February 15th Meeting

 

NOTE:  Thanks to those who have been so generous.  As stated last month, there is an expense to send out mailings. The NJCFSA has agreed to contribute toward the postage.  If anyone else would like to contribute a small donation of $1.50 for the remainder of this meeting year (Feb-June) to help cover the cost of paper, ink, and envelopes, donations can be sent to Anne Gilmartin 211 Bedford Rd. Dumont, NJ 07628.  If you are currently receiving this newsletter both online and by mail, please send Anne an email so she can save the mailing costs.  Thanks.

If you have an article that you think might be of interest to our members, please forward it to Anne.  While we may not be able to print every article that is submitted, each one will certainly be taken into consideration.  We have made some changes and it is hoped that most of you will now be able to see this newsletter in its original format with the blue ribbon logo. 

At our February 15 meeting, we were pleased to have as our speaker Michael Isaacs of the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness.  Mr. Isaacs is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist specializing in the implementation of mind-body techniques for good health and wellness.

Recognizing that holistic techniques, such as, meditation, relaxation, rhythmic breathing, imagery, yoga, Tai Chi Chih, and Qi Gong, can help to avoid illness and lead to a healthy relaxation response, Mr. Isaacs has practiced and taught these methods for over 30 years.

His presentation at our meeting centered on a discussion and demonstration of several forms of meditation.  In general, when we meditate, we are trying to get away from our own stressful thoughts and think instead about something pleasant that can get us into the relaxation response, where our muscles relax, our pulse slows, and our blood pressure goes down, all vital to good health. 

 

The six forms of meditation that Mr. Isaacs demonstrated, with class participation, were:

Mr. Isaacs’ presentation was very informative, instructive and helpful.  He also provided additional handouts, which will be available at our next meeting.  For information on guided imagery videos for various illnesses, call Health Journeys at 800-800-8661.  For videos on Tai Chi Chih and Qi Gong, go to www.TaiChiChih.org and www.breastcancer.com, respectively.

Literature Review

These are excerpts from an article by Judith Horstman that appeared in Arthritis Today.  The full article is available at http://www.arthritis.org/resources/arthritistoday/2001_archives/2001_01_02_meditation.asp.

 

Imagine a totally natural treatment that can ease arthritis pain.

Taken daily, it can untangle tension, fight fatigue and even lower your blood pressure. It can lift your spirits and help you find inner peace. What's more, it costs nothing, has no side effects and doesn't require medical help.  The "treatment" is meditation, an ancient practice that has gained modern medical approval in many quarters.

Research shows meditation can help relieve many arthritis symptoms, such as pain, anxiety, stress and depression, as well as ease the fatigue and insomnia associated with fibromyalgia. It affects many body processes connected with well being and relaxation. Recent studies suggest meditation may balance the immune system to help the body resist disease, and even heal…Once you have learned it, no one can take it away from you. You don't have to come back and get another treatment,” says Betsy B. Singh, PhD, dean of research at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in Wittier and author of studies on meditation and fibromyalgia.  These skills can help people control their arthritis instead of having the disease control them,” Singh explains.

Meditation involves using any number of awareness techniques to quiet the mind and relax the body. Concentration practices and mindfulness meditation are perhaps the best known.  Concentration techniques help you quiet your mind by focusing on the silent repetition of a word, a sound, or the feel of your own breathing. Transcendental meditation (TM) uses a holy phrase called a mantra, for example. Thoughts or feelings that arise during meditation are allowed to pass by. When attention wanders, it is brought gently back to the meditation object or field of attention.

Mindfulness meditation (also known as Vipassana meditation) cultivates a nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. You start with a one-pointed focus (such as your breath) and then expand the field to include thoughts, emotions and sensations in your body. This approach is taught in many stress reduction programs.  In all kinds of meditation, you sit quietly, allowing internal thoughts and external stimuli to flow by or "just be" without getting caught up in them.  Meditation won't take away your pain. But it can move physical and emotional pain and distress out of the forefront of your focus.

Some meditation experts suggest thinking of your mind as a glass of muddy water. When you shake it up, particles swirl around and cloud the water. But if you let the glass sit for 20 minutes, all of the debris suspended in the water settles, leaving the water clear. In a similar way, sitting in meditation helps quiet the "debris" swirling around your head and leaves you feeling clear and peaceful. Meditation is a way of becoming more awake, more deliberate about what you are doing, and to learn how to respond rather than react to situations in your daily life…

So far, few of the hundreds of studies on meditation look specifically at arthritis or related conditions.  However, stress is believed to be associated with flares in many kinds of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia. Many studies have shown meditation can significantly lower stress, chronic pain and anxiety.  There are several studies that show meditation can be effective for fibromyalgia. In a 1993 study of 77 patients with fibromyalgia who participated in a 10-week meditation-based relaxation program, all showed some improvement in global well-being, pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances, and 51 percent had moderate to marked improvement.

Other studies suggest meditation may have far-reaching effects.  Scientists now know meditation changes the way our brain works, and shows that thoughts can influence the brain and the body, says Dr. Benson. When his research team used MRI imaging to study the brains of four people meditating, he says the team found increased activity in specific areas involved in attention and control of the autonomic nervous system.

Meditation has also been shown to slow heart and breathing rates, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, and increase alpha brain wave activity. It may also increase the body's production of melatonin, which is needed for healthy sleep (a problem for many with fibromyalgia and chronic pain). And a startling study last spring found twice-daily TM meditation actually reduced fatty buildup in artery walls as effectively as heart medications.  There's also evidence that meditation moderates the immune response, says Richard Kradin, MD, an immunologist and psychiatrist at Harvard University. Meditation may affect the nervous and vascular systems, as well as the immune system, which in turn would affect joint function and inflammation.

There is also concern people will give up conventional treatments in favor of meditation. Don Goldenberg, MD, a rheumatologist in Wellesley, Mass., who co-authored a study on meditation and fibromyalgia, says meditation can improve symptoms. However, he cautions against thinking you can meditate your illness away…But Singh says people who completed an eight-week training program demonstrated that treatment effects lasted long after the program ended. "They learned to think differently and behave differently and continued to improve," she says. "People who are miserable from chronic pain and have not been given much hope for change, and then they feel better from a treatment are smart enough to continue what makes them feel better."

Meanwhile, many health professionals practice what they prescribe.  "A meditation practice can change the quality of your life," says Singh, who meditates daily. "It offers each person a few moments to quietly refocus and just be in a moment of peace."  Dr. Goldenberg, a fibromyalgia expert who has struggled with chronic ailments himself, practices yoga and meditation. Santorelli's expertise in stress reduction has its roots in his long-time meditation and yoga practice.

Points to Ponder

This month’s meeting learned about Meditation and its role in managing chronic disease.  Coincidentally, this article appeared in the January issue of NFA’s FM Online.  The article is from http://www.fmaware.org/fmOnlineNewsletter/vol4_no1/article_NewBeginningsMeditation.htm.   

New Beginnings Meditation by Linda Chollar - Excerpt from her Reflexology and Chronic Pain

Visualize yourself standing by a large blazing fire. You have come here to allow the fire to purify and cleanse you. You have chosen to take off certain pieces of clothing of the past that represent anything less than LOVE and toss these garments into the fire...negative emotions and limitations that keep you from fulfilling your true purpose. Stepping closer to the fire, you feel safe and nurtured as your spirit guides you. A sense of deep LOVE surrounds you.   

The first layer of clothing you remove is the heavy one you have long worn of GUILT. Guilt over those things you did or left undone, that person you hurt, the situation you handled poorly, that time (you fill it in). Take this clothing off and toss it into the fire. It is the guilt over the past, let it go and let it burn. What remains from the smoke as it drifts into your face, is the wisdom and experience you carry in your heart, the knowledge of what you will do the next time, as you feel LOVE removing all guilt from the past.  

And now, the next layer, the REGRETS. A weight on your shoulders of shoulds and should nots, regrets of opportunities you let pass by, that will never come again at that age, in that place, with those people; regrets of words that were spoken or not spoken, love not given, or not received or regrets of ___. Remove these old regrets and toss them in the fire. Feel the weight lift from your shoulders, as the smoke lightens your load and a knowing comes that you will have many, many more opportunities to respond to life in a new way, with new eyes and a new love for self and others, for humanity and the earth. No regrets left. Your shoulders feel lighter. 

Next, you remove the weight of LIMITATIONS - the clothing you have worn that restricts & limits you - old habits & old ways of being and thinking. Limitations that deep down you knew did not serve your highest good. Throw this garment into the crackling fire, hear the flames as clapping hands. Many of these limitations you picked up in your life from rules given to you by others, all the things that you could not do. Allow yourself to move into the world without bounds, limitations & old baggage weighting you down. You can live now in a new way, form new habits, healthier ways of being, with freedom to be you and true to Self. 

Along with the old ways, you remove the FEARS that lie beneath them, fears that grip and bind the stomach, fears that create anxiety when you think of letting go of those old ways of being. Shed this old clothing of defenses that no longer fit or work for you. Many layers of clothing representing FEAR have kept you from soaring on wings of freedom. Throw them one by one into the transmuting flames. You smell the foul odor and illusion of fear, as it burns and loses it grip on your life. In the New Year, you are fearless, full of courage, commitment and action .

As you toss the fears into the fire, you now see uncovered the web of DOUBTS. The nagging doubts that have limited your true potential, the voices that say you are not enough. Tear this web away and toss it into the blaze! You ARE enough. You are more than enough. You are everything you need to be. You now believe in yourself and are full of faith – knowing you have guidance and unlimited potential.

And now, free of all self-doubt , you take off the BLAME and ANGER that girds your chest and restricts your heart. You remove the binding that has been held here, emotions that allowed frustration, judgment and criticism toward others. Toss this tight band into the fire, and with it, all the hurt you have ever felt from things said to you, the anger you have felt when wronged, the pain of circumstances you blamed on others or yourself (the divorce, the job loss, the lost love affair, the parent, the one who _____). Let the anger , bitterness and blame burn. And into your heart center, acceptance and forgiveness fills this space. This forgiveness now flows from your heart to all those you ever felt caused you harm during your life. You feel self-forgiveness, watching the flames dissolve all the times of blaming yourself, even as a child. Feel the freedom in your body as you throw all blame and anger into the fire, your heart singing, ‘I Am Not To Blame! I am free of Blame and Anger.

And underneath it all, worn closest to the skin, you find the garments of UNWORTHINESS and self-reproach. Tattered rags, stained and ugly with age from the times you have thought you were not worthy or deserving. Take them off. Toss them in the fire. You are filled with pure LOVE for yourself and others, free from guilt, regret, limitations, fear, doubt, blame, anger and you know you are a worthy child of God, the image of I AM. 

Now, you stand naked before the world . Lift your face toward the sky. See the angels above you, pouring out the sweet waters of love, which flow and flow and never end. Let this water flow down upon you and cleanse you, your naked self. Let it wash away any vestiges or residues of any negative emotions that you have left inside.  

And now open your mouth and let the waters flow gently inside, filling your heart with love, acceptance, forgiveness and a deep gratitude. The waters of Divine Love fill you up so completely that you begin to overflow, love pouring out from you to everyone and covering the earth below and all creatures and kingdoms. You recognize that you ARE LOVE.                  Now cleansed of all that was not of your true self, you begin again, exactly as you are, in this moment. You stand perfect in the glow of love, a Being of full integrity, of perfection, a Light in the world. You have everything you need and ARE everything you need to be. You have all the abundance you need to fulfill your purpose. You greet each new dawn with gratitude. You draw unto yourself a life of health, happiness, joy, peace and abundance, which you desire and deserve. You know who you are. 

Throughout the New Year, you remember to give thanks for this cleansing of the old garments - burned forevermore in the fire. You now know to integrate the wise and positive teachings from the past, being grateful for all of your experiences and teachers on the journey.

Go now, clothed in joy, peace and love, remembering you are a Spirit Being with a humanly clothed body. See your true garments glowing with an eternal brightness that takes you into the future. The future that is only a string of moments, that begins and ends with …NOW.

 

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday March 21, 2004 at 2 PM at Pascack Valley Hospital.  The speaker will be. Ken Andes.  He's the licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist and has spoken to our group once before.    We hope you will be there.  

This newsletter is intended for CFS patients in the area of this support group.  The purpose is to share information and support.