It is important to keep your eyes and your heart open to new experiences and the meanings they inevitably carry with them. In the Western world, logic—namely rational thought that can be explained or demonstrated through fact has a dominion over our thinking. There is nothing wrong with this; however, it is crucial that we learn to take value in that which we cannot explain through impersonal, detached thinking, and not sacrifice our appreciation for one in the appreciation of the other.
Western medicine often calls for tangible evidence and visible results, looking to pharmaceuticals for concrete assistance in improving health—through changing or adjusting the chemistry of the body. Changing the state of the mind and body does not require substances. Thinking styles can change the brain’s state. The concept of mind-over-matter should not be overlooked as it tends to be in science-based practices which leave little room for subjectivity and anecdotal value. Positive thinking improves the productivity of the mind and clears us of negativity. This is as simple as reminding yourself throughout the day of your capabilities, and your self-love. Even in clinical trials, it has been documented that the mind can severely change the activity of the body. In a Discover Magazine blog post “Heal Yourself By Harnessing Your Mind” the author shows that the placebo effect is not contingent upon actual receipt of a pill patients believe to be working, but rather the belief of the patient itself. It reads “Belief in the placebo effect itself might be enough to encourage our bodies to heal.” This asks us to reinstate our belief in positive thinking for the sake of positive thinking.
Meditation and yogic practices seem to be bridging the gap between allopathic and homeopathic schools of medicine. The benefits of meditation, yogic exercise, and similar practices for reducing stress and anxiety have been discussed throughout the annals of history, but now their very real contributions to good health are more apparent. There is little disbelief concerning the advantages meditative practice offers as an aid in relaxation: increased blood flow, clearing of the mind, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, etc., but the spiritual rewards of such practices undergo dilution through the persistence of evidence-based education. One simple reason is the clear lack in case numbers dealing with meditation. One case study done at UC Davis’ Center for Mind and Brain (Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators) showed that meditation increased telomerase activity causing “decreases in Neuroticism and increases in both Mindfulness and Purpose in Life.” Relaxation itself fosters higher self-confidence, and promotes feelings of trust, both of which help maintain good health. Many believe the mind and body to be separated and not integrally intertwined. However, “optimists recover better from medical procedures…have healthier immune systems and live longer” and “negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill.”
This is no complaint against science-based medicine, but rather a plea on behalf of alternative methods of healing. The oldest tricks in the book—meditation and positive thinking—are being forgotten. Meditative practices are simple and begin in the household. As Pema Chodron says, “Start where you are.”