A Warm Winter’s Meditation on Gratitude

For many of us, the world moves along so quickly, and the endless stream of appointments, phone calls, emails, and other Things That Need To Be Done Next continually distracts us from the all important step of positive feedback. The nature of our world is such that many decisions need to be made by the unconscious levels of the mind.

Unless we create a clear, compelling image of the way we want to be and the life we want to create, that part of us may head in the wrong direction. And with so many negative messages (eg, economic woes, climate change, illness, pollution, politics), it is easy to lose our way and succumb to the toxicity of stress and depression.

Actually, there are many more positives within than negatives, and here is a way to make these known to your faithful unconscious mind – to really assume leadership in your life – by touching the positive experiences of the recent past and connecting them to the deepest level of your being. In this way you are setting your compass – and empowering the behaviors and experiences you want more of in your life.

So find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for ten minutes and recharge!

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(click “Play” button to listen . . . enjoy)

Free – Cancer Guided Imagery – A Mental Reboot

Listen at the end of this post!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I have prepared this special free deep relaxation and guided imagery experience. I had the honor of co-founding the second cancer self-help center in the world, and the first that began to train interns. It’s hard to believe these days, where EVERY self respecting hospital, medical center, and clinic has patient self-help groups, that in 1977 there were NONE.

In those days patients could not utter the word “cancer” without trembling in fear, and physicians and families would often hide from people the fact that they had cancer.

We discovered that patients who visualized their white cells as aggressive, even vicious, attacking agents, and the cancer cells as being weak and confused had much more favorable outcomes. The imagery here is based on that which we used at the center, where i remained as medical director for 20 years.

This should be a welcome addition to the other CDs of imagery for cancer patients. I have recently published new CDs for those in chemo or radiation therapy .Feel free to forward to anyone with any kind of cancer, with my best wishes for complete healing.

Questions and Conversation: (at the bottom of this page)

Let me know what you think of this guided imagery experience.

What other Guided Imagery Experience do YOU want to hear? What would be most beneficial?

How are YOU using guided imagery in your healing?

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Below you will find two Podcasts for your listening pleasure! Free Guided Imagery and Meditations from DrMiller.com

- The first is the Anti-Cancer Guided Imagery: Empowering Your Immune System

- The Second is general introduction to my Mental Reboot Series called What is a Mental Reboot?

Ask Dr. Miller: Dealing with Stress in the World Today

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 stress?  In this podcast I explain the difference, give examples of each and provide simple ways (affirmations) to quickly release stress and enter a relaxed state of mind, body and spirit.

This audio excerpt is from my program Stress Fitness Volume 1. Please visit my online store at ShopDrMiller.com for more information about this and my other audio programs.

Ask Dr. Miller: What is Cognitive Dissonance, Stress and Negative Programming?

Gratitude, the Gift that Keeps on Giving (text and video)

“If the only prayer you say in your life is, `Thank you,’ that would suffice.”

– Meister Eckhart

`Tis the season to be grateful. … It may be difficult to remember to be grateful, and that it is not just a seasonal thing, heavily corrupted by merchandising. At least, it does provide us with a teachable moment.

In these tough times, it may be difficult to remember to be grateful for what we have instead of anguishing over what we don’t have.

Try this reality check: Do you have a roof over your head? A bed to sleep in? Food in a refrigerator? Indoor plumbing? Electricity? Clean water to drink? A car? An education?
Compared to the rest of the world, you are fabulously wealthy – and lucky. See how many things you can find to be thankful for during this brief song:

Why us? Why are we so privileged to live in the most prosperous country in the world? Life’s a lot tougher in Bangladesh or Somalia.

And why we are blessed with freedom? Long before we were born, patriots fought and died for the fundamental freedoms we enjoy today. It’s not like we did anything. We just inherited the benefit of their sacrifice.

We should rejoice in gratitude for our lucky circumstances.

So why are we so busy complaining about what we don’t have, and not appreciating what we do have (unless you count jealously hoarding what you’ve got with no willingness to share as “appreciation”).

Acquiring an Attitude of Gratitude

Many of us operate on an obsessive consumerism with the philosophy that, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” What kind of game are we playing. “Greed is Good,” goes the philosophy that has infected the world since time immemorial, even before it became the motto of American business in the middle of the last century. And if you find that you seldom take the time to feel appreciation and gratefulness for things in your life, perhaps you have contracted a case of this affluenza yourself! If so you may find yourself complaining about what you don’t have, feeling envy of others who appear to have more, or jealously guarding what you have instead of sharing it.

Are you constantly on the lookout for how to get more? When will we ever learn that more is never enough?

Was it a surprise to you when, after receiving a huge helping of corporate welfare in the form of bailout funds, the robber barons whose policies had led us to the brink of disaster voted themselves million dollar bonuses? Check your DQ – your Denial Quotient.

And isn’t the health care debate that has gridlocked Congress really about power and money? Recently, Lily Tomlin reprised her Earnestine role as a heartless “service” representative on the phone. This time she blows off a patient: “We’re an insurance company. Your health care is our business, not our concern.” Watch the video here: Ernestine for CaliforniaOneCare.org

And during recent climate change summit in Copenhagen, representatives of developing countries protested that First World nations – rather than reducing their carbon footprints – seem comfortable with allowing a 2-degree rise in global temperature. Are we really that greedy that we would allow the disappearance of some island states and “certain death” for much of Africa?

Despite overwhelming evidence that we are blessed with so much, too many of us feel strangely entitled to what we have – and are markedly lacking in compassion for those who are less lucky.

Though you will not hear them from some of today’s most visible and influential Christians, the Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for both. Consider:

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers . . . you shall not harden your heart . . . but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, “Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise.”

How can I be grateful when I have lost so much?

A man’s home was burgled. “Are you not sad?” he was asked. “No,” he replied, “I am feeling grateful – for three reasons. The first is that, although they took a great deal, they did not take everything. Secondly, though they took my possessions, I was not harmed. Thirdly, I am most grateful that it was they who stole, and not I.” (I try to emulate the fellow in this story, and though I have not equaled his equanimity, I am getting better.)

Corporate robber barons have run amok, often legally. People have lost their life savings, their homes, their cars, their jobs – and more. We have all been the victims to one degree or another, and it may seem difficult to be grateful in the face of such personal disasters – but strangely enough, that’s when we need gratitude the most. This is when we most need the willingness to open ourselves fully to the knowledge that there are things that are more important than our own emotional reactions and collection of possessions.

In fact, many times, it takes the shock of losing what we think is important to realize what is actually important. But we will never discover that which is of greater value if we are immersed in feeling sorry for ourselves.

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. –Eric Hoffer

All Pervasive Gratitude

To get the most out of life, perhaps, it might be a wise move to endeavor to develop a kind of all-pervasive gratitude – a New Paradigm kind of gratefulness – one that sees an opportunity for gratitude everywhere, in every flower, in every movement, and every sound, in everything. Grateful to be. Grateful to experience love. To appreciate the incredible richness of the world with deep respect – indeed, with awe – and in appreciation of something greater than self, a sense of reverence for humanity.

And if you are fortunate enough to have people in your life that love you, then gratitude is clearly in order. As Albert Schweitzer reminded us, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

There is always something to be thankful for, if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt!

How can I begin?

Simply start with the intention to feel gratitude. Don’t stand around waiting for it to happen, intend it! Remember, your feelings are behaviors, they belong to you, and you can choose, intentionally to guide your thoughts to focus upon those things that awaken your ability to feel grateful for your gifts.

Right now, allow yourself to be willing to actually give yourself the time to feel how wonderfully good it feels, taking a deep breath . . . Now . . . breathing in a full, rich inspiration . . . letting that breath inspire every cell of your brain . . . and every organ of your body . . . and realize that feeling gratitude is feeling love . . . and is a blessing of infinite magnitude.

Here is a brief video clip to help awaken appreciation and gratitude: From service dog to SURFice dog

Maybe at the end of our lives we can leave behind a message similar to that of Charlie Mechem, former head of Taft Broadcasting. Charlie wished that this might be put on his tombstone: “Dear God, Thanks for letting me visit. I had a wonderful time.”

So be well, enjoy this holiday season and remember that one of the very best ways to express gratitude is to give. O. Henry’s classic short story “The Gift of the Magi” reminds us this in a most profound way.  Here it is retold again in an animated short: The Gift of the Magi

Q: I have heard it said that part of our mind works like a computer filing system. You even mentioned this in one of your articles. What is this “computer filing system” and how does it affect our health?

A:  It’s not that I think we have a Macintosh desktop unit (or IBM PC) in our heads — what he have, however, is very much like computer software! It’s not the kind you can get at Fry’s, it’s built in (on our hard drive so to speak), and it’s the most powerful software on earth.

Most people’s lives run along very predictable pathways.  The person who was an annoying boor yesterday is likely to be one today, tomorrow, and for years to come.  People tend to experience recurrences of the same diseases and habits over and over again, never thinking to change their behavior. This is similar to getting an error message on the computer; a lot of people keep trying the same procedure over and over, sure that they are right and the computer is somehow wrong and will see the error of its ways.

Remember that over 90 percent of our diseases require us to behave in a certain way in order to get them — the direct result of the thoughts that we run through our minds, our attitudes, ways of handling stress! Repeating patterns like alcohol, cigarettes, shyness, aggressiveness, — and even our usual moods — depression, irrepressible optimism —are in no way preordained by the Gods, not even by the external universe.  They are primarily the result of the thoughts going through our minds. And much of what we think is programmed in during our developmental years.

I have developed specific procedures involving hypnosis or deep relaxation through which I can locate the program and even the date of the program in most cases, and help my client rewrite it. Examples are recorded in my book, Deep Healing: The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine. It’s a fascinating process.

As a physician for instance, I might see a person before a very important speech. Let’s say her name is Marie. She feels frightened, experiencing sweaty palms, a tense stomach, etc.  Marie has never liked speaking in front of a group of people but now finds herself about to deliver the valedictory address. It could have been oral exams to become certified in her profession, or speak to the assembled employees of two companies that have just merged. Finally, she has a chance to speak about something she really cares about. Yet, all those symptoms block the kind of inspiring peak performance that is possible. In addition, it makes her feel miserable throughout the whole process, for which she blames the process.  In her mind, she is constantly running thoughts of times of when she made mistakes in the past.  Many of these thoughts are at the conscious level, but even more are being run through at the unconscious level.

In addition, negative thoughts of the future —fears of fainting, stuttering, failing to get the point across, being attacked (and all kinds of unnecessary thoughts about the future) are running through Marie’s mind—and this has been happening for days.

Mental Programs

Marie has a program running in her mind that sorts through all the possible thoughts in the universe (of which there are quite a few) and comes up with precisely those thoughts which will trigger a malfunction of the hypothalamus.

The hypothalmus is the part of the brain that links thinking to physical status, behavior, and physiological functioning. When it goes out of kilter it can create very unpleasant physiological states such as sweating palms, dry mouth, and stomachache.  The same chemical imbalance this creates in the body also makes it difficult to think, and tends to block the reception of any pleasant experiences.  In addition to a growing fear and loathing of the upcoming presentation, Marie suddenly doesn’t get much pleasure from walking in the park, has recently found sex uninteresting, and in general is not a very happy camper.

This condition of the body and the unhappy mood then feedback through our sensory receptors — we notice ourselves feeling miserable and performing poorly and we begin to feel even more negative, and even less positive about the talk that we have to give or the test we have to take.

As every computer programmer knows GIGO — garbage in garbage out. The quality of your software, in other words, who (or what) writes your software and why, determines the quality of your life.

Through hypnosis or deep relaxation, I ask the person to go back in the archives of their mind to the first time they felt this way. In most cases, the programming happened during a specific incident or series of incidents early in life where the feedback from the universe (which may have been one parent having a bad day) was somehow unacceptable. The archives store every entry, and the mind under hypnosis is able to relive the exact moment when directed to.

We have two kinds of archives, the external archives and the internal archives.  The external archives consist of information we have learned from books, libraries, magazines, the internet, experts in certain fields and good friends, therapists and relatives that we feel can offer us valuable information, knowledge, and wisdom.

The internal archives has to do with what’s been stored within us even from times before our birth.  Our chromosomes carry such genetic memories.

I believe this genetic memory tunes us into trees and waterfalls, beautiful skies, beautiful flowers, and beautiful smells.  I think there is an internal archive of orientation that causes us to enjoy (and music has arisen in every culture). In every population people evolve the concept of God, of the Divine. Perhaps this is a kind of a species ROM memory, designed to lead us towards a simpler, healthier life.

On the other hand, our inner archive also contains a certain amount of garbage. The cost of modern society upon our well-being can be seen in this pile of garbage.  As we become more and more cut off from natural sources of love, beauty, exercise, and eating, we see more and more imbalance and disease. Stress-related diseases arise as we lose track of the natural flow of life in the maelstrom of our artificial lifestyles.

We are born with 2,000,000,000 neurons and few connections.  By the time we reach adolescence we have up to 15,000 connections to each neuron — 50,000 connections per second waking and sleeping during our childhood.  This is when the fundamental programs are laid down.  The neurons and glia are the bricks and mortar, the environment is the architect.  Our environment was our family, friends, social relationships, and our teachers. This is why it is not a simple thing to “undo” the influences of childhood in a single sitting.

For example, our nervous patient may have had a report to read in the second grade and didn’t admit to being unprepared. Perhaps her mother was in the hospital that day and with all the stress she forgot about the report. When she tried to “fake it” the teacher bellowed with anger and the other kiddies laughed mercilessly. That image set the progam for failure. By locating that image in the archive we can reprogram it for success. In this case, she might rescript the scene and visualize approaching the teacher, explaining the situation, and asking for one more day to prepare.

Perhaps then we visualize the upcoming talk. Is there time to prepare adequately? If so, we visualize total success in the delivery of the talk, from a state of deep relaxation and calm.

My first job when a person such as Marie comes to see me is to get her attention.  People are usually so bound into their own unpleasant internal process that they are really not listening very well to things coming from the outside. Next, I guide her into what I call the state of deep relaxation which, fundamentally, means guiding her to think thoughts and create mental images that are associated with relaxation.  This is, in effect, loading a new “application” into the brain.

In ten minutes or so, she is more relaxed than she has been for months.  The mind is clear of distractions and all negative thoughts about herself and her upcoming presentation has drained away.

This new mental state then creates a different state in the hypothalamus and a different physiological state. The results are an improved level of muscle tension, and an improved flow of chemical transmitters through the body carrying signals that inform the muscles and nerves that it is safe to be at rest, to absorb nutrients, to refresh and restore.

The openness that takes place in the mind is now used to create a positive image of the future —the image that you most would like to have if all your dreams came true, specifically in the area of life you are addressing. If you are preparing to speak in public, this image will probably be of an inspired talk which will elicit praise from everyone present. If it is a performance, the image might be of a graceful, effortless performance that achieves great results.

You can now intentionally hold that image in front of your consciousness so as to, in effect, “burn” the image into the image making (graphics package) portion of the conscious mind.  At the same time, the image begins to be copied onto our internal hard disk.  The patient practices going through this whole process several times a day at home.  In so doing, the image is more and more securely recorded within them.  Now their mind can go off and do other things.

Then whenever you feel it is necessary — such as when you begin to feel frightened, depressed or heavy, or just for practice, you go within and repeat this process of emptying the mind of its current set of programs and to “upload” this new image.

Once again, as the new image is loaded, you begin to experience your body and your world differently. As you experience everything differently, you suddenly see options that weren’t available before. You find you have confidence in your own creative skills and know you can rely on them to prevent problems before they happen. You feel less fragile and more able to absorb any minor conflict that might arise; as a matter of fact, you feel equal to the challenge! Your inner picture of the world suddenly gets brighter as if you found the dimmer switch on the monitor of the mind and turned it all the way up. You can run through the upcoming challenge mentally from beginning to end without error messages. You are home free.

Q. There are so many “alternatives” in alternative health. How do I know what choices are healthy for me — what foods to eat, pills to take, books to read? WHERE DO I BEGIN?

A.  It’s an individual matter. Everyone is different. Diseases don’t make choices, people do. The primary goal of the excellent physician, healer, or health practitioner is to serve the person — to enhance, enrich and empower them by all available means. So if you are choosing a healer, find one that treats you as a patient, not a disease.

If you go to a herbalist you will get herbs; if you go to a nutritionist, a diet. The chiropractor will adjust you, and the acupuncturist will try needles. So you must be in contact with your inner wisdom, before you decide which path to take, and which advice to follow. The first step in any treatment should be to put yourself in touch with your own inner wisdom — the Wise Self, the most mature, intelligent, experienced “adult” part of you.

When this Wise Self is contacted and empowered, it can help you make such decisions very effectively. The person who drinks too much alcohol yet takes another drink, the smoker who knows that cigarettes aren’t good for her lungs but opens another pack anyway, the sedentary office-worker who is not getting a sufficient number of workout hours, the overweight person who can’t resist dessert or a second helping–each of these are situations where the ability to contact and listen to a powerful Wise Self would have enormous effects upon health, relationships, self-image, self-esteem and performance.

When temptation comes along, it is this wise part of us we want to bring into play.  It can see the temptation, measure what good or bad it would bring into our life, how it would affect those we love, how it would affect the future.  We then weigh the risks and benefits and then choose what to do.

It’s much like someone who is going to go out backpacking.  They know there is not much chance of rain, but they have to decide whether to carry the extra pounds of rainproof gear; poncho, canvas, tent, etc.  The thought of not having to lug all that along is very appealing.  But who wants to be trapped out in cold weather without rainproofing?  So, our intrepid backpacker takes rain gear.

On the other hand, when he considers whether or not to take signal flares and a ten pound emergency transmitter along, he reaches a different conclusion! This process is very similar to the one we should use when we have health choices to make. We don’t want to be reckless, but neither do we want to become hypochondriacs. The Wise Self knows where the balance point is.

Q. How do you find this balance point?

A. In my books, tapes, and lectures, I often refer to the “Serenity Prayer.” With all the technology at our disposal, this ancient prayer is still one of the greatest healing tools available. To bring balance into our life, we can ask the Wise Self to “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This serves as an invitation to the deeper mind  to open up our intuition so that we make the right choices in life, without becoming dependent on doctors, priests, or psychologists.

There are many other ways to communicate with our higher self. In Deep Healing; The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine, I emphasize three ways to do this.

1. Deep Relaxation, The Doorway to Deep Healing: First of all, deep relaxation is the simplest and fastest path through which anyone can improve their health and well-being.  It can be dramatically effective in relieving symptoms such as inflammation, anxiety, and muscle tension. It improves circulation and speeds up healing.  Through deep relaxation we can put aside the stress that blocks our link to the higher Self.

2. Positive Self-Programming:  Focused affirmations are very powerful. People have always used the power of self-talk to reinforce what they know to be true, and to get in touch with the higher self. They can counteract older, negative, or troublesome messages we may have been receiving from the world around us, or that we have been sending to ourselves and thus, out into the world around us. Our self-talk is a powerful inner mechanism through which we can make dramatic changes in our lives. It can effect every part of our being-mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. These changes put us more in synch with the higher self.

The Master Skill, Positive Mental Imagery: Imagery helps us change our situation and our habits.  When an image is held in the mind, it will tend to elicit from the nervous system reactions that are consistent with that image, and this effects all the organs of the body. By developing the skill of creating positive mental imagery (PMI), we can get an image of our higher self, and begin to journey with it in ways that work for us.

When these three are combined, it can vastly improve our ability to perform at optimal levels, even when taking on some of life’s greatest challenges. It can also awaken our conscious connection with the Wise Self, which will guide us towards the best healer or physician. But let’s not forget that the Wise Self is the most powerful healer we will ever meet.