We, of western culture, have grown up in an absolutist world. We are taught early in life to disregard anything we cannot see or touch. We are literalists, who tend to dismiss the unseen and unexplained. We give little, if any, credence to the idea that the mind plays a critical role in our healing. Nor do we value the notion that we have mental abilities that can actually help us create a better life for ourselves. I find it interesting that we, as a race, have failed to wonder why mankind was endowed with the mental capacity to visualize, fantasize, and imagine. When we study nature, we see that every function of a particular species is carefully designed to meet a specific need. Mother Nature is much too conservative to pass out extraneous parts. A good example is the human's ability to feel. Touch or sensory distribution was not designated at random. “God does not play at dice”, said Einstein. Let's consider the human skin for a moment. As Dr. Paul Brand & Phillip Yancey relate in their book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, “the sensitivity of each square inch (of skin) is programmed to fit the function of that body part. Our fingertips, tongues, and lips are the portions of the body used in activities that need the most sen sitivity.” … whereas the “soles of the feet, thickened for a daily regimen of abuse, are far less sensitive.”
If Nature has so carefully determined the assignment of such physical aspects,then why would the same care not be administered to our mental design? Why would Nature bestow upon us such vast mental equipment, if not for essential use?
In facilitating personal growth for clients seeking relief from their hostile realities (both outer and inner), I have come to rely upon the broad capacities of mind as essential for recovery. Without the active engagement of a clients psyche in the therapeutic process, little progress can be expected. Healing is not something one has done to oneself. On the contrary, it is a proactive process. It may involve a health care provider, but entails, first and foremost, the clients personal decision to iniate the correction of a painful body or mind condition. In other words one has to resolve to get well. As the ancient philosopher, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe wrote, “… the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforseen incidents andmeetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
The client must decide and then believe in their ability to get well or healing cannot happen. In order to believe, one must be able to envision the desired change first. This is Universal truth.
I know of no scientific explanation, except it is what is. Healing is self-initiated, but miraculously affected. I believe the healing process to be one ofthe myriad ways we experience God.
In our culture however, it seems most common for people to seek the “most gain with the least pain”. We seek the easy way out. Our advertising industry sells us millions of dollars worth of services and goods on the promise of an easier, softer way. But life doesn't appear to work like that. On the contrary, it seems that strong character, self respect and confidence are instilled through hardship, during times when one has had to stretch to achieve the highest potentials. Read the case histories of those you most admire. You will find most have had very difficult lives. In Hinduism, it is said that often a master is one who takes on the hardest life.
My son, Andrew, a massage therapist, who often deals with clients in chronic pain, once said to me, “It's impossible to get long lasting, positive resul ts with patients who “drop their bodies off” on the therapy table while they “check out”. It's as if they see me as some kind of repairman who mends bodies the way an auto mechanic fixes cars. Most want to turn their body over to me while they lie compliant and detached until it's time for them to return from the irrelaxed reverie with the expectation that their body will be fully remedied … and all they need to do is write a check for services rendered.”
Not that a relaxing massage is never warranted. Of course, there are times when spacing out while a masseuse gives a nurturing rub-down is just what the doctor ordered! And there is therapeutic value in that type of bodywork in terms of opening the circulatory flow and providing stimulation to the muscles and skin. But in order for true healing to be effected, the patient must show up and be an active participant! We must be willing to take responsibility, (ie the ability to repond), for the quality of our lives!
One of the more beneficial ways to collaborate with the healing process is through the power of envisioning. Our imagination is a specially designed tool which provides us with the ability to actualize our goals. When children are taught that it is wrong to participate in activities such as daydreaming, fantasizing or creative imagining, they are in effect being deprived. Deprived of the intrinsic right to develop one of their most vital mental resources. This, in essence, creates a society of victims. People who suffer from atrophied imagination lack the ability to envision themselves as empowered, self reliant and autonomous. They can't visualize themselves as capable of effecting change. On the contrary, because they can't imagine otherwise, they see themselves as at the mercy of the world … totally powerless to change the circumstances oftheir limited lives. Clients who have been repeatedly discouraged from using their imagination tend to think if they are imaging or imagining, they are “making it up”. To them, this means their vision is invalid. They fail to realizethat everything has to be made up, ie invented, before it can come to be!
It is through creative mental meanderings that a child learns to develop his/her ability to realize their inner longings. The creative imagination is the first step in concrete realization. We have to dream it first. Positive things in life do not come through someone else “doing it for you”. Nor do they come as a result of how worthy you are. Witness the many “deserving” people you know who are living in scarcity and struggle. Nor is it through some happenstance or “good” luck We “invoke” what we have into our lives, whether it be positive or negative. Our circumstances are determined by what we believe. And belief comes from our ability to see it, or not! Notice the word “see” in that sentence. What does it mean? It means that whatever we visualize for ourselves is what will be. How we see ourselves is determined by what we are “I am-ing “, or proclaiming as reality. For “I am” is the universal mantra of manifestation. If I announce from belief that I am worthy, it means I envision myself as a worthwhile person. And I will act and others will respond accordingly. I believe it because that's how I see myself and by announcing it, it is reality. Athletes are a prime example of this principle. They actively use their ability to visualize themselves winning the race. I guarantee that there has not been an athlete who won at any competition, who did not first visualize themselves winning. It doesn't happen.
Our task becomes learning to consciously utilize the power of invocation. Invocation is a natural force being used by us all the time, whether we're aware of it or not. Everything you have in your life you have invoked, one way oranother. Why? Because what you have in your life is based on what you believe you deserve. Not what you actually deserve perhaps, but what you believe you deserve! And remember, what you believe is determined by what you can visualize for yourself.
Conscious invocation is a type of prayer. A style of supplication which includes visualization, gratitude and acceptance. We achieve our hearts desire first by allowing our inner longing to motivate us to visualize it as possible and real. We have to see it first on the inner plains before we can execute it externally. Second, we allow ourselves to feel gratitude for our visualized longing, as if it has already come to pass. As if it is present tense. Right now! This concretizes our image, and opens the door for manifestation. Further, practicing gratitude moves us into a state of expansion. Only from such an expanded stance can abundance come. When we become constricted due to an attitude of scarcity, limited vision or fear, we close the door on the realm of possibilities.
And third, after we give thanks, we simply surrender it. What more is there to do? We've already visualized and embraced it with gratitude. Attempts to control, manipulate, or worry and fret merely moves us back into a contracted state of being. The door then closes. Universal flow is thwarted. Acceptance of what I am invoking as being in the natural order of things is what is most needed now. It then becomes my task to assist, not control, the process of manifesting desire into reality.
When I speak of surrender or acceptance, I'm not implying that we are supposed to sit passively by, twittling our proverbial thumbs in wait for that which has been invoked. What I mean is that belief results from visualizing our goal, which then leads us to expect it to come about. What do you do when you are expecting someonefor a visit, for instance? You prepare for their coming, of course! It's the same sort of thing . We set about the work of preparation. From an expectant state of readiness, we watch for “windows of opportunity”. And we “act as if”. Newly recovering addicts in AA are often told this. Living as if they have already attained sobriety (“Walking the walk”) serves the purpose of establishing a foundation of abstinence. Hence sobriety is “invoked” and becomes a way of life.
When using imagery with a client, I see myself as working with their energetic body. It seems that we are accessing a part of the ethos which is separate from the physical but nonetheless real. Through the creative imagination, an individual can move into a state, beyond physiological concerns, where contact with the psyche is possible. With the help of this vital force, not only can a client acurately pinpoint the source of a problem, but by maneuvering their energy body through imagery they can also facilitate concrete change. Many timesI have taken a client into the realm of their imagination to work on deciphering a dream or to explore internal spaces. Unequivocal change often follows this process.
There was Kay, an unassuming 45 year old daughter of wealth, who had spent her life feeling incapable of standing on her own. She had great difficulty speaking up for herself or keeping a job for more than a few months at a time. In session, she spoke of a old familiar queasiness in her gut;
“It seems to be like a glass vial of liquid poison. It's been there since birth”, she said, as we began to explore her image through visualizaton.
“I must be very careful that it doesn't break,” she said. “because I know if the glass were to crack, the poison would eat me alive!” Hence she had tip-toed through life, seeing herself as fragile, unable to handle adversity.
Looking to find benefit from her explicit image, I asked her what she would like to see happen with the glass container. She then envisioned a rope reaching down to lasso the jar of poison. She described step by step the sensation of feeling the dangerous vial make its way up through her body, only to find it stuck in her throat. Over the next several sessions we continued to work to remove the poisionous substance from her psyche. As a result, she reported a new-found ability to speak up in heretofore difficult situations. Kay also reported a fresh willingness to take risks. Soon thereafter, she started her own business.
I have come to recognize that there are three layers which make up the mortal being. These are the physical, emotional and mental bodies. I have come to the conclusion that what affects one affects the other two as well. So in order to heal one strata of being the other two have to be accessed and addressed. For instance, a psychological trauma such as abandonment influences not only the emotional well-being, but the mental outlook as well as the physical health of a client. Each person carries remnants of a trauma on all three levels, making restoration incomplete until the dysfunction has been addressed throughout.
We started out in this country addressing illness from a purely physiological standpoint. It hasn't been that many years since our approach to any kind of malady was if it wasn't a physical anomaly, it either couldn't, or didn't need to be fixed. Over the years there has been a growing awareness of the role our emotion plays in staying healthy. We've come to realize the importance of clearing the emotions through feeling release work, for example. Out of modalities used to facilitate emotional clearing, such as psycho-drama, gestalt and regression therapies, the use of imagery has emerged as a powerful curative factor. This brings the mental body into the healing process. Perhaps this inner terrain is our last great frontier.
We assume the position most often that our beliefs originate from our life experience. I say this is like the old argument about what comes first, the chicken or the egg. What has become increasingly clear to me is that , as adults, our experiences come directly from what we believe. We wear our beliefs like a lens through which we see the world. Wearing red tinted glasses, for instance, would give everything a ruddy or rosy aspect. After awhile you might assume this is the natural shade of things. In the same way, we view the world through our core beliefs, and respond according to that coloring. It is our responses that determine what our experience will be. Let's say Jim's vision is distorted by a paranoid belief of persecution. He interprets every gesture from anyone as malintended. Because he believes this is the way life is, he responds always in a defensive, even attacking way. What do you imagine his life experience will be? Painfully negative, of course. He is writing his own script through his negative interpretation of what he perceives to be a hostile world. By responding out of that perception he actally invites more persecution. This then justifies, in his mind, his view of the world, further perpetuating his paranoid views and reactions. And the beat goes on and on and on …. This is an obvious example of what goes on for all of us, although perhaps on a more subtle level. We find what we are looking for in life. It's like the old foreground/background trick found in psychology books. Remember the black & white illustration which showed a totally different picture depending on whether you focused on the black or white portion? In the same way, that which we unconsciously focus on in life is what we see as reality. I tell people it's just like buying a new car. Once you've purchased it, you begin to see that particular make and model all over town. Why? Because now it has meaning for you. That particular item has been brought foreground in your mind. Anything we carry foreground we will look for and find “out there”. So, if I'm walking around with a life defeating belief about myself or the world I will tend to focus on people and events which establish my negative presumption as fact. Thus my experience is created from my unconscious view of the world. It really is “believing is seeing”, rather than “seeing is believing”.