Meditation Therapy: Shift Fight-or-Flight into Healing & Wellbeing

Initially, when I first heard about meditation, I thought it was for ‘special” people who practiced Buddhism or visited ashrams in India. Not for everyday, people like me. In fact it’s a common misconception many believe meditation is only used as a spiritual practice.

As a young adult, I lived a frantic, stressful life so it was no surprise when my doctor gave me two choices: either make significant lifestyle changes or take prescription medicine, I choose to meditate.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the inner me became more relaxed, calm and peaceful. While the outer me, adopted a healthier lifestyle, making better choices around food and exercise.

Later when I formally studied meditation, saw how regular meditation practice serves to restore and regenerate the body, mind and spirit, it become obvious that meditation must be considered a primary healing modality.

In an excerpt from a blog post Why Meditation Therapy Is The Most Important Healing Modality
Isabelle Cunningham-Doolan, managing director of the IMTTA wrote:

“ No healing can happen, no matter how intensive the medical treatment, how extensive the surgery or how powerful the healing modality while a person is in the Fight-or-Flight response. ”

Isabelle goes on to say that “When people learn how to disengage the Fight-or-Flight Response (also known as the Stress Response) and return to the natural state of homeostasis (the balanced state, relaxed, with the Rest and Repair Response active) their hormones and neurochemicals return to a healthy balance, allowing cells to repair and regenerate.” 

Did you know that most people are in the Fight-or-Flight Response, to some degree, almost all the time?

Isabelle explained: “Stress has come to be considered a normal part of our modern lifestyles, but it is an insidious, silent killer and manifests as both physical and psychological illness and disease.

Most therapeutic programs address one or other of the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of healing.

Holistic healing seeks to discover the underlying root cause of the disease rather than treating the symptoms and then empowers people, through education, to develop the understanding and tools they need to take control of their entire wellbeing.

Fear, childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, anger, anxiety, unresolved grief, shame and even the common day-to-day stress and pressure of our modern lives, lead to imbalances in neurochemicals and hormones which create unhealthy environments for our cells and this leads to disease. In the same way that a plant will become toxic, wither and die, in soil with a chemical imbalance, so the human cells depend on a healthy chemical environment to maintain perfect health.

Meditation is an easy to practice, self-empowering, scientifically proven method of activating the Relaxed Response.

No matter what other modality is used to treat disease, if the person is in Fight-or-Flight the chemical imbalance in their bodies create an unhealthy (even toxic) environment for their cells to live in. Until the environment of the cell is brought into a healthy balance, the cell cannot thrive and any healing is superficial and short-lived.

Many people find the idea, that the way they think can have any effect on their physical health, hard to fathom. However, when the science behind the mind-body connection (Psychoneuroimmunology -PNI) is clearly explained and demonstrated, it can be a life-changing (and often life-saving) experience.

When we learn how to control our thinking and how to take charge of the unconscious belief systems we may have inherited, we are empowered to move outside of fear and develop the habit of being in the relaxation response where, science has proven, the chemical changes which occur in one’s body can reverse illness and significantly contribute to maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mind. Meditation is the simplest, fastest and most effective way of achieving this.

Combining Meditation Therapy with other holistic and complementary healing modalities is the most effective and time efficient way of bringing about whole-person healing.

Thanks to decades of scientific research, we now know why Meditation can literally change our lives and can absolutely repair damage and disease.

Once thought to be purely a spiritual practice, Meditation is, in fact, a powerful and essential healing modality.

When we understand how regular Meditation practice serves to restore and regenerate the body and mind as well as the spirit, it also becomes obvious that Meditation must be considered the primary healing modality.

When we are under stress (and please bear in mind that our modern lifestyles are filled with stressors every day and few people are completely free of stress) our brain and body produce certain chemicals that are intended to help us deal with the stressors.

These chemicals are always present and essential for us to survive, but when we perceive a threat, the production of those chemicals is altered. This is why we hear that people suffering from anxiety and depression have a chemical imbalance. Our amazing bodies react to a ‘perceived’ threat by catapulting us into what is known as the Fight-or-Flight Reaction.

The area of our brain that manages the Fight-or-Flight Response is part of our autonomic nervous system, so we don’t have to think before this reaction is initiated. It all happens before we get a chance to intelligently evaluate the situation. The threat we are reacting to doesn’t necessarily have to be life-threatening or even real. It is a perceived threat and the things we perceive as threatening are different for all of us, based on our subconscious belief systems.

The Fight-or-Flight Response is designed to provide us with an instantaneous burst of extra power so that we can outrun a sabre-toothed tiger or fight off rival tribesmen. These days, the situations we perceive as threatening can be as simple as a bill arriving in the mail, a traffic jam when we are running late or even a conversation with a difficult relative!

When the Fight-or-Flight Response is initiated, hormones and chemicals are released and rush through our bodies like a tsunami, giving us ultimate power and muscle strength.

Everything we don’t need to survive, during this perceived emergency, is suspended. Digestion shuts down, tears and saliva production stop, breathing becomes shallow, and our immune system closes down, just to name a very few.

Many other functions are accelerated. Our heart rate increases, additional blood sugar is produced (as fuel for our muscles), muscles tense for action, our peripheral vision is expanded and the blood in the front of our brain (the logical part) is squeezed back to activate our survival brain (also known as the reptilian brain, which is not the place we want to be making important decisions and life choices from).

The idea is that once we have perceived a threat and are automatically and instantaneously catapulted into the Fight-or-Flight Response, we run or fight for our lives; all the chemicals and responses are burned up during that action. We can then return to our ‘normal’ relaxed state once we are safe, with perfect hormonal balance and resume ordinary body function with our immune system working at optimal levels, have regular heartbeat, relaxed muscles, healthy oxygenation through normal breathing, a digestive and elimination system that works perfectly and a brain that is clear and intelligent.

Unfortunately, most people don’t realise they are in Fight-or-Flight Response most, if not all, of the time.

This causes their bodies to function in a way that causes ill health; in the long-term, this is responsible for a multitude of diseases from poor eyesight to digestive problems and most certainly cancer.

Prolonged time in the Fight-or-Flight Response also causes emotional problems and mood swings along with depression and anxiety. There are many wonderful natural therapies and conventional medical procedures available to try and combat these illnesses and diseases. The problem is that while the Fight-or-Flight Response is still ‘turned on’, they are fighting a losing battle. They are trying to heal cells that are living in a toxic environment and working against, rather than with, the body’s natural functions.

Once we understand how to turn the Fight-or-Flight Response off and return our body to its relaxed state, our amazing bodies have the ultimate power to regenerate and heal themselves. Meditation is the principal way to maintain a relaxed body and a calm mind. Regular practice not only helps us to switch the Fight-or-Flight Reaction off, but it also helps to release old, unhelpful belief systems that are often the cause of us perceiving danger (and getting stressed out) when we are not being physically threatened. So, we experience the Fight-or-Flight Response less, when it is not necessary to save our lives.

Meditation can be practised in many ways and through an almost unlimited variety of styles. It is a self-managed therapy that we can all practice, at any time, to improve our health and general wellbeing, and to aid in the recovery of illness and disease.”

Professional Meditation Teachers have an in-depth knowledge of an extensive range of Meditation styles, including the corresponding specific benefits and uses, customising to their client’s therapeutic needs.

Calm Mind College

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