“One thing I teach: suffering and the end of suffering.
It is just ill and the ceasing of ill that I proclaim.”
In a recent study, Mental Training Increases Physical Strength, by Erin M. Shackell and Lionel G. Standing from Bishop’s University in Quebec, a group of college students were asked to IMAGINE strength training versus a control group who did nothing and another group who did the actual physical work.
One area (hip flexing) was identified for groups of 10 college student-athletes to work on for the two-week study. The 10 college students who did the actual strength training five days a week did four sets of eight repetitions, adding 5lbs of weight, and they saw strength training improvement of 28%. The group of 10 that did nothing saw no gains; and the group that practiced visualization saw gains of 24%! This study was unique in that the group imagining themselves doing the reps actually did nothing after that—it was pure visualization.
The idea of using mental practice to improve performance has been around as long as Buddhism, founded 2,500 years ago. Exactly how visualization changes physical health remains a mystery, but the Dalai Lama spoke of the process of training the mind through meditation when I heard him speak this past October. I was profoundly affected by his talk; in fact, I am writing a book with Travis Hellstrom, called Questions for the Dalai Lama & Daily Quotes for Hope, due out in 2014—visit our website here, and please join us—we like to receive questions, and you may be in the book! Those of us in the Crohn’s-Colitis community live with suffering sometimes on a daily basis. It is important to develop and train your mind as a way to cope with this.
Additionally, studies have shown that altruistic behavior (the inherent, and possibly genetic ability to help) improves medical outcomes—so a good New Year’s resolution:
Do something kind for someone or something every day. My own daily intention is this: May our thoughts be kind and clear. May our words and communication be kind and clear. May our actions and intentions be for the greater good of all beings.
I have used mediation and mindfulness steadily since my bowel resection six years ago, and I have made a daily practice of morning yoga and mediation. When I sit at the end of my yoga session (I use the gentle Rodney Yee DvD, “A.M. Yoga,” I let Rodney’s soothing voice guide me into a place where my breath is quiet, my mind quiets (that can take a while with me!), and my shoulders and ears and limbs are relaxed (look at statues of sitting Buddhas, and you will notice the elongated ears, the fingers in the lotus position, the downcast eyes…). I chant “Om,” before and after I sit, and I have a visualization that I let pass through my body from my head down through my spine, and out my lower back—it is a ball of white light. While this luminescent ball moves down my spine, I have a mantra I chant over and over that goes like this:
White light healing
It is amazing to me how grounded and refreshed I feel after each morning session.
Now that my Crohn’s has gone into a full-blown flare, I am sobered by the realization that the disease has been spreading back up my small intestine from the site of the surgery (see my recent post, What Causes a Flare Up). However, I have heard from numerous health practitioners that a positive outlook actually affects disease outcomes, so my goal is to be as upbeat as possible while I begin this new drug-and-naturopathic protocol (low dose naltrexone, Glutamine, vitamin D and C, high potency turmeric/curcumin, and the rest of my daily supplements including increased probiotics).
I am also committed to getting back on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) that helped me so much six years ago! My colleagues, Jordan and Steve, have since developed a really great website and resources based on the original book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, by Elaine Gottschall.
How Does the Specific Carbohydrate Diet Work?
By eliminating complex carbohydrates, lactose, sucrose and other man made ingredients from the digestive process, the body is finally allowed to start healing. As gut flora levels start to stabilize, the reduction of irritants from undigested foods, toxins and other man made ingredients allows inflammation levels to retreat.
So, for all my readers, followers, fellow uc-ers, Crohnnies, and friends—keep on with visualization and positive thinking, especially as we embark on a new year with new beginnings.