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Poetry and pictures soothe the mind. But can they cure the body? In Bone, an unusual new memoir, Jungian analyst Marion Woodman reflects on the medical value of imagery and science during her passage through cancer. In her bare, honest journal, Woodman allows readers to share in her struggles with disease while she searches for the purest way to cure herself. She considers the worth of both radiation therapy and imagery, exploring the harsh cures of medicine alongside the more diffuse benefits of visualization. Using both, Woodman shows her readers how to push through physical trials thoughtfully and how to enjoy life despite them.
Woodman has long been renowned for her insightful, earnest studies of the human experience. In books such as Addiction to Perfection and The Pregnant Virgin, she has led multitudes of readers through the tricky jargon of analytic theory into a deeper understanding of feminine psychology. But in Bone, Woodman has attempted something entirely new. Here she offers a deeply personal look at her own effort to understand -- emotionally and physically -- what she has studied for so many years. In Bone, all of Woodman's beliefs in a body-soul connection are put to the test as she becomes drenched in the painful confusion of life-threatening illness.
The journal tells this story candidly and poignantly. When Woodman was first diagnosed with cancer, in 1993, she was shocked; she had never suspected her illness. In her journal, she wonders how she, a woman who has spent her life honing a connection between her body and spirit, could be so happily unaware of an enemy inside her cells. She admits: "There is a loophole in my psyche that I could slip through into death." So, although Woodman wants to heal herself through visualization, nutrition, and prayer, she finds that her faith in the power of mind is not strong enough. She decides to pursue radiation therapy, a burning cure that ravages the immune system. Her husband and her doctors seem satisfied.
But despite Woodman's decision to follow her doctor's orders, she still tests her own ideas against those of the oncologist. She visits her local naturopaths, Helga and Zeca, who fill her pockets with essiac and nutritional advice. She listens to chanting and meditates to regain stillness. And she speaks her beloved poetry in lieu of pain medicine. She insists: "I know when I speak the poetry I love, energy quickens my cells. My body comes alive.... This is subtle body work -- attunement to a new vibration." By following these simple methods, Woodman manages to fight through cancer's pain to new happiness; as she puts it, she "dies into life."
Woodman uses her background as a psychoanalyst and teacher to explain why visualization and naturopathic methods can supplement traditional medical care. She describes for the reader how these practices help her stay strong, while she records how they help her to find renewed delight in life. As she undergoes a half-hour meditation session, she explains: "The purpose of this journey is to find the voice of the deeper wisdom, the one not connected to the rational voice that keeps throwing up the ifs." And through these meditations and prayers, Woodman finds her way back to well-being. She regains excitement in her garden, in her friends, and in the simple warmth of an Egg McMuffin. Through Woodman's fight against cancer, she rediscovers what she is fighting for: pleasure.
Bone offers readers an honest and thoughtful account of the struggle for life. Woodman's reflections on alternative therapies provide useful guidelines for those who are fighting disease and for those intrigued by natural healing. But Woodman's journal also offers insight for all readers who want to enjoy life more. By following her passage through cancer and its troublesome treatments, readers can find new ways to balance their minds and new ways to enjoy their bodies.