Monday, March 26, 2007

Bodymind, Heal Thyself

This article appeared in the magazine Living Nutrition (now called Vibrance), which espouses the holistic health approach called Natural Hygiene. In the past, Natural Hygiene has been mostly focused on the physical aspects of health and healing, but it is now incorporating the aspects of consciousness--our thoughts and emotions.

"Living Nutrition" does not refer solely to the fresh raw fruits and vegetables that bring living energy to our physical bodies. As well, it refers to the words we use, the thoughts we think, spoken or silent. "Words are alive," wrote Emerson, "cut them and they bleed." Yes, words are alive, the energies of our thoughts attract corresponding energies, and our "mental diet" is as important as the food we chew (or eschew).

The science of quantum physics has discovered that "reality" is an illusion created by observation and/or consciousness. The double-blind procedure in scientific experimentation was developed as a result of the quantum understanding that there is no such thing as an observer who is completely independent of that which is observed; the expectations of the researcher have a definite outcome on the findings of the experiment. The same can be said of the person on the street, whose life, whether he knows it or not, is his own experiment.

The implications of this, where our health is concerned, should be clear. For example, a friend was telling me about her mother's recent surgery for her arthritis. She mentioned the slight arthritis she herself had in her knee; she was certain she was headed down the same path as her mother. When I told her that her expectations of this would only make it more likely that it would actually happen, because of the power of our thoughts and beliefs, she was unconvinced. She had, unfortunately, completely accepted both on conscious and subconscious levels that arthritis was an inevitable part of aging. The idea that we will deteriorate physically and mentally as we age is accepted by most people in our society, and by the same principle of belief and "reality" creation, most are proven right in their own experience.

It isn't easy to break through concepts and beliefs that have crystallized over time, but with patience, persistence, and a strong desire to change, it can be done. By changing our thoughts and beliefs from negative and destructive to positive and uplifting, we can bring about beneficial changes in ourselves and in our experience.

This doesn't mean that we're "to blame" for any of our experiences, which we've attracted to ourselves for a reason--perhaps simply so that we can recognize we want something different for ourselves. Ask yourself, "Why have I drawn this condition into my life?" (This can refer to any aspect of your experience.) For example, where a physical problem is concerned, we need to look within to discern the thought processes and beliefs behind the symptom(s), for without this understanding, we may simply exchange one dis-ease for another. Of course, this in no way precludes looking at our health practices, the factors of diet and exercise. An orientation to health should naturally be accompanied by a common-sense awareness of these factors–-an example of the Biblical wisdom, "Faith without works is dead."

We must also recognize that people often consciously or unconsciously choose to
be sick, for reasons of their own--witness the child who doesn't want to go to school, and in play-acting an illness, may find he can actually produce the symptoms. Similarly, many become sick to get love and attention, or to punish themselves, or simply to get some time out, some much-needed rest. Wordsworth's poem, "The World Is Too Much With Us," says it all. In this case, our challenge may be to create enough time and space for self-nurturing, in whatever way that works for us, so that we don't need illness as an escape hatch.

We shouldn't deny or fight any of our thoughts or feelings, but become aware of them nonjudgmentally, releasing them in whatever way we can. In the case of anger, for example, pummeling a pillow, or writing an angry letter and then throwing it away, can often dissipate our hostile energy. We hurt ourselves much more than the person we're mad at when we persist in nursing grievances, or when we hold a long-continued pattern of thinking negatively--although we can allow for the occasional "dark thought," like the occasional dietary lapse. True health involves paying attention to what is going on within us and what we are feeling on physical, mental and emotional levels.

Martin Seligman, Ph.D., in his book, Learned Optimism, describes the pessimistic and optimistic approaches to life, which he dubs "explanatory styles." He concludes that optimism is linked to better overall functioning, better health, and longevity, as compared to pessimism, which is linked to "learned helplessness," (a "what's-the-use" attitude based on past disappointments), self-blame, and, not surprisingly, depression. It's possible, however, with cognitive therapy, to change mental patterns from pessimism to optimism. Seligman describes a two-year study of forty patients with melanoma and colon cancer, in which it was shown that cognitive therapy, accompanied by relaxation training, was effective in boosting the immune system. T-cells went way up in these patients, and not at all in a control group.

Despite the evidence of such studies, many scientists and doctors cling to the materialist worldview. In the mechanistic approach of most allopathic medicine, the body is seen as an aggregate of parts, without taking into consideraton the workings of the whole or the influence of consciousness. Going to the other extreme, some systems of thought assert that the body is totally under the control of the mind, negating the importance of such things as diet and exercise.

The power of one's thoughts to influence the course of illness is graphically demonstrated in the well-known "placebo effect." One's belief in the agent of healing, which may be a simple sugar or bread pill, has the power to stimulate the healing processes of the body. An amazing example is related by Deepak Chopra in his book Quantum Health. Patients suffering from nausea were given a pill they were told was a powerful anti-nausea drug. The patients experienced relief from the pill, which actually was a nausea-inducing drug.

Most people have probably heard the old saw: "Every day, in every way, I am getting better, and better, and better." Don't dismiss the power of this seemingly innocuous statement! At the beginning of this century, Dr. Emile Coue, who originated the saying, prescribed it to his patients, advising them to repeat the words aloud five times a day. According to Dr. Paavo Airola, in his book Worldwide Secrets Of Staying Young, the prescription worked, as they did get better, and better, and better. Reportedly, thousands of people who used this method overcame a wide variety of illnesses.

I'd like to conclude this article with a true story of the healing powers of the mind. At age 22, Mitchell May suffered massive injuries in an accident. He was told by doctors that his right leg would have to be amputated, as they considered that it would never be usable again. The was extensive loss of bone and muscle, the nerve loss was, they said, impossible to regenerate, and the leg was dangerously infected. However, Mitchell, following his inner guidance despite incredible pain, refused to go that route. Doctors were so opposed to his decision, they nearly obtained a court order for an amputation.

A healer, Jack Gray, began working with Mitchell to reprogram his subconscious mind so that he would no longer feel pain from his injuries, thus enabling his body to focus its energies on healing. Soon, Mitchell found he could control whether or not he experienced pain. Jack also worked on opening him to his self-healing abilities.

What happened over the next few months was considered medically impossible: the missing bone, nerves, bone marrow, and most of the muscle in the leg regenerated. Ultimately, Mitchell was completely healed of his injuries.

Again, there are many facets to health and healing, and they all work together. Our mental diets are just one aspect of the whole. Raising our awareness in this area has a synergistic effect, naturally leading us to greater awareness of our needs in other areas, such as exercise, diet, breathing, and fulfillment of our highest goals and life purpose. But, to paraphrase a familiar saying: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single mental/emotional step."

"Every day, in every way..."

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