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Cancer

Relaxation and Imagery Techniques

Entrepreneur, philanthropist and cancer survivor Richard A. Bloch.

MEDITATION

The meditation method is a way for you to let go of all the cares and worries that are on your mind. You release any thoughts you have other than the meditation.

After making yourself comfortable in a chair, sofa or bed, loosen any tight clothing, close your eyes and relax. Focus your attention on your breath and its rhythm. If your mind wanders to any thought, bring it back to your breath. Just notice the easy and gentle passage of breath in and out of the nose.

Don’t try to control your breathing in any way. Just be aware of the situation. Be fully aware of the whole in-breath and the whole out-breath. This focus on your breath lets your body share the truly relaxed state.

Some people like to say a comforting word of prayer with each breath like “health” or “peace.” Some like to just be aware of each breath without saying anything.

Stay awake. Do not allow yourself to fall asleep. Each meditation session is unique. There is no right way or wrong way to feel. Just keep track of your breathing and let happen whatever happens. Probably 10 to 15 minutes is long enough.


MUSCLE RELAXATION

Our muscles store the tension of stress. To relax, we must first become aware of the difference between our tense state and that of deep relaxation. To use this second method, lie down on a thick carpet or mat, loosen any tight clothing, close your eyes and make yourself comfortable. Again, stay awake. The theory of this exercise is to tighten and relax each muscle.

Begin by flexing your toes toward your knees. You will feel your calves tighten. Hold that tightly for three or four seconds and then let your toes relax and repeat. Lift your legs a few inches with your muscles tight, hold, drop them back and repeat. Tighten your buttocks hard, hold, relax, and repeat. Hold your stomach way in, hold, relax, and repeat. Take as deep a breath as possible, hold, exhale and repeat slowly.

Relax as long as you feel comfortable between any of these exercises. Press your shoulders firmly to the floor arching your back, hold, release and repeat. Make your right hand into a tight fist, hold, relax and repeat. Bring your right hand to your right shoulder, make a muscle by tensing it, hold, relax and repeat. Repeat both of these with your left hand and arm. Shrug your shoulders toward your ears, hold, relax and repeat. Press your chin down against your chest, hold, relax and repeat. Close your eyes very tightly tensing your face muscles, hold, relax and repeat. Clench your teeth tightening your jaw, hold, relax and repeat.

Try to picture your whole body as soft and relaxed with warmth spreading through every part. Imagine you have no more tension and your body is floating free. The sense of well-being, the healing sense, is filling your body and flowing through every part. Enjoy this deep relaxation for as long as you like.


DIRECTED RELAXATION

Another method, the one I used most often, involves making yourself extremely comfortable in a chair, sofa or bed, loosening any tight clothing, closing your eyes and relaxing.

Then, picture your forehead and say to yourself, “My forehead is relaxed.” Then, picture your eyebrows and say, “My eyebrows are relaxed.” Then your eyelids, your cheeks, your nose, your mouth, your chin and so forth down to your toes. By this time you should be fairly relaxed.

Picture your body floating in an environment you particularly enjoy. I personally happen to like water, sunshine and trees. I pictured myself floating down a winding path beside a lake and finally lying in deep grass under tall trees with sunlight streaming through. You can use any other set of circumstances that you find appealing, comforting and relaxing.

Take this time for yourself to get calm, clear and deeply relaxed. A regular session of relaxation in and of itself is an antidote to the ravages of stress. Do this three times a day, morning, mid- day and evening, for 15 to 20 minutes including your imagery. It has a cumulative effect that you will learn to enjoy and treasure.

While you are relaxed, realize that you are master of your body. It is yours to control, and it will care for you. It will follow your directions. A medical doctor wrote, “The greatest resource in medicine is within the patient himself.”


VISUALIZATION

Think about your thymus gland which is situated just under your breast bone. Direct your thymus gland to send out hundreds of thousands of new “T” cells that look like guard dogs, very protective of you. Send them to the parts of your body that you are the most concerned about.

As you watch them go, whenever they find a cancer cell, they begin to eat and tear and devour those cancer cells. The cancer is fat, dumb and jelly-like. It cannot move, run or fight because it is a wrong cell that is not supposed to be there. It has no defense mechanism. Your “T” cells were designed specifically to search out and destroy these wrong cells. They are doing their job beautifully. Cancer cells are like raw hamburger: it is very easy for the “T” cells to completely eat them. They completely eradicate every cancer cell that is there. You can then picture that zone of your body clear and clean and free of cancer, pink and beautiful.

Picture your “T” cells on a continuous search throughout your body detecting any cell that has gone wrong and killing it and being flushed from your system. You know these “T” cells are on guard 24 hours a day protecting and defending you as they were designed to do.

Relax for a few moments. Stress reduces the function of the immune system and relaxation reduces stress. Each time you practice this, your relaxation should get deeper and more beneficial.

Another method of imagery is to picture your “T” cells as little shocks of electricity. They look like little lights streaming out of your thymus gland, very vigorously. You watch them go to the part of the body with which you are most concerned, latch on to any cancer cells and shock and kill them.

Some people prefer to picture their “T” cells as white knights in the form of “pac-man,” a happy, aggressive white ball with only a mouth incessantly snapping that searches out and devours all cancer cells.

No matter which of these methods you use, or one you might create, try it. Do it three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each. Try different methods before you settle on one. Then use it for at least 10 consecutive days before thinking it is not for you. We are each supposed to learn something new every day. If this is your new knowledge for the day, you have done well for yourself, maybe helped to save your life.

For a graphic demonstration of what visual imagery is, create in your mind a vivid image of a ripe, yellow lemon squirting juice into your mouth and onto your tongue. You will actually begin to salivate. That is a clear example of how imagery can affect the nervous system, which regulates bodily processes and was traditionally thought to be beyond conscious control. If thinking of a juicy lemon makes you salivate, then what happens when you think of your life situation as hopeless? You are telling your immune system, “Don’t bother! Don’t do the best you can to heal me!” And to the contrary, when you imagine your medical treatments or your immune system as creating more mechanisms to kill your cancer, maybe that is just what it is doing.

There are no thorough studies yet that pinpoint the precise psychological mechanisms involved when emotions seem to affect health, says Leonard S. Zegans, M.D., professor of psychiatry at U.C.S.F. But, he adds, researchers believe that “hormones produced in response to emotional situations may affect lymphocytic (white blood cell) function and thus immunity to cancer, viral diseases and bacterial illnesses.

Anything that gives a person a greater sense of control over the situation can be helpful. Information, for example, can relieve anxiety, and that can in turn improve a patient’s chances for recovery.”

Tapes to help you understand and practice relaxation are available from numerous sources including private practitioners and public libraries. If you have a problem finding one locally, you may borrow one free by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope requesting “tape” to:

Cancer Hot Line
4400 Main,
Kansas City, MO 64111
OR sending us e-mail at hotline@hrblock.com