Mind Over Matter
‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To be Free’ by The Lighthouse Family is a favourite song of mine. The lyrics are very powerful and FREEDOM is a very powerful word. I am sure many of you will have seen the movie ‘Braveheart’. Being Scottish it made me feel ‘akin’ with the subject and power of FREEDOM. The movie demontstrates what Freedom meant to William Wallace – what does Freedom mean to you?
Freedom can mean many things to all of us. Here’s what it means to me! We can block our freedom through fear of change. Many of us will have experienced fear at some point in our lives. Fear of losing a loved one, fear of losing a job, fear of not having enough money, all of these issues block our path to freedom. Fear really is only a thought, it is not a reality! We can block ourselves in for years through fear of change and then reach 80 years of age, look back and think, wow! what was all that about. We are like walking history books. We store all sorts of memories and carry these with us through life and therefore do not free our minds.
The only way to be free as I see it is to live the truth of who you are. What you believe and what you dream of needs to be at the forefront of your mind. Two people can look at the same thing and see it differently. Many relationships for instance flounder because each of us have different dreams, each of us have our own destiny to fulfil which can sometimes cause conflict with our partners. What do most of us do? We compromise and perhaps put our own dreams and desires on the back burner. We let our dreams die which then blocks us from feeling free.
Health and happiness are synonymous. Ill health blocks us from freedom which inhibits our enjoyment of pursuits that good health allows us to do. Health is about freedom. Good health gives us the freedom to enjoy life more fully, to live the truth of who we really are. Much of what holds us back is nothing more than habit. We get used to the way we live our lives and so does everyone around us. When we begin to make changes, it can rock the boat, everyone gets nervous. The social pressure to be unhealthy is more overpowering than the encouragement to be healthy. This is why developing a healthy attitude is so important. Being healthy can be like swimming against the tide.
Try this. Tell your friends that you have decided to stop eating sugar or that you are going to start exercising daily, and see what happens. Make a mental note of how many people tell you that you’ll never do it or that it can’t make a difference. See how many of your friends are willing to share with you all the reasons they have never done it, compared with those who are supportive.
It’s not that creating health is complicated – it’s simple. It’s just a matter of knowing what is really important to us and then making a plan to achieve it. Most of what gets in our way lies in the six inches between our ears. We are walking history books. All the information, attitudes and experiences of our life are woven into a tapestry of attitudes, habits and actions. Making changes means taking a few of those strands and giving a tug. If we don’t like the pattern, we can change it.
Where Do We Put Our Faith?
Don’t let this put you off, but I believe in God. Not some punishing big man in the sky but more a spirit of creation and compassion. It’s not important to me how others hold this thought in their minds and hearts, but it’s an important part of the puzzle for me. For me, the issue of faith is fundamental to health. Not necessarily religious faith but faith in the potential we all have to improve our lot and to create happiness in our lives.
The fact that this faith has been a saving grace for me is not unique. It is well known that people of faith are able to move past the barriers of pain and despair and discover meaning in their life with greater effect. I know that when I trusted in my faith all was well, despite the pain I endured from my riding accident, and when I lost my faith I began my descent into a deep depression. I don’t expect everyone or even anyone to respond in the same way, it is simply the truth of my life.
Once my attitude was aligned in the direction of getting my health back the rest was simply applying the right tools to get the job done.
When I work with clients I notice that faith in life, love of nature and appreciation of what we are given, often define personal progress in health. When our expectations are positive, our body responds to make the inner vision a reality. When the mind is plagued with negative or cynical attitudes, we are undermining our own best efforts. When I started reading and studying Asian medicine, the sense of this became clearer.
One of the principles of Asian medicine is that the world is a sea of energy, call it what you will. In Chinese medicine it is called “Chi”. When they talk about the body or the mind they view it all as part of one thing. Everything is constructed of the same energy that manifests itself in different forms. This is not really different from what physicists say – it’s all energy.
To be healthy, chi has to be balanced. We take in different forms of energy every day. We drink water, breathe air, eat food and are aware that all these different forms of energy combine within us and create our body. We take in energy from other people too. Our families, our partners and workmates all have an effect on us. Most of us can identify a person who brings us down or lifts us up simply by being in the room, and it doesn’t stop there.
We take in information from newspapers, magazines, TV – all energy, all becoming part of us. Health is the act of balancing these things in terms of quality and quantity. Illness may begin in the body or the mind, in the environment or in our relationship with others. Our attitude plays a huge role in governing the effect of these influences on us.
Any disruption of the easy flow of energy within or around us can create an imbalance with wide-ranging results. The physical part of this is easy to understand. When we are in pain or when we are bodily challenged, we can easily lose our link to happiness – our attention is drawn to the hurt. When I was experiencing physical pain I was able to cope, but there were personal issues going on in my life and for me the emotional hurt was pushing me over the edge. It was an extreme reaction but not unique. My own experience has taught me a profound respect for the fact that any of us can be sent spiralling into a desperate situation from unkind words or emotional cruelty.
Over the past fifteen years there has been increased medical research in the ways that the mind affects the body. Thoughts and feelings are all bioelectrical events. These events in the brain trigger hormone production, resulting in changes in blood chemistry and the functioning of specific organs. All of us have experienced the reality of this connection but may not have really thought about it. The body tends to believe what the brain tells it.
This phenomenon is what makes a child get a sudden fever on the day of a big test, or a headache appears just in time to prevent attendance at a dinner with people we don’t like. The symptoms are real, we are really sick, but where did it originate? In brief, people who are happy and excited about life, people who are not under stress, don’t get sick as often. People who are in stable relationships and who have a spiritual outlook are healthier than those who hate their spouse or think life is just a bad joke.
If I ask people what is most important in their life, health is always in the top three. This seems logical since if we are sick all the time we don’t get to enjoy anything else, not fame, family or fortune. It is interesting then that we don’t seem to take our health seriously when it comes to our daily actions. This seems like a mystery but maybe it isn’t.
Much of the problem has to do with misplaced faith. We may be born with a genetic tendency toward a specific disease, have a disability or suffer the effects of past illness, but we can always improve our lot. The reason we can do this is because we are miraculous in our design. No matter how you believe it happened, we are all a walking miracle.
Sometimes the improvements may be small, sometimes huge, but we always have the option. Some people seem to stumble through life and live to a ripe old age without paying any attention to their health, but this is the exception and not the rule. It is important to know why we don’t act on what we know. Deciding to create a healthy life is a choice we ignore at our own peril. It’s quite simply a matter of where we place our faith.
One of the reasons we don’t choose wellness is that we are not fully sure that it will do any good. Our faith in our own capacity is constantly undermined. The great mass of information on health is dominated by tales of mysterious microbes, viruses and microscopic mutations to our physiology that can only be understood in a laboratory. There is next to nothing said about what we can do for ourselves. Here’s one of my fantasies – the health services put out a press release that says, “You all better start taking care of yourselves or all bets are off.” The reason this won’t happen is we are lead to have faith in our doctors, not ourselves.
This doesn’t mean that viruses or microbes don’t exist. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous; it simply means that we need a positive attitude about our own ability to make a difference. We should all learn how to create and maintain a healthy immune system. There is lots of evidence that we have a greater resistance to disease with a good diet, exercise and a healthy environment. Why is this not mentioned? Much of it has to do with power.
The late Dr Robert Mendelson, the dean of medical mavericks in America, put it beautifully.
“Modern Medicine can’t exist without our faith, because it is neither an art nor a science. It’s a religion.
“One definition of religion identifies it as any organized effort to deal with puzzling or mysterious things we see going on in and around us. The Church of Modern Medicine deals with the most puzzling phenomena: birth, death, and all the tricks our bodies play on us and we on them. In The Golden Bough, religion is defined as the attempt to gain the favour of powers superior to man, which is believed to direct and control the course of nature and human life.
“If people don’t spend billions of dollars on the Church of Modern Medicine in order to gain favour with the powers that direct and control human life, what do they spend it on?
“Just ask, “Why?”, enough times and sooner or later you’ll reach the Chasm of Faith. Your doctor will retreat into the fact that you have no way of knowing or understanding all the wonders he has at his command. ‘Just trust me’.”
Taking responsiblity for our own health is becoming more and more important every day. We need to accept that we CAN make a difference to our own health in a positive way.
Until next time, keep the faith and enjoy the freedom.
And for those of you who didn’t know, I am married to the wonderful Californian boy William Wallace Tara… how good does it get?
In good health