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Earthen Zen

Convalescence and Meditation


– Composed by Rebecca Bourhill and Glenn Nangaku Leisching

*Disclaimer: The suggestions below do not override advice you have received from your medical professional. We suggest you apply them in conjunction with what is prescribed or advised. Please do your own research and discuss the merit of these helpful practices with your doctor.



Convalescence is the gradual process of recovery in gaining back one’s health and strength to return to some or original form of functionality. The term has mainly been used in the past for chronic illness, however, the process of convalescence can be from an acute injury, surgery and even mental illnesses. The term is often used for the later stages of recovery. Keeping in mind that the process is as much of a mental recovery as it is a physical recovery, it is helpful to implement practices to aid in the process as soon as you are given the go-ahead from a medical professional. Along with mindful physical movement, the practice of meditation and visualisation is shown to support convalescence.

Convalescence as a mental process

In most cases, especially those of emotional and physical trauma like a heart attack or broken bones, or the incident that precedes the healing process or convalescence happens suddenly with no given warning.

The injury may force an individual to face aspects of their own vulnerability. This leads to the recovery being that of an emotional one, where inner healing needs to take place to promote physical healing. In some more severe cases, like cancer for example, having to face one’s own mortality invites an holistic approach that summons the power of one’s mental resilience.

After a tragic accident, an individual’s own particular form of convalescence emerges. Everyone’s needs are different, and the recovery journey is unique from person to person. Learning to integrate into a new life with a changed body, new limitations, or the loss of a loved one is often the first step. Secondly, finding meaning from the injury, loss or illness can create a stronger family bond, greater appreciation for life, increased life satisfaction, and a renewed sense of spirituality.

As well as focusing on physical recovery, allowing yourself to access and heal your emotional realm automatically gives your recovery an advantage. A positive outlook and routine will not just give you purpose and agency in your own healing, studies have shown that it strengthens your immune system.

Integrating meditation into the convalescent period

Integrating meditation practice into everyday life, especially into the recovery process, provides insight in one’s routines that may require adjustment in support of mindful and healing alternatives. Being completely present, with your body and mind, simple daily tasks become an opportunity to strengthen your practise while recovering in a deeply sound manner.

Two examples:

a) Spinal injury or surgery
The spine keeps you upright. In its core is the spinal canal and nerves passageways that keep your body functioning. When an injury occurs in the spine, the recovery is often slow and painful. During the initial weeks of time in bed recuperating, it is easy to become restless and overly eager to get moving again.
By setting dedicated times in the day for meditation practice while in bed, what may seem like a long day is broken-up into segments. A routine can begin to form around your meditation practice.

Following the advice of your doctor, start lying down with a pillow under your knees and practice zazen. As you get more mobile, you can begin to bring small acts of mindful meditation practice into your routine. Tasks that would usually be a chore like brushing your teeth, doing your hair, and making tea can become a mindful way to engage healing throughout your day.

As recovery continues, the times you’ve set in your day for meditation will become natural and begin to mindfully support more complex tasks like cooking and going for walks. In longer recoveries, breathwork and awareness can be brought into physiotherapy exercises. In being more aware of your movements, not only are you reducing the risk of re-injuring yourself but you are also developing a deeper awareness of your body and new capabilities. Attuned presence is know to support recovery.

b) Heart-health and circulatory system
Heart-health is a term used often by medical professionals. The heart is a vital organ that keeps blood pumping around your body, circulating through a complex set of chambers, arteries, and blood vessels. Although not visible, when an injury occurs, whether it be a heart-attack or surgery, the result may require a long road to recovery. The heart is known to be the seat of emotion and a place where wisdom can be found. Connecting mindfully with your heart will avail you of its wisdom and help to heal emotional trauma or alleviate anxiety.

As with spinal injuries, integrating meditation on a regular and consistent basis can support you through your day. Consider paying attention to your heart’s beat. By feeling your heart-beat, an awareness and appreciation of life is created. Attention on your heart stimulates recovery.

In a heart-related trauma an individual may have to face their mortality. This potentially frightening prospect may be a reality check and cause you to focus on what really matters in life. The emotional challenges in this situation can be intense but not impossible to work through. embracing you vulnerability can open the way to deep healing.

How meditation and visualisation can accelerate healing

The mind-body connection of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can alter our biological functioning. Meditation assists in re-regulating the nervous system, reducing physical and psychological stress on the body. This gives your body an opportunity to recover and heal.

In-part, the healing is supported by a naturally more rhythmic breath which regulates the oxygen and carbon-dioxide ratio in the body. By creating a commitment to practice meditation, one begins to relax and, in time, will become a moment in your day that your body looks forward to.

Meditation allows oneself to go into deep levels of rest which naturally aids in recovery. By combining meditation with visualizations of healing and restoration, you will be ‘feeding’ cells, tissue and bone with healing energy.


The process of convalescence is slow. It is usually a marathon, not a sprint. With the support of meditation and visualizations as well as from family, friends and health-care professionals the journey to wholeness can be more than just a frustrating, arduous one. Your physical, emotional and mental recovery can be a powerful opportunity to learn about yourself, reconnect with your internal healing power, and learn new techniques to address the original causes that may have led to the injury in the first place.

If you are recuperating at home or in a medical facility, feel free to learn more about how meditation can help you on the road to a full recovery.


Hart, P., (2016). What is the Mind-body Connection?.


Richmond, T. S., Thompson, H., Deatrick, J., & Kauder, D. R. (2000). Journey

Towards Recovery Following Physical Trauma. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32 (6),

1341-1347. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/ j.1365-2648.2000.01629.x

Sharma, H. (2015). Meditation: Process and Effects.


The University of Queensland. (2014, September, 14). A Positive Boost to the

Immune System. https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2014/09/positive-boost-