Since 1978, Dr. Bernie Siegel has been reaching out to international audiences on the issue of patient empowerment, and the choice to live fully and die in peace. A seasoned physician, his philosophy of living and dying stands at the forefront of the medical, ethical, and spiritual issues we have about our health and mortality.
In May 2011, he was honored by the Watkins Review of London, England, as one of the top 20 spiritually influential living people on the planet. He continues to break new ground in the field of healing, supporting changes in medical education to humanize medical practice.
His 12th and latest book, A Book of Miracles: Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Love, affirms his trust in miracles and bolsters his belief that providing more love is a true path to healing. He certainly has a lifetime’s worth of wisdom and experience to share with us.
Ric Thompson: Let’s get right into this. Can you give us some background on the story behind your whole journey that’s gone on for decades of trusting in love and miracles and the power of that?
Bernie Siegel: I always say what started it is a quote from a young woman with breast cancer. I attended a meeting run by Carl Simonton, a weekend workshop, thinking it was for doctors because it had to do with helping cancer patients and empowering them. There were no doctors there except me. There were 125 people, and I was the only doctor.
I was sitting with my patients. I’ll always remember her turning to me and saying, You’re a nice guy. I feel better when I’m in the office with you, but I can’t take you home with me. I need to know how to live between office visits. For me, that was a way of no longer feeling like I was failing people when I couldn’t keep them alive forever and cure everything.
We started our support groups in 1978. To underline it all, what you realize is when you help people to live, they don’t die when they’re supposed to. It extends their life. Yesterday in USA Today I read Happy People Live Longer. Wow. You needed to do research on that one? I was reading something today by a hypnotherapist talking about Carl Jung.
When people found faith, that’s when the healing happened. You don’t hear those things in medical school about love, hope, and faith. You’re blaming your patient if you talk about what’s going on in their life, and you’ll give them false hope. That was always a big thing with me. Other doctors would say, You’re blaming your patients, and you’re giving them false hope.
I said, Hope isn’t false. It’s our potential. That’s the word that came to me a few years ago by a politician friend, Rosa DeLauro, who’s in congress. We were both speaking at a meeting, and she’s had cancer. I said, I can’t take politics because whether it’s in the hospital or our town, people know me, and I get elected, and then I go nuts. You sit on committees, and nothing happens. You want to do something good for the community, and it takes so long. You get frustrated.
She said, Bernie, it’s the potential. There are things that have taken me three to five years to get passed, but they are passed now, and we’re doing some good. When I heard that word, I thought, Here’s a decent soul. She’s the kind of politician I wish everybody was. What’s our potential? How can we help people? I saw that in patients. You’re not a statistic.
The other thing that’s crazy is I hear this so often from people who are doing well. What does the doctor say to them? You’re doing very well. Whatever it is, keep it up. Why doesn’t the doctor say, What are you doing? Let me tell another patient? You say to somebody, You’re doing very well. Keep it up. Why don’t you ask, What are you doing? What’s going on in your life?
That’s the other thing I found: every patient had a unique story about the changes they brought into their life. I summarize it now with a simple sentence: love your life and love your body, and some wonderful things can happen. When the body gets the message, You love living? it says, Let me see what I can do for you. There are no coincidences. Yesterday I had a crazy day where some things were cancelled, so I ran out to go shopping.
Carl Jung said this very clearly. The future is unconsciously prepared long in advance. Or as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross always used to say to me, Bernie, there are no coincidences. I went to one Stop & Shop because I had stopped in that neighborhood for something else. I was totally confused because everything was put in different places than the one I’m used to.
I just left and went back to my Stop & Shop. That’s where I met two people I have known who are dealing with cancer. One of them looked terrific. I’d been worrying about her because I hadn’t heard from her in a long time. She said, I’m glad to be alive. She has shifted from focusing on the disease. As Mother Teresa said, I won’t attend an anti-war rally, but if you ever have a peace rally, call me.
She’s now enjoying life and working on her life and not just opposing the disease, which is a very different focus. It doesn’t feel good, and it empowers your disease and wears you out.
Ric Thompson: That’s a great quote: love your life, and love your body. Obviously, that ties into the whole thing about more love is the path to healing. In my personal opinion, I think that makes a lot of sense. People get that. It’s a shame that western medicine doesn’t really bring that up more into our community and environment. Now your new book talks about flat-out miracles. To me, that seems like an escalation. That’s a big step up, going from simply saying more love to a book of miracles. What is a miracle?
Want to learn more? This article was just a small portion of an hour-long interview. If you want to get the full interview, visit http://www.healthywealthynwise.com/elite.asp.