A few years ago, travelling though Mexico, I met an extraordinary woman who taught me what it is to stretch your mind. Over a breakfast conversation in our beach restaurant on the Yukatan Peninsular, she told me about a motorbike accident she’d been involved in a few years earlier. She had been riding pillion with her boyfriend along Route 101 – that stunning stretch of Pacific Highway between Santa Barbara and San Francisco. The accident happened at a horseshoe in the road, at the top of a steep ravine. She had been thrown from the motorbike at high speed and fallen hundreds of feet into the ravine below. Nearly every single bone in her body was broken.
Sitting next to her at the breakfast table, this woman appeared no more or less significant than anyone else in the restaurant. She certainly bore no outward signs of an experience that could have easily left her paralysed or disabled. Her body, it appeared, had made a complete recovery. Yet, I was struck by the depth and liveliness in this woman’s eyes, which sparkled and danced as she spoke. She had a secret and I needed to know.
“How did you heal so well?” I asked.
“With the power of my mind.”
During the rest of our conversation that day, this woman told me the entire story. From the seconds before the accident happened, to the death defying crash in which she fell long and hard, to the process of healing bone fractures, nerve damage, and of course, pain. It had taken time, and in many ways the emotional trauma was still working through. Yet one particular part of the story interested me more than anything. It was the part where she explained her mental techniques throughout the healing process, illustrated most poignantly for one specific fracture.
“There was one fracture that that doctors and surgeons told me was impossible to heal”, she said. A crucial bone had split into two and was separated by a gap of several centimetres. After hours of reconstructive surgery this particular break could not be resolved. For her to regain functionality of her shoulder, new bone would have to grow back, and severed nerves must completely heal. It was impossible, the doctors had told her, and as a result it was unlikely she would have full use of her arm again.
So what happened? I asked as I watched her gracefully use the arm in question to lift a teacup to her mouth and then place it delicately back on the table.
“Well, first of all I refused to believe them,” she said. “For all of their brilliance and expert help in reconstructing my body, I felt at a deep and personal level this particular issue was not going to be a problem for me.”
“And then?” I asked
“I basically used the power of my imagination to grow the bone back into place,” she revealed almost casually, but with a great underlying sense of determination. She went on to explain that at every step along the way, in order to help doctors do their work, she had visualised her body healing itself from within. The doctors had commented on many occasions how rapidly healing was taking place. Although they had come to an impasse over this particular fracture.
“You would have to live to 250 to give this one enough time to heal”, they teased.
“Just watch me!” she smiled back.
Every day, patiently and with strong belief in her mental ability to speed up the growth of this particular bone, my new found hero described the inward journey of recovery which involved strong visualisation of one bone growing towards another, a gap between two bones filling in with more bone, a fusion of the bone, one bone…
“I was relentless”, she said”. “I never thought about gaps, or breaks, or degeneration. All I thought about was the final outcome, two bones becoming one”. Two years later, the bone had (in the eyes of the doctors), miraculously healed.
“Some people say they would give their right arm for this, that or the other”, she said. “But I felt that I wasn’t prepared to make that sacrifice. When you’ve survived a crash like that, you can survive anything. Why lose your right arm? It didn’t make sense to me.”
I was humbled and moved.
A few years earlier I’d been told by doctors that I had something called ‘degenerative disc disorder’, that the discs in my lower spine were damaged beyond repair and would never function properly again. I would spend the rest of my life managing pain and weakness. It’s just something that happens as a combination of age, wear and tear, they told me. I was 40 at the time. My time in Mexico had been emotionally charged with trying to accept the reality of their words. For a former athlete and someone who held their physicality in high regard, this was proving difficult. This breakfast conversation was challenging me to think again! What was a little cartilage and soft tissue in comparison to what this woman had been able to resolve?
In that moment, as I gazed out towards the gentle rolling waves breaking on the white coral sand, I was overcome with a strong sense of gratitude for what I knew was true for me too. I could repair those spinal discs with my mental power. There was no reason why a few years from now, I could confidently say that I had disbelieved the medics and pursued an inner journey of healing.
“In ten years time my back will be so strong I will be able to put both legs behind my head and stand on my hands!” I declared to myself silently.
And so, now, whenever I reach a new challenge on my healing journey, either for me, or for one of my patients, I return to the breakfast lesson on Tulum Beach, the exact same principal to stretch your mind, so eloquently described by the late David R. Hawkins MD PhD, in his book Healing and Recovery (Veritas, 2009):
“I no longer believe in that. I am an infinite being and I am only subject to what I hold in my mind.”