People with glaucoma, mononucleosis, enlargement of the prostate gland and numerous other physical ailments experienced similarly impressive healings under Dr. Epstein's guidance. A woman with a fractured bone in her wrist, one notorious for healing slowly, used an Epstein imagery exercise called "Weaving the Marrow," in which she visualized the broken bone, and then pictured "white marrow carried in blue channels of lights flowing through the red bloodstream, seeing the arterioles flowing back and forth between the two ends, forming a woven net that brings the two ends closer." She then visualized the two ends knitting together perfectly. Her orthopedist was stunned to discover that the bone had healed fully after three weeks. The usual healing time is three months.
Directed and Non-Directed Methods
How can you use this encouraging information in your own healing process? There are many books available on affirmations and visualization; You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain are among the best known. Likewise, the books I've mentioned by Drs. Simonton and Epstein offer excellent visualization methods. (See Appendix A for sample visualization exercises).
But before beginning your own visualization work, there are some important questions to consider. First and foremost is this: Is it always appropriate and necessary to visualize a particular, detailed outcome? Most of the literature on the use of affirmations and visualization, including the Simonton and Epstein work we've just seen, assumes that specificity of imagery is all-important. But this may not be the only way to harness the powers of the mind for healing.
Larry Dossey, M.D., suggests that there are two main ways of doing affirmations and visualization-directed and non-directed. The directed approach is the one utilized by Simonton, Epstein, and most other recent writers on the subject.
With the directed method, you aim for maximum feasible specificity. If you are visualizing an end to your lower back pain, for example, you would learn as much as possible about the anatomy and physiology of the area, and then visualize in great detail the restoration of smooth gliding motion between the vertebrae, and the easy and relaxed stretching and contraction of the muscles. You might also picture the blood vessels in the area swiftly transporting toxins away for efficient elimination through the urinary system.
As Simonton's work demonstrates, this directed approach can be very effective. But it is not the only way. You could also choose, as an alternative, to enter a deeply relaxed, meditative state, and then surrender to the will of God, with an affirmation such as "Thy will be done." (A non-religious alternative could involve entering the relaxed state, and then affirming your oneness with all life, and asking Mother Nature to enfold you in her arms.) As part of a non-directed approach, you might also ask to be restored to health in order to have the opportunity to do works of service for others.
Dossey cites a set of highly unusual double-blind experiments in which directed and non-directed methods were used in an attempt to influence simple living systems. The researchers measured parameters like the growth rate of sprouts, after groups of directed and non-directed "prayer practitioners" attempted to influence these processes, each with their respective methods. The directed group was able to increase the growth rate, but the non-directed group was more than twice as effective. Dossey theorizes that directed strategies are most appropriate for extroverted, assertive people, while non-directed strategies are best for introverted, self-reflective individuals. He urges each person to find his or her own way, and not to feel compelled by "authorities" to follow any set of rules.