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Talking with Bernie Siegel

Bernie Siegel, M.D., practiced and taught surgery in Connecticut hospitals for over 30 years before he began writing books and recording audios for people with life-threatening illnesses. It was in the late 1970s that he began doing therapy groups for such patients, teaching them how to discover life and heal old personal wounds that might be making them more vulnerable to illness. “I was considered a total screwball, making people feel guilty if I asked them questions about their lives like ‘Why are you sick now?’ I’d get ‘Oh, you’re telling me it’s my fault?’”

His 1986 book, LOVE, MEDICINE AND MIRACLES, grew out of that work and touched people’s lives in a more powerful way than anything he had ever done before. “That refocused my whole life--it became about ‘let me help people live.’ You can be reborn--that’s the theme of every religion--especially when you run into a disaster. That’s when most people wake up and become strong, as Hemingway said, ‘in the broken places.’” Besides staying busy with therapy groups, speaking engagements, and efforts to humanize health care, Bernie, as he likes to be called, has written dozens of books and audios for people discovering how to love themselves and lead the fullest lives possible.

Bernie says his latest audio, LOVE, MAGIC AND MUDPIES, was created to help listeners with children be courageous with the ups and downs of parenting. “I want to help parents be in awe of life in all its wonder, but not to hesitate to dive into life and take the risk of a mud bath now and then, too.” He adds, “It’s important to stop worrying about being judged by others, so you can relax and be yourself with your children.”

Bernie’s not sure how the idea for a book/audio on parenting came about. “Once you write a book, people come to you. One person talks to another, who talks to another, and the next thing you know you’ve got somebody helping you write a book, and your life goes off in that direction.” A natural speaker, he says the time he spends recording audios goes by quickly. “I’m not bored sitting in a studio talking to a microphone. What I’m talking about comes from my life, so it’s like the people are there, and I’m reliving it.”

Bernie spoke to us from his home office overlooking a yard with bird feeders. “So I’m always close to the kitchen and my wife and what’s going on. Our pets sleep around me on the floor.” He has lived his message of compassion and optimism by taking in many abandoned pets over the years and by making sure his home is one where his five children and eight grandchildren can gather and laugh. “Love is the bricks, but what holds the bricks together is a sense of humor. Whether you have pets or a family, when you see your reason for living as your connections with them, not what work you can do today, it makes an enormous difference.”--Thomas Walken

DEC 07/JAN 08 © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine

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