Wellness, Self-Care, and Optimal Performance

In our culture we tend to think of health in a negative way. We 1 define it as the absence of any signs of disease. When symptoms arise we tend to seek treatment for them, and when they disappear we feel there is no further need for the care of our health.


Popular interest in self-care, fitness, and wellness is a new phenomenon in our culture. This new focus bespeaks a growing awareness that there are things that we can do, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, that will help us produce a higher resistance against problems in these areas and provide us with a reserve of energy that will help us perform at our peak. As we have already observed, how we image ourselves can inhibit or enhance the healing of a disease process. Once signs of disease have disappeared, however, the same principles of relaxation and imagery can be used to facilitate personal growth, self-actualization, and development of a way of life that enhances our wellness and our happiness.


Our goal, then, should not be to keep ourselves from becoming sicker than average, but of being more well than average. Rather than trying to avoid delayed healing of a wound, we should aim at healing faster than average. Rather than trying to avoid complications of a bad cold, we can aim our imagery toward healing the infection faster than others around or to resist catching the cold.


Heal faster than normal? Isn’t normal about the best we can hope to achieve?


In answer to this question, I offer a metaphor. For many years it was widely accepted that humans could not run a mile in fewer than four minutes. Then one day, to everyone’s surprise, one man did what was beyond normal. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile and collapsed from the strain as he crossed the finish line.


This was a first, but only a first. Normal had been redefined, and through the expansion of their awareness of what was possible more than 15 men ran the mile in less than four minutes during the following year!


Nowadays it is not unusual to see a person shave several seconds off the four-minute mark and then jog a lap around the track to cool down slowly.


Can a change in our awareness really speed up the healing process beyond normal? If so, how can such a phenomenon be explained?


How can a broken limb, which ordinarily takes six weeks to heal, be mended in four weeks or less? How can a person recover more than twice as rapidly from an operation and still develop a scar that is much smaller than someone who does not know these methods?


We earlier discussed the fact that we have a clear image of our bodies and other facts about ourselves in our minds. We discussed the fact that our bodies and other properties about ourselves can be altered merely by altering the image in our minds. We have also experienced that spot in the middle of our heads at which we feel most free from any outside concerns. We have imagined ourselves as projecting outward from that point through our image out to our bodies, which then imitate whatever is programmed into the image, in the same way as the image on a screen is formed by a projection from a slide.


In Selective Awareness we have an excellent tool for focusing our awareness. Our awareness can be focused on that image in our minds. Instead of being aware of our entire body, we can become aware of just one part of our body, as though we were illuminating only that part-as though we were projecting only that part of our body on a screen. We can imagine that if we have a disease in that part of our body, or if it has been injured or operated upon, that it needs an extra supply of coherent images, or information. We can imagine that we flood the area with coherent discharges, open all the gates to coherent information. We may imagine that the incoherent information which may have been present in the organ or in the nervous pathways leading to it, is pushed out of the way and replaced by health-giving coherent information.


The sources of harmful, incoherent patterns are numerous. Have you ever seen a person accidentally injure himself or herself, for example, striking a thumb with a hammer, and then swear at the injured part or at the hammer? Perhaps an impatient oath or criticism (“Oh, what an idiot I am!”) is uttered almost automatically. This, together with the pain of the accident and the brain’s awareness of the injury, serves to create (or sustain) a negative program involving this part of the body. Thus, until the injury is completely healed, there will be an incoherency in the very discharges needed to resolve the injury. As you might expect, such injuries heal more slowly. This kind of attitude toward a temporarily disabled organ tends to produce the same type of pattern as was true of the war veteran, previously discussed, whose leg failed to heal well after amputation.


Less detrimental to healing, but still important, are the usual tension and fear responses to an injury. A person who receives a shock while fixing a lamp usually jerks the hand away with a force and speed far out of proportion to the intensity of the jolt itself. The person who inadvertently steps on a tack demonstrates a similar tendency to overreact. This unconscious withdrawal response is actually adaptive, for an instant. If we add an image of negative expectation to this, however, we may produce a maladaptive physical response.


An example of this is the pianist who injures a thumb and immediately thinks, “Oh, no! If this is still sore on Saturday, I will probably give a poor performance and lose my scholarship!” In such cases, the fear may well slow the healing through the incoherency it promotes. Even if the imagined consequences are not realistic, this thinking is maladaptive because it can slow healing.


No matter how small the degree of tension, healing is better served by immediately inducing relaxation and coherency. The bricklayer who is hopping about on one foot, groaning in pain, is responding maladaptively. He should immediately sit or lie down and induce a state of relaxation, especially in the injured part. He should experience the pain impulses simply as a signal that there has been an injury, and try not to tense up against them. He should picture that part healing rapidly. All fear should be eliminated, by showing the unconscious that it is OK for the entire body to be relaxed. The awareness that proper treatment will be given, that the danger has passed, that the time has come for healing, rather than tension and withdrawal, will allow him to relax the body.


Of course if immediate first aid is necessary, such as for the controlling of bleeding, this should be accomplished followed by a relaxation induction. A few minutes later further examination and treatment can be carried out. In other words, restore relaxation and coherency as soon as practical.


You might wonder, “How, in the presence of acute pain, can anyone relax? Isn’t that hard?” By hard, you mean that there’s a natural tendency toward tension that follows an injury, and that to relax in the face of it requires work. But this kind of work is the very essence of deconditioning and positive programming. It’s like fighting your way upstream, but you will be successful if you are powered by your rational reasoning, recognizing that the current you are fighting is just the flood of incoherent patterns that might otherwise slow your recovery. The conscious work you do in relaxing, not tensing yourself in response to the injury, serves to speed up the unconscious healing processes in the same way that pedaling a bicycle uphill enables you to later coast rapidly downhill. In other words, the work will pay off-try it!


Some people carry their maladaptive reactions to extremes, and may spend the entire next week crying the blues, telling everyone they meet of their misfortune. This is an escape mechanism the unconscious uses to enlist the sympathy, friendship, and attention of others for secondary gain, but it intensifies incoherency. How much more rational it is, in light of this fact, to be aware that other options exist, and say, concerning your injury, “Oh, yes, I bruised my toe yesterday, but it’s nothing significant. In fact, it seems to be getting better already.” How much more sensible this is than saying, ‘1 really smashed my foot yesterday!” In fact, if you tell many people about it, then you are actually benefiting from the disease-it gives you something to talk about. You wouldn’t tell other people if the telling didn’t give you some kind of pleasure. If you do, your unconscious may figure that the injury is valuable (because it gives you some pleasure) and actually retard the healing or see to it that other injuries occur!


Probably the most effective thing to do during the days following an injury is to experience deep relaxation and healing imagery several times a day. This will serve to mobilize the body’s proper responses. (See cassette #16, “Healing Journey,” Appendix p. 288.)


The results of this approach are well demonstrated by the woman who, following delivery, walks comfortably back to her room in spite of the fresh sutures in the vaginal area; the man who recovers from complicated surgery without needing pain medication; and the emergency room patient who, with minimal anesthesia used, experiences rapid healing, with no infection, after having a laceration sutured.


The method is simple. First allow your mind to become totally quiet, and then begin to bring in the pertinent part of your body on the screen in your mind. As * comes in more and more clearly, you’ll notice that you can feel the disease and experience it, in fact, you’ll see that the disease is dimming the image. As you let the image grow in intensity, begin to illuminate this part of your body with health and let the unhealthy shadow fade away. As you do this, you will tend to restore a coherent neural flow to this part of the body, allowing it to respond at maximum speed and capacity.


I have had the opportunity to personally use this approach on a number of occasions. Once I contracted a severe case of laryngitis. I was scheduled to speak on a radio show that night, and so I listened to a tape of a self-healing process a few hours before going to the radio station, envisioning myself speaking to the audience with my normal voice. I found, as the radio show began, my laryngitis cleared up completely, and stayed clear for the remainder of the show. Then, as soon as the show concluded, my hoarseness returned. This tendency for the body to interpret images in a literal fashion is an important one to remember (in my image I had pictured myself speaking normally on the radio).


On another occasion I was injured playing basketball and was hardly able to walk. I knew that I had a hematoma (internal bleeding into the tissue) in one of my muscles, and had learned from previous experiences that it generally takes several weeks before this problem disappears. I used the “Coherency” healing imagery twice over the next twelve hours to limit any damage and to begin the restoration of normal neural impulse flow. I found that the following day my leg felt the way it usually feels after a week, and within several days it was completely better. Many others have had similar results with this method.


To visualize how positive imagery affects the physical response, imagine a guitar, piano, or other instrument upon which a chord can be played. Imagine that some of the strings are out of tune. Even if our hands are in the right position, even if we are truly expert at playing the instrument, the fact that the strings are out of tune will cause the resulting sound to be far less harmonious (indeed, even painful to our ears) than it would be if the instrument were properly tuned. On the other hand, when the instrument is in tune and a chord is played, there is a particular harmonious quality to it.


Incoherent neural impulses may be thought of as a sort of disharmonious chord, whereas the normal neural impulses to an organ are in special harmony, the harmony required for perfect functioning of that particular organ. As you imagine sending coherent information to the organ you wish to heal, think of the neural impulses going there as gradually beginning to form a chord. Pretend that your mind is tuning the nerves going to that organ, just as one might tune a guitar. By using this image, you enable the unconscious to make the correct adjustments and changes to bring about the necessary alterations.


Of course there’s nothing sacred about the metaphorical images that I suggest. You might instead imagine coherent neural impulses as being clear white light. Or it may be more effective for you to imagine a clear stream of water, or a warm wave of energy. In general, whichever images come easiest to you and you are most easily able to experience are the best ones to use. Remember, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to fully understand the means by which the human body accomplishes its remarkable feats; our attempt here is just to develop some imagery that can help conceptualize the healing process and let go of the disease process, thus facilitating positive change.


You might find that an amazingly rapid healing occurs, one in which only a matter of hours elapses between your awareness of a disease in, or injury to, an organ, and its resolution. For most problems, however, particularly chronic diseases and problems that involve the breaking of the skin, as in cutting oneself, days or weeks may be needed to bring about a complete healing. During this time it is preferable to repeat the healing imagery process a number of times using the images of the coherency theory. Imagine that each time this is done, the healing will be accelerated even further. In situations involving broken bones, it’s a good idea to repeat this imagery at least three times a day. The fracturing of the bone usually means a certain period of immobility at the outset, which provides an excellent opportunity to focus healing attention on the injured part.


Coherency Healing Imagery


Of course the ideal time to experience healing imagery is when a part of the body needs to be healed. But if you have no need at present to perform a self-healing, just imagine an injury, perhaps one you’ve had in the past. You can practice with this fantasy ailment now, and use the principles later, if necessary, on a real one. This is simply a form of image rehearsal, do not fear creating a disease, this will not happen if you are using the deeply relaxed state. Having learned the basic principles, they will be available to you whenever needed.


The fundamental purpose is to relax, to experience the body as a cohesive whole (rather than letting fear alienate you from an organ), and then to focus the awareness on that part of yourself most in need of coherency. Accept the present state of that organ and “see” the transformation to health. Finally, imagine the healing has already happened.


EXPERIENCE TWENTY-EIGHT


SOFTWARE FIVE: SELF-HEALING


Experience the healing imagery that follows, or that on tape 10 or tape16). Repeat this Experience several times in a week so that its principles are understood. The images used are based upon the concept that the coherent energy that formed your body can be focused by creating your internal image of the organ becoming healed, then letting the body (which, after all, has had vast healing experience) allow this to come about through positive programming. Reinforcement stems from your internal desire to get well fast, and your joy that your body is healing rapidly.


This Experience is based on the kind of healing imagery that has been used by many cultures around the world for many centuries.


A. Physical Relaxation


Begin by being aware of the area or process within your body in which you wish to facilitate healing. Allow your body to sit or lie comfortably and let your eyelids close. Allow your eyes to roll upward behind your closed eyelids, and imagine you can see the word Relax on the inside of your forehead. When you feel your eyelids have become so relaxed they don’t want to open at all, gently test them, and as you do, let a wave of relaxation flow throughout all the rest of your body. Feel it flow into the forehead, scalp, muscles of the face, lips, and jaw muscles. Feel your jaw gently dropping open.


Let the relaxation flow down into your neck and your shoulders, and let it cascade over your back like a cape. Allow relaxation to flow down your arms to your wrists, your hands, and your fingertips.


Take a deep breath in, draw the relaxation up from the tips of your fingers into the center of your chest, and as you let this breath out, let it be a feeling of letting go, like a balloon letting out all the air, becoming completely flat and relaxed. Let the air breathe for you. Feel the rising and falling of your abdomen with each breath, and let this rising and falling relax your internal organs.


With each breath let the air breathe for you. Let the air breathe relaxation to the pelvis, thighs, knees, legs, ankles, and feet, all the way down to the tips of the toes.


You may double this relaxation, if you wish, by opening and closing the eyelids and again sending relaxation from the eyelids throughout the rest of the body. (Three to five minutes)


B. Mental Relaxation


Imagine you are standing at the top of a circular staircase at the edge of a beach. Count from ten down to zero. As you count, imagine you are descending the staircase, walking slowly down and around. Feel yourself going deeper, and any time unnecessary thoughts enter your mind, imagine an ocean wave washes through, erasing the thought like words being erased from the sand. You should feel extremely calm when you reach the count of zero; if not, you may take ten slow steps along the beach, sensing the soft sand and the warm water and letting them relax you. (One minute)


C. Imagery: Healing


Imagine that you can travel down inside your body. You might imagine that your consciousness enters a little submarine about the size of an aspirin. Imagine swallowing the submarine and it shrinking to become so small it can enter your bloodstream. Imagine traveling through your bloodstream to the area of your body in which you wish to facilitate the healing.


You may find other imagery that appeals to you for getting a look at this part of your body. You might imagine that you are riding on a small balloon the size of a molecule of oxygen, and that by taking a deep breath in, you breathe yourself into your body, and travel through the wall of your lung to the part of your body that needs to be healed. Or you may imagine you have inside your body a little television camera that can show you the image of the part of your body you wish to heal. You may use these or any other images to help you form an image of this area of your body.


See the area of your body that needs to be healed, and form an image in your mind of what it will look like when healed. It may be a realistic image-you may form an image of blood vessels, muscles, bones, and so on. Many people, however, choose more symbolic images. A cut may be visualized as a tear in a piece of cloth or a split in the Earth after an earthquake. A cancer may be visualized as an army of invading soldiers dressed in black or as a piece of discolored hamburger meat. A broken bone might be visualized as a cracked piece of pottery. Once again, the image that will be most effective for you, generally speaking, is the one that comes to you most easily while you are relaxed.


Now that you have an image of the disease process in its present state, imagine how the body will look when totally healed (pottery glued together so tightly that it will not break at that point again, all the invading enemy soldiers dead, and so on).


And now imagine a process by which this transformation to health can be visualized to occur. You might imagine an army of soldiers dressed in white shooting and killing the invading army. You might imagine the pottery being glued together with a super glue. If your imagery is realistic rather than symbolic, you might imagine increased blood flow carrying white blood cells and antibodies to an area that needs to be healed. Let your imagination and creativity work for you. This is essential to mobilizing the full healing capacity of the mind. After two or three minutes of visualizing the transformation to a higher level of wellness, again visualize this part of your body as healed. Form an image of yourself in a place you’d like to be, doing something you’d like to be doing, using this part of your body in some way. Choose an image in which you can see clearly that you are totally restored to health. Allow yourself to imagine very strongly that the healing has already taken place, allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment. The more strongly you can let yourself feel that the healing is real, the clearer the model presented to the unconscious. (Five minutes)


D. Returning to Your Usual State of Consciousness


Now form an image of yourself several months or years in the future. Imagine yourself looking the way you’d like to look, feeling the way you’d like to feel, and dressed the way you’d like to be dressed. Imagine yourself doing whatever it feels most pleasurable to be doing. Let yourself into this image, allowing yourself to have the mind, the body, the emotions, and the spiritual awareness that you would really like to achieve.


This is the person you really are down deep inside, and each time you allow yourself to see this person, you will become more and more the person you want to be. When you feel relaxed and at home in this image, then you may gradually allow it to disappear and allow your awareness to return to your physical surroundings. Tell yourself that as your eyelids open you will feel completely wide awake, refreshed, alert, and more and more like your true self. Affirm to yourself that it feels good to know that you have taken one more step on the road to maximizing your level of wellness.


It is helpful to repeat this experience (or use tape 16) two or three times a day during the healing process, especially in case of a serious threat to your health. (Two minutes)

Avatar Written by Emmett Miller MD

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