Meditation and the brain’s power for self-healing
by Shona Curley
I was a healthy, active woman until about 2014. I danced professionally in my twenties, began teaching Pilates to support my dance habit way back in 1998, and opened a Pilates studio focusing on rehabilitation work in 2010. Along the way I married an awesome man and had two healthy kids. I was used to getting tons of exercise and trusting my body to handle what came my way.
But in 2014, I slowly developed symptoms of Lyme disease. My immune system became more and more overwhelmed. I had been bitten by a tick in 2013, but doctors assured me I did not have an infection, as I tested negative for the presence of antibodies.
I got scared. I ditched sugar, coffee and alcohol. I ate a very healthy diet and got plenty of rest. But I just couldn’t seem to recover. In fact, my symptoms worsened. I finally took a leave of absence from teaching and devoted myself full time to healing. Though feeling so ill was terrifying and the last thing I wanted, it was also the road inward toward my soul.
There was a moment when I was lying in bed, anxious and afraid, suffering from multiple symptoms without knowing the cause, when I began to visualize my pituitary gland. (My background in dance and rehabilitation work is centered around experiential anatomy.)
My body calmed and softened as I felt deep in to my own brain, warming and relaxing my pituitary with my attention. An hour later, when I got up, I felt so different. My anxiety was gone. My body was functional enough to go cook dinner for my family. At this moment, I knew I would help myself through this illness with meditations exploring the healing power in our physiology.
Creating the meditations was a slow process. I spent about a year playing with imagery in my imagination, finding what worked for me, what eased my symptoms. Eventually I wrote the imagery down, and then recorded it on my phone, revising over and over.
As any Lymie knows, sleep is a challenge. What I found was that listening to the meditations at night was a terrific way to reset my nervous system and fall back to sleep. On nights where I would have been up for good at 3 a.m., I could listen to a recording and fall back to sleep until 6. This was a game changer. These things really helped me!
After two (plus) years of experimentation, I was ready to record the meditations professionally, so that other people in my situation could benefit as well. Working on this project made me feel that my illness had a purpose, that I could put it to use for other people suffering.
This process answered a call inside me that I had been ignoring. A call to drop in, to quiet, to feel, to write and to create. I am grateful for the opportunity Lyme has given me to listen deeply, and to embrace the healing power inherent in our consciousness, and in our physical structures.
Learning about brain plasticity and how to harness my brain’s self-healing power, and going through the process of creating and recording these meditations has been such an education, and so healing for me. Over time, my meditation practice–as well as working with doctors who actually understand Lyme–has slowly brought me back toward wellness.
At this point I no longer need to listen to meditations at 3 a.m. very often. I do still use them—while driving to work, or while taking a long walk with our old dog. No matter where I am they calm me, lower my heart rate, and bring peace and wellbeing to my nervous system.
It is my deepest hope that my meditations will help others like me on their own healing paths. We need each other. We can help each other take this day by day, moment by moment, and find our own roads back to health.
I believe the use of directed, healing imagery will come to be embraced by modern medicine over time. There are scores of books now exploring brain plasticity and healing. My current favorite is The Brain’s Way of Healing, by Norman Doidge, MD. I also love Annie Hopper’s DNRS system for retraining limbic system injury through conscious, positive emotion. Our minds are powerful, and truly shape us from within.
We are filled with healing power. All of us. May your journey be luminous, and your heart be full.
Shona Curley lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be reached via her website, redkitemeditations.com.