by Anne Beattie, MA, Lic MTh

From The Cancer Chronicles #27
© May 1995 by Anne Beattie


Recently, I was chatting with my 11-year old son and was startled to hear him confidently proclaim that "the brain is the engineer and the body just follows orders." It made me realize how deeply entrenched is Western culture's "dumb body/smart mind" model. Even my son, who has grown up with an awareness of alternative medicine, has absorbed this all-pervasive message.

For people with cancer, whether they choose conventional or alternative treatments, the repeated confrontation with the belief that mind and body are separate entities has negative repercussions. In most medical environments, the patient is required to be passive and receptive, while the doctor takes the active, decision-making role. In an eerie extension of the body/mind split, the patient becomes the dumb, inarticulate body while the doctor is the brain with all the knowledge and authority.

The issue of authority is thus central to any true revisioning of cancer treatment. Many of my clients with cancer have amassed large stores of pain, helplessness, fear, and blame. Much of this, in turn, is rooted in a perceived loss of authority regarding their experiences with cancer. At a time in their lives when they most need an affirmation of their own wholeness and wisdom, they are thrust into a world where they are viewed as a faulty mechanism with parts that need fixing. To many doctors, the concept of a patient possessing inner healing powers is as ludicrous as a car fixing its own flat tire. Physically impossible!

But when their treatments don't work, doctors often blame the patient's "dumbness." Countless people have been told that they "failed" the treatment, when in fact it is the entire therapeutic system that failed them.The time has certainly come for a new paradigm, one in which doctors are not the engineers with the patients obediently carrying out their orders. What changes can a person with cancer make to knit together the fragmented body, mind, and spiritual connections, claim their own authority, and become the managers of their own healing experience?

There are several tools that I consider absolutely necessary in this process. The most basic (and, for many, the most difficult) is creating an inviolable, sacred time and place for just yourself every day. The more you can give yourself this gift of time, the better.

My list of basics also includes meditation, yoga, and visualization. Let me say a little about each of these essential components of healing. Meditation is any activity that focuses your mind on the present moment, training yourself to observe passing thoughts without judging or reacting to them. Meditation allows you to fully experience each moment. It also lowers stress and tension levels and helps you to develop an awareness of your internal "weather," the changes that flow within you moment by moment, without passing judgment on yourself. Many people feel that meditation brings a new sense of clarity and direction to their lives, qualities that can be extremely important to people with cancer.

Yoga means "union." It is an ancient Indian practice of physical postures and breathing exercises that promote a deep sense of mind/body unity and overall health. Yoga releases tension, builds flexibility and strength, and can create a sense of vitality, alertness, and joy. Even someone who is or has been quite ill can do very gentle yoga movements with proper guidance, and can experience important benefits from it.

Finally, there is visualization (also called imagery), which means using the imagination to create positive effects on your mind as well as on your body. Visualization sessions can be done alone or with professional guidance, and involve picturing images and situations that evoke the healing process....Any combination of these techniques done on a regular basis will be supportive of your healing process. Trust your intuition each day about what you need to focus on.

Every moment presents us with a choice to either be the engine or the caboose that is pulled along without questioning. When a person has cancer, many well-intentioned people, from family members to doctors, want to take control and be the engineer. I want to remind each person with cancer that you are the ultimate expert on yourself. Yoga, meditation, and visualization can help you bridge the gap between mind, body, and spirit, and give you the strength and clarity to be the active engineer of your own healing.

Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.

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