The Healing Heart
Vol. 4, May 2003
*Column Polishing the Mirror
*Meditative Writing The Cup of Love
*Feature Interview Bernie Siegel on the Healer Within
*Four Qualities of a Mindful Life A Buddhist Meditation on Fruitful Relationships
*Endquote A Simple Question
Polishing The Mirror
Several years ago, during an interview with Bernie Siegel on precognitive intuition and the role it plays in his life, this distinguished doctor and bestselling author recounted a story about a patient who criticized him for his anger. Siegel responded, "I was angry because of what I had to do to you."
"But you took it out on me!" the man insisted.
Siegel, a loving and sensitive person, saw the truth in this and changed his behavior. Years later, he read a line of poetry by Rumi: Your criticism polishes my mirror. "When I heard that," Siegel exclaimed, "it was like 'Oh, thank you! Now I know why they're all trying to make me better. It isn't that I'm a terrible person. They're trying to help me!"
And so it is for each of us, as the people in our lives hold up reflective mirrors enabling us to see who we really are. The problem is, as Bernie Siegel pointed out, most of us don't take kindly to criticism. The self-defensive ego, a hero in its own mind, typically rejects criticism and stirs up negative emotions that close our minds to truths which could be larger than our own. At other times the ego, in disarray, absorbs undue or untrue criticism that becomes a less-than-useful way of relating to life.
What, then, is a body to do?
Science and spirit tell us that the body is to sit still and relax when the mind is confused. The mind quiets itself and consciousness listens for the still, small voice of the soul. We draw from this deeper well of knowing to get clear on the truth of a person or situation, because the only cure for ego’s well-meaning grip on our perceptions is disarmament through meditation, positive thinking and wholeness affirmations. These create in us the calm, peaceful mind of transcendence, in which we are attached to nothing of the ego and only to the mind of the soul. It is this higher mind which sees clearly by staying open and receptive to wise, loving guidance of every sort.
I've been listening to a wonderful discussion of how emotion influences consciousness, on a CD set, "Destructive Emotions," by author Daniel Goleman. It's a detailed report on a Mind and Life Institute gathering in which the Dalai Lama of Tibet met with some of the world's foremost researchers on the effects of and antidotes to our destructive emotions (a staggering 84,000 of which have been catalogued by Buddhist philosophy). Scientists are confirming that negative emotions like anger, fear and depression alter physical structures in our brains so that we are quite literally unable to know the difference between fact and fiction: e.g., we get so mad and filled with aversion that we "see red" or "can't see straight."
Conversely, love really is blind to the truth about our objects of attraction and affection. Somewhere between the eyes and ears, the brain dumps this undesirable information, I suspect because the appreciative, energized heart, according to The HeartMath Institute (heartmath.org), emits a vibration that is 60 times stronger (within the body) than the power of our brain waves!
What a wonderful challenge and how critical it becomes for us to master even our most subtle emotions and moods, in order for our thinking mind and five senses to accurately perceive and interpret information. Otherwise, we live in emotional delusion and reality distortion. So we have a choice between truth or fiction. If we choose to see truth we must accept that this is not easy to do, yet work toward it by mastering our thoughts and feelings in the hope of a consensus reality that will lead us and our world to peace.
I am reminded of the Snow White fairytale, in which the wicked queen demands, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall/Who's the fairest of us all?"and a sepulchral voice intones, "Snow White." This response so infuriates the queen's obsessive vanity that she dresses as a ragged beggar to give a poison apple to Snow White.
What if, instead, the queen had searched in her mirror for the perfect, radiant beauty of her soul? If, within the mind of her soul, she'd heard the voice of an inner critic, she could have allowed her higher self to remind her that we are all souls on a journey, none better and none less than another.
I see us living happily ever after in this adventure called life. Each step of our soul journey rids us of negative emotions like self-blame, guilt and shame, the worst distorters of all, so that eventually we love, honor and respect ourselves; attune to the still, small voice of the soul; and shift to the perspective of love. Through these eyes we see every person and event as a teacher and readily discern what is true and what is not. We are no longer pushed by pain, but pulled by vision.
When our mirrors grow cloudy, it is easy to polish them. We bring into our minds our joyful memories of love, and love carries us into Spirit's realm of transcendence. Ego and its hazy illusions vanish because we now see in a new and better way. Through these eyes, on a clear day, we can see into forever.
The Cup Of Love
Last New Year’s Eve, I did what I do best: I retired to my meditation room, picked up pen and paper, and asked to be given what I most needed to hear and know. Spirit was gracious, as always, with its kindly insights. Words came quickly and I scribbled across the page, "Beautiful is the dawning of mankind’s love for itself, for this marks the beginning of a new way of relating to self, the world and God."
Nothing is more important than self-love, this writing said, for self-love carries Light into the darkest corners of the world to begin healing one and all. The light of self-love emanates from us and touches All That Is, lifting and encircling each with the essence of Light, the vibration of Love from which all is made and to which all belong.
Back in 1987, when my meditative writings began, I was taught that self-love is the "carrier of the Light"; this is why the soul must kindle self-love at the earliest stage of our journey in conscious evolution. As we know intuitively and science is now proving, looking through the eyes of love enables us to see clearly and without distortion.
My New Year’s Eve writing elaborates on this theme in imagery that uplifts and inspires deeper than ordinary words. May you experience the healing currents of love that flowed into me with this teaching.
"(God’s love) is the food, the fuel, that gives and sustains life in its highest form: a trickle of gold becalming the body-mind into the stillness of the silence and its inner voice, a droplet of water patterning the liquid mind into which it sings its way home.
Not a one or two find this self-becoming a thing of truth and beauty, but one and all, for the heart knows its true self has spoken in this becoming and the mind listens to what comes and is known and heard. The body gleans healing and the spirit soars. Let this be thy presence and revel in it daily, allowing the imprint to form itself within thee and emanate from thee like the warm light of a lantern burning strongly in a stormy night. No event or thing may burn it out or cause it to flicker, for it swells from within and cannot be extinguished except by the firethe greater Lightwhich gives it life. There is naught to fear, then, from anything outside of thee, dear one, as long as this current flows into the body-mind and is accepted as the life force that it is.
Hold out this cup of love to self, first, and look within it to determine what stands in the way of self-love.
Is it an old belief or pattern of behavior seeking correction? Is it the thoughts and beliefs of another? Is it still yet the unfulfilled hopes and dreams thought to be unattainable?
Let these questions reverberate through the cup of water and see what causes the ripples of disturbance. Then correct these, that the waters may be stilled and the deeper thoughts and urges of higher mind are heard more clearly and recognized as guiding truth.
When these truths are heard and known to come from within and beyond self, in the essence of the All That Is, the flow of love strengthens and a current of joy springs from deeply within to fill self and the world with love, peace and healing. Only when the cup of love within self is full may it sustain All That Is. First, fill the cup with self-love. Then offer it to all who are empty of God. Word, thought and deed are thus innervated and become beacons of Light.
Q: How does this relate to the body which does not heal, even in this Light?
A. Beloved, see that healing comes daily and is rejected by the body-mind not open to it. Receive the healing, by desire and readiness, and be transformed.
Q: What stands in the way of this?
A. The belief that only through difficulty and pain can one grow and be healed. This is not so. Pain lies in resistance to the healing energies flowing in all things and available to each. Without resistance there is no pain. Erase old beliefs with the deliberate cessation of these patterns of mind. Affirm other ways of thinking and being. Tell the body-mind that it is healed and whole and needs only the life-current of God to accomplish this. Seek these healing currents in meditation. When the body tenses, allow the affirmation to re-school it to its healed state of being.
Q: Do we not grow through pain and difficulty, which enable us to learn?
A. There is a higher way to learn: by drawing upon the higher consciousness and its universal principles of health and wholeness. Hearing the inner voice of Light and following its guidance allows us to navigate our lives into perfection. There is no obstacle to perfection but the unbelief in it. Follow your belief in goodness and beauty to this perfection and be enlightened by it along the way. Hear it, speak it, share it. Be healed by it. For it is in you and is you and more, still, the Father in All That Is. Commune with the Light through the power of this belief and your love for the Father. Watch the changes in thy life as each encumbrance, each old pattern, is released and the cup of water fills with liquid gold and becomes still for the wellspring of gold that is the voice of God.
Any disturbance in the surface of the water in the cup of life is caused by the absence of self-love. Regain self-love and spiritual mastery, and be healed entirely of any defect in body, mind and spirit.
For this is the Father’s promise and His way. Enable others to see it clearly as these lessons in Truth are given to theepainlesslyfor the listening and willingness to hear.
So it has been. So it will always be, when the remembrance is present and the meditation time is retained as a food for the being.
Let this be thy first service, thy first feast of the new year, and let it take precedence over all else.
For it is All Else and All There Is.
Interview with Bernie Siegel
The Healer Within
Bernie Siegel, bestselling author and visionary, advanced the medical profession by leaps and bounds in 1986 with the publication of Love, Medicine and Miracles and its claim that unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant in the immune system. A surgeon trained at Cornell Medical College and Yale University, Siegel was ill-prepared for the emotional suffering that would be part of his work, but he was willing to observe the world and educate himself in order to heal and be healed.
By 1978 a busy surgeon with post-traumatic stress syndrome and nowhere to go with his feelings, he began to search for solutions and found Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who had him sit with incurable patients and get in touch with his feelings. The famed author on death and dying also introduced Siegel to the writings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the symbolic world of the unconscious mind, and the power of art to tap into higher, intuitive knowledge that could guide people in their quest for healing.
Having been an artist as a child, Siegel was quite intuitive himself and that same year went on to establish a related organization called Exceptional Cancer Patients. Its hallmark was and still is a specific form of individual and group therapy utilizing patients’ dreams, drawings and images to bring about personal change and healing. Siegel’s experiences with this group are the core of Love, Medicine and Miracles, which quickly climbed to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Siegel’s understanding of healing deepened profoundly when, after co-creating five children in seven years, he and his wife Bobbie grew exhausted and fell ill. Hospitalized for a severe infection, Siegel learned that factors like stress and change contribute to illness, and he began to explore with his patients the patterns associated with their ill health. Bernie, as he prefers to be called, also found that healing is stimulated by the willingness to express our feelings, change our lives and relationships, and address our spiritual needs.
Today, after his 1989 retirement as a surgeon and the publication of two more bestselling books [Peace, Love and Healing (1989) and How to Live Between Office Visits: A Guide to Life, Love and Health (1993)], Bernie is still a wayshower in the world of healing. He believes that healing comes from within and that the key to living between office visits is coming to know and appreciate our true value, worth and inner beauty. Contributing love to the world in our own unique way is another of his keys to health and healing.
The good doctor has observed that people struggle to get in touch with the intuitive self because many of us are just too busy thinking and are unwilling or unable to feel our feelings. He likes to say to people, "If you remain logical and intellectual, you become pathological: you can’t find your way in life. But if we get into feelings and into the body, then recovery comes, or at least the disease becomes a teacher."
In this interview, conducted in late 1998 and published here for the first time, Bernie Siegel talks in his quick, animated manner about the power of intuition in his own life and how the "inner healer" guides us to self-healing.
Judith: You mentioned having lectured at the Association for Research and Enlightenment some 10 years ago (now 15), when you were just beginning your work. Did the information in the readings given by Edgar Cayce influence you in any way?
Bernie: What influenced me was just reading some of his intuitive statements. It wasn’t so much the therapeutic effects of castor oil and other remedies, but what he intuited about people’s bodies and illnesses and lives.
That fascinated me, because I saw it (intuitive abilities) in people’s dreams and drawings, you see. People would put on paper, or tell you, a dream and it would happen in the future. I would have this evidence and watch my patients and see how, six or seven months later, something would happen to them that they had already portrayed or put down.
Jung’s statement is that the future is unconsciously prepared long in advance and therefore can be guessed by clairvoyance. If you walk in to an Edgar Cayce* and he tells you what’s happening, then fine, it’s because you are creating your future and he’s able to read it. Now if you change, you can change your future. It’s not that we’re powerless.
J: You saw this with your patients?
B: Yes. Part of how I helped them was to get them to do drawings in my workshops. Some of the drawings related to choices in therapy. I would say, "Draw yourself in the operating room," and if it looked like hell, we might have a lot of trouble. So we’d say, "Let’s change the situation. You need a new doctor. Maybe you shouldn’t have the operation."
But the other work: when they would do things like scenes in their imaginations, we’d see past, present and future. If you said to me, "I don’t know where to move to," I’d say, "Draw a picture" and you’d put a certain city in a certain position. I’d say "This is where you’re heading and this is where you’ve been, you see?" And you’d say, "All right. I’ll stay on my path and go live there." You don’t resist it. If it didn’t feel right, then you’d say, "All right. Maybe I’ll say no to that job or that relationship."
J: So this is all about inner knowing. How does this play out in you?
B: Well, I stay open a lot and Bobby has had lots of precognitive dreams. You don’t say to your wife, "Honey that’s crazy," but you live it and see it happening. And the other thing is that science is now catching up with this, so that we can measure what goes on in the human body and how, when we have certain thoughts and feelings, it changes our chemistry. So all these things are really going together, you see. When you’re not liking your job or looking forward to the future, you are your body chemistry.
I call it "the energy." I don’t read auras, but I can walk into a room with patients and know who’s getting better and who isn’t. You look at them and you sense something about their energy. People walk up to me and I can say, "You’re getting better, don’t worry." You feel it. That’s the only way I can describe it. You see it and feel it, and it’s not about radiation or colors. I don’t know what I sense, but it’s there.
Others who may have wonderful tests, you look at them and you know this is not good. There’s no energy being given off. I look at them and say, "You know, I don’t have a good feeling. Something’s going on," and they usually say, "Yes, I know." They’re aware inside, even though the tests have been okay, that they’re not well.
J: You’re saying that your inner knowing picks up subclinical information?
B: Yeah. Especially as a physician in the office. Certain people just walk in and I know I don’t need to worry about this person: they’re just radiating health. Now, they may have had a life-threatening illness and things might still be happening, but you know they’re in a phase of getting well and that’s what you sense.
To me, the Cayce readings are saying that we’re all capable of this. I was just talking with someone about animals knowing when someone will have an epileptic seizure. Or when their owner is returning home, they’re sitting in the window 15 minutes before, yet can’t possibly know the owner is on the way home. You do it as an experiment, arriving at different timeswalking, ridingand it isn’t that they hear you.
I see it at home when I’m not well or am tired: our pets come and restore me. And if I’m just sleeping late because I’m lazy, they don’t show up. So my comment is that we all have the same basic nervous system. It’s not that they have some special talent, but that they haven’t lost the talent. As we grow up, we become thinkers and you lose that talent.
J: Yet intuition is available to us through different psychic senses, isn’t it, so that everyone has some extant ability.
B: Exactly. I tell you, our daughter is very good at gambling. I don’t mean that she does it obsessively, but when she goes on vacation, she’ll tell her husband to play a certain number and they make hundreds of dollars. It’s fantastic. She gets a message.
When the phone rings, there are times that I know who’s calling and I’ll have fun saying a name and they’ll say, "How’d you know it was me?" I’ll say, "Well I knew." I asked my daughter: "So you know who it is, too?" She said, "No, dad, I know when the phone is going to ring."
That’s a whole transcendent step above what I’m talking about. I will be tuned in sometimes, and when the event happens, I know. But she knows when it’s going to happen.
I was in the airport the other day and everybody gave me the wrong information: "Where’s my plane leaving?" "Gate 25." Well, that plane was leaving two hours later and my ticket was made out wrong for this other plane. I really stopped and said, "Now are you supposed to be on the other plane? Is this to save your life? to meet someone?" This is where I’ll sit down and say, "Is this an intuitive awareness, is something happening in the universe, or is this someone who doesn’t know how to do their job?"
The feeling I got was that this lady didn’t pay attention to my schedule, because I’d changed it, and she gave me a morning and an afternoon flight, instead of one after the other.
J: Or this was meant to help tune you in to your inner knowing, your development of awareness.
B: Yes. And to say, stop rushing around through the airport and pay attention to which plane is meant for you. I do that every morning when I’m homewake up an hour early. I always take that time. The day waits for me to be with myself, listening to the voice and the wisdom and all the things that happen.
It’s incredible. Sometimes I’m upset with myself for not carrying paper and pencil to make notes, because it’s a trance state and when I get back home I’m back in my intellect and forget the wisdom. I know it’s in me and it’ll come up at some point, but it’s frustrating when you’re trying to stay aware of it. I keep writing, writing, writing, and when I have time, I sit down, look at all that I’ve noted, elaborate on it and keep tuned in that way.
J: What’s next for you, in your work and in your life?
B: I’d say it’s basically the spiritual journey, just trying to help people live, period. It isn’t always about physical illness and all the complaints we have: if you help them with the complaints, they live longer, healthier lives. So it’s getting back to the love and the age-old messages of what’s the point of all this and why are we here. Questions that, really, physicians should be answering for people facing their mortality, but you know, the spiritual and philosophical are not part of our training, so we work with the mechanical aspects but don’t help people with the other issues.
J: You’re seeing enormous changes, aren’t you, in the world’s recognition and awareness ofand even in the medical professional, I would assumethis inner knowing, these faculties of intuition, and how to use them to stretch the limitations of logic?
B: I wouldn’t use the word enormous with the medical profession; it’s always literally 10 years behind where I would like it to be; medical training is always mechanistic and not experiential, from the standpoint of what someone is living. But from other aspects, yes, I’m seeing the shift. And again, I think it comes from pain. The more difficult things get in life, the more we are looking at options and choices. They can be numbing, distracting choices, or they can be life-enhancing choices.
J: Did personal difficulty play a role in your own growth?
B: I became a doctor for a lot of nice reasons. Nobody in my family was sick, nobody was dying. I didn’t need to save the world. I just wanted to help a lot of people. I enjoyed using my hands, I was an artist as a kid and I loved science. I mean, this was just like a natural: all your love comes together.
That’s why I had so much pain and suffering, because I wasn’t ready for the death, for the illness, for all that I saw. I’m in here to love people and help them, and I couldn’t stop them from dying and being sick. Nobody had ever sat down with Bernie Siegel in the educational process and said, "Why do you want to be a doctor? How are you going to deal with all this stuff?" So I suffered greatly. But my parents and wife and children helped guide me. They were my critics and teachers.
I always loved, and I wish I’d come across it 50 years ago, a line by the Sufi poet Rumi, "Your criticism polishes my mirror." When I heard him say that, it was like, "Oh thank you. Now I know why they’re all telling me how to be better. It isn’t that I’m terrible. They’re trying to help me."
J: So it was compassion, but it was also love that carried you through and kept you going.
B: Yeah. But I used to be stung sometimes by patients who would tell me, one in particular, how angry I was. I said to him, "I didn’t like what I had to do to you!" and he said, "But you took it out on me!" And I thought to myself, what an incredible thing for him to do. He was to be sent home that day, but he waited in the hospital to tell me how badly I’d treated him. Now, when you think about that, why did this man wait to tell me? Because he saw the love and concern in my face and he knew I needed help. So he became my therapist. He sat and waited for me, to tell me.
When he finished, I told him I was sorry and he said, "Okay, I’ll give you that bottle of liquor after all." We laughed, but it was his desire to sit and teach me.
J: We’re all teaching each other, aren’t we? That’s the bottom line, isn’t it?
B: Yes, but most of us are not willing to listen to the teaching, to hear the criticism. We say, "Hey, you’re hurting my ego, it’s not my fault"; we can’t say I’m sorry. So we’ve got to learn to say I’m sorry.
J: Is there more of this awakening, because of you, in the medical profession?
B: Yeah, I think so. I confront people more, because they can’t say, "Well, he’s a therapist, a social worker." They have to say, "He’s a doctor." So it creates more agitation in physicians. Those who agree with you can be transformed by you, and there are many physicians who say, "Thank you for what you’ve done for me, for guiding me." Others are mad as hell at you, but it’s because of what you’re stirring in them, that they’re not willing to look at.
J: So that makes you a doctor of not only the body and mind, but also of the soul.
B: Yes. We all are!
* Author’s note: While some psychics may be limited to prophecy, Edgar Cayce was not. With his extraordinary "second sight," he was able to do much more than see past, present and future. The 14,000 transcribed readings housed at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, Va., document Cayce’s ability to hear only a name and address, and intuitively cross the boundaries of time and space to look inside that distant subject’s body and diagnose and prescribe remediessome of which medicines, on more than one occasion, Cayce located psychically on dusty pharmacy shelves scattered across the country. Over time, the scope of Cayce’s readings expanded beyond holistic health and healing into fascinating realms like ancient mysteries, past lives, meditation, and the story of the soul. Contact the A.R.E. or visit its website (edgarcayce.org) to learn more about this kind and generous family man, photographer and Sunday school teacher whose insights are still shaping the spiritual understanding of 21st century America.
Four Qualities of a Mindful Life
These qualities, according to Buddhist philosophy, are the keys to fruitful relationships between human beings.
The Quality of Compassionate Listening
We have seen clearly that in this world there are people who have the capacity to listen deeply to others and to comfort them in their pain. This capacity lies within all of us. We shall nourish it so that we can listen deeply in order to relieve the suffering in the world. We are committed to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We shall develop the capacity to sit and listen without having any prejudice arise. When we listen to another, we shall not judge what is said. We are committed to listen in order to understand the other deeply. We aspire to listen so attentively that we can hear what the other is saying as well as what is left unsaid. We know that, just by listening deeply, we alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in our friends and loved ones.
The Quality of Deep Understanding
We have seen clearly that in this world there are people who have the capacity to be still and look deeply into the heart of things. This capacity lies within ourselves, and we shall nourish it so that we can look deeply with all our attention and open-heartedness. We shall practice looking with unprejudiced eyes. We shall practice looking without judging or reacting. We shall practice looking deeply in order to be able to see and understand the roots of suffering. We are determined to look deeply at the impermanent and interdependent nature of all that is.
The Quality of Compassionate Action
We have seen clearly that in this world there are people who realize their deep aspiration to act with the eyes and heart of compassion. We know that this capacity lies within ourselves, and we are determined to nourish it. We know that the happiness of others is our happiness. We aspire to practice joy on the path of service. We know that every word, every look, every action and every smile can bring happiness to others. We know that if we practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become a deep source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all beings.
The Quality of Being Present for Those Who Need Us
We have seen clearly that in this world there are people who are willing to be present where there is suffering, oppression and despair in order to bring hope, relief and liberation. We shall nourish in ourselves the capacity to bring relief where it is needed. We are determined not to forget about or abandon those who are in desperate situations. We shall do our best to establish contact with them when they cannot find a way out of their suffering or when their cries for help, justice, equality and human rights are not heard. We also commit our true presence to our friends and loved ones and in doing so deepen our true love and friendship with them. We shall practice to achieve the qualities of perseverance and stability so that we can always be supportive and faithful to those who need us.
* Based upon the "Evocation of the Boddhisattvas" by Thich Nhat Hahn, adapted for use in the Mindfulness Practice Communities.
"What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?"