One of the most exciting changes that could mean a breakthrough in health centers on the term mind-body medicine. Twenty years ago, the equation was definitely body-oriented. If it was conceded that the mind plays a part in health, doctors generally had disparaging things to say about psychosomatic illness and the placebo effect. Neither seemed like “real” medicine, and no medical school curriculum taught otherwise. It was a source of dismay, in fact, that alternative approaches even existed.
What was not realized, as the mind-body connection turned into hard science, is that the polarity needs to be reversed entirely. It is the mind that dominates the body, that acts as chooser, controller, and governor. Instead of being incidental, your state of awareness plays a huge part in how your cells function. We need to reinvent the body as a creation of consciousness — that step, which was taken thousands of years ago in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, would clarify so many mysteries surrounding faith healing, energy work, acupuncture, Qi Gong, and spontaneous remissions of intractable disorders like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
So far, the breakthrough hasn’t occurred, not on a completely reliable basis, secure enough so that using the mind as healer becomes more predictable and efficacious than drugs and surgery. The reason that we don’t have mind-based therapies at every hospital are complicated. Rather than go into them, let’s ask the most salient question.
What can you and I do to promote wellness based, first and foremost, on consciousness?
To answer that question, you need specific goals, as with any long-range project.
Goal #1: Free yourself from the past.
Goal #2: Address bad habits and addictions.
Goal #3: Find the core of the self.
Goal #4: Maintain a program for personal growth and evolution.
Goal #5: Become aware of how your environment – at work, at home, in your closest relationships – mirrors who you are inside.
I’ve tried to state these goals as objectively as possible, without leaning toward one method or another. There are countless techniques available in the American supermarket of medical and health advice. But the reason that people come away frustrated and confused is that the specifics of what they are doing today — going to yoga class, drinking wheat grass juice, reading Buddhist sermons — becomes haphazard without an overall vision. These five goals give you the bare outline of a vision, which you can fill in by turning each into a question:
1. What am I doing to free myself from my past?
2. Am I honestly confronting my bad habits and addictive tendencies?
3. Do I make choices from a secure center, knowing who I really am?
4. Do I have confidence that I am evolving and will continue to evolve?
5. Looking around, how does my world, including everyone I relate to, reflect what’s going on inside?
These should be approached as medical questions, because even if you aren’t asking them — especially if you aren’t asking them — your body is eavesdropping all the time. There are three levels of reflection that give feedback to you: your thoughts, your physical condition, and the external world. They are linked and fused, which is what makes holism possible. If you could ignore your thoughts, your body, or your circumstances, letting one or two go while concentrating only on what’s left, holistic medicine, or holistic living, would be a delusion. Consciousness isn’t compartmentalized; it is whole. Your self is the hub from which everything emanates. All experience, physical, mental, and spiritual, occur in consciousness.
I think we’ve outlined a good beginning for switching the mind-body polarity. (Readers who wish to approach these issues in depth may want to look at my book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul.) We are immersed in a materialistic worldview, and although skepticism has been quieted somewhat by the flood of research confirming the mind-body connection, there will be resistance to seeing consciousness as central to well-being. But even if you decide to put your faith entirely in mainstream medicine and its focus on drugs and surgery — a choice that fewer informed people make nowadays — there is no doubt that positive lifestyle changes are unassailable for preventing more and more illnesses. You can’t make such changes without confronting most if not all the goals I’ve outlined. They are key if you want to send the best messages from mind to body.
Since you are sending such messages constantly, why shouldn’t they be the best?