The true story of a little boy named Garrett has to be one of the most inspiring examples on the power of a vivid imagination and the mind body intelligence to self-heal. Garrett had an inoperable brain tumor and after intense radiation treatments the tumor sat basically untouched. His doctors said to his parents “we have done everything we can do, so take him home and make him as comfortable as you can. It is terminal.”
His parents decided to not give up on their boy and they took him to the Biofeedback Center at the Menninger Clinic, where he was taught self-regulation techniques, which is how to control his body with his mind through imagery exercises. He went home with the imagery audio tape the clinic gave him to continue his self-regulation techniques at home. Garrett quickly decided the tape was very boring and created his own new imagery to use.
He made it exciting and fun, setting it up like a video game with rocket ships soaring through his head and shooting his tumor. He imaged the cancer as “a big round dumb-looking thing” and blasted at it regularly. He kept up his game, many times with out adults knowing, and one day, months later, he woke up and realized he could no longer find the “big round dumb-looking thing.” When he told his father the news, his farther was concerned that Garrett had given up. His father tried to help him concentrate and find the tumor, but Garrett just kept telling his Dad that there was only a “normal brain in his head.”
It took a fall down the a set of stairs until Garrett received another CAT scan to check for a skull fracture. The scan showed results that were truly unbelievable to the doctors who had treated Garrett: The tumor was entirely gone.
In his groundbreaking New York Times best-selling book Love Medicine & Miracles, Bernie Siegel MD writes about Garrett and the power of his imagination that “blasted” the tumor away, resulting in an incredible display of the mind body connection that can heal even the terminally ill. Bernie explains, at its core, Mind + Body medicine is the interconnectedness of our thoughts and emotions with our health.
Mind Body Medicine, or Psychoneuroimmunology, is a topic that encompass such a wide expanse of research – ranging from advanced medical studies currently being done at most of the top colleges and universities, to eastern-based highly spiritual philosophies and everything in-between.
The Mind Body approach to healing also spans an enormous amount of human history – very much predating modern medicine with some pointing to Descartes as the turning point of how humans thought of their brain, soul, and body. It holds the keys to our emotions, our immune system, our levels of stress, our health conditions, diseases and life-span. Some professionals call it the future of medicine, even though it is centuries old. We believe it is being brought back to life due to a variety of reasons, one of which is the disastrous state of our healthcare system. More importantly, however, is the fact that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that proves its existence.
Mind body science is essentially learning how we can use the other 90% of our brain in an effort to heal ourselves, and to have executive power over our own health. We no longer have to give the keys over to an expensive and over-stressed healthcare system. We can start now – even though we may be relatively healthy – and take control over our bodies. Using the other 90% of our brain on one hand is very easy – at the basic level all it takes is an understanding at a high level of how our bodies work, and an understanding of how we can listen to our bodies. On the other hand, it can be difficult because of the way our culture has come to rely on drugs and medicine, as well as our inherent reliance on others to fix our own health. Diagnosed with severe health-related problems, most people take their doctor’s prescriptions as “gospel” and usually don’t look inside and listen to their own intuition and bodily needs.
We interviewed Bernie Siegel, M.D. to explore how we can use this “new way” of thinking about our bodies to improve overall wellness, heal ourselves, and improve our emotional outlook.
In summary, how does the mind/body connection work?
“Through consciousness. One can create images and then program the body which acts like the event is truly happening. Like rehearsing for a performance, when you act as if you are happy or sad your chemistry changes and the body believes you are. The body communicates to the mind via images and feelings so dreams and drawings can reveal one’s anatomy and state of health. The feelings relate to the chemistry caused by emotions. so laughter enhances one’s health and well being while fear does the opposite.”
How can we use it to bring our bodies back to a healthy and natural state?
“Just like actors and athletes, rehearse and practice becoming the person you want to be. As AA says, fake it till you make it. Ask people to guide and coach you and help you become who you want to be. It also means abandoning the messages from destructive authority figures. I call it re-parenting yourself.”
How long does it take to work?
“It can happen in a moment. Learn you have a short time to live and you start doing what makes you happy and prolong your life. Your body loves you and when it knows you love your life it does all it can to keep you alive. Monday mornings have more heart attacks, strokes, suicides, etc. because your body is responding to the lack of joy in your life.”
Here are our three simple tips to begin now to integrate mind body wellness into your daily routine.
1. Become curious about how your body works.
The knowledge – and therefore the ability to visualize – either the wellness of your body, or your health problem is absolutely key. A central theme in our fertility visualization program works everyday to provide the correct visualization of what the monthly cycle is accomplishing during that time of the month. The little boy had the imagination to go inside his brain, visualize his cancer and subsequently kill it. Once you have that knowledge, you can essentially leave it up to your intuition to tell you how to go about the most effective visualization and getting as granular as possible.
2. Become the observer of your thoughts.
Our minds work tirelessly. It’s almost impossible for most of us to stop our brain from its chatter. What can happen when we start to become the observer of our thoughts, something inside begins to shift. One of the things to remember when doing this, however, is not be judgmental of your thoughts. Don’t try to change them, just be curious about them. Observe the emotions that bubble to the surface, how your body feels when you have such thoughts. This could be an entire article in and of itself, and many people have written spectacular books on the subject…most notably, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are and Ekhart Tolle’s A New Earth.
3. Practice Deep Breathing Exercises, Meditate, and/or Practice Yoga
In combination with becoming aware of your thoughts and having the knowledge of how your body operates, you can begin to integrate deep breathing, meditation and movement into your everyday life. By simply taking a moment during the day to take a very deep and slow breath, open your senses to take clues as to what you are feeling, and then visualize the inward balancing of your physical state. Letting your intuition be your guide. Don’t judge yourself; just accept what your body is telling you. Again, it’s amazing that this little boy was able to heal himself intentionally, but what’s just as amazing is that his body spoke back to him. He saw no more cancer. He didn’t need his doctor to tell him that it was gone. As you begin this practice, you will build trust within to strengthen these inward connections.