One of the reasons I continuously come back to a yoga and meditation practice as the touchstone of keeping myself well and living beyond chronic Lyme disease is that it forces me to return to my body and whats real in my life.
In my quest for tangible ways to share the wordless experiences of becoming well, I've outlined what I call the four stages of healing. On any path of true healing or spiritual practice we cycle through these four phases and continuously begin again.
The truth is that knowledge only becomes useful when applied and directly experienced, and thankfully each one of us has a body to begin experiencing these results.
Beyond this post you can carry the 4 stages of healing with you and work with them as you do your own I mind/body practice like yoga or qi gong, so that you can amplify its healing potential.
First stage of healing: become present & open up the channels
Though the most straightforward, the first phase can often be the most challenging, especially if we are habitual "fixers" always trying to find a solution or a band aid for what is going on. During the first stage, we create the inner space where we can sit with the discomfort of our present situation and just notice how we feel without judgement. Any reactions or emotions in response to physical pain also get included in this awareness.
We may have a task we are physically doing, (in this case a yoga exercise) but we create the neutral space to allow our symptoms, energy and thoughts to run their course. I like to compare this to flushing out the fluids in an engine (car metaphors anybody?) This stage can often feel like a purging, or a worsening, but don't label it as such. Just be with it, and you will see that the sensations, symptoms and thoughts are transitory.
Long Deep Breathing
Relax your diaphragm and muscles of your pelvis, ribs and chest completely. Begin a slow inhale as you feel and visualize this entire space filling and expanding. When your breath reaches the fullest expansion of your upper chest, begin a slow exhale, "deflating" the abdomen and chest like a balloon. Inhale 4-6 counts, exhale 4-6 counts
*For those that find this emotionally difficult, it is important to remember that we will never experience more than we are capable and ready to handle by being present.*
Second stage of healing: Keeping the channels open & being receptive to the healing flow
Once the channels have been opened, the energy in the body begins to flow and we may even notice positive feeling sensations which we label as "improvement." At this stage, we are faced with a choice: we can either become distracted and unconscious to the energy in our body again, OR we can begin to forge new neural pathways in our brain geared towards consistent mindfulness, consistent awareness of what is happening regardless of good or bad. It is in this phase that the "engine" begins to turn on.
We start to glimpse and experience moments of our own healing grace. The paradox is that we begin to experience the healing grace by being open and unattached to the sensations.
Alternate Nostril Breath
Block your right nostril with your right thumb, inhale 4 counts through the left nostril, then block the left nostril and exhale through the right. Next reverse the sequence inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left. To finish, inhale and suspend the breath, then relax.
Third stage of healing: actively working with the channels
This is where things really begin to heat up. Just when we have surrendered to the natural flow of our body and abstaining from labeling experiences as "good" or "bad", we come into a clarity of awareness where we are now capable of directing the energy in our body towards regeneration; specifically towards meridians, organs, or body systems of our choosing.
By now we have been able to feel and identify which parts of our physical and energetic anatomy need more support, and we direct the energy to these places using breath, movement, visualization and sensory experience.
Breath of fire
Fill your lungs 2/3 full with breath, then exhale powerfully bringing your navel in towards your spine. Gently allow the belly to expand outward on the inhale, and begin the sequence again by drawing the navel in. Speed up the breath as you are comfortable to 3 in and out breaths per second. To finish, inhale and suspend your breath, circulating and directing the energy you have generated with the breath to areas of the body which need healing.
Fourth stage of healing: surrender to the process
In this phase we must give up our expectations and time frames of achieved results or "perfect health." It asks us to take a step back, and give our expectations over to something larger than ourselves. I choose to surrender to my Self, or soul, that part of me which is deathless and far more wise than my conscious mind. You might choose God, or a higher power of your own choosing.
We accept that though healing is non linear, when we continuously begin again with stage #1, we trust that we will be guided and protected on the journey.
Tenth gate meditation
Sitting with a straight spine, close your eyes and roll them in and up, focusing your gaze and/or your energy at the crown of your head. Imagine that you are looking up through the head into infinitely. Breathe long and deep while connecting to the infinite force which is greater than you.
The four stages of healing can also be applied more in depth as they relate to nutrition, physiological detoxification, lifestyle balance and living in harmony with natural cycles. For the purpose of this post I have outlined them as they specifically relate the practice of yoga, to illustrate how quickly we can have an experience in our body of these concepts. If you are interested in incorporating the stages of healing into our complete health plan, send me an email at email@example.com, or stay tuned for upcoming online courses.