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It is sometimes impossible to understand the path of your life, especially when it takes an unexpected turn toward illness, disease, trauma, or loss. You cast about for answers, build stories to explain your new life, and move forward as best you can.
It’s also important to understand that nothing is going to take away the experience you’ve undergone. But that doesn’t mean that healing isn’t an option. There are many ways to heal and many ways to live your life that are sometimes different from what you’d planned or hoped for. This resiliency is in fact a huge part of healing.
How Your Mind Affects Your Health
In Christiane Northrup’s wonderful book Goddesses Never Age, she writes about an important finding from a longitudinal study of nuns begun in 1986:
“Autopsies showed that the nuns who relished life and showed no signs of dementia had just as many plaques in their brains as the less vivacious nuns whose dementia was apparent before they died.”
That’s right — both groups had the exact same amount of plaque in the brain, the plaque that many scientists believe is the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s. Yet those nuns who experienced joy, creativity, and love of life never showed any signs of dementia.
How is that possible? If we look only at the physiological evidence, we might conclude it isn’t possible, or call it a miracle. But if we look at the mind as transcending the body, it makes much more sense. Our mind affects us more than anything else except energy.
Ideas such as the placebo effect — cures that happen simply because we believe they will — are often dismissed as anomalies, but the truth is, the placebo effect proves that our mind is more powerful than our body; it proves that our mind has choices and is not simply mechanistic.
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One of the strangest and most intriguing instances of the power of the mind is the documentation of patients with multiple personality disorders. Deepak Chopra, MD, writes of one such instance in Perfect Health. A young child had an extreme allergic reaction to orange juice, resulting in sores all over his skin. When another of the child’s personalities was present in his mind-body, there was no allergic reaction or physiological response. This points to the fact that the mind has a “choice” about what it reacts to and can change its “mind” instantaneously.
Thoughts supersede the chemical interactions of the body. In the case of the young patient, his thoughts were unconscious thoughts. If they could be brought to consciousness, they would be unstoppable in their healing capacity.
Remapping the Brain Consciously
One way the mind can literally remap itself is with visualization practices. In the book The Brain’s Way of Healing, Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge gives clinical evidence of people with extreme and chronic pain who had been relegated to ingesting powerful painkillers for their whole lives. Doidge profiled Michael Moskowitz, a psychiatrist-turned-pain specialist, who taught his clients intense visualization practices and found that they could actually change the structure and outcomes that the brain created. He reduced and eliminated chronic pain by having his patients shrink their pain receptors and transform the brain’s maps and experience of pain with the power of their own thinking.
Visualization is one of the tools we use to move energy through the body. Many studies attest to its power. Groups as diverse as elite athletes and people with paralysis use visualization practices with incredible results.
My own personal experience of healing with my mind came from Healing Back Pain by John E. Sarno, MD. Sarno links all back pain to undigested anger, and since I started doing the practice he recommended, after years of chiropractic adjustments, I have not had another back issue.
Aligning the Conscious Mind with the Unconscious
These are all instances of the conscious mind working to heal the body. But what about the unconscious mind? We saw the young boy with multiple personalities in a battle between his conscious and unconscious mind determine what manifests in his body.
A placebo works by unifying the conscious mind’s beliefs with the unconscious mind’s habits. Getting those two aligned is probably the single most life-transforming thing you can do. Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, author of The Biology of Belief and The Honeymoon Effect, offers clear and simple insight into the power of the unconscious that runs our lives. Your unconscious mind is the programming that runs 95 percent of your life and actions. It is where your habits are held.
Your unconscious mind was programmed when you were a child, up until about the age of seven. The things that come easily to you, without thinking, without effort, were programmed well into your unconscious. If you heard your parents argue about a lack of money as you grew up, you’ll likely run that program as an adult, and chances are you’ll struggle with money too.
Rewriting Your Unconscious Programming
The beautiful thing is, you can rewrite your unconscious programming. This means accessing the unconscious mind and inserting new, positive programs that align with the desires of your conscious mind.
The reason breathing practices are so important in yoga is that your breath is a direct link between your conscious and unconscious mind, and shifting one shifts the other. Tapping, journaling, automatic writing, and vocalizations are other tools for shifting these patterns. EMYoga is designed to unite these opposing forces so that you are in true alignment with your soul’s deepest desires, your highest purpose, and your best life.
The only thing as powerful as the mind is energy, and another of the goals of this book is to bring those two elements into union, another uniting of seeming opposites. It’s incredibly important to realize that you hold the key to healing inside yourself. Your beliefs and ideas affect you more than any other single thing on the planet. And your beliefs are tied inextricably with the fields of energy that underpin your body.
How Energy Affects Your Health
The science behind the mind-body connection has finally reached the mainstream. There is now solid research that connects our emotions, our levels of stress and joy, and other mind states directly to physical issues.
Research on the power of subtle energy to affect the body is still in its infancy, but it is building, and in another few years, my hope is that the understanding of energy’s ability to affect change in the body will be mainstream. Techniques such as acupuncture, which works on the meridians (one of our energy systems), and Reiki (a hands-on healing technique) have been studied and documented for their beneficial effects. More and more people are finding relief from their challenges in ways that would have been entirely dismissed just a few years ago.
James L. Oschman, PhD, has spent a lifetime quantifying how Energy Medicine works. He gives us the science of how the physical body is connected seamlessly to the energetic body through our fascia. The importance of this information is that it explains how things such as acupuncture, acupressure, and the many other techniques of EMYoga work. Our bodies are completely interconnected energetically so that when you apply energy to one area of the body, it is instantaneously transmitted to the entire body.
Here is a brief excerpt from a talk he gave to our advanced class in 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona, at Innersource, Donna Eden’s school of Energy Medicine:
The living matrix is a system that extends throughout the body and physically connects all of the parts together. It is the one living system that touches all of the other systems. It interpenetrates and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones, and nerve fibers . . . the components of this matrix are electronic semiconductors. . . .This means that the electrons in the proteins and other molecules are not confined to the chemical bonds that hold the system together but are free to move around, conveying energy and information throughout the organism. The quantum physics description is that the electrons are delocalized. Quantum physics and semiconduction are at the foundation of Energy Medicine.
The Morphic Field: An Invisible System of Energy
Another invisible system of energy that affects the body is the morphic field. First postulated in the early 1900s to explain the growth of embryos, the hypothesis was expanded upon by the contemporary biologist Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, into an explanation of the organizing principle not only for biological structures but for all things in nature, from crystals to cells to human communities.
The morphic field hypothesis suggests that everything in the physical world develops and organizes itself in resonance with preexisting invisible fields. To make it even more interesting, these morphic (literally “form-giving”) fields themselves evolve over time, providing a unique perspective for understanding what Sheldrake calls the “habits of nature.”
Morphic fields help explain why it can be so difficult to affect change, as they are designed to conserve habits, a principle of evolution. They also help us understand our interconnectivity with each other and with our world. Groups that are similar hold a similar resonance, and all members of that group, according to this hypothesis, are affected when a critical mass of a group’s members learn a new task. This corresponds with the yogic tenet “Heal yourself; heal the world.”
Morphic resonance explains why what you do in the world matters for the collective. Individual energy has a huge effect. It gathers. It forms patterns, systems, and habits. For instance, a relatively small number of people who are intent on a shared purpose can change seemingly intransigent structures in the world. That is why mass changes in world dynamics are called “movements.” People moving together, bringing their habits together, increase the strength of the field and this then reverberates to the group.
Peaceful protests are a potent example of people moving together toward a common good. If you feel despair at the challenges of our current world, you can take faith in the knowledge that energy can indeed shift and that your individual energy can contribute to that shift. How each of us lives becomes how the world lives.
Habits Can and Do Change
Patterns can be difficult to change. We see that when we try to break self-defeating habits. Changing a habit requires conscious intention, repetition, and willpower. But habits can and do change. Whether we are trying to change the habits of the world or the habits of our body, they require the same types of intervention. And although it may seem difficult, if there is enough of a critical mass, the change of the few can energetically pave the way for change in the many. While this may seem like a magical explanation, if we adopt the lens of morphic resonance, it explains many of the body’s miraculous healing capacities.
Mastering the invisible forces that impact us every day turns us into magicians of our health and vitality. The sooner we embrace this, the sooner we can start to work the magic in our lives that we so deeply crave. Energy and magic are intimately intertwined. Both invisible; both powerful.
The body has an innate, built-in capacity for healing. In fact, that is what the body wants to do and spends most of its time doing. After digestion, the biggest thing the body does is rebuild itself — cleaning, organizing, and eliminating toxins. The body knows how to heal, and mostly what we need to do is stop inhibiting that natural function.
To Change, You Have to Change
If you really want to change something in your life, you have to do the work to get there. A new habit takes time to create. You must practice. If you want to change your life, your path, or your health, you have to change the activities that brought you to where you currently are.
Change happens when you stop. Energy can shift instantly, but if you want to change longstanding patterns — physical, emotional, or spiritual — you have to change the underlying patterns of energy. You have to stop the detrimental energy patterns and start new health-supporting patterns. Those longstanding detrimental patterns are habits that your body resists changing. It requires repetition, willpower, and the intelligent application of energy to bring about real change.
Many of us need to stop the crazy rushing around and come into stillness, but the flip side of stillness is lethargy. In our culture we have busy minds, but oftentimes our bodies sit in chairs, cars, and couches all day. We need to shift this and get our bodies moving and still our minds.
Embracing The Power Of Change
If you’re struggling with a serious illness or dis-ease, you must often change many things at once. Look to your diet, your belief systems, your physical practices. If you’re quite ill, and especially if you have an autoimmune illness, you must even look to changing where you live. Most modern homes are built with powerful toxins that can make you sick.
If you want to get well, you might have to change everything. Once you embrace the power of change, it becomes less frightening, and can even be exciting. To change, you have to change seems so obvious. But it is often the most obvious that is the most difficult.
©2017 by Lauren Walker.
All Rights Reserved. Excerpted with permission.
Publisher: Sounds True. www.soundstrue.com.
The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription
by Lauren Walker
When you’re dealing with a health issue, what kind of energy practice will help the most? "To bring ourselves back into wellness," teaches Lauren Walker, "we first have to understand what brought our body out of wellness. When we return to balance, the body is best able to heal itself." With The Energy Medicine YogaPrescription, Lauren brings you an invaluable guide to help you uncover the root causes of specific physical, emotional, and psychological health complaints―along with a treasury of potent self-care practices to accelerate your healing. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Lauren Walker is the author of The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription (Sounds True, 2017) and Energy Medicine Yoga: Amplify the Healing Power of Your Yoga Practice (Sounds True, 2014). She's been teaching yoga and meditation since 1997, and created Energy Medicine Yoga while teaching at Norwich University. She teaches EMYoga across the US and internationally, and has been featured in Yoga Journal, Mantra Yoga + Health, Yoga Digest, and the New York Times. She was recently named one of the top 100 most influential yoga teachers in America by Sonima. For more information, visit EMYoga.net.