“The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed….If you would perfect your body, guard your mind. Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought….Thoughts of fear have been known to kill a man as speedily as a bullet….Anxiety quickly demoralizes the whole body, and lays it open to the entrance of disease….” (As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, pp. 47-53)
Prior to the 17th century most health care traditions saw body, mind and spirit as inseparable, as part of a single process. The work of the philosopher Descartes was a turning point in human history as he introduced concepts (e.g. “I think, therefore I am”) that viewed mind and body as separate entities. This separation led to separate fields of study and research, with biochemists studying the objective somatic mechanisms of the brain, psychologists studying the subjective properties of the mind, and philosophers and theologians focusing on the spirit and soul, i.e. religious and metaphysical interpretations of the mind. Physicians cared for the body, psychiatrists cared for the mind and clergy tended the spirit.
We are living in a very exciting time in history when the work of Einstein (physics) and other scientists is re-defining the nature of the human being and re-claiming the ancient concepts of wholeness and integration. The relationship between science/medicine and spirituality/philosophy has changed radically as Einstein scientifically proved that everything is energy, molecules in motion. Though most “things” (matter) look solid, at the most basic (cellular) level, everything is vibration and always moving. Everything that exists (body/mind/spirit/universe) is part of one field of intelligence/energy and so everything is connected. Concepts believed for centuries in religious traditions are now being proven through scientific studies. (e.g. the power of love, we are all connected, how we treat others affects ourselves, etc.)
This new (old?) way of looking at life is revolutionary in our time and has tremendous implications in the field of medicine and healing. If our body is not just skin and bones but an energy field that is deeply affected by the power of thought (another form of energy – being studied in the field of psychoneuroimmunology), then our approach to healing must be holistic – looking at the whole person (body, mind, spirit), not just the physical body. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are funding hundreds of studies on many forms of body/mind therapy, while many prestigious medical centers are offering complementary therapy (meditation, Reiki, acupuncture etc.) to support the healing process, especially before and after surgery. Some of these efforts are even being supported by insurance companies!
Over and over studies are showing the damaging effect of stress (a state of mind) on our body and people are beginning to learn ways to manage stress and nurture their spirit to boost the body’s natural healing capacity. The quality of our life depends on the quality of our thinking patterns. If we live in fear and anger, our immune system is depleted and the door is open to dis-ease. If we live with a mind full of gratitude and joy, the physiology of our body changes for the better.
Care of our health is our own responsibility, not that of physicians or insurance companies. Only we can transform the quality of our lives as we invite the healing that comes through nurturing our body, mind and spirit. This holistic approach is a hopeful paradigm for health that invites us all to become active participants in our treatment program and healing process.
Reprinted with permission from Labyrinth Newsletter of The Springs at Clifton Springs Hospital. Volume 18 / Fall 2006