PART ONE : Can meditation be powerful enough to impact chronic illness? Is there any conclusive evidence that the mind via meditative practices can “cure” or influence the growth of cancer”? With rising healthcare costs more and more people are turning to self-help books and natural methods in an attempt to ‘cure’ cancer. ‘The mind can cure cancer concept’ is not new. Every few decades, the notion of meditation as a ‘cure’ for cancer, seems to be recycled into public awareness. In today’s show, with 40 years experience, I will share personal insights from clinical practice & discuss the historical timeline of meditative practices and cancer. I also discuss in general terms, the realistic impact of meditative practices on health and wellbeing and help to put into perspective; it’s role in healing.
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As I researched the latest finding on what meditation can and cant do; the aspects that stood out are as follows:
1. When we look at stories of ‘cures’ associated with Meditation or other event such as prayer healing etc – There are many anecdotes where blind faith comes into play. Over centuries people have had a need to believe in a greater force that gives us faith and hope to go on and to make sense of life. When we examine these stories we often have no idea of their true origin. Was someone mistaken when they diagnosed a cancer? Beliefs run strong, as do people’s ideologies and need to see & believe in miracles; it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Just because something is written or appears to be so – doesn’t mean it is fact.
A humorous story illustrates how easy it is to base an opinion on incomplete facts. John Locke (1632-1704) related this story about the Dutch ambassador and the king of Siam: While describing his country, Holland, to the king, the ambassador mentioned that at times it was possible for an elephant to walk on water. The king rejected the idea and felt that the ambassador was lying to him. However, the ambassador was merely describing something that was beyond the king’s personal experience. The king did not realize that when water freezes and becomes ice, it can support the weight of an elephant. This seemed impossible to the king because he did not have all the facts.
The issue with meditation in terms of health value is that it has been promoted in some literature and journals to be a cure or a significant part of a cure for cancer. A wide range of meditative practises clearly can assist cancer patients or those with serious illness – helping with improving life quality and awareness contemplation as life itself is challenged – that is by a diagnosis of a serious illness. However, Claims of cancer being cured by meditation alone are often misguided or misreported. Look for the science. Was there proof by biopsy? Has the whole story been reported? Could there be other logical reasons for a recovery? This is important as for example, cancer patients quote again and again … “If Ian Gawler can do it ( cure himself of cancer ) then I can do it too”. More on this in next blog.
That brings me to looking at some the facts of how meditation/stress reduction techniques can be proven to impact some of our body’s restorative systems and how it can be simply and practically used everyday by simply being you. See Resources below. I like what Thich Nhat Hanh, author The Miracle of Mindfulness said about meditation:
“Hanh warns that meditation should not be an escape from reality. On the contrary, it should lead to an increased awareness of reality.
Hanh summarizes the lessons by presenting a story about the three wondrous answers to the questions — What is the best time to do a thing? Who are the most important people to work with? and What is the most important thing to do at all times?
Hanh suggests that we treat each of our activities as an opportunity for being aware: Walking, we should be aware that we are walking.
Breathing,-we should be aware of our breathing. We should not focus on anything other than the thing that we are doing. One of the key methods that Hanh presents is learning to be aware of breathing.
Resources to read:
http://www.relaxationresponse.org/ Herbert Benson studies and book
To Be continued……..More Tomorrow on meditation and cancer with Resources.