Meditation to transcend the anxiety of a Herxheimer reaction

Shamanic tools to survive a Herxheimer reaction in chronic Lyme disease

 Use your dream body to beat fear when you herx

Last week my doctor started me on some herbs to help bust Lyme disease biofilms. He warned me I might have a Herxheimer reaction. For you lucky people who don't know what that is, it's a flare up of Lyme symptoms that comes with a die off, as your body clears the toxins the bacteria leave behind. (Die, flesh eating parasites!) 

Anyone with late stage Lyme disease knows all too well the fear that comes with herxing. Lyme disease seems to have a special talent for bestowing anxiety and panic with flare ups. I took the herbs midday, and that evening was watching a movie when the familiar symptoms began. I knew what was happening, I even knew it was a good thing - but I still had to make it through the night. 

Your energetic dream body

Lately I have been reading books by Alberto Villoldo about Shamanic practice.  In his most recent book, Heart of the Shaman, Villoldo described the human being as existing on four levels simultaneously: the physical body, the mind, the soul, and finally Spirit, or oneness. All four are woven together, but in meditation it can be interesting to separate them out.

The Shamanic concept of the soul is particularly interesting. Villoldo describes the soul as the energetic body we inhabit while dreaming. Lucid dreaming is an important healing tool in shamanic practices.

My experience is you don't have to be fully asleep to lucid dream. In fact, those slippery hours where you are half asleep are the most magical hours for visualization of any kind, and for meditation in general. 

Lucid dreaming turns a herx into healing 

All us Lyme Warriors know, a flare up messes with the mind. This is awful if you are trying to pay the bills or remember why you walked into a room, but it can be used to our advantage in meditation. With your frontal cortex semi-disabled, your dream body is easier to access. This can be a super power if we use it for healing.

The night of my herx, I slept fitfully, then woke up at 430am - my body's favorite time to freak. I took ashwagandha to help me chill out, and settled in for some lucid dreaming meditation. While I would certainly prefer to be sleeping like a normal person, I honestly find these hours of meditation so magical. Here is a step by step guide to my practice. 

Four part meditation practice

In this meditation practice, you travel through the first three levels of the human being: body, mind and energy body. (Each different part can be a meditation practice in and of itself, but in this case we'll move through the layers.) For me, in order to get deeply into my dream body I need to be sleepy, but not quite able to fall asleep. Herxing? Perfect!

Body meditation

Start with your body, knowing you're going to move beyond it. Deepen your breathing, dropping in to the physical sensations of the moment. Make an intention to relax around whatever you feel, whether comfortable or uncomfortable.

Notice your physical feelings, including any fear or anxiety. Do your sensations have color, shape or movement? Observe them as they change, breathing deeply, relaxing no matter what. Stay with your body until you feel soft and relaxed - until you feel the flow and movement in all your sensations, and you are able to relax regardless. 

Mind meditation

Now, pay attention specifically to what your mind is up to, knowing you are going to move beyond this as well. Thoughts can have their own shape, color or movement. They balloon up, then fade away. Watch their energy, often chaotic and distracting. If a thought carries you away, just come back as you can.

Stay with your mind until your thoughts feel a bit separate from "you". You are watching them. You are an observer - with tremendous power and will in terms of what you choose to observe. Let your thoughts chatter away while maintaining distance, like you are hearing a friend talk sitting next to you. 

Inhabiting your dream body

According to Villoldo, the dreaming body contains the 8th chakra - situated above the crown of your head. Imagine this chakra as a small ball of energy, generating a sphere of energy around you. This sphere may have color. The color may move or change. 

Let your awareness rest in the energy body surrounding and containing your physical body and your mind. This energy body is deeply connected to your physical bodymind, but not bound by it. No illness affects it. It isn't touched by Lyme disease, fear or pain. 

I find it blissful to rest my attention in my dream body, as it surrounds me. It feels light and free. It feels clear; unaffected by my physical sensations or my thoughts. It just holds me, its energy gently moving. This can be enough.

Lucid dreaming

If you want to go further, you can practice lucid dreaming. Within your energy body you are free to travel through time and space. Experiment with traveling backward, through your memories of the past. Imagine your life as a ribbon of light that you can flow along in either direction, observing from within your energy body. See the memories flowing past as you travel along your life line.

You may find an episode that calls your attention, like a little sticky spot in your life line. In your dreaming body you can drop in to a memory, observe it, and have new conversations with family or friends. You can spend time in a place you have missed. Deep healing awaits in these sticky places in our past. In your dreaming body you may find more complete understanding - a way to resolve unfinished business. Just stay open, and follow what feels right.

Eventually you will either be pulled back in to your physical bodymind, or you can choose to come back. Or, you might fall asleep. If so, great! Sleep is forever healing for us Lymies. There will be another chance to lucid dream.

If you'd like to read about one of my own experiences lucid dreaming, here is an article published by Sivana East.


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You are magical, you are wilderness, contained and supported by the web of life itself.