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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: A Field Guide to Body Work 
Interview with Ken Dychtwald PhD
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

Would you recommend any books by Reich himself?

Probably not to start with. Reading Reich is like reading the Torah. There are some good books about Reich, though. Boadella's book, Wilhelm Reich, The Evolution of His Work, is the best biography. Man in the Trap, by Elsworth Baker, is the best book on his clinical practice, and Bioenergetics, by Alexander Lowen, is a good introduction to Reichian thought. Then, and only then, for a general introduction to Reich's own writings, I'd suggest The Selected Writings of Wilhelm Reich.

How about number nine, using the mind to influence the body?

In recent years there's been a growing appreciation for the ways in which the mind can influence the functioning of the body. While most mind-body relationships take place outside of our conscious awareness, we can learn to train our minds to influence our bodies in positive, healing ways.

If you close your eyes and imagine that you're getting beaten up, your mind will generate one kind of body state. If you imagine that you're making love, it'll generate another.

If I asked you to imagine that you're lying on a warm, sunny beach on a quiet tropical island, your body would probably become more relaxed. Obviously, by choosing certain kinds of visualizations and following certain kinds of suggestions, you can put your body into various states. Some of these states can be useful for relaxing or for healing. Some techniques that make use of this approach are biofeedback, autogenics, selfhypnosis, and visualization.

A good book on visualization is Samuels and Samuels' Seeing With the Mind's Eye. Some others on influencing the body through the mind are Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, by Ken Pelletier, and The Mind /Body Effect, by Herbert Benson.

That brings us to the last category using the body to center the mind.

In these approaches, the idea is to focus the body in such a way so that the mind becomes quiet and clear. Just as stress and unwellness in the body can generate confusion in the mind, stillness in the body can help to produce a deep state of peace of mind.

Probably the most well-known of these approaches is meditation in its various forms. These approaches involve sitting in an alert stillness in order to develop a very centered, transpersonal aspect of the mind. Some of the approaches to mental centering are phrased in religious language. Others are strictly secular. Yogis and meditators have been practicing these kinds of disciplines for years, but contemporary science has only become aware of them recently.

Herbert Benson's The Relaxation Response is a good overview of meditative approaches. Probably the best how-to-do-it books are Lawrence LeShan's How to Meditate and Ken Pelletier's Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer (again). A favorite is Chogyam Trungpa's Meditation in Action.

Body work covers a big area!

It certainly does. For some people, body work means yoga. For others, dance. For others, sports or massage. The best thing for you may be to sit quietly in a peaceful place for a long time. For me it may be yelling and laughing and hitting pillows.

The fact that there's no "right way" has made my work in this field very exciting. Instead of some set of rules to follow, there's a real freedom to explore. There are many, many ways for us to develop our bodies and our minds. All the books I've mentioned are ultimately talking about the same thing—each of us has our own unique path to happiness and fulfillment.

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
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