Last weekend I finished reading the book Love, Medicine, & Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing From a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D..
What an inspiring read!
I love that Dr. Siegel does his research studies on those who heal, survive, or overcome illness and hardships. As a yoga instructor, I come across many people who are recovering or healing from recent illness. Often, they are embracing a more holistic lifestyle and practicing yoga is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle.
Below are some excerpts from the book that I found most inspiring. In the paragraph below, there is mention of “biphasic traits.” I am really intrigued by these types of traits because these are traits that we develop with the yoga practice.
Dr. Siegel mentions a survivor study by psychologist Al Sibert who studied the personalities of survivors in the Korean war (only a few survived a virtual wipe out of a training cadre and those were the men studied by Sibert: “Prominent characteristics is a complexity of character, a union of many opposites that he has termed “biphasic traits”. These traits fit others who survive all kinds of hardships. They are both serious and playful, tough and gentle, logical and intuitive, hard-working and lazy, shy and aggressive, introspective and outgoing, and so forth. They are paradoxical people who don’t fit neatly into the usual psychological categories. This makes them more flexible than most people, with a wider array of resources to draw upon.”
The above paragraph had me thinking how in our yoga practice, we must be totally relaxed and highly alert. We must be strong and equally flexible. We must be soft and yet ever so determined! We must also put effort into our practice, but hold back on any straining,
In this next paragraph, the researcher Siebert goes on to describe other traits of people who heal, survive, or escape illness all together. Again, to me, these traits sound very much like those we strive for in our yoga practice:
“Siebert has also identified the following signs that show a person is reaching the synergistic level of functioning (necessary for overcoming hardships and survival in challenging situations):
*Empathy for other people, including opponents
* Good timing, especially when speaking or taking an original action
*The ability to see early clues about future developments and take appropriate action.
*Being comfortable in complex , confusing situations that others find bewildering or frightening.
*Keeping a positive outlook and confidence in adversity.
*The ability to absorb new, unexpected , or unpleasant experiences and be changed by them.
* A talent for serendipity: The ability to convert what others consider accidents or misfortunes into something useful
* The feeling of getting smarter and enjoying life more as you get older”
Again, below we see other traits that are fostered with a strong yoga practice:
“Seibert found the survivor personality can be learned…he lists the following indicators of self-motivated growth:
*Aimless playfulness for its own sake, like that of a happy child
*The ability to become so deeply absorbed in an activity that you lose track of time, external events, and all your worries.
*A child’s innocent curiosity
*An observant, non judgmental style
*Willingness to look foolish, make mistakes, and laugh at yourself.
*An active imagination, daydreams, mental play, and conversations with yourself.”
And lastly, I really like the definition Dr. Siegel gives to spirituality:
“Spirituality means the ability to find peace and happiness in an imperfect world, and to feel that one’s own personality is imperfect but acceptable. From this peaceful state of mind come both creativity and the ability to love unselfishly, which go hand in hand. Acceptance, faith, forgiveness, peace, and love are the traits that define spirituality for me. These characteristics always appear in those who achieve unexpected healing to serious illness.”
I know for myself, yoga keeps me sane, as well as healthy, happy, and continually striving to be the best I can be. Dr. Seigel’s gives high scores to meditation and yoga as powerful tools for healing and staying wholesome.