arrow16 Comments
  1. Beth
    Aug 31 - 12:44 pm

    Meditation has been helpful in small doses for me, as well, so I appreciate this article. However, I didn’t find anything about Shamatha Meditation under the heading for “An Introduction to…” Did I miss it?

  2. Johannes Starke
    Aug 31 - 1:26 pm

    Thanks for this article about the sweetness of meditation, Linn.

    For me, meditation is also a sweet healing activity. I started out in 2008, a couple of years after coming down with ME/CFS. I’ve encountered some challenges along the way, but now love it so much that I meditate about every 2-3h. Might sound like a chore, but I’ve found ways to now LOVE it.

    Let me share the two main challenges I experienced when meditating and what helped me to overcome them:

    1) Lack of focus due to fatigue–I’ve found that listening to a guided meditation audio really helps. If I have symptoms, focusing on the symptoms instead of the breath, is a beautiful point of focus. It can be a bit uncomfortable for the first few minutes, but then the mind usually makes peace with the symptoms and I no longer experience them as negative. If the symptoms seem too difficult to focus on, try focusing just on the edge of the symptom sensation or alternating your focus occasionally between the unpleasant symptom sensation and a part of your body that feels more pleasant. Don’t forget to smile–smiling adds a lot of sweetness to any meditation and has proven health benefits. I’ve created a recording of one of the meditation techniques that work best for me. You can download it here for free if you like:

    2) Lack of motivation due to fatigue–I’ve written about a way to work around a ME/CFS or FM-related lack of motivation in the following two articles (the first article is particularly about getting motivated to meditate, the second is about getting motivated with ME/CFS or FM in general):

    3) Too much discomfort–If there is too much discomfort, creating positive sensations and emotions through guided imagery can help. I already do this a lot with my coaching clients, but haven’t written about it yet. Dr. Martin Rossman already has some great resources on guided imagery. I recommend his short audio-book, “Self-Healing with Guided Imagery.”

    Learning how to meditate happily and effectively has been one of the biggest blessings on my recovery journey.

    I’d love to hear what works for everybody else, too!

    • Kim & Kelly Derrick
      Sep 08 - 4:10 pm

      We’ve also found that guided meditation can help take some of the “effort” out of meditation. The Monroe Institute has some excellent CDs in many categories. They have several designed to boost the immune system, which could be a problem in CFS patients with autoimmune problems. Further evaluation needs to be done on their current immunity offerings. Maybe we could encourage TMI to do some more specific ones for CFS?
      Kim & Kelly Derrick

  3. Katherine
    Aug 31 - 2:49 pm

    Meditation has worked wonders for me. My doctor, Dr. Bested, recommends 10-15 minutes of meditation, lying down, before or after an activity. I meditate about 4 times a day and after meditation my heart rate has gone down and I am more energized. Over the years I have slowly gained more energy and the ability to do much more which can also be attributed to my improved diet.

  4. Aggie
    Aug 31 - 2:51 pm

    I have lost track of how many things I’ve tried since developing ME/CFS 10 years ago, but nothing has been better than meditation. I was warned that it would take at least 6 weeks of daily practice before I’d notice a significant difference, and I found that to be quite true.

    While some (a few) other interventions are helpful, the best they can do is to pull me back from a higher degree of sickness toward a lesser degree of sickness, if only for a nanosecond. Maybe they keep me from sinking even lower on the negative side. (My motto: It can always get worse!)

    Meditation provides a sense of making progress beyond neutral and into the positive side. I’ve never ended a meditation session without feeling better – much better than if I’d simply taken a nap. It feels like my feverish little brain took a shower.

  5. Erika
    Aug 31 - 6:10 pm

    Hello, I am new-ish here; this is my first post, yet I have been reading for a few months. I’ve experienced slow-onset CFS/Migraine/Insomnia beginning about 15 years ago. Meditation has been very helpful over the years. Many years ago I practiced my own version of meditation when my kids napped during the day and also when I had insomnia at night. My goal was to rest my body and mind as much as a could since I couldn’t sleep. It was very helpful and gave me a way to cope with my body when it was feeling so miserable.

    I’ve played around with different versions of formal meditation, some made me crash, some gave me more insomnia, and others were very helpful. The beginning formal meditation practices that I have found the most helpful are outlined in Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I really enjoyed listening to the audio book which I was able to check out from my local library online and download…I didn’t even have to leave my house! I modify meditations to fit me and my health issues. Most days now I meditate lying down, but in a different position than how I sleep so my body isn’t confused between when it’s time to meditate and when it’s time to sleep.

    Thank you to everyone who writes and contributes to this website! I finally feel like I’m not all alone in this.

    • Cort Johnson
      Sep 01 - 2:16 pm

      Good to hear from you Erika and thanks for passing your experience along. For those who don’t know of him, John Kabat Zinn developed a course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for people in chronic pain who couldn’t tolerate or get help from drugs. The course is taught all over the U.S. now. It will be featured in our blog series on Donna Jackson Nakasawa as she embraces meditation and mindfulness techniques to help her with a severe autoimmune disorder.

  6. James
    Aug 31 - 8:54 pm

    Thanks for this positive reminder of the benefits of a medical prescription that costs us nothing & benefits us greatly!

  7. Vivi-Mari Carpelan
    Sep 01 - 6:06 am

    Hi there,
    Well… I meditated for three years about 15 years ago, and at the time I found it helped me quite a lot. I was almost able to stop breathing, that’s how deep I could go. I have fibromyalgia since forever, but I do feel I was more receptive to the benefits earlier on in my life. At the time, I had problems with fatigue, depression and some pain, but not with insomnia, palpitations, medical intolerance and other symptoms that have increased over time. I gave up the meditation because I got too caught up in some very stressful life events and then just never could bring myself to getting back to it.

    In January this year I decided I had to try again just in case it might benefit me in some ways – after all it’s free, and my insomnia was just getting more and more difficult to live with so I had to take some steps… my husband was helpfully joining me so we found a routine after dinner in the evening – 30 minutes seemed reasonable. I do feel I ought to do more per day but I find it very difficult to fit in amongst all the things that need doing or I want to achieve. I also know a Qigong exercise which I keep wanting to go back to in the day time – this is not quite the same yet similar enough with slightly different benefits, so the two obviously go well together.

    Now about the benefits… in the beginning I was quite enthusiastic and there seemed to be a lot of healing energies about. I focused mostly on healing myself but after a while the meditations settled in to being quite “ordinary” and so I stopped focusing on anything other than being in the present moment. It could be that it just got more subtle. I personally don’t like visualisations and complicated techniques.

    Nowadays I do find it very hard to reach a level of deep peace and expect this could be due to the negative programming of the nervous system, however you just have to keep at it even though it may seem unsatisfactory compared to experiences in the past.

    Unfortunately the meditation has done nothing to improve my insomnia but I since I got into Chinese medicine I’m taking the view that things may very well be changing, only quite slowly. Meditation and any other alternative approaches are never instant, and you just never quite know what areas of your body and energy field need to be balanced up before you can reap the benefits you most desire. In meditation, you allow your body a break from habitual behaviour and so it may very well be doing some rebalancing during this time. I think meditation is a very welcome break to remind the nervous system that it’s all right to wind down… I expect the negative programming of the nervous system could take quite a while to rectify though. I think in the meantime I’m probably feeling a bit more level generally speaking.

    I also don’t think that meditation is enough for most people who have been chronically ill for a long time, just as acupuncture is usually not enough either. I take the view that it’s about synergy so to me, meditation is just a complement to other things such as diet, exercise and Chinese herbs.

  8. Margo
    Sep 01 - 12:40 pm

    It is interesting to read of other’s experiences with anything they have tried to help with a life changing disease. That is something that I value about Cort’s posts besides the content supplied.
    I had been a meditator much earlier in my life and then had let it lapse.
    I was diagnosed with me/cfs 10 years ago but had unknowingly been wrestling with it for many years previously. During these last years I had dabbled with various guided meditations, some borrowed from the library, some found on line and a few purchased. The routine helped I think, often giving me something to do that was relatively untaxing and I didn’t have to make a decision which I often find is the most difficult. I always listened to them laying down to give me the most rest and often fell asleep which didn’t hurt either so I often use them to make myself take a real break rather than reading which was my go to break previously.
    For the last 6 months I have been using Tara Brach’s website. She has numerous guided meditations available for free downloading. Her teaching style seems to suit me best of all I have tried to date. I can definitely say I have noticed changes in my thought patterns – less anxious and I am sleeping better although some of that may be the L-tryptophan that my naturopath suggested. Still I have had panic attacks for most of my adult life and I have found I can actually sit through a meditation and calm myself if I am at home and have no outside stimulus which is something I have never been able to do previously.
    One thing I have found is that guided meditations work much better for me. It is focusing and maybe comforting to have a voice guiding me.
    So I can definitely say that meditation has helped me and I would also say it is worth a try to find something that works.
    Thanks Linn for giving me the prompt on a positive change for me. That is always helpful :)

  9. Esther Siebert
    Sep 01 - 3:49 pm

    Thank you so much, Linn, for sharing on this topic. I meditated for a dozen years every day no matter how I felt. My teacher, Eknath Easwaran, has a center within three hours of me and I spent many weeks there on retreat including with my children. I wrote Toni Bernhard about my difficulty meditating and I thought some of you might want to see her response to me:

    “I don’t know what to advise you about mediating. I think this is a decision that we have to come to ourselves, based on what’s best for us.

    As you know from How to Be Sick, I gave up a ten year meditation practice when I initially got sick. I had been meditating twice a day for 45 minutes at a time. Then, not at all. Now I try to meditate while lying down for 15-20 minutes a day, but I don’t do it everyday. In my opinion, meditation is not essential to a spiritual practice. I rely on books as much as I do on meditation because it’s so hard for me to meditate.

    All warm wishes to you,

    Revisiting the subject today, it occurred to me that perhaps my neurological abilities have declined since I’ve been ill for so long. And that I don’t have to be a perfectionist and can live in the present. What works best for me now is to use an audio recording which does help me focus and allays my feelings of isolation if I’ve had to be home alone too much. And since I used to do passage meditation, I could make recordings of the spiritual passages I used to meditate on (read by me or someone else) and sit listening to them. Thanks for everybody’s input. Hope you’re all AWAP!

    Hi Cort! I hope you’re doing ok too. Thanks so much for your help. Could you please add a link to this for people to learn about and donate to Dr. Ian Lipkin’s crowd-resourced research on the gut microbiome in people with ME/CFS. My experience with Xifaxan certainly points to the gut as one of the sources of our problems. All the best to all, Esther

  10. Gijs
    Sep 02 - 5:33 am

    For me this is the prove that the ANS especially the PNS is down like a broken arm. With meditation you calm down the system. ME patiënts never feel calm energy.

  11. cate
    Sep 02 - 12:19 pm

    I have practiced meditation over 40 years and off and on sin e illness 18 years ago. I recently listened to Dr. Miles Neale on youtube and found that meditation very halpful. So etimes, I listen to meditation music, sometimes to the various chants and singing bowls. I like jonathan goldman cd’s and some of the japanese and chinese music for relaxation. The variety is helpful for me. Before illness a conducted support groups for cancer patients and used Guided Imagery which is so helpful, different peoples voices may be important to find what is soothing and nurturing and safe for you. All of the various forms are beneficial.
    There is a Qi Gong in China Head Massage that also includes ear massage. I fou d a beautiful Shen Zhen Qi Gong on youtube that is lovely. KUAN Yin Standing Qigong Sheng Zhen. So, we have many choices. Namaste.

  12. cate
    Sep 04 - 8:17 pm

    Also on youtube, Jack Kornfield meditations and beautiful training for self care. His books are also beautiful.

  13. Penelope
    Sep 07 - 10:28 am

    Funny, I had to give up meditation because it made me more stressed. I had made a bio-feedback gadget long before that enabled me very quickly to get super-relaxed. It was this device that originally showed me I had a problem, however: it worked by a counter which went down as I relaxed, but I was suddenly finding that no matter how long I tried, the numbers just went up and up, and I derived no benefit. I think now that it was the adrenalin kicking in as a substitute for cortisol, so I was trying to meditate in a fight-or-flight situation. That’s certainly how I felt.

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