Dr David Hamilton and visualisation

I’d had a bad day at work on the Tuesday, and although everyone had been absolutely lovely and really supportive I felt a little exposed sitting in our open plan office. I’d agreed with HR that it would be okay to communicate to the people I work with what was going on with me as they’d obviously wonder why I wouldn’t be at work. Plus I thought if it raised awareness with those I work with and their friends and families it would at least do some good. It felt like people were staring at – even though they weren’t – they were far too busy getting on with their jobs.

I’d taken myself off to the loo and just happened to walk past a pregnant lady in the corridor and it completely set me off. I spent the next 10 minutes sobbing uncontrollably in the toilet cubicle. Would that ever be me? It was all I had been thinking and dreaming of over recent months, waiting in anticipation and hoping for that little sign to appear in the pregnancy test month after month. I managed to pull myself together and hurried back to my desk to collect my things – I needed to be at home. A colleague followed me out to the car park and I explained what had set me off, and she gave me a big hug.

I’d arranged to have the visualisation session at my yoga teacher’s house that evening and as I pulled up in her driveway I admired the view she had at the front over the beautiful rolling fields. As she opened the door and welcomed me into her home, I commented on how beautiful her house was and what a lovely view she had. She then showed me through to the back of the house where an even more beautiful view could be seen – it looked out over the fields and to the Windmill in the distance. Wow, it was stunning, imagine waking up every day to see that!

She took me through to what she called her “spiritual room” which was also just amazing, adorned with Buddha pictures and ornaments, crystals and beautiful paintings. What a peaceful, serene and idyllic place to live.

I explained to Julie where I was in terms of the biopsy results and the initial prognosis. She was very positive about the fact that nothing had shown up in the lymph nodes. She told me that her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39 and had five lymph nodes removed, and now at the age of 56 she continues to be absolutely fine.

Julie already knew we’d been trying to start a family as I’d told her this when we started yoga at the beginning of the year (having read that yoga could be good for fertility). She asked if we would continue to try or if any IVF would be involved. When I said we would be doing IVF she sympathised with the fact that I’d be dealing with both things at once and how emotional that would be.

She asked if I was planning to continue working throughout all of this, which I said I was planning to take time out to have the treatment and how lucky I was that work had been so supportive of me. She brought up the few times that I’d texted her in the weeks before to say I couldn’t make it to yoga (due to work commitments) and had detected there was an element of stress going on there. Julie said she thought it was incredibly important to devote this time to myself.

She talked about David Hamilton’s Placebo School and that when people are told something, that their belief system quite often determines the outcome. She gave me an example saying ‘Just take these pills and they’ll make you feel better (and they are the real tablets).’ She then said ‘Or if I was to say okay Allie, I’m giving you these pills, and I had a white coat on and was looking you in the eye, saying these are the pills that you need to really get better.’  Julie said that the way we process that information and the way that we deal with it has an affect on the outcome. It’s a bit of an overused phrase but ‘it’s mind over matter’, she said and how very empowering it is to believe that we can take control over what’s happening in our bodies.

She then gave examples of how it had directly helped her – she’d once had a bad abyss in her mouth which meant she’d probably need a tooth out, and she’d also had a bursitis and the doctor wanted to give her steroids. Both times she went away and focused on visualising those parts of her body getting better and healthy and both times it had worked. ‘Never underestimate the power of your mind, in visualisation and relaxation it’s all about tuning into your body and getting connected with that.’ Not quite curing cancer I thought – but I’m definitely up for giving this a go!

She said we’d go through to her office to watch some videos by David Hamilton on the Placebo School and then we’d devise a strategy together. ‘It’s important that it comes from you, it’s no good me telling you what to visualise’. Julie emphasised that it needed to become part of a routine – apparently some people do it for 40 minutes at the beginning of the day, some people do it for 40 seconds 10 times a day. ‘It’s about having that continuous awareness, but you need to make it a daily habit – a habit then becomes a practice.’ It takes 40 days apparently to change the neural programming of our brains – the brain doesn’t die and get old, it keeps forming neural pathways, so we can continue learn to do new things.

After watching a few of the Placebo School lessons by David Hamilton we discussed what my visualisation would look like. In some of the examples some people had been kind to their cancer, thanking it for coming to their body but that it was time for it to go. I wasn’t in that mind-set at all, I definitely wasn’t thankful for cancer inhabiting my body. I eventually chose to focus on colours, visualising a bright white healing light shining through the crown of my head with the colour of the cancer cells being dark and the bright light blasting these black cells away changing them to healthy pink and green.

Julie then took me through a physical visualisation and relaxation session in her spiritual room – I came round feeling calm and much more relaxed.  We also developed an affirmation (a positive statement set in the now) about my state of health and wellbeing.

I left her house that evening feeling relaxed and empowered that I could use my mind to have a positive effect on my body and my health.

Laughter yoga youz

Pats and I had started going to yoga classes earlier on this year. The lady who teaches is called Julie and is such a lovely lady. From just the few yoga classes that we’d been to I’d really warmed to her personality. She is a really vibrant character (but not in an over the top way), full of the joys of life and has lots of energy, enthusiasm and positivity.

I love my job and am continually challenged which means there’s never a dull moment, but the flip side of that is it can also be really quite stressful. I often work to short timescale/multiple deadlines that can include working late in the evenings and at weekends which often leaves me feeling frazzled. Julie always speaks of positivity, kindness, gratitude and peace in her classes and I’d always left there feeling more relaxed and revived in both body and in mind.

She had previously talked about a laughter yoga class that she also takes. I had been quite curious about this, but so far hadn’t made it to one of the sessions. I received an email in my in-box about a session that she was holding that coming Saturday and I thought – sod it I’m going to give this a go!

In the week prior to this session I’d emailed Julie to say we wouldn’t be at the usual yoga class that Thursday and also explained what was going on with me. She suggested I read a book by Dr David Hamilton called How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body. She said she’d had one-to-one coaching with David and recommended I try a visualisation/relaxation session with her that she said would help.

The laughter yoga class itself was held at a workshop in the back of a spiritual type shop that sold crystals, angel cards and lots of Native American wears. A circle of chairs were formed and quite a few ladies were sat together chatting – some seemed to know each other already. I sat on my chair and smiled shyly at anyone who caught my eye.

Julie started off with a couple of games to get us up onto our feet, swapping seats with each other to get the energy levels up in the room. After we’d all swapped seats and were sat in a different one to the one we’d started, she asked us to start chatting to the person on our left about the things we love to find something in common with each other. I was sat next to a much older lady, and felt a bit silly to start with, but then somehow we got onto the subject of Malaysia. She told me she used to live there with her husband and her two children were born there. I said my Dad had lived there as a young boy and also Pats and I had visited there on our travels around the world.

Julie then went on to explain the benefits of laughter yoga in that it increases the oxygen into your body and provides a good massage to all internal organs. It is scientifically proven that laughter yoga does you good and apparently cardiac departments in hospitals use it for their patients. It releases a rush of stress-busting endorphins to instantly boost your mood and activates the body’s natural relaxation response. She said that even just changing your facial expression from a frown or glum look to a smile changes your mood. It’s hard to believe?!  Try it now. How do you feel?!

We got into some other exercises that involved interacting with each other and pulling faces and laughing in certain ways. I was massively out of my comfort zone and felt really self conscious, however I was open to it and found it amusing doing these random things with people I’d never met before. My eyes had started watering a little from chuckling in some of the silly exercises, but as we got into one exercise all of a sudden I could feel tears beginning to well up. Oh no, not here in front of all these strangers. This was supposed to be funny I thought to myself but I felt quite weepy, a bit silly and rather vulnerable and exposed.

Julie, had been keeping a kind and watchful eye on me during that session, helping engage me in the activities, and had spotted my tears beginning to fall. ‘Take yourself off for a few minutes Allie and get some water’, she quietly said. I made my way rather embarrassingly through the class and went to a quiet room at the back and sobbed. A few minutes later a really nice woman, who was also called Allison, came out the back and gave me some water and checked that I was ok. How lovely I thought to myself, she didn’t have to do that. After a few more minutes I’d managed to compose myself and re-joined the class with a kind and loving nod from Julie.

I carried on with the remainder of the session which culminated in us all laying on the floor laughing together non-stop for five minutes. Some people will think this is utterly bonkers, I must admit it did feel slightly odd at first! But I laughed and laughed and the more I laughed at the fact that I was lying here on the floor with complete strangers who were also genuinely laughing, I laughed even more! I had to keep wiping away the tears that were streaming out of the side of my eyes – these weren’t sad tears though!  Some people experimented with different kind of laughs which made others laugh more – it was very infectious and felt like a huge release. laughter-yoga At the end of the class I managed to catch Julie for a quick chat before heading off.  She said it was good that I’d had a cry as I obviously needed to release my pent-up emotions. She also said she had something good planned for the visualisation session that coming Tuesday. Click here to read more about Julie and her laughter yoga.