Give Yourself A Daily Retreat
The President of the United States has a permanent retreat in the
Maryland countryside called Camp David. Many remember the key achievement
of Jimmy Carter's presidency as the Camp David Accords. This was the
landmark Middle East peace agreement signed by Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat
and the Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin. These two leaders of
historically antagonistic peoples came together to make peace in the
peaceful setting of the Camp David retreat.
Every time I hear or read a reference to the Camp David Accords, I am
reminded of the place where they were brought about and how important it
is for each of us to have our own regular time of retreat and reflection.
Your own Daily Retreat will help you more than anything else I know of to
focus your energy and emotions onto your immediate task, which is to
recover from cancer and get well.
The seventh Overcoming Tool is the cornerstone of this entire book.
Giving yourself a daily retreat, fifteen minutes devoted to personal
motivation, affirmation and inspiration for your battle against cancer, is
the "how to" formula that will keep you focused on what is really
important to you. It is not enough to read this book and make a sincere
commitment to focus on the best possible outcome for you. You need a
regular, daily, organized plan for keeping your attention, energy and
emotions centered on the things you want to do, thereby eliminating from
your mind the things you don't want. This includes negative thoughts about
worst possible outcomes and other totally useless "what if" kind of
How To Do A Daily Retreat
Although we associate the idea of a retreat with a peaceful, natural
physical setting, you can take your daily retreat right in your favorite
chair. Your daily retreat is a quiet time alone that you set aside to
remind yourself of what is important to you and to affirm your decision to
focus on the best possible outcome as you begin your treatment and
recovery program. You will need just two things to get started. First, you
need a quiet place where you can sit down for a minimum of fifteen minutes
each day without interruptions or distractions. Second, you need a
notebook in which to write your affirmations and the other elements I will
be describing for you.
As tar as the place is concerned, you may already have a favorite spot
where you write letters, read or just sit quietly. If you are thinking
about choosing a new place for your retreat, think of a place where you
will not only be comfortable, but where you will be least likely to have
visitors. Early mornings and late evenings are good times, but whatever
time of day is best for you, try to have your retreat at the same time
every day. This will make it easier to schedule, especially in the first
You can use any kind of notebook that suits you. You don't have to
spend a lot of money. Just a spiral-bound school notebook is fine, but you
may want to be creative and shop for a unique size or binding style.
Personally, I use a ring-bound notebook with looseleaf pages.
One word about privacy. Keep your notebook as a private tool that you
alone have access to. You may occasionally want to write down thoughts and
ideas that you might feel uncomfortable about others seeing. So keep your
notebook tucked away "for your eyes only."
The key is understanding the process of setting goals and planning for
their attainment. Then you can best utilize the techniques of prayer,
meditation, affirmation and visualization in ways that are compatible with
your values and beliefs. You may use every technique or only one. That's
up to you.
Goals are what we are investing our life in. It is important to have
written, clear goals. You will be working with the goal of achieving the
best possible outcome to your diagnosis. To begin your Daily Retreat,
write down the best possible outcome to your diagnosis you would like
right now. This may be fluid and have some changes. That's okay.
Prayer is the word that describes our communication with God, a Higher
Power or Infinite Intelligence. Prayer, when coupled with thanksgiving,
helps us focus our thoughts about our goals and opens ways for attaining
them. Keep a list of the things in your life you are thankful for that
include people, relationships, career, physicians and accomplishments you
have made. Remembering, on a daily basis, the things we are thankful for
helps us keep perspective.
The goal of this technique is awareness. When exercised consistently
meditation also has the side benefits of peaceful feelings and relaxation.
Follow any formula you may have or this simple guide.
1. Choose a quiet place. 2. Sit comfortably. 3. Close your eyes. 4.
Relax your muscles from your head to your toes. Concentrate on each muscle
group and breathe deeply, inhaling to tense the muscles up, exhaling to
relax them. 5. Be aware of your breathing. Let it flow easily. 6. Repeat a
focus word such as God or love. Any word or phrase will do. 7. Let your
mind flow freely to thoughts of peace. As other thoughts enter your mind,
don't resist them. Practice this exercise daily. You will be amazed at how
quickly you will feel the benefits of awareness, peace and relaxation.
Don't worry if it takes time to catch on to this. Go easy on yourself.
One of the beautiful things about our unconscious mind is that it can
"hear" what we say to it. What we are doing with an affirmation is stating
clearly and exactly what we want and expect to become true in our lives.
By repeating a positive, personal affirmation to ourselves, mixed with a
growing belief and expectation of its fulfillment, we are asking our
unconscious mind to accept the reality and start its work of turning a
thought into reality. Although an affirmation may describe a condition or
quality that you desire to bring into reality in the future, it is always
stated in the present tense.
The benefits of using personal affirmations are usually felt
immediately when they are repeated with heartfelt belief. After all,
knowing where you are going is the major part of getting there. And using
affirmations is a way of assuring yourself at the deepest level that you
know where you are going with your life.
As part of your daily retreat, take a few minutes to create a mental
image, a strong picture in your mind, of two things. One, your body's
healing system at work. And two, the best possible outcome to your
diagnosis. To do this successfully you will have to be willing to use your
imagination to create a picture that represents your body's
cancer-fighting cells doing their work of destroying the cancer cells.
During the time Elizabeth had to come to grips with an impending second
surgery, I sat down with her one day and tried to explain this very
powerful technique of visualization. As usual, once she got the idea she
turned around and explained it to me in a much better way than I had her.
I reminded her that our body has special cells whose only job is fighting
disease to keep our bodies strong and healthy. "So the 'good cells' are
already inside you, and your job is to encourage them to work extra hard
to fight the 'bad cells' that have collected in your tumor," I told her. I
asked her to close her eyes and see the good cells forming a big army and
fighting her tumor.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, and I could see the look of determination on
her face as she started creating her own images in her mind. In a few
moments she opened her eyes and said, "Daddy, you were right! I can see
the little white cells. And I can see the tumor. And guess what the white
cells look like? They look just like the California Raisins!" (The
California Raisins were singing animated characters in a television
commercial that was aired a lot at the time). Elizabeth "saw" the
California Raisins working on her brain tumor. It became very real in her
mind because of the power of visual imagery that we are all born with.
Your body will be strengthened every time you sit and quietly visualize
the healing process at work and your best possible outcome. You might want
to draw some pictures in your notebook as you begin this work of making
mental pictures part of your daily retreat. As Wayne Dyer says, "When you
believe it, you'll see it." In summing up this discussion of the Daily
Retreat, I would say only this, start now and don't quit. Your Daily
Retreat is the key action step that brings together all the other
Overcoming Tools and provides you with a regular, personalized and private
time for renewing and reinforcing your commitment to focus your attention
and energy on what you have determined is best for you.