Meditation – it’s never worked for me, but does it work for you? | 04 July 2017

July 4, 2017


By Russell Fleming, Content Manager, ME Association.

Copyright: dotshock / 123RF Stock Photo

I have lived with M.E. for a long time. Not as long as some, but longer than most.

One of the ways in which various specialists over the years have suggested I might better manage things is to try and meditate.

Now, I freely admit meditation never really appealed – I have concluded I am not the type – but for others it seems to provide a period of rest and peace that they can't achieve any other way.

As can be read below, meditation can apparently be quite transformative, but I could never calm my mind long enough to focus on the necessary exercises let alone gain any benefits from it.

But then I can rarely switch-off and tend to have to occupy myself. Even with M.E. if I am awake I must be doing something – if I'm doing nothing, then I am either very unwell or, I am asleep.

For me, and perhaps for you too, my form of meditation comes from being completely absorbed by a fictional novel or by a gripping film or episode from an exciting Netflix series.

These things are not always possible of course, or can only be achieved in small doses, but like music, I find I can dip into them, relax, and benefit from the distraction.

I used to get the same feeling of peace and rejuvenation – of stepping outside myself for a while – when I was more mobile and able to sit in the woods or gaze at the sea – in between reading a book or sketching.

Several therapists have told me that if I couldn't meditate but was able to achieve a relaxed state using other methods then I shouldn't worry about it. But I still wonder if I'm missing something.

On several occasions I have tried it. I remember listening to the trance-like music and joining in with the stretches… but I'd more often than not lose focus or fall asleep before achieving any tranquil state.

And the kind of meditation that was a part of mindfulness when I tried that – just made me even more aware of my symptoms. Definitely not relaxing!

So for me at least, meditation is not of the traditional variety. But what of you? Are you able to meditate as part of your illness management? And if you are, then what do you feel are the benefits?

Lisa, below, has really taken to it. So much so, she believes it has helped bring about a fundamental change to her levels of fatigue.

Maybe you share Lisa's view? Maybe I am missing a trick? Perhaps you'd let me know in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Hi,
 
I work within Cornwall Council and you may be aware of one my colleague Jo who organised an ME Awareness week within Cornwall Council. I was diagnosed with ME in 2014 after suffering with symptoms for a number of years.
 
In late 2015, I was signed off work with stress which in turn triggered my ME again. I was off this time for 13 months. I returned to work January 2017 and got in contact with Jo with regards to ME Awareness week.
It was through this that she introduced me to her weekly relaxation sessions, where she talks you through a 30 minutes relaxation technique, aka meditation.
 
I have been doing this every single day for 6 weeks, and I have noticed a significant improvement on my ME, it helps me manage my fatigue. My mood, anxiety and snappiness has totally changed alongside this.
 
So, the reason why I am contacting you is because I wanted to share this. It might be that the ME Association is already aware of how meditation helps sufferers, but if you aren’t I wanted to let you know. I still feel fatigue, but I know that if I go and meditate for just 10 minutes there is a significant improvement and most days I can keep the fatigue at bay.
 
Hope that you don’t mind me sharing this with you.
 
Many thanks

 

More information
The ME Association offers a full range of leaflets relating to management of ME/CFS, including stress management. These can be purchased from our online shop.

 

2 thoughts on “Meditation – it’s never worked for me, but does it work for you? | 04 July 2017”

  1. I think you *might be finding meditation difficult due to your expectations of how it should be. There is a perception that one must focus/quiet one’s mind, but actually that isnt the case with all forms of meditation. The mind wandering off, intrusive/racing thoughts & falling asleep etc are entirely normal & i personally found that the more i *tried* to meditate, the more i *tried* to relax or clear my mind, the more difficult it is.
    But i have found Andrew Johnson’s tracks indispensable as part of my pacing practice to help me avoid crashes… Because i also feel the need to distract while awake, away from pain etc & to quell boredom, but i find that sometimes i can get so engrossed that i lose contact with whats going on bodily, causing me to overdo things & then crash, so periodic breaks to reconnect with myself & just chill for a few minutes are invaluable.
    AJ’s tracks are really good as some of them are short (just 5 mins or so) & are not as ‘instructive’ as other’s i’ve listened to. – I dont like being told what to do & these are more about ‘allowing’ than doing.

    Some days i get really engrossed & into it, some days i’m thinking all the way through & dont hear a word of it, but thats fine, my breathing is still slower & i feel more grounded at the end even if i dont really hear any of it. I used to think it wasnt ‘working’ unless i could stay focused on what was being said, but thats a misperception.

    A small caveat about AJ though is that I cant bear a lot of Johnsons more ‘positive’/’heal by visualisation’ crap, they are separate mp3s that he offers (of a choice of many for different things) – ugh i despise all that ‘positive thinking’ malarky, i’ve used it before i was ill, was doing it when i became ill, & it made me *more* ill, so I discovered through experience that it is utter bullshit. Sorry if that offends anyone, i know others feel differently.
    But i personally recommend just ignoring & avoiding those particular mp3s that he offers, but this one (link address below), is a collection of 15 different short tracks (most of which i never listen to as some of them are a bit weird) but tracks 1, 4 & 11 i find perfect for an ME sufferer break https://www.withandrewjohnson.com/products/take-a-break-mp3#.WVvEVVGVvIU

    I’ve also found https://www.headspace.com/
    which is also really good, it’s meditation for people who ‘cant meditate’, and there’s a free taster/intro. I’d be surprised if anyone could get all he way through the intro sessions & still felt they couldnt ‘meditate’. It’s a different form of meditation which bears no relationship to everything i thought of as meditation previously.

    Until i found the above resources i could never do it either, but I’ve found these 2 really help me.

    all the best

  2. I agree with the poster above. The point is not to put pressure on yourself, whatever you end up thinking. Focus on the music. Let thoughts come and go. Focus on your breathing, if you have to, and if other thoughts come, don’t get angry, just recognise the thought and then focus on your breathing again.

    Have you tried hypnosis? That might be easier for you, as it involves less activity (you can just lie there and relax). I often think I’ve fallen asleep to a hypnosis track, but I’m actually in a deep state of relaxation. How to tell? Well, many hypnosis tracks count you back up to wakefulness. So if you find yourself ‘awake’ again as the track ends, or shortly after, it means you didn’t actually fall asleep–you were just in a deep state of hypnosis.

    The best thing about this is that instead of taking a mid-afternoon nap when I crash, I can stick on a hypnosis track instead (usually a 30-45 minute one) and I automatically come round at the end of that time period without setting an alarm. Plus, the hypnotherapy aids me subconsciously too, so that I’m healing physically and psychologically while I’m resting.

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