One of the greatest limitations of the old paradigm was the assumption that a person’s awareness does not play a role in explaining what is happening in his body. Yet healing cannot be understood unless the person’s beliefs, assumptions, expectations, and self-image are also understood. Although the image of the body as a mindless machine continues to dominate mainstream Western medicine, there is unquestionable evidence to the contrary. Death rates from cancer and heart disease are provably higher among people in psychological distress, and lower among people who have strong sense of purpose and well-being.
One of the most publicized medical studies in recent years was conducted by Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel, who set out to prove that the mental state of patients did not influence whether they survived cancer. He felt, as many clinicians do, that assigning importance to a patient’s beliefs and attitudes would do more harm than good, because the thought “I caused my cancer” would cause feelings of guilt and self-recrimination. Spiegel took eighty-six women with advanced breast cancer (their disease was basically beyond help with conventional treatment) and gave half of them weekly psychotherapy combined with lessons in self-hypnosis. By any measure this represents minimal intervention—what could a woman do in a hour’s therapy per week, time she must share with several other patients, to combat a disease that is inevitably fatal in advanced stages? The answer seemed obvious.
However, after following his subjects for ten years, Spiegel was stunned to find that the group receiving therapy survived on average twice as long as the group that received none. It was doubly telling that only three women were alive by this late date, all of them from the therapy group. This study is startling because the researcher expected no effect at all. But a decade of similar findings came in from other researchers. A meticulous 1987 study from Yale, reported by M.R. Jensen, found that breast cancer spread fastest among women who had repressed personalities, felt hopeless, and were unable to express anger, fear, and other negative emotions. Similar findings have emerged for rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, intractable pain, and other disorders.
Dominated by the old paradigm, doctors hold a prejudice against such results. As Larry Dossey points out in his insightful book Medicine and Meaning, “The dominant message, incessantly preached from the editorial pages of medical journals and the podiums of medical schools, is that the “inherent biology of the disease” is overwhelmingly important and that feelings, emotions, and attitudes are simply along for the ride.” What the new paradigm teaches us is that emotions are not fleeting events isolated in mental space; they are expressions of awareness, the fundamental stuff of life. In all religious traditions the breath of life is spirit. To raise or lower someone’s spirit means something fundamental that the body must reflect.
Awareness makes a huge difference in aging, for although every species of higher life-form ages, only humans know what is happening to them, and we translate this knowledge into aging itself. To despair of growing old makes you grow old faster, while to accept it with grace keeps many miseries, both physical and mental, from your door. The common sense notion “You’re only as old as you think you are” has deep implications. What is a thought? It is an impulse of energy and information, like everything else in Nature. The packages of information and energy that we label trees, stars, mountains, and oceans could be called Nature’s thoughts, too, but in one important respect our thoughts are different. Nature is stuck with her thoughts once their pattern has been fixed in place; things such as stars and trees follow a growth cycle that runs automatically through the stages of birth, development, decay, and dissolution.
We, however, are not stuck in our life cycle; being aware, we participate in every reaction that takes place inside us. The problems arise when we don’t take responsibility for what we’re doing. In his book The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot draws a brilliant comparison with King Midas: Because everything he touched turned to gold, Midas could never know the actual texture of anything. Water, wheat, flesh, or feathers all turned into the same hard metal the instant he touched them. In the same fashion, because our awareness turns the quantum field into ordinary material reality, we cannot know the true texture of quantum reality itself, either through our five senses or by thinking about it, for a thought also transforms the field—it takes the infinite possibilities of the void and shapes a specific space-time event.
When you call your body is a specific space-time event too, and by experiencing its materiality, you miss the Midas touch that converts pure abstract potential into a solid thing. Unless you become aware of awareness, you won’t be able to catch yourself in the act of transformation.
Source: BOOK ON “AGELESS BODY, TIMELESS MIND” - A PRACTICAL
ALTERNATIVE TO GROWING OLD BY DEEPAK CHOPRA
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