“On Healing” (This is Chapter 5 of my book “The Beauty and Nobility of Life”

Just as our children’s minds are not soulless mechanical devices that can be repaired or upgraded with standardized rote education, so our bodies are not merely physical machines that can be repaired or upgraded with chemicals. We are physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual beings. To be truly healthy, all aspects of our being must be functioning properly in themselves, and in a balanced, appropriate, relationship with each other and with the world.

For all our impressive and sophisticated modern knowledge, it remains true that we still have much to learn about our bodies, our hearts and minds, our species, and our planet. Meanwhile, armed with an incomplete understanding of ourselves and each other, we face the most terrifying of times. We do not know whether we shall destroy ourselves first with economic collapse, environmental collapse, infectious pandemics, race violence, religious war, or a nuclear holocaust. In the face of all this pending horror, our tendency is often not to fight for our lives with every reasonable and heroic effort we can muster: our tendency is to numb ourselves with television, the internet, drugs, pornography, and gossip – and to ignore the reasonable and the heroic, because they seem either too boring, too naïve, or both.

Two questions are at issue in this chapter: (1) what is health, and (2) what is our responsibility to our own health, to each other’s health, and to the planet’s health – because if you or I were ever to become totally, optimally, and gloriously healthy, while the whole world goes to hell around us, we would have done nothing very important.

The marketplace is filled with books, seminars, and websites, telling us what healing is and how to attain it. But all this fragmented information has become unwieldy and confusing. In the face of this, I am going to suggest a simple unified theory of healing that is based on the age-old understanding of the threefold nature of the universe: in other words, I am going to suggest an inclusive, coherent, definition of ‘Holism’. In addition to bringing some clarity to the discussion, I hope this will challenge much of the ingrained, orthodox, scientistic way of thinking about health and disease that sees illness as an invading entity that must be destroyed. When health care is concerned only with combatting disease and symptoms, it allows us to engage in the dangerous illusion that we can keep doing everything wrong – to ourselves, to each other, and to the planet – and that we will somehow “get away with it.” As long as scientists find a cure for heart disease, we can keep eating badly. As long as scientists find a cure for cancer, we can keep polluting the environment. As long as scientists find cures for stress-related illnesses, we can keep living lives filled with tension, negativity, and quiet desperation. But everything in this universe must be paid for, as devotees of Karma Yoga and fiscal conservatism both well know. No one “gets away” with anything. Because we do not remember this, we have given ourselves over to a cycle of unconscious and conscience-less self-destruction and mass destruction. Cancer, stroke, diabetes, chronic inflammatory and autoimmune syndromes, among other modern scourges, are not going away. Waiting for a magical cure is a deadly mistake. Waiting for a magical invention to save us from environmental destruction or nuclear annihilation, while we continue to damage the environment, stockpile nuclear weapons, and fill the world with hatred, is the same deadly mistake on even more terrifying levels. We make this mistake on many levels. We look for something for nothing. We forget that we have to pay. We forget that it is up to us. Either we must now take responsibility for changing the situation we are in, or it is going to be ‘lights out’. And the change has to begin with changing the way we think.

Of course, things are looking up in many ways. Today, even the most stubbornly orthodox medical practitioner will no longer deny that many, if not most, of our modern healthcare problems could be avoided, improved, and sometimes even healed, by paying better attention to diet, exercise, relaxation, and emotional happiness. Nonetheless, while we look for ways to cut medical costs and get insurance coverage for everyone without destroying the economy, it seems lost on many people that the vast majority of our healthcare problems could be dramatically improved through nothing more earth-shattering than switching to a healthy, natural diet. And this intransigence remains at work throughout society, despite the fact that eating well is not a dreary, unfair ‘punishment’. Wholesome, nutritious foods are delicious and enjoyable. Eating well means living well, with love and respect for ourselves, for each other, and for the Earth.

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The threefold idea that I mentioned above is the ancient idea that everything that comes into being has three inherent ‘forces’ or qualities: an active force, a receptive force, and a conciliating force. This simply means that something must ‘act’ (the active force), something must ‘receive’ (the receptive force), and something must mediate between them and determine the precise relationship that eventuates (the conciliating force).

Perhaps the simplest way of seeing this idea at work is in chemistry. In a basic chemical experiment, a chemical, called here a re-agent, is placed in a test tube (this represents the receptive force waiting to be acted upon). Another chemical is then added, to act upon the first one (this is called the agent, representing the active force). But nothing happens until a third force, a ‘catalyst’, is added, that arouses and guides the interaction between the agent and re-agent (the catalyst might be a third chemical, it might be heat – from placing the test tube over a Bunsen burner – or it may simply be the physical act of shaking the ingredients. In the biochemical reactions that take place within our bodies, enzymes [often vitamins] are typically the catalysts.) This universal concept can be seen in many other places as well, from the three basic components of the atom, to the Christian Trinity, to the three branches of government.

By applying this idea to the issues of disease causation and how the body heals, a lot of troubling enigmas can be simplified: Why do some people get sick while others break all the rules and remain healthy? If tobacco is a carcinogen, why do some smokers not get cancer? Why do some people practically live on candy, saturated fat, and emotional negativity, and never get ill? Why do certain measures help one patient, yet fail with another? Why do some things come back, some never go away, and others just go away for good by themselves?

The primary answer to all these questions is that we are all different, we are not merely mechanical devices that can be ‘fixed’ by following some sort of standardized medical instruction manual. But more to the point, no one thing is ever responsible for any disease. Rather, three inter-reacting factors are simultaneously necessary in every case:

 

  • There must be an Active force – that is, something detrimental must act on the body. This could be a virus, a bacterium, a poison, radiation, trauma, and so forth.

 

But these things are ceaselessly in contact with our bodies, yet we do not all continually fall sick en masse. So there has to be more to it than just this. (Needless to say, one or another of these active agents might sometimes be so overwhelming that the other forces are rendered virtually irrelevant – a massive dose of lethal radiation for instance. But this is the exception to the rule, not the general rule, and even in cases of massive poisoning or epidemic infections there is typically some small number of survivors, indicating that other factors are involved.)

 

  • There must be a Receptive force – that is, something in the body, sometimes referred to as the ‘ground’, must be already weakened or out-of-balance and thus receptive to being abnormally acted upon. For instance, it might be a gut lining inflamed because of poor nutrition, a liver weakened by long-term drug or alcohol abuse, a congenitally weak heart, or any tissue that has been overwhelmed by the degenerative effects of long-term stress.

 

But even if such an Active/Receptive combination occurs and the body takes a turn toward illness, we have massive disease-controlling abilities: the immune system, the hormonal system, the nervous system, etc., should spring into action. So if our natural healing forces do not put a stop to this, there must still be something else going on.

 

  • There must be a Conciliating force – something inside us, against all of nature’s best intentions, must inappropriately allow, or perhaps even encourage, the sickness to take hold and persist: more precisely, it must fail to prevent the body from stopping the active agent that is damaging the receptive tissue. This ‘something’ is usually most perceptible as a malfunctioning immune system. And here is the key which we will discuss at length in a moment: the strength and viability of our immunity (and all our disease-fighting capabilities) is a joint function of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual factors.

 

This is why not all cigarette smokers get cancer. Tobacco is a carcinogen, but if a particular smoker was born with a “good constitution”, if he or she eats well, exercises, and takes good care of the body in other ways, then he or she may (the operative word is ‘may’) luck out and not give the carcinogen enough weakened tissue to act upon. Or, if he or she has a really positive inner emotional and psychological life, then perhaps the immune system will simply not allow any cancerous activity to get out of control.

Despite these possibilities, I implore you not to risk it. Don’t smoke. Life is risky enough.

Looked at from the opposite perspective, many people are warm, loving, even happy-go-lucky, and do get cancer. Some people jog and eat plenty of fresh vegetables and do get heart disease. Things are not as simple or linear as we might like them to be. It all comes down to matters of proportion and blending among three simultaneous causes, some within our control (e.g., diet, exercise, etc.), and some not in our control (e.g., genetics – though I reserve the right to partially revise this statement later on when we talk about epigenetics). So the particular pieces of the puzzle that comprise the three factors will differ in every individual case (a bacterium here, a virus there, a poor diet here, a poor attitude there), but there will always be a triad of these three fundamental ‘forces’ behind any illness.

Turning now from the cause of illness to the process of healing, the same three forces are at work.

 

  • An Active force for repair of damaged tissue must be activated or added to the body. In other words, the body must start doing its job again. This may happen naturally with no outside help, or it may be enhanced by outside help in the form of some kind of actively-stimulating healingremedy (a medicinal drug, an herbal remedy, etc.) or healing technique (a chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment, an acupuncture treatment, etc.), or something else that either artificially replaces a malfunctioning bodily process (typically the job of western medicine or surgery, and often necessary) or, better yet, nudges the body itself back into appropriate action.

 

  • Meanwhile, the damaged, unbalanced tissue must now become receptive to the healing This is where basic good health habits come into play (nutrition, exercise, relaxation, hygiene, etc.), so that the tissues of the body no longer present an obstacle to healing but provide a healthy ‘ground’ where healing can easily take place. If our physical bodies are so badly cared for as to be unreceptive to healing, then no medicine, no technique, no remedy, and no amount of happiness are likely to help very much.

 

  • Finally, in order for the active healingforces in the body to be capable of repairing the damaged-but-now-receptive tissue, the overall psyche must be in a state in which the great tendency (consciously or not) is in the direction of life and health. The state of our psyche, through its powerful interventions in the cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous, and immune systems, provides this third healing force that either reconciles a poisonous substance and weak tissue to disease, or reconciles a healing action and strong tissue to health.

 

Again, even though the specific details will vary with each individual case, the overall blueprint of a Triad of Healing (this all-embracing threefold blueprint is how I define ‘Holistic’) is present in every case.

All three forces are critically necessary, but the third factor, in my opinion, is the most important consideration in healing, both because of its extraordinary potential power and because it is often given such short shrift in our mechanistic culture.

We have all heard the words, spoken dismissively, “Oh, that’s just the placebo effect.” We know that it is possible for someone to feel better, and for symptoms to go away, merely because they mistakenly believed they were given real medicine.

“Just” the placebo effect? “Merely” because they believed? Hearing these sentiments never ceases to astonish me. I would submit that the placebo effect – the ability of our consciousness to dramatically affect the physical world – is arguably the most powerful force in the universe. In fact, in this scenario it assures us that we have immense power to heal ourselves, without needing much or any help from medical doctors, chiropractors, herbalists, or anybody else. It is a force that must be harnessed, and this is certainly not easy: but if we are able to harness it, it is a force beyond anything that pharmaceutical companies could ever come up with.

Unless you left college very recently, you have been taught that the DNA in our genes determines our anatomical characteristics and our physiological processes, and their decisions are absolute and unchangeable – as a result, if we happen to be prone to certain illnesses or physical complaints, or are otherwise dissatisfied with our physical makeup, it is simply too bad: we are victims of our genes.

But it turns out we are not victims of our genes, except in the rarest of cases. Only about 2% of the population suffer from those devastating problems that are inexorably caused by a defective or missing gene: aside from possible symptomatic relief, it is sadly true that little can be done about this (though hopefully some wonderful future research will find a way to alter the chromosomal structure).  For most of us, however, the conventional belief that our genetic makeup determines our fate, turns out to be not-so-true after all. Recent discoveries in epigenetics, a new branch of biology that studies how environmental signals are translated into gene expression, have changed all that.

The first thing to understand is that around each strand of DNA is a protein ‘sleeve.’ This sleeve serves as a barrier between the information contained in the DNA strand and the rest of the intracellular environment. DNA provides a blueprint for how new proteins are to be formed (most of our physical structure – our muscles, organs, etc. – as well as most of the enzymes that determine how internal chemical processes will proceed – are made of protein). In order for the blueprint in the DNA to be ‘read’ so that the protein can be made, the sleeve around that piece of DNA has to be unwrapped so the information is available. Otherwise, it cannot be acted upon and the blueprint in the DNA lies dormant. So what has to happen is that some kind of ‘signal’ must arrive at the protein sleeve to ‘tell’ it that a piece of the DNA it is covering is needed and it has to unravel at that spot. Once this happens, the code is recognized by other cellular elements and the particular protein molecule is assembled: this is what biologists mean when they say that a gene is “expressed”.

Two important questions arise: (1) what kind of ‘signals’ cause the protein sleeve to unravel and allow the gene’s message to be read and acted upon (“expressed”), and (2) is that gene’s information “written in stone” as we say, so that nothing can ever be done to alter it and we are at its mercy?

Let’s assume for the moment that all ‘signals’ are in fact chemicals. The proteins comprising the ‘sleeve’ have receptors that recognize particular chemicals as signals that, when touched, spur them into action. It is easy enough to imagine that if a particular protein is lacking somewhere, this could cause a chemical response, and the chemical that is released will cross the cell membrane and slide over to the protein sleeve surrounding the DNA and cause it to open up.

But this simple statement actually reveals something extremely important. The point is that our genetic activity is not determined by the genes themselves. On the contrary, our genetic activity is determined by influences in the cell’s environment that cross the membrane into the cell. In other words, it is the environment that causes our ‘fate’, not our DNA. And yes, we can affect our cells’ environment in many, many ways. This is why I reserved the right to alter my previous statement that our genes are beyond our control. We are not ‘helpless victims’ of our genes.

For instance, suppose you have a gene that, if expressed, increases the possibility you will develop diabetes. If the protein sleeve around that gene is never unwrapped, the gene can cause no problems. Epigenetic researchers have found that the protein sleeve can be affected by a good diet and an active lifestyle: these behaviors cause different chemical signals to enter the cell than if you ate poorly and had a generally unhealthy lifestyle. Furthermore, as a result of these different signals, the sleeve becomes much more difficult to unravel.

Not only does this protect you from diabetes despite having this gene, but the tighter protein sleeve gets passed down through heredity as well as the underlying gene. In other words, our lifestyle choices not only affect ourselves, but they can affect future generations as well.

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But what about our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. Do these affect our cells’ activity? Consider this: In the center of our brain is an area called the hypothalamus. Researchers have long known that the various sections of the hypothalamus are concerned with such things as pleasure, pain, sexuality, hunger, and all our emotions. Just above the hypothalamus are the two enormous cerebral hemispheres, the seat of our higher thinking functions. Thousands of nerves connect the hypothalamus with the cerebral hemispheres, which means that information about our thoughts and emotions are continually being exchanged.

The hypothalamus (and the thalamus, which controls sensory input and motor output) border an open chamber called the third ventricle, which is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Also bordering the third ventricle are the pineal gland and the pituitary gland. The pineal gland (which some esoteric traditions believe is a physical manifestation of a ‘third eye’ – the ‘eye of the soul’) releases melatonin, which regulates sleep and may affect the immune system and have anti-aging effects, into the cerebrospinal fluid. The pineal is also probably the source for another chemical, DMT (Dimethyltryptamine), that is also found in the cerebrospinal fluid. DMT is also widespread in the plant kingdom, in plants that are commonly used in shamanic rituals. It can produce powerful near-death and mystical experiences, and is hypothesized to be released at birth, death, and during vivid dreams. It has been called “the spirit molecule”.

The pituitary gland is called ‘the master gland’ because it tells the other glands of the hormonal system what to do: by sending out its own chemical signals into the bloodstream, it tells the thyroid gland when to speed up the body’s metabolism by producing more thyroid hormone, it tells the adrenals when to cut down the production of cortisone, etc. Of course, it makes these decisions after receiving chemical signals from the other glands as well as messages from the hypothalamus. The pituitary is thus like a master conductor, listening to all the instruments and conducting the body’s great chemical symphony.

But the hypothalamus composed the symphony, and is constantly at work changing and re-writing parts of it and sending new instructions to the conductor. It is inspired to create these new compositions in response to neural communication between higher thinking centers and its own emotional content, as well as the spiritual messages it receives from the pineal gland through chemical messages in the cerebrospinal fluid, and with continual feedback from the pituitary gland which is in constant contact with the endocrine glands throughout the body (which, again according to some spiritual traditions, are the physical representatives of the chakras, which links them to the movement of ch’i and the possible arousal of kundalini).

In other words, this constant communication amongst physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of our being, causes chemical changes within the cerebrospinal fluid (which bathes the entire brain and central nervous system, exchanging information at all times), as well as all the powerful yet delicate hormones that are released by the endocrine glands (which enter the bloodstream and affect every single cell in the body in some ways that we understand, but undoubtedly also in myriad ways we have yet to discover.[1])

So here we have some of the extraordinary links between mind, heart, body, and spirit. These connections have been known for some time, assuring us that there are physical results of our thoughts, emotions and beliefs, and these physical results change the very content of our blood, they bathe and communicate with the brain, and they enter and affect every one of the trillions of cells in our bodies. Add to this the new research about DNA and how by changing the cell’s environment we change our genetic expression, and we see a hint, at the very least, of the immense potential to heal ourselves that always lies within us.

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But this entire explanation has been based on an outmoded reliance on the Newtonian view of the world as a gigantic mechanism. In the Quantum view of the world, it turns out that all of this matter we have been talking about – cell membranes, enzymes, hormones, and so forth – in fact, the whole universe – is really just energy, vibration, and potentialities that may or may not even exist. I very much enjoy the way the biologist, Bruce Lipton, describes his loss of certitude about biology when he was first confronted with the inescapable new understandings of the ‘parent’ science, physics:

 

In retrospect, it should have been obvious to me and to other biologists that Newtonian physics, as elegant and reassuring as it is to hyper-rational scientists, cannot offer the whole truth about the human body, let alone the universe. Medical science keeps advancing, but living organisms stubbornly refuse to be quantified. Discovery after discovery about the mechanics of chemical signals, including hormones, cytokines (hormones that control the immune system), growth factors and tumor suppressors cannot explain paranormal phenomena. Spontaneous healings, psychic phenomena, amazing feats of strength and endurance, the ability to walk across hot coals without getting burned, acupuncture’s ability to diminish pain by moving “chi” around the body, and many other paranormal phenomena defy Newtonian biology.[i]

 

The whole concept of matter, it turns out, is a sensory illusion. Quantum physicists know that what we thought were tangible material atoms are actually swirling vortices of intangible energy that are constantly vibrating, spinning, and radiating energy. Large conglomerations of these spinning vortices – such as those that make up our cells, our organs, and all the way up to enormous conglomerations like you and me – also radiate unique vibrational signatures. But most conventional biologists and medical scientists continue to stand by the reductionist Newtonian model of reality (aside from a few unavoidable technological advances like CAT scans, MRI’s, and dissolving kidney stones with harmonic frequencies) which means they willfully ignore the role that energy vibrations play in health and disease and the vast possibilities that this opens up for deepening our understanding, and for promising new avenues of treatment: and this continues, despite the fact that, using the old model, some studies show that as many as 300,000 people die each year from the adverse effects of prescribed medications. Fortunately, as time goes on, this attitude is slowly changing and more and more individual scientists and scientific organizations are exploring these new frontiers. Many others, however, will still have to be brought kicking and screaming into the future.

One thing we are interested in here is the comparison of energy signals as bearers of information across a cell membrane, compared to chemical signals (such as hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals). Energetic vibrations are of course faster (virtually instantaneous), and are more efficient. And they can certainly cross a membrane and affect the cell’s contents. But can specific, controllable signals be transferred through our cell membranes to the protein sleeve via energetic vibrations? As of this moment, I know of no orthodox scientific research that has been able to verify and measure such a phenomenon, though efforts are being made: the new field of Behavioral Epigenetics has been unraveling the mechanisms by which thoughts and emotions translate into cellular changes. Part of what will be needed for such explorations to succeed, is that pervasive negative attitudes within the scientific community – what the Nobel Prizewinning physicist Brian Josephson has called “Pathological Disbelief”, and what I would call scientific fundamentalism – will have to change. In addition, the dependency on pharmaceutical companies for research money (with their narrow focus on only Newtonian solutions that can make a profit) is going to have to change as well. Finally, the total reliance on linear thinking (rather than comprehensive holistic thinking), and the devotion to scientific reductionism as the only way to ‘seriously’ study the world, will also need to change.

In the meantime, I can assure you that if you choose to experience a world full of love and kindness, your body will respond in many healthy ways. If you choose to experience a world of fear and hatred, your overall health will be compromised. This cannot be ‘measured’. That does not change the fact that it is true. Anecdotal and clinical evidence abound regarding the efficacy of various “energy healing” techniques (homeopathy, reiki, and many others), and the placebo effect makes it clear that the energy of consciousness most definitely can alter our health. The fact is, harnessing the power of the mind can be more effective than the drugs we have been programmed and propagandized to believe we need. To a great extent, it is precisely this programming and propagandizing that makes the drug effective to begin with: if you absolutely believe that a drug, or any other treatment, is going to be effective, and your subconscious mind agrees, then the drug or treatment will be effective. This also works in reverse: many people have gone home and died after believing that a witch doctor’s evil curse had sealed their fate, and many other people have gone home and died after believing that a medical doctor’s terminal prognosis had sealed their fate.

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We know that stress causes a specific variety of responses in the body. We know that these physiological responses are healthy and valuable in moments of danger. But under chronic stress, when these physiological actions continue unabated because the stressful danger never ends, the mind and body can be badly damaged. Fortunately, we do have known ways to relieve stress.

When the hypothalamus recognizes danger (it may be a saber-tooth tiger, or it may be an angry boss, a sour relationship, financial hardship, a fear of crime or terrorism, etc.), it tells the pituitary to order the adrenal glands to secrete protective stress hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones do three particular things: (1) they contract blood vessels in the gut, so that during the crisis energy is not wasted on digestion, and more blood is instead shunted into the muscles of the arms and legs which may be called upon to run or fight; (2) they suppress the immune system, and the ability to inhibit or shut down inflammatory responses, again so that energy is not wasted (we can fight off the flu virus after we have escaped the tiger); and (3) they contract blood vessels in the forebrain (which relates to the conscious mind and our ability to think things through), and shunt the blood back to the hindbrain (which relates to the subconscious mind that runs our reflex activity): this is no time for thinking, this is the time for acting,

But if the source of stress continues and continues, if we are besieged by unresolved problems and worries, or if we are overwhelmed by unresolved fears that continue to stress us out even if the external cause has disappeared (PTSD is an extreme example of this, but it does not have to be this extreme to be a serious problem), then notice what happens: (1) our digestive system functions poorly, which can lead to a myriad of issues involving pain, malabsorption of nutrients that our cells need to maintain health and life, bowel issues, etc. (2) lowered immunity opens us up to attacks from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that should have been stopped, and inflammation gets out of control (evidence is rapidly accruing in research circles that a vast number of pervasive contemporary illnesses are due to chronic, uncontrolled, inflammation: diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, just to name a few); and (3) we become less able to think clearly (and some studies suggest that the inhibition of neurons by stress hormones may become a root cause of depression).

The need to break these cycles of chronic stress is why relaxation (to calm the freneticisms of the body) and meditation (to calm the freneticisms of the mind) are such critical requirements for healing.

A body filled with tension will suffer from fatigue, stiffness and pain. It may be clumsy and unattractive. It may be cut off from sensations of pain (which provide important warnings) as well as from feelings of pleasure. Chronic tension will impede the free circulation of blood, nerve energy, and ch’i, causing the body to deteriorate and age more quickly, and it will have difficulty recognizing or ‘hearing’ important signals coming from the internal or external environment. Fortunately, there are countless excellent techniques of body awareness and ‘body work’ that can help teach overexcited westerners how to relax.

People who practice regular meditation routinely discover not only that their health improves, but that all aspects of their lives are affected in beneficial ways: in fact, the deepest purpose of meditation is to silence the endless blathering of the chattering “monkey mind” so that, in the stillness and silence that follows, a higher divine force can descend into our being and lift our consciousness up into higher spiritual realities. But meditation is also, to be sure, a useful tool for physical healing.

According to cardiologist Bernie Siegel:

It tends to lower or normalize blood pressure, pulse rate, and the levels of stress hormones in the blood. It produces changes in brain-wave patterns, showing less excitability. These physical changes reflect changes in attitude, which show up on psychological tests as a reduction in the competitive type A behavior that increases the risk of heart attack. Meditation also raises the pain threshold and reduces one’s biological age…. In short, it reduces wear and tear on both body and mind, helping people live better and longer.”[ii]

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The ultimate conclusion to be drawn from the placebo effect is not that pain and illness are “merely” in our heads, or that we are easily fooled. The placebo effect does not belittle us. It empowers us. It tells us that we have profound possibilities, and that we can take control of our health and our lives: we need never underestimate the power of the human mind, heart and soul.

Basic techniques for harnessing this power have been a standard part of people’s education in many cultures, especially in the east and in aboriginal societies. These methods are not a secret. In the west, in recent centuries, these procedures have been neglected in favor of logical processes. But it turns out that our bodies do not respond to logical words and commands. The body responds to emotional feelings and to vivid pictorial images. Once the body and mind are calm, it is through our feelings and imagination that we can send deliberate healing instructions into our body.

The technique of mental imagery means creating mental pictures, either of desired states of being (or states of health), or of symbols that represent these states, then concentratedly imagining them in vivid detail, and repeating this exercise internally over and over again until it creates a new ‘blueprint’ that every cell in the body will begin to strive toward fulfilling. Rest assured that mental imagery “is not a method of self-deception,” as Carl Simonton and Stephanie Matthews-Simonton noted in Getting Well Again. “It is a method of self-direction.”[iii]

Finally, simply remembering each day to take a few moments out of our stressful lives to remember what makes us happy, who and what we love, what we deeply appreciate – and to allow ourselves to feel these feelings – can have profound effects on our health. “I am convinced,” wrote Bernie Siegel, in his classic book Love, Medicine and Miracles, “that unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system. If I told patients to raise their blood levels of immune globulins or killer T cells, no one would know how. But if I can teach them to love themselves and others fully, the same changes happen automatically. The truth is: love heals.”[iv]

All of this is important because our psyche – mind, heart, and spirit – is the final arbiter of health and disease. At all times, our psyche, the third healing force, is either suppressing our immune system, endocrine system, and nervous system, or bolstering them. And this tells us that not only is our overall psychology a crucial factor in physical as well as mental disease, but it also reminds us that our inner life – our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual life – is as much a part of reality (or actually more so) as the visible physical machine called the body. It tells us that our loves and hates, our misery and happiness, our knowledge and ignorance, our apathy and aspiration, our wisdom and foolishness – all of this matters. We matter.

 

[1] The reason medical drugs have side effects is that, like hormones, once they enter the bloodstream they get into every cell in the body, not just the ones where the problem is. So the chemical not only has the desired effect, but can have all sorts of unexpected effects all over the place.

[i]    Lipton, Bruce, Biology and Belief, Hay House; 10th Anniversary Edition (October 13, 2015) (kindle) p 85

 

[ii]    Siegel, Bernie, Love, Medicine and Miracles, Harper and Row, NY, 1986, p 150

 

[iii]    Simonton, Carl O. and Matthews-Simonton, Stephanie, Getting Well Again, Bantam Books, NY, 1984, p 150

 

[iv]    Siegel, p. 181