At that, my body went on red alert. My chest began to pound and I trembled all over. I was still lying under an afghan in Bob's office, but I was really somewhere else—someplace very dangerous, and I didn't know where or why. I told Bob what was happening. "What should I do now?" I asked him anxiously.

His response was simple: "Ask your inner adviser what you should do."

When I did, the man told me to put my hand on my heart. It helped a little. He then told me, very calmly, that he loved me.

"Come on," I snapped. "You tell everybody that."

"It's true," he admitted. "But that doesn't change anything." He paused, considering me through his grave brown eyes. "Just so you know, I love you without you having to do anything."

Tears sprang to my eyes. I could tell that he meant it. I also knew—don't ask me how—that what this inner adviser had come to tell me had nothing to do with formal religion. His message to me was more primal, more vital than that. I felt my body begin to quiet down. And I realized then that I had a request.

"Look," I said, "I'm having a lot of trouble dealing with you as—you know. It would really help if I could give you a new name." He looked receptive, so I plunged ahead. "Can I call you Jack?"

When I looked at the man in robes again, he was sporting a painter's cap and had morphed into a down-home kind of guy. My body calmed down some more; it felt, somehow, both liquid and solid at the same time. I breathed deeply, and after a little more conversation, Jack and I bid each other goodbye. I watched as he disappeared back behind the grove of trees.

What lingers is the fiercely felt experience: first, a mysterious terror and then a small opening, a toe dipped into something warm and welcoming. These still uncharted regions of self, I'll admit, make me a little nervous. But I'm intrigued, too. I want to learn more.

When I do, I suspect I'll discover that Jack and Woody, style differences notwithstanding, have a lot in common. Each of these guides, I think, is nudging me to consider the same possibility—that the world may be more trustworthy, and more generous, than I've ever dared imagine. What would happen if I allowed myself to take in this more openhearted view of life? I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem so far-fetched to imagine that this faith might seep down into my customarily clenched muscles and vigilant psyche, and begin to work some quiet medicine on my body and spirit.

It is reassuring to know that if I want to continue this interior journey, guided imagery stands ready to accompany me. After my first session with Bob, he assured me that I could get back in touch with Jack or Woody through further interactive sessions or my own, self-directed imagery. "Once you've developed a relationship with your inner guides, you can consult them anytime," Bob said. "Wherever you are, whenever you need some guidance, you can just relax, visualize one of them, and ask, 'What do I need to know about this?'"

And here, perhaps, lies the real promise of guided imagery—the power it gives us to contact the forces for healing that live within each of us, just waiting to be awakened and stirred into action. "All our lives," says Martin Rossman, "we've been told that when we have a problem, the best we can do is go to an expert and then sit on the sidelines and root for the expert to cure us." Guided imagery flips that old assumption on its head. "Imagery gets you off the bench," says Rossman. "You're back in the game."

Just imagine.


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