Tuesday, January 17, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0054 - Tools for the Journey

Lucky for me, HopeSpring’s core program since opening in 1995 is based on Alistair Cunningham’s material (see Day 0052). Today, I enrolled in what HopeSpring calls Tools for the Healing Journey. I’ll be learning about deep relaxation, stress control, mental imagery and lifestyle management. Unfortunately, I won’t make it through the entire 6-week program because it will be interrupted for me by surgery at the end of March or early April. In the meantime, there is nothing to prevent me from going through the freely downloadable PDF file available from Cunningham’s healingjourney.ca web site.

Some of that material is prosaic. Controlling our diet, as part of lifestyle management, Cunningham states, may benefit the cancer patient primarily through “giving ourselves a very powerful psychological message about our determination to do all we can to fight the disease”. On the other hand, he argues that there is much more evidence that diet plays a significant role in promoting cancer in the first place than in affecting the progress of an existing cancer.

From what I’ve read so far, I’ve already taken initiative in some of the areas Cunningham recommends. What I feel least prepared for is mental imagery. Visualization has never come easily to me. Theoretically, I know that actively visualizing scenarios has proven beneficial to athletes, actors, performers, even ordinary people preparing for speaking engagements or important meetings. Theoretically, I understand all this. But practically, it just hasn’t been something that I feel competent to do with enthusiasm.

Deep mental relaxation, or meditation, is something that I feel quite confident about. I’ve had training in transcendental meditation, yoga, and Zen, not to mention centering prayer and other forms of Christian contemplation. From both an academic or theoretical perspective and a practical perspective, meditating is something which will come naturally to me.

So, too, with goal setting and lifestyle management. Undoubtedly, there will be specific recommendations related to the life threatening aspects of battling cancer, but I feel confident in my ability and competence to take those recommendations and act upon them.

One other area that I feel hesitant about is the whole arena of emotional expression. Maybe that is because I’m simply not good at dealing with my emotions. Maybe it is because I need more help in this area than in any other. But, who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to leverage something I am good it – expressing my anger and frustration – into something more useful and therapeutic.

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