cancer-Specific Massage

Patients who are undergoing cancer treatment are particularly prone to physical and emotional manifestations of stress. MD Anderson, a leading facility in the fight against cancer, asserts that oncology massage, under the hands of a trained therapist, can reduce the pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and nausea that may accompany traditional cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society agrees that, while massage does not treat the cancer itself, massage may assist patients in tolerating the stress and discomfort that many experience during cancer treatment.

Indeed, doctors and scientists concur that, when applied by a professional massage therapist with specific training in oncology massage, this complementary treatment may result in a decrease in negative secondary symptoms by up to 50%. While this improvement is noted to be short-term, many cancer centers recommend a massage therapy regiment to produce these benefits repeatedly over time. Indeed, researchers have found that these results are so impressive that they have deemed them clinically significant and called for further study into the specific mechanisms of action.

Special Considerations for Cancer Patients

Individuals who are using massage to cope with the physical and emotional stresses of mesothelioma and other cancers should pay particular attention to the qualifications of the massage therapist. It is wise to seek a therapist who is licensed in massage and trained in specific oncology massage protocols. This training can ensure that the massage provides the best outcomes possible in terms of pain management and symptom relief.

Massage is a beneficial and scientifically proven complementary treatment option for anyone suffering with chronic or specific pain that is physical or emotional in origin. In particular, massage therapy may be particularly effective for assisting individuals undergoing cancer treatment manage discomfort, reduce symptoms of stress, and maintain a high quality of life while coping with a cancer diagnosis.

Mudras

When practising meditation, yoga and other Eastern traditions, Mudras (Sanskrit word for ‘seal’) are used to generate energy and develop the consciousness of the practitioner. Mudras are simply hand postures and creating different postures using your your fingers, thumb and palm of hand can have significant benefits.

Mudras can be used to improve health and vitality, improve intelligence, improve the immune system, aid healing and rebalnce the body and mind.

Abhayaprada Mudra Akash Mudra Apana Mudra
Bhudy Mudra Gyan Mudra Prana Mudra
Mantangi Mudra Mahasirs Mudra Mushti Mudra

Trataka – Yogic Gaze

Trataka is a Sanskrit word meaning to gaze. In meditation terms it includes staring at an object for long enough so that the practitioner can see the object when they close their eyes to develop concentration, stimulate the eyes and open up the Ajna Chakra.

 
• It aids healing to eye disorders and strengthens the muscles of the eyes
• Develops concentration
• Because of the focus on a particular object, the mind is less easily distracted by the environment and one’s own mind
• Opens up the third eye

Trataka Exercises

Begin both exercises in a comfortable meditation pose.

Exercise 1
Attention is focused on a particular symbol, any thoughts that enter the mind whilst concentrating on the symbol should be fleeting; acknowledge the thought and simply let it pass and bring the focus back to the symbol. Maintain focus without blinking until your eyes become strained and start to water, as soon as this occurs close your eyes.

Exercise 2

Gaze at a candle flame approximately two feet in front of you, again until your eyes begin to water and again at this point, close your eyes. You should see an afterimage of the flame. It is important to try and maintain the afterimage as long as possible. If the afterimage begins to move in your mind’s eye, being it back to the centre.

This is a very powerful technique to develop one’s concentration. After regular and consistent practice, the flame will be visible in the mind’s eye without the need to gaze at the flame of a candle.

Current research in Transcendental Meditation (TM) has shown that regular practice of meditation can significantlyreduce the risk of heart disease and other heart related problems.

TM made its way into western cultures in the latter part of the 20th century but has been used in the east for thousands of years. Initially used within religious contexts, it is now practiced as a way to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and also to maintain and improve one’s health.

Learning the techniques of TM is a seven step process to aid relaxation and create calm within the body and mind.

The research was carried out on a select group of 201 African American recipients that suffer with coronary heart disease or CHD. It was found that African Americans are more susceptible to developing heart problems and researchers predicted stress reducing techniques such as meditation would reduce the risk of developing CHD and related issues.

The research itself was spread over a period of nine years from 1998 to 2007. One group would meditate 2 times per day for 20 minutes and the control group would engage in other activities ‘that were taught in a cardiovascular health education program’.

On completion of the research, it was found that there was a reduced risk of a heart attack or stroke and that there was a general reduction in blood pressure and overall stress but there was no significant improvement in peripheral factors of CHD such as depression, and isolation. These benefits outweighed the benefits of activities undertaken by the control group.

The overall conclusion of the study stated that although TM is not a cure for CHD there were positive benefits to the practice.

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