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How to Navigate Surgery with Meditation

When the doctors couldn’t explain my lung collapsing earlier in the year, I turned to my meditation practice. In lieu of any other answers, I wondered if there was a psychosomatic reason for the collapse — an emotional cause.


I meditated on my lung, and I found grief. I thought I’d dealt with my grief, but here it was, living here. I meditated with Grief, a few times per day, until she was able to smile back at me. It felt significant.


Then my lung collapsed again. I wanted to ask Grief what happened. I closed my eyes, approached Grief within my meditation, only to find her holding her hands up toward the ceiling of my lung, trying to hold it up in the same way you’d push up a sagging roof tent under teeming rain. The collapse wasn’t her doing.


My meditations are vivid. And I speak with my emotions and body parts. I’ve completely normalised this now. The problem was, I now knew for certain that my lung collapse was not psychosomatic. It was something else. Something mechanical.


My little right lung continued collapsing until it was the size of my fist. That pivotal meditation with Grief was my first step toward acceptance for what was now inevitable surgical intervention.

So, I turned my attention to my lung. I told it the whole process of the surgery. I called my immune system into the conversation too. They were both under the spotlight now; their time to shine. Pre-surgery, we sat cross-legged as a little triad, rallying energy between us for what would come. I told my lung that if it needed anything, post-surgery, to let me know “however you need to get that message to me”.


As I lay down on the operating theatre table, cannula ready for my general anaesthetic, I said to both my lung and my immune system, “I trust you”, and then I was out.


A few days after surgery, I was unplugged from the machine that was artificially keeping my lung inflated. It was the first test to gauge the success of the operation. My lung collapsed a little. My mood collapsed a lot. I felt like it failed. I was scared of having to redo surgery and I felt like I was out of resources to help myself. The doctors attached me back to the machine, telling me it would be for another 48 hours before a retest.


The next morning I woke early, had a little cry at my predicament, then remembered that I have a rock solid meditation practice for times just like these. As soon as I arrived in my meditation my lung said to me “But you told me to tell you if I needed anything! I need a little more time. I just need another couple of days!” Crap. You’re right. I said that. And you did that. Okay! You just need a couple more days! Yes!


Instant relief. I was fine. My lung was fine. My immune system was on it, creating the ‘glue’ to stick the lung in place. They just needed more time.


And, two days later, the doctors gave me, my lung and my immune system the thumbs up.


. . .


I appreciate that this is wacky as all hell for those who have never meditated, or have never meditated like this before. I get that. I share this story anyway because these meditations are what got me through a pretty brutal surgery, taking me from a place of utter resistance to acceptance, and even over a blip when I initially thought that surgery failed.


I share this because the practice of meditation is how I continued to find my way back to peace throughout the last two weeks in hospital. And we could all use a little more peace.


The human body is incredible. The mind is powerful. The ability to find meaning in our experiences, and connection with all the facets of it, is within our capacity. And it’s what makes the difference.


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