ASPECTS OF MIND, MATTER, HEALTH and HEALING
By: J. Marlando
Pros & Cons
If you asked most doctors did my illness arrive because of some mental condition and can I heal myself mentally, they would give you a look of disbelief, how could you ask such an obviously naïve, if not stupid question? The vast majority of doctors see you as the totality of your parts and not too much more or less than that; they are “machinists” in this way and have spent years in training to gain this perception of themselves and others. And so, as far as the healing process is concerned, to them, treatment and medicine are the only two remedies that work. Well, this is true...or is it? What about the baffling placebo effect? A great many of the most skeptical physicians and surgeons have witnessed what is virtually miraculous responses from patients recovering or improving on nothing but sugar pills.
Does the “sugar pill cure” discredit the potency of actual medicines? Well, of course not. But this observation works in reverse as well. Because actual medicines work in the healing process doesn’t discredit the mind as being a strong healer too. Indeed, William James told us that, “…it will be safe to lay down the general law that no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied by a physical change.” And on this same token, the ancient sage, Rumi, told us that, “Every thought has a paralleled action. Every prayer has a sound and a physical form.”
How strong is the mind?
Most of us are well aware that there are yogis and other masters of the meditative arts have all sorts of uncanny power over their bodies. *Dr. Bernie Siegel, the internationally renowned cancer surgeon and lecturer tells us about a yogi trained swami who can change his heart rate from thirty to three hundred beats a minute. And, he adds, that such feats are not confined to Indian mystics, or even our species. Dolphins that do not want to have their blood drawn for experimental purposes, can redirect their blood flow and do. Only in the past few decades has a portion of science turned to studying this kind of phenomenon but then there are open minded researches, surgeons and other physicians such as Bernie Siegel who recognize that the reductionist’s view lack insight. Indeed, Dr. Siegel tells us:
The more I see the working of our universe,
the more mystical I become. I’m not mystical
in spite of being a surgeon, I’m mystical
because I’m a surgeon. I watch miracles
Speaking of those who have been willing to risk their careers by speaking publicly on topics that their professions consider taboo—such as using the term “miracles,” **Candice Pert, a leading neuroscientists, said I can’t relate to the mind/body dichotomy anymore, is your consciousness in your head? No, it’s in your whole body. I no longer believe in disease at all. Disease is a hundred percent mental. It’s just your brain state being reflected in your body.
To great and growing numbers of many modern quantum physicists there are two aspects to all matter, a microcosm and macrocosm or in other words, an inside and outside. In fact, the old ***Confucian master, Wang Shihuai said that The Universe is all mind and all matter and this grounds the rejection of those scientists who say that “mind is an epiphenomenon” as being valid. Nevertheless, this is exactly why so many scientists, doctors, scholars and other intellectuals reject the idea of life after life and the mystical powers of our minds—the term “epiphenomenon” most basically means “an extension of” or “component of” and looking at mind this way, as being a mere function of the physical brain, it simply dies when the brain dies—no hereafter, nothing spiritual just the final decay of our physical parts.
I bring this up because such individuals absolutely deny even the possibility of mind—call it consciousness—having any actual healing impact on us whatsoever. In this way, we are likened to mere gene machines by them; not much more than robots following genetic dictates between cradle and grave. The existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre summarizes this view held by so many in the scientific and medical fields in one grim statement: “Everything that exists is born for no reason, carries on living though weakness, and dies by accident.”
With the above said what we have so far revealed are the pros and cons of our minds having healing powers over our bodies. For some, the thought of mind making actual physical changes is nothing other than voodoo science and spiritual nonsense while, for others, it is apparent and absolute. As for this writer, I have seen far too much evidence of the incredible power of the mind to be at all skeptical much less a disbeliever.
Shamanic Healing Power & Other Phenomena of Mind/Brain Power
****E. Fuller Torrey tells us about the healing process of the Native American. For example, the Navaho Medicine man (or woman) would stand over the sick person “proclaiming over and over that the person is getting well, and this idea is repeated in songs, powers and prayers, hour after hour throughout the length of the ceremony. An example of the verbiage is shown below:
“Today you must make me well.”
“All the things that have harmed me will leave.”
“I will walk with a cool body after they have left me.”
“Inside of me today all will be well, all fever will have
Come out of me, and leave my head cool.”
“I will hear today. I will see today. I will be in my right mind.”
And so forth…
When we attempt to look at this healing process objectively, what is really happening is that the sick person’s brain is being indoctrinated with positive, healthy affirmations. Once the brain believes that the person is getting well, it creates and releases the proper healing chemicals which will attach to the immune system.
This of course can work in reverse—if a person constantly tells him or herself that he or she is not feeling well or is sick the brain will sooner or later believe this and act accordingly. This returns me to a saying that I quote so often. It’s what old Henry Ford told us about our lives: If you think you c an or if you think you can’t, you are right!
What actually would be more accurate perhaps is to offer that whatever you tell yourself that you can do or whenever you tell yourself that you can’t do you, you will eventually prove to be right. *****Dr. Paul Pearsall tells us that we cannot only tell our brains what to think but how to think. The implication most vital to us here, however, is that we are NOT our brains. There is an “I” of us (call it soul, consciousness or mind) that is doing the telling. In this way, our connectedness to the physical brain is symbolically likened our connectedness to our computers—what we put in, we get out through the software we install. The brain then, if you will, is to translate and transfer information that it receives. In this light it is not difficult at all to conceive ourselves as, if you will, the ghost in the machine. A concept, by the way, that the reductionists, in their intellectual snobbery, have been rejecting at least since 1949 and Gilbert Ryle’s book, “The Concept of Mind” in 1949.
As a quick aside, this is exactly why I am so against
doctors telling their patients that they have terminal
diseases. Doctors in our society are authority figures
and our brains are indoctrinated to believe anything
that authority tells us. When Doc says, sorry, you have
this deadly condition and are probably not going to last
more than a year or five, the patient’s brain accepts this
as truth, for one reason, because now the patient is saying,
Gosh, I am seriously ill and am not going to make it.
A few years back I was extremely ill and the doctor went
to my wife and told her that I had a very short time to
live and that she should gather the relatives. My wife told
the doctor, “My husband has a very strong mind, I do NOT
want you to tell him he’s going to die. I want you to tell
him every time you see him how much better he’s getting
and that he is getting well.”
The doctor followed her instruction and here I am, years
later, typing out the words on this paper.
I have no doubt whatsoever, had the doctor told me how
seriously I was, instead of writing this article today, I would
have long ago been, if you will, pushing up daisies. (Thank you
Rhoda, you’re a lifesaver).
The idea is that our brains, marvelous as they are, are susceptible to what they are told .You can test all this for yourself. Take a task or even a person that you simply dislike and put the image of that person into your mindscape and say to him or her silently to yourself, I love you and see what happens after a few hours or a day or two. If that is too much for you, however, fix a bowl of something to eat and look at it saying, oh, this is sickening…say this to yourself just a few times—and mean it—and see how you feel when you try and chew and swallow the stuff. Or just look out your window today no matter what mood you’ve been in and say, “Wow, everything feels so happy today,” and again, see what happens. In this awareness, I am fully convinced that it is not our brains that give us deep depression, fear or unhappiness or happiness, for that matter, but rather it is what the “I” of us decides what a situation is and tells the brain on one level of consciousness or another, and the brain remaps itself to, most basically, fit the projection you’ve given a thing, person or situation. As part of the remapping it releases its psychochemicals to deliver what you have told it is real—I’m in pain—it delivers a painkiller...I’m angry—it delivers the chemicals of flight or fight…I’m in love…well, there are few “happy” endorphins delivered for that. The list continues from I’m unhappy to I’m overjoyed. The point is that you are the captain at the helm of your own wellbeing. What we need to know most about this, is told us by Dr. Paul Pearsall, mentioned earlier. He says:
The right highs and lows that the endorphins
produce are actually related to alterations in
the way the brains pays attention to its world
and what we tell our brains to pay attention to.
When you compare this modern-day projection with the old ways of the American Indian’s healing system, you cannot help but discover alikeness: Both are talking about instructing the brain to perform its “magic,” its miracles, if you will.
There has of course been shamans or holy men/women (medicine people and so healers) long before the advent of civilization. The healing rituals of the Native Americans may have been passed down through millenniums. The Siberian Tungus shaman is perhaps the best known to represent the image of the mystical healer worldwide. In the drawing, he holds his drum and rattle, wearing deer horns and fur skirt of a sort in a dancer’s role. But from the Indians of North and South America, to the plains and jungles of Africa to the barren lands of Australia shamans continue to heal the sick through their songs and rituals in the same way their ancestors did. And while the rituals, prayers, songs and dances can differ from place to place, even from tribe to tribe, they are probably all variations of extremely ancient teachings. After all, a close analysis of even the cave painting seem to reveal both ritual and shamanism. What nearly all shamanism has in common is that shamans become messengers between the human and spiritual world. And so nearly all shamans enter what is called deep trance in order to suspend themselves between this world and the other.
Most people today scoff of such primitive thinking and magico-religious practices and so, in a way, penicillin and Prozac has replaced prayer and ritual in the so-called civilized mind. Yet, might it not be true that these four healing factors are complimentary as opposed to conflicting?
The famous physicist, ******Fred Alan Wolf, journeyed deep into the jungle to meet a well-known Peruvian shaman. During his visit with the shaman he came to recognize that the fundamental gift they had seemed to be vibration, truth and power. He says, “Through vibration, entrainment with the patient, a shaman was able to feel the truth of a person’s illness. It was only then that he realized there was a forth factor…love! He says, “I had certainly felt the love of all shamans I had undergone ceremonies with. I was beginning to realize that, through love, a patient was able to heal by incorporating into himself recognition of his separate parts. Was there a connection between vibration and love? I then suspected that love was a form of vibrational energy and that there was indeed a ‘physics of love’ that the shaman had mastered.
I need to digress again because of a most intriguing and thought-provoking observation that this same physicist makes. He tells us:
…Truth and love gave the shaman power. But what
about the patient? What kept a person in a
chronic state of illness? I saw the ill body as
composed of separate parts surrounded by walls.
Somehow those parts were not being recognized in
the body. Through some form of self-destruction urge,
hate, or avoidance, these separate parts would not
communicate with each other. They would be out of
vibrational synchronization. If they could get back in
sync, this recognition would enable the illness of the
part to be healed. The whole body would then be able
to communicate in vibrational resonance with the ill part.
This is when the healing occurred, an act of love.
What if we agree or disagree with Fred Alan Wolf’s observation, Love nevertheless seems to play a very major role in both good health and healing. We’ll talk about love and healing next.
Love: the Health and Recovery Factor
I forget the year but I believe it was back in the very early 1990s that I first saw Doctor Bernie Siegel. He was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and talking about the importance of love in healing. I didn’t realize it then but that appearance took great courage for him as a surgeon because he was risking being scoffed at and/or being alienated by the medical profession as being…well, a nut case. That is, how dare he suggest that anything else but science is involved in good health and recovery? Siegel after all was bordering on the mystical and that was an embarrassment to the objective community of medicine.
Bernie Siegel didn’t care—he announced that “love is physiologic” anyway and then set out to explain why. For one thing, he said:
Psychologists have shown that the effects of love
on the body can be measured: An unloved infant
will have retarded bone growth and may even
die; a stroked infant grow faster. The effects of
peace of mind are measurable too: People who
meditated, as well as those who confided traumatic
experiences to diaries rather than repressing them,
were shown to have enhanced immune function. Love
and peace of mind do protect us. They allow us to
overcome the problems that life hands us. They
teach us to survive…to live now…to have the courage
to confront each day and utilize our pain and
suffering as motivators and redirectors.
Bernie Siegel had spent his professional career treating seriously ill patients—cancer patients! He would often hold their hands, tell them that they were loved and “talk to their bodies and to their diseases.” The doctor simply did a lot of new and unheard and techniques when treating patients. He even played music while he operated on them and talked to them while they were under anesthesia. In the end, he was victorious as other doctors began using his methods—even going so far as having their patients write letters to their diseases—as part of the healing process. Like Bernie they even begin seeing—at least now and then—a spontaneous remission of some otherwise terrifying disease.
As soon as the Oprah show was off I ran out and purchased Bernie’s two books, “Love, Medicine & Miracles” and Peace, Love and Healing.” I was fascinated by both and they remain in my library today to be read every now and again. In any case, in the later 1990s I was working as a writer for a magazine in San Diego, California and wrote Dr. Siegel for an interview. I was fortunate enough to interview him twice during the closing years of that decade. In any case, one of his most vital messages is that, “Communications to the inner self take many forms. Our feelings are our primary means of communications with the inner self. Feelings aroused by the touch of someone’s hand, the sound of music the smell of a flower, a beautiful sunset, a work of art, love, laughter, hope and faith—all work on both the unconscious and the conscious aspects of the self, and they have physiological consequences as well.”
In regard to the above, Dr. Siegel often refers to our “sixth sense” as being a factor of our self-healing systems. When we live in fear, hate, deep anxieties and/or anger we are repressing our love. When our love is repressed, our immune systems weaken and we become more vulnerable to pain and disease. People, for example, who are living through hard times, can be most apt to suffer pain and discomfort in their lives. Their immune systems are working so hard against the malignancies of hatefulness that other diseases and unhealthy conditions simply go unattended. But what are the messages that they commonly give to their bodies? And the answer is, illness and pain affirmations such as:
I just get so tired of struggle, I have no energy.
I’m just “sick” of living like this.
It’s just so painful to live like this.
I’m just unhappy and miserable.
I just as soon die.
The list goes on but the point is that such statements, when said time and time again, become instructional to the brain and the brain starts delivering the chemicals to manifest the conditions that actually create the conditions that the metaphors are suggesting.
In some cases the brain will act immediately. I call this the hair-on-the-butter syndrome. A person sits down at the dinner table anxious to enjoy a good meal. Then he or she sees a hair on the butter and being quite sensitive, the sight makes him or her feel a flash of upset. Someone at the table removes the hair and so the upset person carefully takes a slice of butter for his or her bread far away from where the hair had been. Nevertheless, when he or she bites into the buttered bread, he or she can hardly swallow it and feels a flash of nausea. His or her brain has created the entire cube “sickening” when in actuality the butter is just fine.
Our brains simply create the realities that we live in from our prejudices. When we tell it that we like something or don’t like something we will actually see it in the light that we’ve projected it to be….a likable or unlikable person, place or thing. You can change your reality, however, by simply changing your mind. If you are angry at someone right now—say to them (silently to yourself) I love you a few times, mean it, and see what happens. All your hatefulness and bitterness will go away and be replaced by more positive and so “healthier” feelings. Those positive feelings will have an actual physiological impact on your mind/body’s well-being.
When you are sick, recall the medicine man’s words and repeat them—all things that harm me will leave. Say this often throughout your day, talk to your body!
When you are well, tell yourself how happy and loving you are. Say this often throughout your day, talk to your body.
When we have brilliant minds such as Bernie S. Siegel, Paul Pearsall, Candace Pert, Fred Alan Wolf along with the ancient wisdom of indigenous people and many others telling us that what is said to us and what we say to ourselves has impact on our health and happiness, we need to listen. We need to begin what I call, “exercising our good health.” And what is meant by this is to change our self-dialogue to loving and happy projections and to break the habit of giving ourselves negative and unhappy input. Remember, part of the function of our brains is to interpret the world as each of us decide that it is—if you tell your brain that the hair on the butter is sickening, your brain will supply you with the chemicals that will physicalize your rejection of it. If you tell your body that your disease is “killing you,” your brain may give you devastating pain or…something far more…deadly.
If you want to do all that you can to best avoid illness? Walk in love today.
Begin your day by first loving you because you cannot give what you do not have.
Begin your day by first loving you because you can only love your world to the extent that you love yourself.
Begin your day by first loving you because you can’t love others unless you do.
Practice your joy.
Let love into your life today by consciously opening yourself to deep appreciation for living life; permit yourself to see the beauty and calm of the tree outside your window and all that you greet along your daily path.
Make it your habit to tell even your house plants that you love them and you will begin to experience a joyful oneness that perhaps you’ve never experienced before.
And with all this in mind, remember that no matter what you can always…walk in love after all, as it has been spoken…love heals!
References & suggested reading
*Peace, Love & Healing*Bernie S. Siegel*Harper & Row
**The Three-Pound Universe* Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi*G.P. Putman’s sons
***Letters to Vanessa*Jeremy W. Hayward*Shambhala
****Witch-doctors and Psychiatrists* E. Fuller Torrey*Harper @ Row
*****The Eagle’s Nest*Fred Alan Wolf*Touchstone
The Way of the Spirit* A Time-Life publication
A New Day in Healing*Valarie Seeman Moreton*Kalos Publications