Louise Hay’s legacy: you can heal your life
Until she died at the age of 90 this year, the inspirational writer, motivational speaker and spiritual teacher Louise Hay rose daily at 5.30am for a walk. She remained fit and active, and found time for painting and gardening. All her life she was an advocate for the power of positive, affirmative thinking and personal belief: she practised self-care and self-kindness right to the last.
Hay wrote the best-selling self-help book You Can Heal Your Life, which has been translated into 30 languages and sold over 35 million copies since it was first published in the 1980s. She believed that spiritual disease gives rise to physical disease, and had an exhaustive list of ailments, pinpointing the thoughts she believed were directly responsible for them. Thus, the “probable cause” of high cholesterol is a fear of accepting joy; cystic fibrosis is down to too much self-pity; Hodgkin’s disease can be down to low self-esteem; and bunions to “a lack of joy in meeting the experiences in life”.
Some of her thinking here has been supported by recent medical research: the intense stress of bereavement can trigger irregular cardiac rhythms, leading to sudden death in people with underlying conditions.
Much of Hay’s thinking seems to make sense to me as it aligns with the chakra system. In Tibetan and Hindu Buddhist teaching, we have seven bodily chakras, or energy vortexes, located in different parts of the body. Each carries different spiritual information and has an energetic impact on the organs in the area. For example, the first chakra is located in the base of the spine and relates to the connection between the body and the earth, and our survival. It thus makes sense that fear of survival, such as deep financial worries, may affect the wellbeing of the base of the spine.
Hay was molested as a child by her father and she believed that the guilt, shame and resentment eventually manifested itself as cervical cancer. She believed positive thinking and forgiveness had helped her to overcome this disease. “Love is the great miracle cure,” she said. “Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.”
During the late 1980s, she held spiritual counselling sessions for small groups of Aids sufferers – when such patients were still stigmatised – at her home in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly the weekly “Hay Rides” (as the events became known) attracted huge numbers of attendees wishing to partake in affirmative chanting, meditation, singing and physical healing techniques such as Reiki.
Hay became an icon of America’s gay community. She presided at the funerals of Aids sufferers because, she pointed out, “religions wouldn’t touch them”.
Hay was one of the pioneers of the self-help movement. Her publishing company, Hay House, has published numerous influential spiritual and self-help books. She was one of the first to suggest the idea of writing a shopping list of “cosmic ordering ” – a way of directing our unconscious mind to seek the support of the universe. The writer Richard Bach put it like this: “One of the great cosmic laws, I think, is that whatever we hold in our thought will come true in our experience. When we hold something, anything, in our thought, then somehow coincidence leads us in the direction that we’ve been wishing to lead ourselves.”
I am a firm believer of the “law of attraction” – our thoughts create our reality and our beliefs shape our experiences. Louise Hay helped us to bring power back into ourselves but also to recognise the importance of surrendering to a higher power and to co-ordinate with the universe. She changed the lives of millions, including mine.
Bruno Wang, founder of the Pureland Foundation