Book Review: You Can Heal Your Life
It’s April. We’re officially in spring. Flowers are beginning to bloom.
Spring to me represents new growth, new life and a chance to stretch our legs after months of being cooped up inside. I often rise with the sun and so at this time of the year, my wake time begins to get a little earlier. I love to sit with a cup of tea and watch the sun rise up over the hills of the Somerset countryside and listen to the morning bird song. It’s one of life’s pleasures.
Given the time of year, and the bizarre time we as a global community find ourselves in right now, it seemed appropriate to share with you my latest read: Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life’. I’ve read this book once before, but decided to give it another read after being prompted to do so by the Shelf Help Group Book of the Month. If you have never heard of Shelf Help, I would recommend taking a look at their Facebook page and website: https://www.shelfhelp.club/. It’s great for anyone who loves a good self help book and a chat with like-minded people!
The premise of the book is to encourage us all to reflect on the mind-body connection and to explore the way that limiting thoughts and ideas control us and manifest within us in the form of physical diseases and discomforts.
I was converted sometime ago to the idea that the mind profoundly impacts our health and wellbeing; stress and anxiety reap havoc on my digestive system! However, the extent to which the physical discomforts I have experienced personally may have been triggered by a particular thought pattern or life event was never really something I became fully aware of until picking up this book. I’ll admit, some of the ideas within the book are controversial: I’ve seen a complete mixed bag of reviews; some people love it, others seem angry at it - is it saying we are to blame for all the negative experiences and illnesses that affect us? I am open minded. I truly do believe how we think manifests within our physical body. The experiences we had as a child remain within us as adults. I know from my own experience that seemingly small moments, or passing comments from those closest to us, do stick. And they do shape how we view ourselves as adults.
There are a number of messages throughout the book that I would like to discuss briefly here. Partly to express my own opinions on the messages, but also to ask you for your views, if you’d like to share them with me.
Self-love, acceptance and choosing our own thoughts
A recurring theme throughout the book is self-love and acceptance. Self-love is the key to self-healing.
‘What we believe about ourselves and about life becomes true for us’
At the root of all our problems is the belief that we are not good enough. A lack of self-love and lack of worthiness is reflected in our life circumstances. For instance, a belief that “I am not worthy of having money” reflects an underlying belief or fear of financial disaster. Hay purports that these beliefs are often learned at a young age from the adults around us. We then grow up and create our lives based around these beliefs. It is that our subconscious mind accepts whatever we choose to believe. Remember that the universe never judges us; it accepts us at our own value and then reflects our beliefs in our lives.
The book furthers this by suggesting that when we grow up we have a tendency to re-create the emotional environment of our early home life. We often treat ourselves the way our parents treated us. There is no need for blame however; we are all victims of victims. And we can change thought patterns that we have grown up with. It all begins in the mind and we can change our minds; therefore we have complete control over the outcomes in our lives. Our beliefs become our reality and learning to let go of false or old beliefs that no longer serve us is key to changing our lives.
Hay also believes that we choose our parents in order to learn a particular lesson that advances us along our spiritual path. This was a new concept to me, and to be honest, one that took me a while to get my head around. I guess we will never really know whether or not we do choose our parents, but I’ve come to quite like the idea that we do; it’s quite a comfort to believe that we deliberately choose our parents to learn lessons that we need to learn in this lifetime. Whether we have a good or not so good upbringing, the parents set us on a path that led to the person we are today. (I should mention that I had a lovely upbringing!)
Changing and taking control of our lives is possible, but to do so we must overcome our own resistance to change. One exercise Hay introduces us to within the book is a mirror task. This simply involves looking directly at ourselves in the mirror and saying to yourself “I love you”. Talk about easier said than done! I found this really difficult to learn to do. Looking straight into my own eyes is hard enough, but to say to myself ‘I love you’ really was a challenge. It was incredibly emotionally difficult. But, I accept that it is also vitally important to love yourself for who you are and to accept wholeheartedly the person staring back at you. I’ve been working on self-love for a long time and bit by bit have begun to accept myself exactly as I am. The mirror exercise made me realise how far I still needed to go; the first time I sat and looked in the mirror at myself I burst out crying. Who I am to tell myself ‘I love you’? However, in a relatively short period of time and with practice, the mirror task became easier. I can even smile and do it now! Self-acceptance is a wonderful thing.
Building on the positives
If our thoughts can be changed then our mind is a tool, and we get to choose how we use it. I am a firm believer in our ability to change our habitual thought patterns. It is not easy and takes time, but we choose the thoughts we focus on and therefore we have the power to choose what we think. We can choose how we react to a situation. We can choose to focus on joyful thoughts and choose to say no to thoughts that make us feel bad. We do not have to default to or feed off of the negative messages being sent to us via other people. Rather than saying to ourselves “I don’t want to be unhappy”, think ‘I am happy, joyous and free’. Hay recommends a number of tools we can use to help with this such as the use of positive affirmations, visualisation, meditation, and practicing forgiveness (of ourselves and others).
I’ve meditated on and off now for a few years however only started using visualisation and positive affirmations properly relatively recently. That said, on reflection, I have always been inclined to being a bit of a dreamer, which in my mind is a form of visualisation. I was always led to believe that being a dreamer was a silly thing to be. I have grown to completely disagree with this notion. Being a dreamer is a strength; it is a form of visualisation that can help us along our path. Without dreams, and dreamers, nothing would change and little would be achieved. Dreams are ideas, they push us along, get us excited and reflect our individual, unique, creativity.
Positive affirmations have helped me to deal with change over the last year or two, and with circumstances I felt unhappy about. I now have a list saved in my phone which I look at most mornings. Do you use affirmations?
‘Think of a rose from the time it is a tiny bud. As it opens to full flower, till the last petal falls, it is always beautiful, always perfect, always changing. So it is with us. We are always perfect, always beautiful, and ever changing. We are doing the best we can with the understanding, awareness and knowledge we have. As we gain more understanding, awareness and knowledge, then we will do things differently.’
Your Body and Health
Hay is known for her work on the relationship between our mind and our health. She teaches that our thoughts are manifested within our physical body, often leading to various dis-eases or discomforts.
Over time, I have come to see the truth behind much of these teachings. Like a lot of others, I was sceptical at first. How can my own thoughts cause illness? Accepting that stress causes an IBS-flare up, or headaches is easy enough. But the idea that more serious or obscure dis-eases are a result of thoughts and beliefs takes a little more getting used to. However, I am converted, perhaps not fully, but on the whole. I can see how health issues I have experienced personally, and those experienced by those closest to me, have quite likely been triggered by thoughts, beliefs and experiences. Hay has a whole book devoted to this, but provides a summary of key health issues and the thought patterns she believes causes them, and her suggested affirmations to help with healing. Here are some of relevance to me and a few comments as to why I have begun to see some truth in her teachings:
Anxiety - Not trusting the flow and process of life.
Fatigue - Resistance, boredom. Lack of love for what one does.
Headaches - Invalidating the self. Self-criticism. Fear.
Knees - Represent pride and ego. Stubborn pride & ego. Inability to bend. Fear. Inflexibility. Won’t give in. I hurt my knee badly during my second year of university. At the time I was suffering with all sorts of insecurities and deep down probably knew I was in a place of unhappiness but was scared to make any changes.
Lower back pain - Fear of money or lack of financial support.
Migraine headaches - Dislike of being driven. Resisting the flow of life.
Motion sickness - Fear. Bondage. Feelings of being trapped. I have always suffered with motion sickness, for my whole life. When I feel motion sick, I begin to become claustrophobic and my body temperature rises. In life in general, I like to feel I am in control and am a little frightened of being trapped in a place or situation.
Nausea - Fear. Rejecting an idea or experience.
Teeth - Represent decisions. Teeth problems - Longstanding indecisiveness. Inability to bread down ideas for analysis and decision.
Toes - minor details of the future. I’ve been mulling over future details a lot recently, and funnily enough, have had a sore toe for the last couple of months!
I really enjoyed reading this book and have learned to see things from a different angle. I’ll admit that some of Hay’s teachings are a little hard to get your head around at first, but I am largely on her page. Our minds are more powerful than we realise. We should all perhaps learn to use them to our advantage and focus on thoughts that make use feel good. Reality is what we make it.
Please leave a comment below if you have read the book, or have any thoughts on the above. It’d be great to see what you think :)
To end, here is one of my favourite quotes from the book, and one we can perhaps scale up and apply to the current world situation:
‘Sometimes what seems to be a big tragedy turns out to become the greatest good in our lives’