Using your mind to help fight Lyme disease from within
By Shona Curley
Before Lyme, when something didn’t go my way, I stressed out. Like most healthy people, I was perfectly functional that way. I rushed my kids off to school, taught Pilates for eight hours, got home in time for dinner, dishes and bedtime – even if I was caught up arguing in my own head about something I didn’t like. I’m sure my husband could have told me when I was anxious or uptight, but I basically didn’t even know.
Stress is very human – it’s how we try to control fear. Stressful thoughts live on, however, long after the original feelings have passed, and this affects our health.
A tight body restricts the movement of cellular fluid, blood and lymph; making all cellular processes more difficult. Our bodies can’t stay in “fight or flight” and heal at the same time, especially with a project like recovering from Lyme.
Lyme has made it crystal clear to me that I can’t approach being sick by using my old patterns of stressing out. In order to heal, I need to consciously let go, relax, and cultivate joy and sensual pleasure, right in the face of what has been the most frightening time of my life.
Both Buddhist mindfulness and a brain retraining program my Lyme doctor suggested have helped me immensely along this path. The result has been a winding road back to wellness, and a spiritual journey I am deeply grateful for.
Annie Hopper’s DNRS program
My Lyme doctor introduced me to Dynamic Neural Retraining Systems (DNRS) right before my IGeneX Lyme test results came back positive. DNRS was created by a Canadian woman named Annie Hopper, to heal her extreme chemical sensitivities caused by toxic exposure.
Annie figured out that the exposure had literally injured her brain, causing her persistent symptoms. She developed a system to rewire the injured neural circuits, and over time all of her symptoms resolved. She is now teaching others worldwide to heal. Some of her clients are Lymies whose brains have been compromised by bacterial toxins, environmental toxins or both.
Annie’s program teaches participants to use affirmations and to meditate on joyful memories and fantasies for at least one hour every day. Doing this helps you flood your brain with feelings of happiness, bliss, gratitude, and excitement – the more intense the good feelings the better.
The program also asks that participants commit to observing their thought patterns full time, and to interrupt worry about sickness with positive affirmations and feelings. The amazing success of her work shows how very effective pleasure is at healing our brains and our immune systems. (Find more information at www.retrainingthebrain.com.)
DNRS has helped my neurological symptoms and my food sensitivities. It has also straight up made me happier. I find blending DNRS with Buddhist mindfulness particularly effective. The two together offer a wonderful way to heal Borrelia’s toxic effects on the brain, and to rewire our circuitry toward healing.
Buddhist mindfulness is the minute-by-minute, day-by-day practice of observing our thoughts, and letting go of their hold on us by relaxing into the present moment. Tightening up, disappearing into stress – we all share this basic human pattern – and especially those of us who are sick!
Practicing mindfulness means making the choice to relax and open up instead, in the moment, again and again. It means trusting our journey and feeling our fear. It is the perfect way to practice the DNRS requirement of interrupting habitual worry about sickness.
What a project for a Lymie! Our minds can be full of strategizing, complaining, and freaking out about this horrible illness. Who can blame us?
When I started paying attention to what my brain was doing, I realized I spent most of my waking hours obsessively going over my diet, my supplements, my treatments, my symptoms, fear of the future, agony about the past.
I had to admit, almost none of this stress was helpful. Yes, I need to decide what to tackle and how to do it. But once I have my plan, I want to help my brain and body heal by choosing to soften and be present.
Blending Buddhism and DNRS
Start by accepting your feelings as they are right now. If you feel exhausted, if you feel like crying, if your brain isn’t working – let go of struggling to feel different.
Open your heart to your feelings. Tune in to the energy moving in your body and give yourself permission to rest right here. This is a beautiful, compassionate act of self-care.
Slowly and gently, invite sensuality, pleasure and even joy in to your experience. You can use the DNRS method or you can wing it. Slowing and deepening your breath. Noticing a part of your body that does feel good. Settling into an Epsom salt bath with essential oils, paying close attention to the smells. Singing, or listening to a favorite piece of music, your mind open to every note.
Buddhist teachers emphasize an amazing quality of the human brain. If we pay attention to feelings of pleasure, they tend to build. Slowly, in waves and spirals, the pleasurable feelings increase with our attention.
As you play with these ideas, pay attention to pleasure. What does it feel like? How does it shift and change? Where do you feel it in your body? Is there pattern? Color? Warmth? Let your attention to pleasure increase the feelings of pleasure, further wiring them into your brain as habit. Your brain chemistry will change over time and it will build your health.
Committing to mindful joy continues to challenge and to change me. It has not only helped my Lyme symptoms, it has helped my marriage, my communication with my family and my business. For those of us healing chronic illness, this practice is such a wonderful tool. It’s free, and we control it. It’s available anytime. It takes effort and it takes commitment, and it is worth it – beyond just helping us get well.
I wish you openness and bliss – your birthright, your healing gift.
Shona Curley lives in San Francisco. She has been teaching experiential anatomy since 1998 and co-owns Hasti Pilates. Shona recently created www.redkitemeditations.com, a site hosting guided meditations for healing Lyme disease.