Date: November 2, 1999
Interstitial Cystitis Network - Chat Log (www.ic-network.com)
Topic: Relaxation, Meditation & Visualization for IC
Speaker: Lesa F., MI IC support group leader

Greetings everyone and welcome to the ICN support chat for November 2, 1999. I'd like to introduce ICN volunteer and Michigan state support group leader Lesa F., who will be speaking tonight on the role of relaxation, meditation and IC.

If you have ever watched the Olympic's, you've often seen athletes closing their eyes prior to their event and mentally rehearsing what they will be doing. From running a race to completing a perfect gymnastics routine, mental training and imagery is vital to top athletic performance. Visualization helps to focus the mind and body on positive goals and outcomes.

In medicine, visualization is often used for patients fighting many different types of illnesses. For example, a patient might visualize their white blood cells fighting off an approaching infection. Those recovering from a broken bones may visualize blood surrounding and delivering needed oxygen to healing arms or legs. Doctors may visualize, ahead of time, a complete surgical procedure from beginning to successful end, including the actual operating room procedures. Patients visualize the same operation, but with a focus on positive outcomes and a quick recovery.

Does it work? If it helps focus the athlete, the doctor and the patient on a positive outcome, then it certainly can't hurt and may definitely help. Lesa has created a few visualizations and meditations that can be very helpful to an IC patient. Lesa, It's all yours! Make us stronger, yet more relaxed, my friend!

=====================Presentation Begins======================

Hello everybody. Many IC patients have found meditation to be an important tool for managing their symptoms. We also know that meditation can cleanse, heal and balance at all levels (spiritual, mental, emotional, vital and physical). What I would like to do tonight is introduce a method of meditation and visualization designed specifically for IC patients and then get some comments or questions.

Create a Peaceful Setting & Sanctuary

First of all, it is important to find a room or place that is free of interruptions. Turn off the television, radio and phone! Close the door! Make sure the cat isnít around to jump in your lap, etc. Be sure to let family members know that you need a few minutes of quiet time. Your sanctuary is a place within yourself where you can retreat to anytime you want. It is your ideal place for relaxation, tranquility and safety. You create exactly how want it. (Adapted from Shakti Gawain's Creative Visualizations)

  1. Close your eyes and relax in a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in your favorite natural environment, like a meadow, a beach, a forest, on a mountain top. Wherever it is, you should feel comfortable, pleasant and peaceful. Explore it, noticing the sights, sounds and smells. Recall and remember the feelings that it gives you.
  2. Now make yourself a shelter in this environment. It can be a log cabin, a large tree, a tree house, a mansion or even a cave. This is your house. Noone else can enter unless you let them. This is your special place to be. Build it in your mind, adding your favorite personal touches and items, like a roaring fire in the fireplace, your pets, or even a comfortable bed.
  3. From now on, this is your personal sanctuary, safe, tranquil and relaxing! You can return anytime you wish just by closing your eyes and doing a relaxation. It will always be healing and relaxing to visit.

Guided Relaxation:

We're going to start with a guided relaxation. We'll be tensing and relaxing various muscle groups from your feet to the top of your head, including your face, arms, hands and legs. We don't always realize what muscles hold tension in our bodies. This exercise will help you relax most primary muscle groups and to release the tension which can worsen IC. When you've completed this, you should feel very relaxed.

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your spine reasonably straight. It may be hard for some IC'ers to sit up, so it's okay to lie on the couch or bed, just try not to fall asleep.
  2. Close your eyes and begin to take deep, slow breaths.
  3. Starting with your toes, tense or tighten the muscles, hold for a few seconds and then release.
  4. Move up to your feet, tense for a few seconds and release.
  5. Move up to your lower legs, tighten for a few seconds and then release.
  6. Move to your hips and gluteal muscles, tighten and hold for a few seconds, then release.
  7. Move to your abdomen and chest, tighten and hold for a few seconds, then release.
  8. Move to hands and arms, tighten your muscles, hold for a few seconds, then release.
  9. Move to your shoulders and neck, tighten and hold for a few seconds, then release.
  10. Move to your face, tighten your face muscles (this should make a funny face), hold for a few seconds, and then release.

Healing Meditation (To use during flares, etc.):

Now, we've finished the basic relaxation. Let's go ahead and add some visualization and healing light. This is great to use if you are in an IC flare!

  1. With your eyes still closed, I want you to imagine a large ball of radiant golden light just a few inches above your head. Take a slow, deep breath and visualize that ball of light gently descending through your crown, filling your entire being.
  2. Imagine this light to be a healing force and visualize your body absorbing itís warmth as it passes through your body.
  3. Visualize the light cleansing and healing your whole being. It is first finding and then dissolving all blocked energies.
  4. It's now time to be attentive to your bladder. Visualize your bladder in a healthy state, not completely inflated, not completely empty but comfortable. It should be a soft pink color (like your upper gums) and should have a soft, smooth surface.
  5. Slowly move through the inside of your bladder, examining each part as the healing light moves with you.
  6. You may begin seeing areas that appear inflamed or irritated. You should stop at these areas and focus your attention on the red or inflamed tissue. Call on the light to pass through the area again. Visualize the redness fading away, to be replaced with soft, pink, healthy tissue. Don't move on until you have successfully done this.
  7. Continue travelling through your bladder, visually healing has you go until you have a complete, healthy and painless bladder.
  8. Focus on any other parts of your body that are achy. Draw the healing light through as you focus on a healthy image of that area. Visualize that area healed and fully functional.
  9. Spend a few more moments and visualize yourself in a state of perfect, radiant health. Think of yourself as being radiantly beautiful.
  10. Take another slow, deep breath and open your eyes.

At this point, you should be completely relaxed. This visualization technique is a way of training your body to naturally focus on inflamed areas and to help heal them.


Surgery Meditation:

One other version of this meditation, which I can present rather quickly, is for surgery preparation. Begin by using the same steps above (1-12). While you are in that deep state of relaxation, you'll then visualize (almost rehearse) the surgery. For example, if you are having a cystoscopy/hydrodistention, try to imagine each procedure as if you are going through it.

  1. Imagine that you have slept well the night before and are calm and confident. You have no worries as you drive to the doctors office or hospital and enter through their door.
  2. Imagine undressing, changing into the hospital gown and then chatting with the nursing staff.
  3. Imagine lying down on the pre op bed. Take some deep breaths and bring the healing light into your head and body. The warmth of the light is comforting and encouraging as you wait. Try visualizing that you are lying on a beach for a few moments, and listen to the waves hitting the beach and the birds calling. This will make your time fly by very quickly.
  4. If you are having anesthesia, imagine that you sleep easily and comfortably.
  5. Imagine that the doctor is beginning the procedure and that it is progressing smoothly, including the insertion of the cystoscope and the water solution.
  6. Imagine that your doctor has seen clearly into your bladder, has done what he needed to do and that the procedure is over. As the doctor finishes, your body relaxes more. It's over and you're feeling more comfortable than you expected.
  7. If you sense or feel any discomfort as you visually move through the procedure, stop and start again.
  8. Draw that golden light through you, asking it to heal any pain or irritation that you feel. Keep working at it until you can feel relaxed and comfortable about the surgery.
  9. Imagine yourself in perfect, radiant health. Think of yourself feeling good and that you are active and happy.
  10. Do not stop the meditation in a place where you are feeling or sensing pain. This leaves unresolved worries that you don't want. In completing the meditation to a positive conclusion, your body will almost "expect" the surgery and when it is time to actually have it done, it won't be as much of a shock to your system. Your mind and body will know that it's good and healing.

For Visiting the Doctors Office

Visiting our doctors can be tense and stressful, especially if you feel that your doctor doesn't believe in IC. Yet, we often see that the doctors actually believe in IC, they just find it hard to work with tearful, frustrated or angry patients. So, let's focus on a positive outcome.

  1. Think of your upcoming doctors visit. What do you want to accomplish during that visit? Write it down in one simple sentence.
  2. Now, underneath that sentence, write "Ideal Scene" and describe exactly how you would like that doctors visit to go. Describe in present tense, as if it already exists, and in as much detail as you wish.
  3. At the bottom, write the affirmation "This, or something better, is now manifesting for me. I am happy and satisfied with the outcome!"
  4. Then sit quietly, relax and visualize your ideal scene!

Here's a sample

Goal: To decide whether to try a new treatment and to ask for help with pain relief for my flare.

Ideal Scene: The doctor's staff are feeling great today. They welcome me into the office with a smile and genuinely care about how I am doing. The doctor greets me enthusiastically and asks, very sincerely, how I am. I explain that I'm confused about what to do next and that I'm having trouble coping with the pain. The doctor calmly explains my options, makes a suggestion on what to try and I agree with him. My doctor believes that I uncomfortable and also talks about ways that I can treat my pain. He is encouraging and I feel truly listened to. I walk out of the office with a new prescription and several new options to try. Most of all, I feel great because I know that they are there for me.

Affirmation: This, or something better, is now happening for me.

This meditation can work well for just about any situation that you are concerned about, from meeting with family, working out a conflict with another, or even just going to work on a daily basis! With a positive goal in your mind, your day should take on a much more positive tone.


Forgiveness Meditation

In trying some of the methods above, you might find it difficult to let go of feelings and emotions, particularly of those who have hurt you after you developed IC. Anger and fear aren't healing and it's important to try to lessen their impact on your life. Here's a great exercise in forgiveness.

1. Write down the names of everyone in your life who you feel has mistreated or harmed you, including the names of those you feel hurt, anger or resentment towards. Next to their name, write down what they did to you or what you resent them for.

2. Close your eyes, relax and, one by one, invite each person into a safe, neutral place. Remember, you have total control over this situation. If you feel like you need protection, visualize an army standing right next to you.. or guards.. or knights in shining armor... or even you holding a star trek paralyzing phaser! You control the setting.

3. Hold a little conversation with each one and explain that you've felt hurt or anger towards them. Explain why. Express yourself simply and briefly. Now explain that you are now going to do the best you can to forgive them for everything and to dissolve the negative energy between you. Give them a blessing and say "I forgive you and release you. Go your own way and be happy."

4. When you have finished with everyone, write on your paper, "I now forgive and release you all" and then throw it away as a symbol that you are letting go of these past experiences.

5. On a second piece of paper, write down the names of the people in your life that you feel that you have hurt or done and injustice to. Write down what you did to them. Again, close your eyes, relax and imagine each person in turn. Tell him or her what you did and ask them to forgive you and giving you their blessing. Then picture them doing so. When you have finished that process, write on the same paper "I forgive myself and hereby remove all the guilt that i cam carrying, here and now, forever." Then, tear up the paper and then throw it away.

Try to do your visualizations and meditations on a daily basis and definitely when you're feeling tense or stressed!

=====================Presentation Ends===================

I LOVE the visualizations. I know that some people get angry when we say "Be a good stress manager!" and others think it's too "touchy feely" and not as valuable as an IC treatment. And, it does NOT replace IC treatments. But every IC patient has that inevitable lesson when their stress gets wayyyy out of hand, their IC symptoms increase and they learn that, to get through this all, we have to be grounded, calm and find that time to give our body rest and recovery!

I have one other side note. I don't know how many of you have done this. But, when my symptoms are at their worst and I am feeling pain and burning, I think to myself "Boy, my bladder must be in really bad shape today." I almost picture it in a state of, well, hamburger meat (ick!). Anyway, we need to train ourselves to AVOID that kind of thought. Try and get in the habit of thinking of your bladder as healthy and functioning well.

Good point. It's very easy for anxieties to get the best of us! Lesa.. when is the best time in the day to do a meditation?

I tend to meditate in the morning or evening most often, as I'm starting the day or winding down. Also, during my lunch when I need a stress break.

Lesa, do you have any extra meditations and/or visualizations for patients who are in a current flare.. or who are experiencing high symptoms? i.e. like if it feels hot.. to imagine cool, soothing water through?

Yes! You can incorporate anything into your meditation as long as it is soothing and healing. The healing meditation we did earlier would be great to adapt. Just insert a section on a cool, soothing light or water moving through your bladder.

Okay, so let's try a few other settings and see what we come up with! Do you have a meditation for night time, when sleeping is difficult? What do you suggest?

Night time is difficult since we often get stressed just because we are exhausted and our bladders may not let us sleep. The basic muscle tension I listed above is always a first good step. And, if you are having bladder burning, imagine a cool, blue light or water solution, moving through your bladder and healing it..

If you have pain, we tend to visualize a bladder full of razor blades, right? Don't do that. Imagine a soft, soothing light radiating through your bladder. Imagine that light pulling the pain from your bladder and releasing it away from you.

Handle each symptom in little bitty steps, not as a whole. Try doing an inch of your bladder at a time. It seems much easier to mentally soothe that way.

And something about time being healing too. Those hours during the night can be long and sometimes we have to be still.. still our hearts.. and our minds.. still those thoughts of anxiety. Just imagine sitting or laying by a soft bubbling brook with the sunshine high above and birds singing.

Last year, we had a group member who was in the ICU who had very bad pneumonia. She was in a coma, very near death. When I visited her unconscious in the ICU, I held her hand and described a visualization (called "the pink balloon") that she and I were standing on a hillside, with children laughing and playing all around us, and that she was holding a big pink balloon. And that, with our thoughts, we placed all of our pain and our worries into the balloon. And then, we let it go and watched our worries fly away.

That's excellent!

When she woke up from her coma, she couldn't remember anything except that pink balloon and how she put her pain into it. So.. folks.. don't underestimate the power of visualization! It can be very valuable at a very difficult time. (And remember to that people who are comatose may still be able to hear what you say. Linda did!)

Okay.. another scenario! Lesa, here's a challenging one. Say you've just had another one of those irritating occurrences where someone says "They don't believe in IC" or that we're just being hysterical or emotional! What visualization can you recommend for that one?

That is tough but let's see. When people don't believe us, it can be very hurtful and painful, causing a "heavy heart" as I call it. It makes me feel alone and isolated. So, I have to think "what can I visualize that will remind me that I am not alone?"

I think confidence. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what your body is going through regardless of what anyone says. You can have an image of strength and endurance and patience, like a tree blowing in the wind, not breaking.. just bending. We accept that the winds around us are not always gentle.. but we have a foundation in our hearts of knowledge and of courage and of strength

Let's take some scenarios from the floor. Okay.. here's another one. In the car... gotta pee.. no bathroom for, say, ten minutes. What image can we use to get us through that ten minutes? any ideas out there?

NOT a stream of running water! Lol I think singing works.. to be honest! Turning on the radio really loud and just doing anything to ignore those sensations. Yes, I do that! I also read all the road signs. I notice the scenery. I wonder about the architecture of a particular building or what the guy in the car next to me had for breakfast. ::he looks like an omelette guy!:::

Has anyone heard of the golden bubble visualization? This one is great for kids and adults. When you go to bed at night, after you're settled down and lying flat, imagine building a flexible pink bubble over your bed. In fact.. it includes your bed.. and can even enclose your whole house. Inside that bubble, the air is perfect. It's warm, relaxed and protected from outside influences.

For children with nightmares, this is a wonderful visualization because that bubble will keep any monsters away. The mom can stand over the bed... and actually form the bubble with her hands (pretend style) and say, you are now safely tucked away! The bubble is here. It's strong and nothing can get through it but love! (Shakti Gawain's "Creative Visualization")

Sue asked for a visualization to help with menstrual cramps. Any ideas?

What we want to remind our bodies (and our minds) is that that particular pain is a result of a natural, cleansing process. We can focus on the area that is in pain and visualize that healing is occurring. You can imagine the light or ask your white cells to help. You can imagine cold or hot, whatever it is, you need to expel the pain (mentally) from your body...move it through the area and out completely..

And using that beautiful golden light to be soothing, filling your pelvis with healing energy!

Yes...it is a healing, soothing light! Although, you may want to use a blue light in areas of pain whatever feels right.

Great! Well done Lesa! I think we could .. and should.. do much more!

Thank you!


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The opinion of the speaker is not necessarily the opinion of the IC-Network. Copyright © 1999, The IC Network, All rights reserved. This transcript may be reproduced for personal use only. If you do so reproduce, we ask only that you give credit to the source, the IC Network, and speakers, Lesa F. and Jill Osborne. For additional use, please contact the ICN at (707)538-9442.