“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi
I think that many people would agree that we have a great deal of power in our minds that is often untapped. Obviously we cannot totally control our destiny but I believe that we can have more influence than we might think we can.
For instance, I know that I can change my mood, which affects my blood pressure and levels of tension in my body just by remembering something pleasant or imagining something I’m looking forward to (often something to do with nature and horse riding or lying on the beach in sunny Spain!). If we believe the research this raises the beneficial hormones and seratonin levels and helps boost our immune system. I guess you’re familiar with the cup half full or half empty image. What we focus on is more likely to be what we get!
Expressing your feelings
I am not advocating that you deny your vulnerability and only emphasise your strength. I am suggesting that you accept and respond to both aspects of yourself. Attention to both sides will be most beneficial. See the section on expressing feelings in the Resources page.
According to the Simontons, Louis Proto and Bernie Siegel, focussing our minds through visualisations and guided imagery can be a powerful aid to recovery. Of course this has been common knowledge to many people for centuries. Meditation and prayers are just ways of focussing our minds on a desired outcome. Just as our bodies physical strength and energy improve with exercise so can we increase our mental power and agility the more we discipline ourselves to use it consciously. Just like a muscle we use it or lose it!
I have dabbled in meditation and visualisation many times in the past, but not kept it up. Now I have the motivation to really give it a go and slowly I am improving, but even now I “forget” some days. So I know it can be hard to keep it up and I know that when I do I feel much more relaxed, positive and generally better for it.
The Simontons have some very interesting material in chapter 12 of Getting Well Again. They suggest that cancer cells should always be symbolised in mental imagery as weak and disorganised. They also suggest seeing them as grey or neutral colours rather than strong ones to help neutralise feelings about cancer. Dr. Carl Simonton, treating cancer patients in Texas with radiotherapy, began suspecting that cancer is related to personality (he was not the first to suspect this - see Jung), and especially to suppression of feelings.
Whilst continuing to use radiotherapy and other medical treatments, he developed a method of improving patients’ attitudes, expectations and ability to express themselves by using affirmations, visualisations and encouraging them to depict their feelings on paper. Many of his techniques are now used elsewhere e.g. at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre.
So I’m giving you some of the visualisations and self hypnosis exercises here for you to try and I heartily recommend that you read the Simonton’s book Getting Well Again. If you have any you’d like to share please send them to me.
Before you attempt any of these you need to be relaxed and comfortable in a place with no interruptions.
You may find it easier to do this to some soothing music. I got my partner to record a relaxation tape for me. He has a very soothing voice! Give yourself plenty of time to go through this - at least 10 to 15 minutes.
Sit or lie comfortably in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Start by focussing on your breathing. Just breathe in and out easily and as you breathe in imagine a calm, energising force entering your body. As you breathe out say relax to yourself as you allow all the tension to release. Now move your attention to the top of your head and let it relax, move down to your forehead, tense and relax it, now tense and relax your eyes, then your nose, cheeks and jaw. Let you teeth be slightly apart. Now move to your neck and relax it and on to your shoulders, lift them up and let them go and feel them relaxing. Now relax each arm in turn until you get to your fingers and give them a little shake. Move your attention to your chest and again let it relax.
Gradually move down your body and relax your stomach, abdomen and pelvis. Focus on your genitals and anus and tense and relax those muscles. Gradually move down your legs from your thighs to your knees and down to you calves, ankles, feet and finally your toes. Give them a wiggle. Finally work your way all the way back up your body checking that you’re as relaxed as you can be at this moment. Breathe easily and notice how comfortable and relaxed you feel now. You are calm, relaxed and serene. Just let yourself be there and to help maintain that lovely relaxed state you might want to count each breath that you take until you get 10 and then start again (this a basic Buddhist meditation method).
Self-Hypnosis (taken from Hypnosis for Beginners by William W. Hewitt)
Stretch! Then sit in a comfortable position. Focus your attention on a spot and inhale deeply, as you exhale mentally say the number 5 three times. Close your eyes and take another deep breath and mentally say the number 4 three times as you exhale. Picture it at the same time. Take another deep breath and do the same with the numbers 3,2 and 1 consecutively.
Now imagine a relaxation force coming from your eyes and flowing out all over your body like a warm blanket of soothing, warm, gentle air going all the way down to your toes.
Then count backwards from 10 to 1.
Now give yourself this suggestion:
“I will always be calm and relaxed.”
Follow this by something that you want to achieve eg. “Every day in every way I am getting better and better” or “I am doing all I need to do to recover and be completely healthy”.
Choose whatever words feel right to you and make sure they are positively framed rather than negative (like I will stop smoking).
Then picture a red spot on a white card in your mind and imagine this spot moving all the way to the back of your head taking the suggestion with it. Then forget the suggestion, so that your inner mind will absorb it. Then count from 1 to 5 and awaken and feel the effect of the suggestion.
The Value of Positive Mental Images
Building tools to help influence your immune system.
- Visualising your Illness, Treatment and Recovery.
Criteria for effective imagery (taken from Getting Well Again).
- The cancer cells are weak and confused.
- The treatment is strong and powerful.
- The healthy cells have no difficulty repairing any damage the treatment might do.
- The army of white blood cells is vast and overwhelms the cancer cells.
- The white blood cells are aggressive, eager for battle, quick to seek out the cancer cells and destroy them.
- The dead cancer cells are flushed from the body normally and naturally.
- By the end of imagery, you are healthy and free of cancer.
- You see yourself reaching your goals in life, fulfilling your purpose.
The Simontons also encourage people to draw pictures of -
Their cancer cells, their treatment, white blood cells, flushing out dead cancer cells, a healthy self, reaching their goals.
See Bernie Siegel’s Exceptional Cancer Patients website for details of a free interpretation of your drawings.
There are many useful books around to give examples of these and of course you can simply make them up for yourself. Just remember that they need to be positively worded, clearly and simply described and you need to allow plenty of time to follow them. So pause after each suggestion and give yourself time to take it in. The more we can use all our senses in these visualisations the more effective they will be.
Creating your Sanctuary
This is one of my favourites and was taken from Creative Visualisations by Shakti Gawain. It helps me get back to being centred and feel some inner security and peace.
First get relaxed and comfortable. Imagine yourself in some beautiful natural environment. It can be anywhere that appeals to you.....in a meadow, on a mountaintop, in a forest, beside the sea. It could be under the ocean or on another planet. Wherever it is it should feel comfortable, pleasant and peaceful to you. Explore your place, notice the details of what you can see around you, the sounds, smells, tastes and any feelings or impressions you get about it.
Now do anything you want to make the place feel more homelike and comfortable. You might want to build a shelter or house there, or perhaps surround it with a golden light of protection and safety. Create and arrange things there for your comfort, enjoyment and convenience, or do a ritual to establish it as your special place.
From now on this is your own personal inner sanctuary, to which you can return anytime by closing your eyes and desiring to be there. You will always find it healing and relaxing there. It is also a place of special power for you and you may want to go there when you do creative visualisation. You may find that your sanctuary changes spontaneously or you want to change it. Go ahead and make sure it stays a place of peace, joy, and safety.
Visualising Health - Healthy You Visualisation.
(taken from Louis Proto Self Healing)
Conjure up a picture of yourself in perfect health, perhaps as you were before you got ill, or as you would like to be. how would you look if you were in radiant health right now? Get the feeling in your body. How does it feel to have lots of energy again, to take your health for granted again as you used to? What would you like to be doing now that you are restored to health? See yourself engaging in that activity, in as much detail as possible.
Keep this picture up your sleeve to pull out at times when you feel down and your mind is telling you that you’ll never be fighting fit again. We grow towards what we think.
The Healing Room
This visualisation was described to me by my Tai Chi teacher.
First get relaxed and close your eyes. Imagine walking down 10 steps, count each step from 10 down to 1. In front of you is a door. Open the door and you will see a corridor, notice the colour of the walls and the door. Can you hear any sounds. Walk down this corridor until you come to a door on your right. This is the door to a very special healing room. Go through this door and look around the room, notice how big it is, the colours in the room. What is in the room? Are there any other people there? What sounds and smells are there?
This room is specially designed to be a healing place for you. What do you need in there? Whatever you need you can have and make use of as long as you need to. Do whatever you need to do in this special room to heal yourself. Ask for anything you want there. You can return to the room whenever you want to. Now it is time to leave. So have a good look round and remember what is there. Now open the door and go back into the corridor, gently shut the door behind you. Walk back to the first door, open it and walk back up the stairs. Gently come back into your own room and open your eyes behind your hands at first and slowly take your hands away.
NLP Healing Exercise
This exercise is taken from Heart of the Mind by Connirae and Steve Andreas.
1. Identify what you want to heal automatically.
2. Establish your personal evidence of how you will know when it is healing or has healed. Ask yourself, “After this has healed what will be different in my experience? What signs will I have?
3. Find a personal experience of automatic self-healing. Pick something you know your body will heal automatically. Think of something you consider similar in some way to what you want to heal now.
4. Think of your automatic self-healing experience as if it were happening now. Notice how you imagine whatever you picked healing.
5. Identify your coding differences between your automatic self-healing experience and your illness or injury. How do you see each of these and how are they different? Where do you see them in relation to your body? do you see them in colour?
6. Make your unhealed experience like your automatic self-healing experience. Make your image of your unhealed experience look, sound, feel exactly like your automatic self-experience. By doing this your mind/body will now respond to your injury/illness as something that is marked out to heal automatically.
7. Test to be sure your injury or illness is coded for automatic self-healing. Check the 2 images again to ensure that the automatic self-healing experience and the desired healing experience are the same. If not look at the differences and make them the same.
8. Locate your past timeline. Think about waking up yesterday and notice where you look - up, down, behind, in front, left, right? again think about your last birthday and notice where you locate the thought. Most of us locate past and future in different places. These are called timelines and they have a particular direction. Make up another example of automatic healing and place it in your past timeline. Make up an example of your body already having recovered from this kind of injury or illness once before and then place it in your past.
9. Check personal ecology: check for internal objections to healing. Close your eyes and turn inward. Ask yourself “Does any part of me have any objection to my healing automatically?” sometimes there are losses involved of any secondary gains of having this illness (like loss of loving attention or having to go back to a job you don’t like). If there are any objections you will need to resolve these before you are likely to allow the self-healing to work.
10. Access your inner wisdom for ways to support healing. Ask yourself “Is there anything else I can do to support my automatic self-healing?” This offers you a gentle way to make sure your lifestyle and personal habits support healing.
The Serenity Prayer
I couldn’t resist putting this old pearl of wisdom at the end of this section! “God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”