by Anne Beattie, MA, Lic MTh
From The Cancer Chronicles #27
© May 1995 by Anne Beattie
[THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW CHRONICLES ARTICLES NOT WRITTEN BY THE EDITOR, RALPH
W. MOSS, PH.D. ANNE BEATTIE IS NOT ONLY THE AUTHOR/NARRATOR OF THE SEE YOURSELF
WELL AUDIOTAPE SERIES (FROM EQUINOX- BUT A MIND-BODY WORKERS AND COORDINATOR
OF THE HEALING CHOICES REPORT SERVICE.--ED.]
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.
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.
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