As a practicing surgeon, Dr. Bernie Siegel clearly recognized the crucial importance of medical intervention, but over time, he also came to understand and appreciate the power of spiritual healing. In his new book, the author of the bestselling Love, Medicine, and Miracles shares his most arresting accounts of recovery through individual, group, dream, and art therapy. As in his previous efforts, A Book of Miracles collects stories that lift the spirit without ignoring the hard realities of physical, psychological, and emotional challenges.
A Book of Miracles: Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Loveby Bernie S. Siegel
Bernie Siegel first wrote about miracles when he was a practicing surgeon and founded Exceptional Cancer Patients, a groundbreaking synthesis of group, individual, dream, and art therapy that provided patients with a “carefrontation.” Compiled during his more than thirty years of practice, speaking, and teaching, the stories in these pages are riveting
Bernie Siegel first wrote about miracles when he was a practicing surgeon and founded Exceptional Cancer Patients, a groundbreaking synthesis of group, individual, dream, and art therapy that provided patients with a “carefrontation.” Compiled during his more than thirty years of practice, speaking, and teaching, the stories in these pages are riveting, warm, and belief expanding. Their subjects include a girl whose baby brother helped her overcome anorexia, a woman whose cancer helped her heal by teaching her to stand up for herself, and a family that was saved from a burning house by bats. Without diminishing the reality of pain and hardship, the stories show real people turning crisis into blessing by responding to adversity in ways that empower and heal. They demonstrate what we are capable of and show us that we can achieve miracles as we confront life’s difficulties.
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A Book of Miracles
Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Love
By Bernie S. Siegel, Andrea Hurst
New World LibraryCopyright © 2011 Bernie S. Siegel
All rights reserved.
Birth and Renewal
Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.
— William MacNeile Dixon
The nature of life is a miracle. It is the intelligent, loving, conscious energy that is behind creation and understands that true creation begins when we have variety and not one type of living thing. Creation begins when we add another one.
Every child is a miracle. The sperm and egg meet, and from one cell a human being is created. The intelligence is present in every cell. It knows what it is and where it belongs. If a cell is misplaced in the embryo by changing its location, it will migrate back to the place and organ it belongs in and to. Every seed is filled with wisdom and knowledge. The seed of a plant can detect gravity so it knows which way to grow to find the sunlight, and it can even break through the pavement to make that happen.
Our minds also play a part in the miracle. Infertile women increase their chances of conceiving a baby when they join support groups and deal with their emotional issues and when they begin to visualize what they desire happening rather than being depressed and stressed over their desire to conceive. Fear and the stress response exist for our protection from threats to our life, but they suppress the body's ability to grow and heal when we continue to fear what we imagine or fantasize.
One of my support group members called me when she was in premature labor and feared aborting her fetus. When I went to the hospital to visit her, I could feel the room filled with fear and panic. I asked everyone to leave, and then I played calming music and guided her through imagery to relax her uterus and stop the contractions. Everything returned to normal in a short time, and she went on to deliver at full term and named her son after me. They were Irish, so his name is Brady, not Bernie. But that was close enough for me.
Babies Are Miraculous
BY TANYA F. CHERNOV
When my best friend, Rachel, called me one summer afternoon five years ago, I was terrified that she would be calling me from the hospital. Rachel had been suffering from debilitating bouts of ulcerative colitis for several years and had, in recent months, been barely able to function. Instead, when I answered the phone, she told me that she was unexpectedly pregnant. Knowing she needed all the support she could get, I screamed my elation into the phone, professing my love and excitement.
When we hung up, I let my fears come to the surface. Rachel had been so sick for so long, and I wondered how her poor body could possibly carry a baby. Rachel had been losing weight, losing blood volume, and suffering many terrible side effects from the medications that were keeping her alive. I was scared for her, and I was also scared for the baby because of all the harsh medications Rachel had been taking. Would she be able to carry to term? Would the baby be healthy? There was nothing I could do except be loving and supportive, no matter how strong my doubts and fears became.
The months passed, and instead of growing weaker, Rachel became healthy again. Each time I saw her, she looked more beautiful and healthy. She was strong and energetic, with color in her cheeks for the first time in years. As the first trimester passed into the second, Rachel felt incredible — she was free from all her colitis symptoms, as if the awful disease had never been a part of her life. She no longer needed any medications beyond prenatal vitamins. As if the baby growing inside her were made of healing qualities, Rachel's body responded accordingly, somehow returning to a miraculous level of health. Watching her belly grow and witnessing her body's recovery, I learned to trust that life will find a way — that the body is capable of sudden and miraculous changes when necessary. We joked that if this was how her colitis responded to pregnancy, then she'd want to be pregnant all the time, and her partner would be a very busy man!
In March, Rachel gave birth to a perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful baby girl, named Linnea Spring. The joy of Linnea's birth was cut short only two weeks later when Rachel's colitis returned, exponentially more destructive than ever. With a newborn baby to take care of, Rachel's body quickly declined, her emotional state tumbling along with her physical condition. Rachel was admitted to the hospital with less than half the blood volume considered safe for a postpartum woman and having gained almost thirty pounds of edema. When I arrived at the hospital, I barely recognized Rachel. It seemed as if the moment her body knew that it had succeeded in creating new life, it began to recede into the darkness. I stayed with Rachel for the next two weeks as she was subjected to ineffective medications, treatments, and procedures. Because hospitals are not always such friendly places for newborn babies, and because Linnea, still only weeks old, was being shuttled between family members wanting to help, Rachel did not get to see her brand-new daughter very often. She was getting worse, and we feared that this would be the end for her.
Finally, when it seemed that the only thing that could save Rachel's life would be a radical operation to remove her entire colon, we had an idea. Rachel was moved to the maternity ward, where she was reunited with her baby. The instant Rachel held her baby in her arms again, I saw that flash of color return to her cheeks. The three of us — Rachel, Linnea, and I — stayed in that hospital room for several days, each morning bringing a tinge of hope to Rachel's situation. With an experimental medication seemingly bringing her colitis into remission, my best friend's life returned to her.
Though her doctors will say the medication brought Rachel back from the brink of death, I know otherwise. Linnea saved Rachel's body during pregnancy, and she did it again when Rachel was so close to dying in the hospital. Rachel needed her baby to heal — not just once, but twice. Babies are miraculous even in the best of situations, but the power of the bond between mother and child is strong enough to defy death. I have been blessed to bear witness to this miracle for the last five years, as Linnea has grown into a precocious little girl, with a strong, healthy, and vibrant mother.
Anchored in the Arms of God
BY CHRISTIE GORSLINE
Nanook, our sailboat, ghosted into the bay wrapped in a thick blanket of humidity. Rick dropped the anchor and I furled the sails. The stillness was broken only by baritone reverberations that sounded like whales singing. We were sitting in the cockpit when rain peppered the sea, each drop piercing the surface like the needle of a sewing machine at full speed.
I raised my arms to the heavens in a gesture of celebration, gyrating in a rendition of a tribal dance. We offered our thanks for the sudden downpour. We'd been sailing the west coast of Mexico for three years, and nature's surprises still filled us with awe.
The torrent stopped within an hour. Reclining on the bow with a damp sail bag for a pillow, I watched the clouds play charades. A breeze rearranged them. A pirate? A banana. Light globes. Italy. So many shapes. A furious splashing off our stern interrupted my dream weaving.
A whale, her glistening back shining like a boulder in the bright sunshine, thrashed with an intensity that was alarming. Handing the binoculars to Rick, I said, "What do you think is wrong?"
He watched for a few minutes and said, "It looks like she's trying to shake something from her tail."
I sat in the corner of the cockpit, arms wrapped around my knees, squinting over the railing. Rick stood next to me. We watched in despair at the picture unfolding in front of us. It looked as though trash must be the culprit, and we felt somehow responsible.
As the minutes crept by, our attention turned to the whale's timing. She took breaks from her spasms at regular intervals. Two minutes of furious splashing were followed by thirty seconds of quiet. And it repeated. Again. And again. Even with the aid of high-powered binoculars, we couldn't identify the reason.
It went on for nearly an hour before the commotion stopped. It was Rick who figured out what we might be witnessing. "Holy mother of ...," Rick said, handing me the binoculars.
"What is it?" I said, raising the binoculars to my eyes.
"Es un milagro," Rick answered, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. A miracle. We watched the baby whale exit its mother's birth canal into the Pacific Ocean. First the tail. Then the head. Within minutes, mom and calf slipped away and the water was still. With tears running down our cheeks, we sat in reverent silence.
Another gift from God.
BY PAULA TIMPSON
I just knew I had to go to Bermuda. It was a deep calling. Something special would happen. I could feel it deep down inside. Swimming with the dolphins had always been a childhood dream. One day, when Spirit gave me the wisdom how to do this, I followed it with my whole heart and soul.
We went in mid-June. The weather was ideal, as were our spirits! I was excited as a little girl when the morning to take my dolphin swim came. I felt free and openhearted as ever! My husband proudly watched as I swam and played with my dolphin friend. I felt true joy in the moment, which seemed to last forever, yet it was timeless and forever a part of us. As the dolphin laughed and fluttered his body in the shiny water, I, too, was filled with so much light and hope.
We had been playing with the idea of having a child. After my dolphin swim, I felt open and ready. Right after I finished swimming, it rained, and I felt that the water pouring down upon us was a baptism. I let go and let God work with me — within me.
The dolphin led me to have the courage to be a mother and trust that whatever God wanted was truly best. We tried later in the summer, and I got pregnant easily. My son is pure love. Jamesey is our miracle! He makes us better people, stronger and more aware of life as it is. I believe the shining light near Jamesey's heart was carried over by my dolphin friend.
Sometimes, only pure Spirit knows what we need to be happy, and when we find the answer quietly within, we must follow. Only then do we become who we are really meant to be. It was a true gift to have this opportunity! Thanks be to God.
I Corinthians 13:4: Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails....
The Man of My Dreams
BY CATE PERRY
In 1988, I was your typical fifteen-year-old girl. My priorities had gone from childish games to clothes and boys and ... well, a new variety of childish games, I suppose. Life as a high school freshman was about attaining popularity at almost any cost. My personal attempts included wearing ultra-tight jeans, spraying my bangs up into a virtual wall of hair, and shunning anything that had to do with actually learning. All of this seems like a healthy dose of teenage narcissism, I'm sure, except for the fact that I was willing to starve myself for the attention of a certain boy.
As it turned out, the "Power That Is" had a different boy in mind for me, and although everything about him was the last thing I'd ever expected, he had more of an impact on my life than I'd ever thought possible.
Take, for example, that this boy was not born yet — androgynous to us at the time, simply referred to as "the baby." Even at that microscopic size, the baby added a new perspective to my life and gave me something to look forward to that was completely separate from my own ego. As he grew through the months, I got to feel him kick within my mother's womb. And, eventually, his due date came and went — and receded through the weeks, three to be exact.
I was shrinking from sight as well, using both anorexia and bulimia to achieve my ultimate goal of reaching 115 pounds. For a five-foot-seven, fifteen-year-old girl, this wasn't exactly realistic — nor was the idea that this kind of self-punishment could somehow result in true love.
At any rate, my brother's birthday was supposed to be June 4. However, it wasn't until June 27 that the doctors induced labor for the third time. My mother was bleeding internally, the baby was in an agitated state, and they would need to perform an emergency C-section, stat. I left my extended family in the waiting room to go outside and have it out with God.
That's right; I told him I didn't believe in him anymore.
Even when I finally held my brother in my arms for the first time, I reminded God I didn't believe in him.
And as I helped bathe my baby brother and feed him and found myself in love with someone who would never use me or hurt me, I reminded God I didn't believe in him.
Needless to say, one day it occurred to my adolescent mind that if I didn't believe in God, then who the heck was I praying to?
And didn't my mom make it out of surgery just fine?
Wasn't my brother perfect?
Didn't God go on to allow my brother to teach me what was truly important in life, down to this very day? That the amount I weighed would have nothing to do with attaining God's grace?
Yes, I was granted a miracle in my brother, and I know just who to thank for it.
My wife is a miracle, too. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about fifty years ago, and it is a problem in some ways today, but what people predicted would happen never did. One of the reasons was her four pregnancies and five children born during the seven years following her diagnosis. Today we use some of the same hormones that increase during pregnancy to treat MS; they quiet the body's immune system so it does not attack the fetus, and then the mother benefits further as her autoimmune disease is treated by them, too. It is similar to what cortisone does to reduce inflammation. So it is a built-in miracle available to us all.
What Tanya Chernov shares about Rachel's experience is a miracle; indeed, we are created as miracles and our potential is miraculous. If bacteria and viruses can alter their genes to resist antibiotics and vaccines, and plants can do it to resist diseases and climate changes, then we can, too.
I am sure that Linnea's presence in the hospital also changed Rachel's chemistry, and her body responded to the peace and love her baby brought her. I have seen this many times in the ICU when pets are brought in to say good-bye and the patient's condition improves and they survive or when a mother was allowed to hold her dying premature infant and it started suckling and survived.
As Tanya says, doubts and fears do not help, but they are often what we sense in family, while love and support help us to heal. Children and animals do that naturally. The visits of loved ones help us to heal and feel less pain.
Dolphins are intuitive and can sense what is going on in our lives and bodies. Often I hear of the profound impressions they make upon people who get close to them in the water. I had a patient of mine, Marilyn, go to Florida to die among friends who were therapists and who worked with dolphins. When Marilyn entered the water she said the dolphins knew where her cancer was and were so gentle in how they approached and treated her, and it touched her deeply. Marilyn lived for many more years because of the dolphins. Eventually, when she was ready to die and complaining about the process, I told her, "I've never had a dolphin complain about it." She died quietly that night.
Dolphins sense human needs and help people recover. I have even heard of dolphins helping people with paralyzing injuries by moving their affected limbs. I would say they sensed Paula Timpson's resistance to having a child and communicated a new feeling to her. I think this was group therapy for Paula. She found the courage she needed to move toward her joy and personal miracle. If you want wonderful things to happen in your life, do what Paula did: jump in and immerse yourself in the nature of life.
Water is itself a miracle; it plays a role in every religion. It can change from vapor to liquid to solid depending on the circumstances and is a role model for us all. We have the potential to change, too, and overcome our droughts or floods. It also shows miracles are built into the system — water being the only liquid that when frozen becomes less dense, lighter, and able to float, thus preserving life on this planet. All those wonderful creatures of the water, including the whales Christie Gorsline mentions, would die if the lakes and oceans froze from the bottom up. Instead they are protected by ice every winter.
In itself, it was a miracle for Christie and Rick to have spent three years cruising the coast of Mexico.
Cate Perry talks about control, but there is only one thing we can control: our thoughts. On the other hand, in an unhealthy way, we can try to control things, such as our eating habits and weight, in order to feel empowered. When things are eating away at us, we can become addicted to food, drugs, and alcohol as a way of numbing the pain and making us feel good in an unhealthy way, which really cannot compete with what love brings us.
Sometimes what seems like a loss of faith can become a blessing. The experiences that made Cate not believe in God also led her to the gift she did receive and her gratitude to God. We all need to be willing to look for the blessing in the problem, to take the darkness or charcoal of life and, under pressure, turn it into a diamond.
Excerpted from A Book of Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel, Andrea Hurst. Copyright © 2011 Bernie S. Siegel. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dr. Bernie Siegel, a sought-after speaker and media presence, is the author of numerous books, including the blockbuster Love, Medicine, and Miracles; Peace, Love, and Healing; and 365 Prescriptions for the Soul. He lives in Woodbridge, CT.
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