Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Review of All Is Well, by Louise L. Hay and Mona Lisa Schulz

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

all_is_well_largeAll Is Well

Heal Your Body with Medicine, Affirmations, and Intuition

by Louise L. Hay and Mona Lisa Schulz, MD, PhD

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2013. 249 pages.
Starred Review

I always feel a little skeptical about Louise Hay’s claims that different ailments in the body come from attitudes within us. And then I have an ailment come to my attention, and her description of the attitude behind it is spot on. Seems like it can’t hurt to pay attention — and I do find that the affirmations are good for my spirit. It’s not a stretch to think they might be good for my body, too.

This book is co-authored with a medical doctor and scientist. She writes Chapter 1, “Integrating Healing Methods,” and includes some things I’d wondered about, speaking of Louise’s book You Can Heal Your Life:

Time after time, the book made sense, but I could never figure out where Louise got her affirmation system. What motivated her, nearly 35 years ago, to start her “clinical observation study” on the association between human thoughts and health? How could someone with no scientific background or medical training observe client after client, see a consistent correlation between certain thought patterns and their associated health problems, and then write a book that so accurately addresses our health concerns? Her prescriptions worked but I didn’t know why or how. It simply drove me crazy.

So, as necessity — or aggravation — is the mother of invention, I decided to delve into the science behind her affirmation system, mapping out the emotional aspects of illness in the brain and body. And the correlations I found helped me create a treatment system that has guided me through more than 25 years of intuitive consultations and an equal number of years as a physician and scientist.

Here’s the approach they take in this book:

When Louise and I began our discussions about how to create the most useful book for you, we decided to structure it so you could look up the part of your body that is experiencing illness and work from there — just like in You Can Heal Your Life. However, you must remember that people are not simply individual organs bound together, so the illness in one part of your body will generally affect the health of another part. And emotions about feeling safe and secure in your family (first emotional center) also play into emotions about self-esteem (third emotional center). To fully heal, you must look at your life as a whole while giving extra attention to the organ or illness that’s causing you the most trouble. Feel free to flip directly to the part of the book discussing your personal problem area, but remember that you may also find important information about other imbalances in your life by reading through the entire book. Having a complete picture of your strengths and weaknesses can help you create a long-term plan for a healthy life in all your emotional centers.

As you work your way through the book, I’ll help you tap into your body’s intuition surrounding the organs in each emotional center so you can understand the messages your body is sending. But remember, only you can decide what your body is really telling you. This book is a general guide that matches what is commonly seen and what the science mostly supports.

After you have determined what your body is telling you, Louise and I will walk you through healing techniques that address the numerous reasons why we get sick. While we won’t give specific medical advice in this book because good medical advice is unique to each individual, we will provide case studies that give you an idea of some of the basic types of medical interventions to consider. More important, we will lay out affirmations that you can repeat to yourself multiple times throughout your day and behavioral suggestions that you can immediately incorporate into your own life. These tools will help you change your thoughts and habits to create health.

Now, when I read You Can Heal Your Life, what made it seem plausible to me was when I was diagnosed with a gynecological problem with a “non-healing wound” shortly after my husband left me. Coincidence? Or is there something in what Louise Hay says? I also realized that the affirmations she prescribed for that did soothe my spirit.

In this case, I was reading along happily, not feeling it was applying much to me — when I had a scan done to check on my previous vertebral artery dissection. In the same area of my neck but opposite side, they found tissue growth that shouldn’t be there.

Long story short, I did eventually have a biopsy done and learned that it is “Reactive Lymphoid Hyperplasia” — an overgrowth of lymphoid tissue, possibly from infection somewhere else in my body. The important point being that this is Benign and Not Cancer.

However, it was interesting that this was in the same part of my neck as the injury that caused my stroke three years earlier. And a few days after the initial finding, I happened to read the chapter in this book titled “Something to Talk About: The Fifth Emotional Center: Mouth, Neck, and Thyroid.”

Now, the first sentence made me think it didn’t apply to me: “The health of the fifth emotional center indicates how well you communicate in your life.” Communication? I’m good at that.

However, listen to what the authors say particularly about neck problems:

Problems of the neck are often found in people who — even if they have flawless communication skills on a regular basis — become inflexible and frustrated when they are unable to control the outcome of a situation.

Later, they go into more detail in a section particularly about neck problems.

Neck pain, arthritis, and stiffness often come to those people who have amazing communication skills — both listening and speaking. Trying to see both sides of almost any story, they often become ill when their ability to clearly communicate things doesn’t work as they expect it to. When an argument can’t be settled by talking or when something in their lives goes wrong and they can’t control it, they often become aggravated and stubborn, sticking to their opinion and refusing to consider other viewpoints. The frustration that leads to the breakdown in communication often creates illness in the neck….

Once your neck is healthier, some fundamental changes must occur to maintain equilibrium while moving forward. Learning to accept your emotional limitations in the middle of a discussion is one key to improving your neck problems. You do have an amazing skill for intuitively listening, understanding, and making logical arguments. However, you must accept where your intellectual power to reason and communicate ends. When you encounter conflicts that you can’t resolve, don’t push your opinion stubbornly, adding to the frustration of the situation. Instead remind yourself that there are multiple answers to every problem. Realize that your role is only one part of the solution. Finding balance between what you can control and what you can’t and knowing when it is time to walk away from conflict will lead to better health in the fifth emotional center.

Oh my goodness, these things apply to me. In fact, I was hoping they didn’t. But when I told my sister some of what I’d been reading, ready to say I thought they might possibly apply to me — she immediately laughed out loud in recognition!

Yes, this stubbornness is related to my marriage and divorce. I just could not believe that my ex-husband leaving me and leaving his faith was a good thing. I hoped against hope I could pray him back. He showed no evidence of being happy (while I still had contact with him), which just reinforced my view that praying him back would be totally for his good.

Well, I thought by now I’d let him go. I’ve even started dating. However, the fact that these words struck such a chord makes me think the authors are onto something. And again, the affirmations they prescribe for this do feel healing and soothing. I actually adapted the main ones slightly to something that deeply resonates for me: “I love my family and friends enough to let them make their own mistakes and choose their own paths.”

Now, my neck problem affirmations probably won’t strike most of you as hard as they did me. But take a look and see if your own medical problems are held up to a mirror in this book. I try not to go diagnosing, but I do have a few friends with medical problems and what Louise Hay has to say about them is… interesting to say the least. (And since I have a problem with trying to convince other people to do what I think is best for them — I will stop right there!)

So let me close this review by saying I think you’ll find it’s worth a look. And it certainly can’t hurt. What is your body telling you?

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/all_is_well.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Walk Your Butt Off! by Sarah Lorge Butler with Leslie Bonci, and Michele Stanten

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Walk Your Butt Off!

Go from Sedentary to Slim in 12 Weeks with This Breakthrough Walking Plan

by Sarah Lorge Butler with Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, and Michele Stanten

Rodale, 2013. 298 pages.
Starred Review

This is the book I used in 2013 to lose ten pounds and increase my fitness level.

I checked out a copy from the library and liked it so much, I bought my own copy, which I could write in.

This year, I moved to a condo next to a small lake. I wanted to increase my fitness and lose some weight. The beautiful thing about walking is that my beautiful lake was wonderful motivation. (I did stop when the weather got cold and dark. But I plan to start up again in Springtime.)

It’s now been two years since my stroke. I did not have the stroke because of poor fitness, but after having the stroke, I was much less active, and I ended up with pretty poor fitness.

What I like about the program presented here is that they gradually increase the amount of work you do. The first week’s workout has you do 2 to 4 brisk walks for 20 to 30 minutes. You will also do 3 Speed Walks. The first week, the Speed Walks just involve a 2-minute warm-up at an easy pace, followed by 4 minutes at a brisk pace and 1 minute at a fast pace 4 times. You finish up with 3 minutes of easy walking.

As the weeks progress, the amount of time you spend walking at a “fast” pace increases. Since they use descriptions of “easy,” “brisk,” and “fast,” anyone can adapt this program to their own level. About halfway through the program, they add in Challenge Walks, just walking as fast as you can for 15 minutes. They also have you time your walking at the start and at the end of 12 weeks.

Now, I had some interruptions. When I had a month-long headache, I took some time off walking, and had to start back up a few weeks earlier than where I left off. They have some diet advice, which I didn’t pay a lot of attention to. (I was more interested in fitness than losing weight, though I was very happy to lose ten pounds.)

They have tips along the way to help your walking form, and inspirational stories from their test group.

I think this is a great program for people at any fitness level. You can adapt what it means to do “easy,” “brisk,” and “fast” walking to whatever you need it to be.

rodalebooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/walk_your_butt_off.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

The Brain That Changes Itself

Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

by Norman Doidge, M.D.

Viking, 2007. 427 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Other Nonfiction

Big thanks to my friend and co-worker Ivelisse Figueroa-Gonzalez for recommending this book to me after I had my stroke.

This is a book about neuroplasticity. We have learned, fairly recently, that the brain can heal from injury; the brain can change its wiring. How we use our brains is important.

Some words from the Preface explain what you’ll find in this book:

This book is about the revolutionary discovery that the human brain can change itself, as told through the stories of the scientists, doctors, and patients who have together brought about these astonishing transformations. Without operations or medications, they have made use of the brain’s hitherto unknown ability to change. Some were patients who had what were thought to be incurable brain problems; others were people without specific problems who simply wanted to improve the functioning of their brains or preserve them as they aged. For four hundred years this venture would have been inconceivable because mainstream medicine and science believed that brain anatomy was fixed. The common wisdom was that after childhood the brain changed only when it began the long process of decline; that when brain cells failed to develop properly, or were injured, or died, they could not be replaced. Nor could the brain ever alter its structure and find a new way to function if part of it was damaged. The theory of the unchanging brain decreed that people who were born with brain or mental limitations, or who sustained brain damage, would be limited or damaged for life. Scientists who wondered if the healthy brain might be improved or preserved through activity or mental exercise were told not to waste their time. . . .

I began a series of travels, and in the process I met a band of brilliant scientists, at the frontiers of brain science, who had, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, made a series of unexpected discoveries. They showed that the brain changed its very structure with each different activity it performed, perfecting its circuits so it was better suited to the task at hand. If certain “parts” failed, then other parts could sometimes take over. The machine metaphor, of the brain as an organ with specialized parts, could not fully account for changes the scientists were seeing. They began to call this fundamental brain property “neuroplasticity.”

Neuro is for “neuron,” the nerve cells in our brains and nervous systems. Plastic is for “changeable, malleable, modifiable.” At first many of the scientists didn’t dare use the word “neuroplasticity” in their publications, and their peers belittled them for promoting a fanciful notion. Yet they persisted, slowly overturning the doctrine of the unchanging brain. They showed that children are not always stuck with the mental abilities they are born with; that the damaged brain can often reorganize itself so that when one part fails, another can often substitute; that if brain cells die, they can at times be replaced; that many “circuits” and even basic reflexes that we think are hardwired are not. One of these scientists even showed that thinking, learning, and acting can turn our genes on or off, thus shaping our brain anatomy and our behavior — surely one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century.

In the course of my travels I met a scientist who enabled people who had been blind since birth to begin to see, another who enabled the deaf to hear; I spoke with people who had had strokes decades before and had been declared incurable, who were helped to recover with neuroplastic treatments; I met people whose learning disorders were cured and whose IQs were raised; I saw evidence that it is possible for eighty-year-olds to sharpen their memories to function the way they did when they were fifty-five. I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and traumas. I spoke with Nobel laureates who were hotly debating how we must rethink our model of the brain now that we know it is ever changing.

The chapters of the book look at different aspects of neuroplasticity. He covers many different things, including stroke recovery; sharpening perception and memory; healing learning problems; stopping worries, obsessions, and bad habits; counteracting aging; psychoanalysis; and even sexual attraction and love.

I can’t emphasize enough how fascinating this book is. I’m not sure if it has direct application to my own stroke, since it hit my balance center, not my higher thinking. (Though I did purchase a balance board after reading this book.) I’ve already recommended the book to parents of children with OCD, and I’ve decided that my guilty pleasure of doing Killer Sudoku at bedtime is actually therapy so I won’t lose my ability to think logically as I age.

And so much of the book, whether practical or not, is simply interesting. Here’s an example:

When it came to allocating brain-processing power, brain maps were governed by competition for precious resources and the principle of use it or lose it.

The competitive nature of plasticity affects us all. There is an endless war of nerves going on inside each of our brains. If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead. If you ever ask yourself, “How often must I practice French, or guitar, or math to keep on top of it?” you are asking a question about competitive plasticity. You are asking how frequently you must practice an activity to make sure its brain map space is not lost to another.

Competitive plasticity in adults even explains some of our limitations. Think of the difficulty most adults have in learning a second language. The conventional view now is that the difficulty arises because the critical period for language learning has ended, leaving us with a brain too rigid to change its structure on a large scale. But the discovery of competitive plasticity suggests there is more to it. As we age, the more we use our native language, the more it comes to dominate our linguistic map space. Thus it is because our brain is plastic — and because plasticity is competitive — that it is so hard to learn a new language and end the tyranny of the mother tongue.

But why, if this is true, is it easier to learn a second language when we are young? Is there not competition then too? Not really. If two languages are learned at the same time, during the critical period, both get a foothold. Brain scans, says Merzenich, show that in a bilingual child all the sounds of its two languages share a single large map, a library of sounds from both languages.

Another fascinating section speculating about cognitive problems as we age:

Mezenich says, . . . “We have an intense period of learning in childhood. Every day is a day of new stuff. And then, in our early employment, we are intensely engaged in learning and acquiring new skills and abilities. And more and more as we progress in life we are operating as users of mastered skills and abilities.”

Psychologically, middle age is often an appealing time because, all else being equal, it can be a relatively placid period compared with what has come before. Our bodies aren’t changing as they did in adolescence; we’re more likely to have a solid sense of who we are and be skilled at a career. We still regard ourselves as active, but we have a tendency to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are learning as we were before. We rarely engage in tasks in which we must focus our attention as closely as we did when we were younger, trying to learn a new vocabulary or master new skills. Such activities as reading the newspaper, practicing a profession of many years, and speaking our own language are mostly the replay of mastered skills, not learning. By the time we hit our seventies, we may not have systematically engaged the systems in the brain that regulate plasticity for fifty years.

That’s why learning a new language in old age is so good for improving and maintaining the memory generally. Because it requires intense focus, studying a language turns on the control system for plasticity and keeps it in good shape for laying down sharp memories of all kinds. . . . Anything that requires highly focused attention will help that system — learning new physical activities that require concentration, solving challenging puzzles, or making a career change that requires that you master new skills and material. Merzenich himself is an advocate of learning a new language in old age. “You will gradually sharpen everything up again, and that will be very highly beneficial to you.”

The same applies to mobility. Just doing the dances you learned years ago won’t help your brain’s motor cortex to stay in shape. To keep the mind alive requires learning something truly new with intense focus. That is what will allow you to both lay down new memories and have a system that can easily access and preserve the older ones.

Another whole chapter deals with progress in healing stroke patients. I’m not yet sure how it applies to me, because the effects of my stroke were not immediately obvious. Now they are manifesting as vestibular migraines. Is it possible that working with the balance centers of my brain would begin to rewire my brain? This book raises intriguing questions in my mind as well as revealing lots of answers to questions I had never before asked.

Fascinating reading for anyone at all interested in the brain and how it works.

penguin.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/brain_that_changes_itself.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Sacred Choices, by Christel Nani

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Sacred Choices

Thinking Outside the Tribe to Heal Your Spirit

by Christel Nani

Harmony Books, New York, 2006. 313 pages.
Starred Review.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2008, #1 Nonfiction Personal Growth

I’ve been meaning to review this book for a very long time. I first read it in 2007, some time when my life was in upheaval, with the move to Virginia from Germany and taking online classes to get my MLIS degree. I wasn’t getting many books reviewed at that time.

But this is a life-changing and life-affirming book. I reread it in 2009 in order to get that good advice again and also to review it. Since it is my own copy, not a library book with a due date, I still didn’t get around to reviewing it. So here goes! This may not be as long a review as this book deserves, but I do want to bring it to people’s attention.

You can get a taste of the wisdom in this book by reading the many passages from it that I posted on my Sonderquotes blog.

The core concept behind Christel Nani’s teachings in Sacred Choices is that we all have tribal beliefs we aren’t even aware of. They are beliefs, but we think they are the facts of life, the way the world works. They have been handed down to us from our tribe.

Christel says, “Your ancestors taught you how to work, how to grieve, and why bad things happen. You have taken for granted that in their desire to protect you, they prepared you adequately for life by teaching you the way of the tribe — what they valued and what they believed to be true. These tribal beliefs are the inherited ideas about the way life works, passed down to you from anyone who had power or authority over you as a child — pretty much anyone who was taller than you were. Some of these beliefs cause you to make choices that make your life harder than it needs to be, creating conflicts and inner turmoil often marked by repetitive themes and patterns.”

Sometimes these beliefs are good for us, but often they are not.

“At first, you aren’t even aware that you are making choices at all. You are simply following the tribal way, even when you believe you are thinking for yourself and doing what is best for you. Consider the student who pursues a college degree in an area that offers a safe career path but does not excite her, or the man who gets married despite his doubts because everyone tells him how lucky he is to have found someone so nice. Or perhaps you are justifying staying in a career you no longer enjoy because the pay is good, or a draining relationship because you’ve been together for a long time. These are all examples of lives driven by limiting beliefs, not the heart’s desire. Unfortunately and paradoxically, some tribal rules are contrary to your authentic nature and needs. Even a life that looks successful on the outside can leave you wondering if this is as good as it gets, because you recognize on a deep level that something is missing. And it is.

“What’s missing is a deep satisfaction with your life, alignment with your soul, happiness that wells up and overflows, peace of mind, and a general sense of well-being. One reason you are left wanting is that tribal beliefs can make you think you want things that you really don’t, and when you get them you wonder why you aren’t wowed by them. This is but one symptom of a person at odds with his spirit and not living an authentic life. And a life without authenticity quickly becomes a life without passion.”

In this book, Christel Nani shows you how to uncover your tribal beliefs so you can examine whether they are good for you or not. She doesn’t ask you to throw them out willy-nilly. But isn’t it worth looking at the beliefs you live by? She also helps you rewrite limiting beliefs into beliefs that will serve you better.

Christel says, “I wrote this book to help you learn to listen to your spirit. The purpose of Sacred Choices is to explore your tribal beliefs and determine if they are good for you — to decide whether they raise or lower your vibration. Some tribal beliefs cause you distress and can lower your overall energy and even cause illness. The idea is to be aware of your unconscious choices — to become more conscious and thereby have a greater role in living your life the way you want it to be — not how you were taught, or how you believe it’s supposed to be.”

When I have been able to apply these concepts to my life, I am very happy with the results. Christel’s promises are lavish, but not unwarranted:

“I want you to be wildly happy, incredibly successful, and filled with passion and spontaneity. Listening to your spirit will accomplish all of it. And when your vibrations are good, you are sending out the best possible energy to the rest of the world. The fact is, your good vibrations are healing to others.”

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/sacred_choices.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Choosing Brilliant Health, by Rick Foster & Greg Hicks

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Choosing Brilliant Health

9 Choices That Redefine What It Takes to Create Lifelong Vitality and Well-Being

by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks
with Jen Seda, MD

A Perigee Book (Penguin), 2008. 258 pages.
Starred Review.

I was so impressed by the authors’ earlier book, How We Choose to Be Happy, I ordered this one from Amazon rather than waiting for the library to purchase it.

Like the book on happiness, the authors interview healthy individuals and show nine choices those people have made that led to their good health. They also tie this information in with medical studies that show the physical benefits of these concepts. The book is full of these healthy people’s stories, illustrating the choices that lead to health.

And the choices that lead to happiness are the same ones that lead to health. The chapter headings in Part Two give you the idea:

1. Intention: Change the pathways of your brain with your thoughts.

2. Accountability: Take control of your health by triumphing over the “Victim Brain.”

3. Identification: Envision your joys and passions and tell vibrant stories about them.

4. Centrality: Do the things you love to alter your biochemistry.

5. Recasting: Convert the sadness, fear, anger, and despair of trauma and illness into meaning, opportunity, and action.

6. Options: Create hope and resilience by uncovering hidden possibilities.

7. Appreciation: Value your life and your body, and express appreciation to others.

8. Giving: Build a thriving Marketplace of Giving.

9. Truth: Tell the truth to your body, yourself, and others.

The authors say of these ideas:

“Brilliant Health doesn’t promise a disease-free, pain-free, un-aging life. Let’s face it; sooner or later health and age-related issues will visit all of us. But whether we’re in mint physical condition or facing a disability or a significant, even terminal health issue, Brilliant Health brings us the highest possible emotional and physical quality of life.”

With a promise like that, these ideas are definitely worth listening to.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/choosing_brilliant_health.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of The Power Is Within You, by Louise L. Hay

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

power_is_within_you.jpg

The Power Is Within You

by Louise L. Hay

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 1991.  239 pages.

Recently I’ve discovered Louise Hay’s books, and I’m finding them uplifting and tremendously encouraging.  I have to admit that I’m not sure I’m convinced that it’s really so simple.  I’m not sure you can really heal your body’s illnesses, aches and pains with affirmations and changing your thoughts.

However, it certainly doesn’t do any harm!  And I do think that paying attention to my beliefs and speaking life-affirming, loving statements to myself has actually helped me be healthier.  It certainly puts me in a better mood, and that’s worth so much all by itself.

Here’s what Louise says in the introduction:

“I am not a healer.  I do not heal anyone.  I think of myself as a stepping stone on a pathway of self-discovery.  I create a space where people can learn how incredibly wonderful they are by teaching them to love themselves.  That’s all I do.  I’m a person who supports people.  I help people take charge of their lives.  I help them discover their own power and inner wisdom and strengths.  I help them get the blocks and the barriers out of the way, so they can love themselves no matter what circumstances they happen to be going through.  This doesn’t mean that we will never have problems, but it is how we react to the problem that makes a tremendous difference.

“After years of individual counseling with clients and conducting hundreds of workshops and intensive training programs across the country and around the world, I found that there is only one thing that heals every problem, and that is: to love yourself.  When people start to love themselves more each day, it’s amazing how their lives get better.  They feel better.  They get the jobs they want.  They have the money they need.  Their relationships either improve, or the negative ones dissolve and new ones begin.  It’s a very simple premise — loving yourself.  I’ve been criticized for being too simplistic, and I have found that the simple things are usually the most profound.”

Now, as a Christian, I was taught to be leery of anything that sounds so New Age as this.  However, Louise’s message is about changing to positive self-talk.  And almost all of her affirmations fit with what I believe about God.  (She may call Him “the Universe,” but I do believe that He is watching over me and loves me.)  If you don’t like using her affirmations, you can actually substitute similar Scripture verses or Christian songs — The idea is to work on your underlying beliefs, believing that good things are going to happen and that I am loved and valuable.

Again, maybe it seems simplistic, but even if it doesn’t improve your health as she claims, filling your mind with positive truths about the world certainly will improve your outlook.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/power_is_within_you.html

Review of You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise L. Hay

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

you_can_heal_your_life.jpg

You Can Heal Your Life

by Louise L. Hay

Hay House, 2004.  First published in 1984.  251 pages.

I picked up this book from the library’s New Books shelf with some embarrassment.  I tried to carry it to my desk and check it out unobtrusively.  After all, that New Age mumbo-jumbo is ridiculous nonsense, right?  Or worse yet, with demonic roots?  What will people think if they see me reading it?

I had some of the same misgivings when I thought about reviewing this book.  But, bottom line, there are some tremendously helpful ideas in this book.  I’m definitely not the least bit worried that there might be an evil source.  Perhaps the book doesn’t seem “scientific,” and perhaps I’m not completely convinced that affirmations can heal all your diseases, but I am sure that I’ve gleaned some good from this book, and perhaps others can do the same.

The basic premise of this book is similar to teaching I found in Christel Nani’s writings:  Your deep-seated beliefs, beliefs so ingrained you think they are fact, can dramatically affect your body and your health.  You can heal your body by changing your thinking.

Now, I’m not sure how much I believe that we “choose” the things that happen to us.  However, I do find some things interesting.  When she describes the beliefs that can contribute to ailments I have had, they do ring true.

For example, soon after my husband left me, I had major gynelogical troubles.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I’m sure it didn’t hurt me to examine and confront my beliefs about how only bad people get divorced.  This was from Christel Nani’s writings, but the same ideas are reflected here.  Louise Hay recommends the affirmation, “I rejoice in my femaleness.  I love being a woman.  I love my body.”  Even if this does not to any good, it certainly doesn’t do any harm!  And to me, those words even feel healing.

Another example is my lifetime struggle with headaches.  Louise Hay says, “Migraine headaches are created by people who want to be perfect and who create a lot of pressure on themselves.”  Now, that description certainly fits me and has fit me since I was a child.  (And I have gotten migraines that long, too.)

However, for the past few years, also about the time my husband left me, my headaches have gotten dramatically better, and I rarely get a bad one.  Now, I’d been attributing that to a change in preventative medication.  However, in the past I’d experimented with preventative medication after preventative medication, and nothing ever worked.  Currently, I’ve used three different ones, and they have all worked beautifully.  It does make sense to suspect that something further might be going on.

If Louise Hay is right, and migraines are created by perfectionism, then I’m attributing my cure to Flylady. (http://www.flylady.org/)  Her messages about Finally Loving Yourself and “You are not behind; you do not need to catch up,” are truly healing me from perfectionism.  Maybe it’s no coincidence that my headaches left at about the same time.

I do realize that it would be dangerous to start applying these ideas to other people and their illnesses!  That’s all we need — diagnosing other people’s beliefs that are making them sick!  But for self-analysis, this book has plenty of food for thought.

Now, you may not agree that “Every thought we think is creating our future.”  However, even if you don’t agree that it goes so far, surely you can only do yourself good by doing as she recommends and releasing resentment and self-criticism.

She lists “Some Points of My Philosophy” at the front of the book.  Some that stood out to me are:

Resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns.

Releasing resentment will dissolve even cancer.

We must release the past and forgive everyone.

We must be willing to begin to learn to love ourselves.

I’m facing a divorce that will most likely be finalized in the next few months.  Her teachings are helping me to purpose to let go of anger and resentment about it, to choose to forgive.  And I’ve got to start my new life not looking at myself as damaged goods.

This completely fits with Christian teaching.  Forgiveness is key and God forgives us.  C. S. Lewis has stated that “Joy is the hallmark of the Christian.”  If Louise Hay is right, Joy is also a key to good health.

How do you examine your beliefs about yourself and about life?  How do you change thinking that isn’t good for you?

It does take practice.  This book is full of affirmations:  New, healing messages you can fill your mind with.

I just looked at the author’s website, http://www.louisehay.com/, and read the affirmation of the day:

“Forgiveness is a gift to myself.  I forgive, and I set myself free.”

Whether all the author’s claims are true or not, I certainly don’t think that telling yourself a message like that can do you anything but good.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/you_can_heal_your_life.html

Review of Peace, Love, and Healing, by Bernie S. Siegel

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

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Peace, Love, and Healing

Bodymind Communication and the Path to Self-Healing

An Exploration

by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

Reviewed September 6, 2007.
HarperPerennial (HarperCollins), New York, 1998 (first published in 1989). 295 pages.
Starred Review.In this book, Bernie Siegel looks at healing, and the way our attitude and spirit can aid in our own healing. In the foreword to the new edition, he talks about living a full life.

Don’t follow my advice to avoid death. Follow it to celebrate life. Let there be no need for therapy in heaven to work out resentments of all the things you did to not die, and all the fun you missed out on while exercising, meditating, and preparing your vegetables.

 

He begins the text of the book looking at how love, joy, optimism can actually change your physiology.

What we get back to again and again is that, although there’s no question that environment and genes play a significant role in our vulnerability to cancer and other diseases, the emotional environment we create within our bodies can activate mechanisms of destruction or repair. That’s why two people who grow up in the same environment, even when they have the same genes, as identical twins do, don’t necessarily have the same disease at the same time. A man showed up in my office at age fifty-nine with cancer. Some thirty years before, his identical twin had died of cancer. He told me that until recently he had always been happy and busy, but he had just been through a year of total despair and depression and had wanted to die. His brother, however, had always been unhappy. Sometimes it’s not so much a matter of disease grasping us as of our being susceptible to the disease.

 

He asks his patients five questions, the answers to which can help them get in touch with what is happening at deep levels of consciousness and help direct them toward healing:

1. Do you want to live to be a hundred? 2. What happened in the year or two before your illness? 3. Why do you need your illness and what benefits do you derive from it? 4. What does the illness mean to you? 5. Describe your illness and what you are experiencing.

He gives fascinating descriptions patients gave of their illness which helped them get to the root of what was happening and heal themselves.

By calling your attention to feelings and problems you may not have been aware of, the disease may be the first step in overcoming them. That’s one of the reasons why I think the five questions are so important and why I hope more doctors will use them in addition to the traditional review of systems.

He talks about how coincidences are “God’s way of remaining anonymous.” He says, “Once you start to become receptive to these messages, you get more and more of them.” This, coincidentally, fits in perfectly with another book I’ve been reading, Guidance 24/7, by Christel Nani.

He points out that illnesses can be “spiritual flat tires.”

When you are open and aware, you will have them in your life. They help you get in touch with the schedule of the universe, as opposed to your own personal schedule, which relates only to questions like, “Am I late? How do I look? What do other people think?” They get you to look at the real questions: “How can I live and understand the moment?” Diseases can be our spiritual flat tires—disruptions in our lives that seem to be disasters at the time but end by redirecting our lives in a meaningful way. These will occur more often when you are in touch with your intuitive, unconscious awareness.

 

After talking about what your body can tell you, he talks about what you can tell your body. He has had good results with music or affirmations played in the operating room. He even says, “I keep talking to patients throughout the operation, telling them how things are progressing and enlisting their cooperation if I need it. For example, I may suggest that they stop bleeding, or lower their blood pressure or pulse. People who have worked with me in the operating room know how effective these suggestions can be.”

Then he talks about the doctor-patient relationship, and how his patients help him.

I have always made a distinction between healing and curing. To me “healed” represents a condition of one’s life; “cured” relates strictly to one’s physical condition. In other words, there may be healed quadriplegics and AIDS patients, and cured cancer patients who are living unhealthy lives. What this means to me is that neither my patients nor I need ever face the inevitability of failure, for no matter how life-threatening their disease or how unlikely a cure, healing is always possible.

 

There’s much profundity in his message.

The doctor I would want for myself or for anyone else I cared about would be one who understands that disease is more than just a clinical entity; it is an experience and a metaphor, with a message that must be listened to. Often the message will speak to us of our path and how we have strayed from it, so that our life is no longer a true expression of the inner self, or, as Larry LeShan would say, we are no longer singing our own song. Only by listening to that message can we mobilize all the healing powers that lie within, and that is what the doctor must help each patient to do. 

Accept your mortality and live your life, reach out for the help you need and accept it. To do so is a gift to those around you. You become their teacher and healer.

While explaining how important it is the way you think about your illness, he tells about a study done with dogs that focused on “learned” helplessness.

Similarly, people may learn helplessness if they have had repeated experiences of being unable to change external circumstances through their own efforts, especially if this sense of helplessness was learned early on from parents who gave them very little autonomy and had no personal sense of autonomy in their own lives. 

One example of a cognitive change you can make is to interpret the side effects from your medications not as just another of your afflictions, but as evidence of something positive happening.

What is suggested by the Harvard study and a growing body of similar work is that our mental attitudes affect first our susceptibility to disease, then our ability to overcome it. Does this mean that sick people must bear the burden not only of their illness but of responsibility for having gotten sick in the first place?

He answers his question,

Viewing disease as a sign of personal inadequacy or culpability is both cruel and false….I hope all therapists, doctors, family members, and friends never make people feel like failures, or make them feel that they are still ill because they have not changed enough, achieved enough or made significant enough existential shifts. That is why I focus on teaching people how to live, not how to not die, for that is something that is always within their ability.

 

He talks about how much damage is done because people don’t love themselves.

We’re so self-destructive there have to be laws—what I call please-love-yourself laws—even to get us to wear seatbelts or helmets. We poison and numb ourselves with cigarettes, tranquilizers, drugs, alcohol and unhealthy diets, and we seek out relationships that can never work in a desperate attempt to convince ourselves of our own value. No relationship in the world can make us feel worthy if we don’t know that we are. 

Without self-love it’s hard to fight for one’s life. When we give advice to someone about how to live, it’s fine if it falls on the ears of an individual who wants to live. But if it falls on the ears of someone who does not love life, there’s no point to it. Why live longer if one does not enjoy living? I think the message needs to be “I love you and I hope someday you will love yourself.” Criticizing doesn’t help; it will only destroy a relationship and cause feelings of failure

Yes, I do think there may be things happening in a child’s family life that can contribute to illness. I say that not to assign blame but to empower people, to give them insight into positive ways of dealing with illness if there are family problems they can do something about. I want them to respond with love, not guilt; I want to turn on the repair mechanisms, not create further breakdown.

We’re used to the idea of disease as a punishment or a failure—but a gift?

He talks about lessons he’s learned from people who accept their diseases with grace.

We too have to learn to step back and start saying, “We’ll see.” Instead of judging the events in our lives as good, bad, right or wrong, we must recognize that of itself nothing is good or bad, and everything has the potential to help us get back on the universe’s schedule. This does not mean that we have to like what happens, simply that we must remain open to the uses even of adversity. A disease may serve as a redirection—or, as I often describe it, a reset button (which starts you up again the same way the reset button works on a jammed garbage disposal). 

When you learn to live your life with a “we’ll see” attitude, you will understand how it is that disease can be considered a gift. You will know why it is that people asked to describe their illness have called it a beauty mark, a wake-up call, a challenge and a new beginning.

I want to add that this can apply to any trial in your life. I’m beginning to think of my own marital separation and the illness I had along with it as God’s Accelerated Program for Personal Growth. (The illness is what got me reading books like this.) Now I’m paying attention to things God wants to teach me. Perhaps He had been trying to teach me those things for years before—but now that I’m in the middle of trials, I’m actually learning.

Does it take courage to be open to this kind of healing? Sure. Do I have the right to tell you your disease is a gift? No, I do not. The gift is yours only if you choose to create it—as I’ve seen thousands of others do. Listen to the people who have lived the experience, and realize you are the source of your healing. 

Cancer, death or loss are not the issue but love and healing are, and we finally see that in the pain lies the opportunity to love and care even more. As Mother Teresa has said, the greatest disease of mankind is the absence of love. There is only one treatment for that, to let in the loving light and to heal your life.

He talks about taking control of your own treatment, as well as asking for help when you need it.

One characteristic of people who have achieved peace of mind is their independence. They trust their instincts. Nobody can tell them what to think if their inner voices say otherwise.

He is quick to point out that everyone dies, eventually.

If you choose to be exceptional and confront life’s challenges, after you are gone your loved ones will go on living with a fullness, not an emptiness. Yes, there will be grief, but not emptiness. I have spoken around the country at memorial services held by family members of those who have died. And these people are living memorials to their loved ones, because they bring something back to the community, a way of sharing what they have learned about life from the individual who died. It is wonderful to see this happen because it means that life and the message of that person’s life have continued. 

What we’re talking about is taking on the challenges of life, not living forever.

In his final chapter, he tells the following story. It’s a bit long, but I like it very much:

I think that every spring when the leaves come out, if you look closely you’ll see that each one is slightly different. Some are reddish, some bright green, some pale, and they have different shapes and sizes too. But picture yourself as a maple leaf coming out. You think of how you can express yourself by manifesting your uniqueness, but the other leaves on the tree say, “Hey, this is a maple tree, fit in. You’ll be green and this shape. Do you want people to look at us and point and say, ‘What a funny tree’?” You want to be liked, so during the spring and the summer, when the sun is shining and you have plenty of food, you turn the same green as everybody else, take the same shape and fit in. 

Then the fall comes and it gets cold, and some of the guys who were telling you how to behave start dropping. You’re still hanging on, but you realize that you’re not going to be able to hang on forever, and if you’re not, then you’d like to let everyone know who you really are before you let go of the Tree of Life. So the green, which is a cover-up, goes, and you become your unique individual beautiful self.

Then you hang on as long as you want. There are still some dried-up scrawny leaves hanging on even in January, just as there are some dried-up scrawny specimens walking the streets. But this is an individual choice—how long you want to hold on to the Tree of Life, how long before you can feel that you’ve shown your true colors and lived your life. If you have lived and had your moment, then it will be much easier to let go. You will know and your loved ones will know your unique beauty, and it will be something they remember and live with.

Truly this is a wise, beautiful, and loving book.