It’s 5:30pm, Tuesday night. You’re home from work, throat’s a little scratchy as you text with friends and family with hopes of making plans for the weekend… but you know there’s something looming. The breaker of plans, the uninvited guest, and the narcissistic center of attention has begun to rear its ugly head. It goes by many names; influenza, head cold, sinus infection, and sometimes the nasty stomach bug. Once it hits, an epic battle for power is about to ensue. It’s not horrible enough to warrant medical attention, yet it’s awful enough to quarantine you to your bed with a box of tissues and (hopefully) your Netflix queue.
I wish the fight for health was like in the movies where we wage a war against the vile monsters and come through triumphant, wearing full shiny battle regalia, waving our swords and high-fiving about our victory. Instead, we become fully clad in an ensemble of sweatpants with tissues in pockets, stringy hair, and waving displaced pillows around the house.
Clearly I’m not speaking from personal experience or anything. But hypothetically, if one were to be going through this… now... at 5:32pm on a Tuesday evening... while trying desperately to overcome a head cold… one would try to make the best out of feeling the worst. There are two ways to go with this. You can either revel in the misery, or focus on the positive. Believe it or not, both of these options have their benefits. No, I’m not being sarcastic.
Embracing the Worst of It
Seeing as I’m hypothetically feeling awful, I’ll attempt the first; reveling in the misery and embracing the worst of it. Although it sounds brooding and undesirable, allowing yourself to fully experience and feel the crappiness that surrounds you is actually a very important mindfulness exercise. As with most undesirable feelings, emotions, or sensations, we often try to push them away or avoid them altogether. Although this seems like the best option at the time, we wind up in a battle between what we feel, and what we want to feel, and become stuck in the tension surrounding our desire to stop feeling like this. When you break it down and look at the situation objectively, one can see how resisting feeling like ____ only makes one stuck in the resistance and creates an internal battle. By simply noticing your current condition and allowing yourself to fully experience the negative feelings, sensations, and emotions, you are honoring your body’s response, and in effect lessening the tension. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Let it envelop you, flow over you, and leave you as quickly as it came.
Once you stop fighting the feelings, the tension will lessen.
Now, after making peace with your grossness and whatever miniscule bug took your powerful self down, it’s time to try this healing visualization.
A Return to Health
First, start by sitting or laying in a comfortable position. Open and close your hands, then wiggle your feet (an easy way to quickly ground yourself), and start becoming aware of and noticing your thoughts. Notice what is going through your head right now. What thoughts flow through your mind, and what thoughts seem stuck? Now bring your awareness to any emotions that are there. What are you feeling right now? Don’t try to fight any emotion, just notice it. Then bring your awareness to your body. Where in your body do you feel tension, soreness, achiness? While breathing deeply, continue non-judgmental awareness of these sensations for several moments.
Continue to take deep breaths through your nose, and allow a slow exhale through your mouth. Inhale as you notice your thoughts. As you exhale, envision these thoughts being released. Continue to inhale and exhale deeply and slowly until you feel your thoughts have settled. (Note: If you get worried about forgetting an important thought/task/memory, try envisioning exhaling the thought it into a storage box. Know it’s locked safely away and will still be there after you open your eyes.)
Next, continue your deep breaths and envision yourself inhaling a blue-green silvery light entering your body through the top/crown of your head. (Use whatever colors you feel symbolize health to you. I use the blue-green because of the connection with Vick’s vapor rub :) ) As you exhale slowly, envision the illness leaving your body in the form of dusty grey smoke. With each inhale, feel the light journeying further down the inside of your body. Inhale the blue-green silvery light, and exhale the dusty grey smoke. Do this until you visualize the light getting down to your toes, or until you feel compelled to open your eyes and reorient yourself to your space.
Some say that the most powerful tool in maintaining extremely challenging yoga poses is counting down to when it will end. In that light, it’s important that you know this too will pass. Honor the moment, and notice how your body is responding. When you become really in tune with your body’s response, you’ll begin to notice that your body is actually fighting the illness and working on resuming full health. When you’re aware of this, then you can envision all those blood cells as wearing that shiny armor and waving their swords in victory. As you take your victory shower, cleansing away the germs (and all the garlic you consumed), know that there’s a little rebel army inside your body fighting the good fight. And after all, that is pretty epic.