Send your love, not negative emotion

What to do when we feel powerless to help a loved one who is sick?

The following is a recent email I sent to J & L who felt worry and powerless about the condition of their sister, K, who suffered from an illness with poor prognosis. I feel compelled to share this email since this is a situation many people will experience in life sooner or later. We are all not immune to the emotional turmoil of old age, sickness, and death.


Dear J and L,

Negative emotions are not helpful for our loved one who is sick

Negative emotions are not helpful for our loved one who is sick

I understand you all must be very worried and concerned with K’s condition, especially since you all are so far away. You all love and care for her. However, the seemingly inability to help her at the moment can make you become anxious, restless, and sad, especially for L who has already been affected emotionally.

Nonetheless, such negative emotion is not helpful for both yourselves and for K. Energetically, we are connected regardless of the physical distance. So, instead of sending her all your worry, fear, and sadness when thinking about her, which will hurt her, how about radiate love to her and wish her well and happy? Unconditionally. Regardless of what treatment or healing approach, she chooses?  

To start with, you can learn to do loving-kindness meditation. You can download
the meditation instruction from the following website: http://mettaroundtheworld.org/resources/downloads/

It is just a short 10-15 min meditation. By first wishing yourself to be well and happy, and then slowly radiate this thought of loving-kindness to people around you and to your love ones (including K). At the end of the meditation, when your mind become calm and peaceful, you can make a sincere wish from your heart to wish K to be well and happy. Give her the support from your heart to overcome whatever obstacle in life she is facing now.    

If you can, please do this meditation and send her your love every day. Pick whatever time you can, but it is best to do in the early morning when your mind is fresh. Just 10-15 min, but of course you can make it longer if you want to.  

This is something we all can do, isn’t it? Sending her your loving energy from your heart to help her to heal. So, there is something you can do to help her. Let’s do it.

May all be well and happy,

Soo Liang

The Practice of Loving-kindness

Loving-kindness also known as metta (in Pali), is derived from Buddhism. However, the practice of loving-kindness is beyond any religious connotation since it refers to a mental state of unselfish and unconditional love and kindness to all beings [1].

When we are faced with the sickness of a loved one, abiding our mind in loving-kindness is the best we can do for ourselves and for the patient.

 

How can loving-kindness meditatiLove hearton help? Research has helped to shed some light on the power of this ancient technique. It has been shown in many experimental studies that the practice of loving-kindness meditation can effectively enhance our positive emotions and conversely reduce our negative emotions [2]. Positive emotions increase our personal resources to deal with any crisis on hand. One can become more mindful, gain a sense of purpose, feel socially connected, and also decrease illness symptoms [3]. Such positive emotions are extremely important for both the patients, the care givers and relatives of the patients. In one study in a healthcare institution, it was shown that with just a 10-min session of loving-kindness meditation practice, healthcare providers shown a higher level of compassion and positive affect, which improve their well beings and resilience to continue to help the patients [4]. Therefore, loving-kindness meditation is an important tool for us to master in order to be able to help others during difficult times.

However, what if the patient is far apart and we not able to take care of them directly? How can the practice of loving-kindness help? Can the patient truly feel our love and has an impact on their healing? The answer is yes, and it has been shown in scientific studies as well. The Love Study is one such experiment [5].

Strong motivation to heal and to be healed, and training on how to cultivate and direct compassionate intention, may further enhance this effect

Strong motivation to heal and to be healed, and training on how to cultivate and direct compassionate intention, may further enhance this effect

In this study, the partners of cancer patients were trained to send compassionate intent towards their partners before the experiment. During the experiment, each cancer patient was relaxing in a distant shielded room for 30 minutes while his/her partner, i.e. the sender, directed intention toward the receiver during repeated 10-second period separated by random intermitted periods. The skin conductance level of the receiver was measured during the experiment. It was discovered that the receivers’ skin conductance increased when the compassionate intents were sent to them. The increase in skin conductance is an indication of the activation of the autonomic nervous system, as such, the person becomes more relaxed. It is well known that relaxation is helpful to improve the body’s healing ability [6]. Therefore, compassionate intents sent at a distance can help to heal. Furthermore, the study also reported that “Strong motivation to heal and to be healed, and training on how to cultivate and direct compassionate intention, may further enhance this effect.” [5]

In conclusion, loving-kindness meditation is a practical tool that every should master. The simple intention to wish oneself and others to be well and happy is a powerful healing force that we all can harness for the benefits oneself and others. Please visit the “Metta Round The World” website at http://mettaroundtheworld.org to learn more about loving-kindness meditation.

May all be well and happy.

References

[1] Hofmann, S. G., Grossman, P., & Hinton, D. E. (2011). Loving-Kindness and Compassion Meditation: Potential for Psychological Interventions. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(7), 1126–1132. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2011.07.003

[2] Zeng, X., Chiu, C. P. K., Wang, R., Oei, T. P. S., & Leung, F. Y. K. (2015). The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: a meta-analytic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1693. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01693

[3] Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0013262

[4] Seppala, E. M., Hutcherson, C. A., Nguyen, D. T. H., Doty, J. R., & Gross, J. J. (2014). Loving-kindness meditation: a tool to improve healthcare provider compassion, resilience, and patient care. Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 1:5. http://doi.org/10.1186/s40639-014-0005-9

[5] Radin, D., Stone, J., Levine, E., Eskandarnejad S, Schlitz M, Kozak L, …, Hayssen G. (2004). Compassionate intention as a therapeutic intervention by partners of cancer patients: effects of distant intention on the patients’ autonomic nervous system. Explore (NY), 4(4). 235-243. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2008.04.002

[6] Halm, M. A. (2009). Relaxation: A self-care healing modality reduces harmful effects of anxiety. American Journal of Critical Care, 18(2), 169-172. http://doi.org/10.4037/ajcc2009867

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