LOS ALTOS, CA, June 6, 2013 — It might be considered insensitive for a physician to suggest that whatever physical ailment you are suffering from is all in your head. However, considering the boatload of evidence that has been accumulating lately showing the relationship between what we think and our physical well being, it would be irresponsible to say that your head or more specifically, your beliefs, have nothing to do with it.
The latest bit of evidence to cross my radar screen came from a man living in Washington, a former salesman, an avid writer and a reader of this column.
Responding to something he read about the potential for allergies to be cured through purely mental means, he sent a blog post he had written chronicling his own tale of suffering and recovering from this same disease.
“Here’s a story about a guy who suffered from asthma, allergies, and sinus infections his entire life,” his post begins. “It was a constant, every day affliction. It was part of him…. It was his identity. And then, he figured it out.”
What was it he figured out? Two things, actually.
First, he learned that no amount of antibiotics, nasal sprays, steroids, or inhalers could relieve his symptoms, let alone cure him. Second, he learned that what he chose to believe about himself could have a significant impact on his health.
The turning point came when his girlfriend made a suggestion. “Every day you do all these sprays and inhalers and take pills and do all this stuff,” she said. “Maybe you are reinforcing to your mind that you have this problem. What if you just stopped doing all this stuff?”
That is exactly what he did. He also made a commitment to see himself in an entirely different light. Not as an individual forever beholden to sinus problems, but as someone who is innately capable of breathing as freely and easily as the next guy, entirely unaffected by congestive beliefs about heredity, environment, and so on.
“Two years later, this man now runs outside three times a week,” his post concludes. “His sinuses are wide open. He took his doctor off speed dial. He doesn’t know where his inhaler is, and he doesn’t care. He is the greatest breather in the history of mankind.”
This is similar to another story about a good friend who was also cured of a sinus-related disease. What distinguishes his experience, however, is that it involved not just a renewed view of himself but a decidedly different view of others as well.
For years this friend suffered from recurring bouts of sinusitis and was told that he could expect the same throughout his life. This continued until shortly after he graduated from university in England.
It was then that he began studying the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century religious leader and medical reformer. This helped my friend to see himself from a more spirit-based and less matter-based perspective and explained, as he puts it, “the how of the healings attributed to Jesus and his early disciples.”
At the same time, my friend was also confronting an alarming increase in anti-Semitic activity, a particularly troubling trend for this son of two Holocaust survivors.
“Fascist violence was not an abstract concept to me in my early twenties,” he wrote in a blog post about his experience. “Believers in it were turning up at the rock concerts I was attending and threatening the anti-racism marches I went on.”
It was around this time that my friend had his own turning point.
Despite the fact that he was in considerable pain, he agreed to an impromptu invitation to have dinner with a friend. At the restaurant he had a vision of what he describes as “pure love, a perfect love, a boundless love,” a vision that he feels led to his rapid and complete recovery from sinusitis.
“I felt the presence of divine love, loving everyone,” he wrote, “whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, or non-believer, a Parent of all, who loves all equally.”
This happened more than 25 years ago and the sinusitis has never returned.
“Something more important than gaining that physical relief also happened as a result of my glimpse of spiritual love that night,” he wrote. “My fear and hatred of those who hate – specifically racists and anti-Semites – also began to sap away and my dread of a re-run of the Holocaust lost its tenacious hold on my thoughts.”
For many, these two stories present little more than anecdotal evidence of the impact that our beliefs about ourselves, about others and even the Divine can have on our physical well being, especially for a culture fixated on clinical trials and double-blind studies. When it comes right down to it, though, the evidence that matters most is what we gather from personal experience - evidence that might be interpreted one way today but, when looked at from different angle, just might inspire an entirely new image of thought and body tomorrow.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional, and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.
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