It’s that time of year when many of us are fighting off a cold or flu — or have some anxiety about coming down with one. Maybe you’re feeling some of the telltale signs of illness now: stuffy nose, headache, loss of energy, bleary eyes, or lack of motivation, for example.
Getting sick is not always a bad thing; sometimes our body lets us know that we need a break by giving us a cold or other illness, and there is no blame here for that. Life moves pretty fast, and sometimes we need to slow down.
But if possible, it’s better to perceive the signs of approaching illness and give ourselves the best rest, support, and care we can in order to stay healthy. (For more on rest and natural immune system support, this article from Mind Body Green has some great tips. I also highly recommend this wonderful post from AcuTake that presents a simple 2-minute way of using acupressure on yourself to boost your immunity.)
Here are some ways that meditation can help.
First, you should realize that not all meditation methods are alike. Different kinds of meditation have different purposes and lead to different results. (More info on the different kinds of meditation can be found here.)
Heart Rhythm Meditation is a kind of meditation in which you use a deep, full, slow, rhythmic breathing pattern, feeling your heartbeat as you breathe, and feeling as though it is your heart that is breathing. This kind of meditation creates entrainment between your heart, mind, and nervous system that is deeply beneficial for your health.
Once you have learned the basic practice of Heart Rhythm Meditation (for which I recommend 101: Introduction to Heart Rhythm Meditation), you can learn how to use the four elements, which are the four fundamental kinds of energy within your self. The elements can be used to heal yourself or others, or to prevent yourself from getting sick.
Note: as you take a look at this list, you might feel like you don’t have the training to do some of these techniques. That’s OK — just focus on the techniques you feel comfortable with. Doing even part of this will be very helpful. If you want to learn it all, take courses 101 and 102. The book Living from the Heart, by Puran and Susanna Bair, is also a great resource.
- Adopt the right attitude. Using the Air Breath (in and out through the mouth), breathe deeply and rhythmically, feeling your heartbeat if possible, and turn your attention to your attitude and mental self-image. Feeling ill often triggers feelings of victimization and self-pity. The Air Breath will help you by bringing a lot of heart energy to your mind, your consciousness, and your thought process. You’ll need that energy to maintain a good attitude.
- Develop an affirmation to shape your thoughts. While all feelings have value, if you want to avoid getting sick, you need to think of yourself as well. But of course, it’s not so simple to change the way you think. This is where an affirmation can help. If you have the thought, “Oh no, I’m getting sick,” change that consciously by saying to yourself, “I’m fighting it off right now.” You should develop your own statement to say to yourself, such as “Each moment, I am getting stronger and healthier.” Use the Air Breath to come up with your own affirmation, and then say it to yourself 11 times before each meal.
- Feel and purify your lungs. As you continue to use the Air Breath, turn your attention to your lungs. Breath is the fundamental way that you exchange energy with the world. As you breathe, visualize your lungs taking in the air. Feel the energy of your breath going to every cell of your body.
- Purify the pores of your skin. Still using the Air Breath, turn your attention to your skin, the surface of your body which is in contact with the air. Breathe in through the pores of your skin, taking in the energy of the breath from all sides, directly into your heart. Then breathe out through your skin, casting off all traces of illness.
- Blow away and disperse any impurities in your body, mind, and heart. The Air Element purifies by dispersing impurities, like smoke that is blown away by the open air. Let go of old habits, belief structures that no longer serve you, and all self-imposed limitations. Release the impurities you feel within your body, allowing the air element to disperse them. Feel as though your breath is washing over you like a strong wind, giving you energy and excitement.
- Raise your spirits. Use the Fire Breath (in through the mouth, out through the nose), in conjunction with a deep, rhythmic breath –if you can, feel your heartbeat and make your inhalation and exhalation the same number of beats. Breathe into your solar plexus, at the base of your rib cage, and breathe out through your heart. Feel the energy rising in your being, filling you with a feeling of optimism. If you don’t feel that way, it’s OK — just focus on the rising energy; our moods are the result of the energies within us, so by changing your energy, you will impact your mood. This is sometimes difficult to notice in the moment, but trust me, you will notice it later.
- Remember what you want. When we feel we’re coming down with something, the thought is often, “I don’t want to get sick!” Good place to start. If you did want to get sick, you surely wouldn’t have read this far. But you need think of what you want in positive terms, and to cultivate a strong reason for your desire. “I need to be healthy so I can go camping with my friends,” is an example of a positive statement of desire. Try to avoid a feeling of desperation; just be clear with your desire and put it out to the Universe as you continue with the Fire Breath.
- Feel the heat of your body. Our bodies often turn up the heat when more energy is needed to combat an illness, which leads to a fever. But a fever is not our aim here; we want to become aware of the burning within our bodies, the metabolic process that generates our body heat. (If you have an actual fever, you should skip this step.) Continuing with the Fire Breath, become aware of your body heat. As you extend your awareness, you will help your body fight illness by spreading your attention more evenly, bringing to your attention any areas that are unevenly heated within you. (Try to eliminate the effect of the environment outside yourself by doing this in a place which has a comfortable indoor temperature.) Now use your exhalation to bring more warmth, and more energy, to any places in your body that need more energy. An advanced step would be to use your inhalation to draw energy away from places within you that have too much energy. (Inflammation would be an example.)
- Fill your being with light. Fire gives off both heat and light; as you continue with the Fire Breath, turn your attention to the light that your body emits. You are a being of light. Feel the light of your atmosphere and turn it back to yourself, washing your body with light, healing yourself in the way that sunlight is healing.
- Purify yourself by burning away all impurities. The microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses that are responsible for colds and flu infections are impurities. Use the Fire Breath to burn them away. (Again, skip this if you have an actual fever.) As all impurities within you burn, they give off light and energy, bringing joy and vitality.
- Cultivate kindness, compassion, and love for your body. Use the Water Breath (in through the nose, out through the mouth), along with a breathing pattern that is deep, full rhythmic and heart-centered (as described above). Allow yourself to feel a deep sense of appreciation for all that your body does. Our bodies are amazing, sacred vessels — how we take our health and strength for granted! Take a moment to send a kind thought to yourself. If you find you cannot think of one, simply say “thank you.”
- Become aware of your circulatory system. Circulation of bodily fluids such as blood and lymph is vital to good health, and of course your heart plays a central role in your circulatory system. Continuing to use the Water Breath, breathing through your heart, become aware of your circulation, learning more about your body, and becoming aware of any areas that feel blocked. In time you will learn to unblock these areas, allowing healthy flow to return. Each moment you spend working at it is helpful. If there are no blockages, simply focus on widening the flow, as you breathe in and out through your heart.
- Dissolve areas of tension in your muscles. Muscular tension is residual contraction in muscles of your body that are not being used. Use the Water Breath to gently dissolve these areas of tension in your body. Common areas that are tense are the eyes, neck, shoulders, and back.
- Allow your emotions to flow. Illness is often the result of blocked emotions, where feelings that we do not allow ourselves to feel and experience fully manifest in other ways. As you use the Water Breath, allow your emotions to flow, opening your heart to feel any emotion that is there. Try to suspend any judgment of the emotion; just experience it. As you feel your emotion, it will change.
- Purify yourself by washing away all impurities. Using the Water Breath, visualize your breath as a stream of pure water, falling down on your head, washing away all impurities. As you inhale, feel the energy of the Water Element — loving, graceful, kind, abundant — gathering within your chest. As you exhale, feel the water washing away all the impurities from your body, mind, and heart.
- Cultivate a feeling of calm, peacefulness, and confidence. Use the Earth Breath (in and out through the nose), along with a breath that is deep, full, slow, rhythmic, and heart-centered, as described above. Seek a place of calm within. I find it helpful to focus on the feeling of being a mountain. Other earth images I cultivate are megalithic stones, crystals, and rich, fertile topsoil. Feel the peacefulness and stillness of the earth, and notice that these qualities are also present within you, no matter how anxious or stressed you may be in this moment. Keep in mind that if you feel like you’re failing to find calm, simply allowing yourself to become aware of that has great value. Encountering resistance is a sign of progress.
- Keep to your rhythm. Health is about rhythm and the breakdown of health is often preceded by a loss of rhythm. Now there are many different rhythms in life, some longer, some shorter. Use the Earth Breath to become aware of your rhythm on the most fundamental level: your breath and heartbeat. Feel how an order is created by breathing in time with your heartbeat. As you continue to do this practice, allow the sense of rhythm to expand. Feel the larger rhythms of the day, the week, the season, and the year. Feel the rhythm of different parts of your life, relationships, career, goals, and so on.
- Develop your sense of what is you and what is not you. The job of your immune system, in broad terms, is to create and police the boundary between self and other, that is to determine what is you and what is not. Problems result when that sense breaks down; when, for some reason, your immune system decides that infected cells are you, and refrains from attacking them. Use the Earth Breath to get clearer on what is you — health — and what is not you — illness — and allow that sense of fundamental order to permeate through your body.
- Feel your body’s magnetic field. Your body has an electromagnetic field which pulses rhythmically in tune with your heartbeat. As you use the Earth Breath, get in touch with your magnetic field by facing your palms toward each other, as though you were holding an invisible ball. Move your palms closer very slightly, and see if you can feel a sense of pressure. We seek to become more familiar with our magnetic body, and in our advanced work we become aware of our heart’s pulsations in our electromagnetic field. For now, simply become aware that your body has a magnetic field, and feel how it is refreshed and renewed by the magnetism of the earth. (This works best if you can have your bare feet in contact with the earth.)
- Purify yourself by creating order within yourself. The earth creates soil by composting different kinds of organic material into a coherent whole. Use the Earth Breath to do the same within your own body. Recognize that everything within you is energy and vibration, and all kinds of energy are good when in their proper place. There is no ‘bad’ or ‘impure’ energy. (More on that here.) Your heart knows what is the proper order within you. You have simply forgotten. The Earth Breath can help you remember.
- Call for spiritual help. There are many spiritual beings who are willing and able to help you stay healthy by giving you energy and inspiration. You simply need to call upon a being, and that being will come to you. This works best with the illuminated souls who have made it their mission to serve humanity. If you feel a connection to Jesus Christ, Buddha, Shiva, or perhaps a great female being like Mother Mary, Quan Yin, or Isis.
May you find health and wholeness so that you can achieve the purpose of your life, finding wisdom, peace, and fulfillment.
You can learn more about how to use the Four Elements by taking course 102: The Four Elements, an 8-week webcourse in Heart Rhythm Meditation. (The pre-requisite for the course is 101: Introduction to Heart Rhythm Meditation.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.