From a very early age I saw evidence that the body reacted to the emotions and our thoughts could dictate our state of health, or disease. I saw it first hand with my mother who had a mental illness that went misdiagnosed for decades. I lived in a dysfunctional household where she would be fine and smiling one day, and the next day she would be a terror. I did NOT want to live in that family with that household, but I knew there was absolutely no way to leave there; I was eight years old.
So when Deepak explains the science that has developed around Mind Body Medicine and how our bodies react to our thoughts and experiences I am in total agreement. Here is what so called Western Medicine has decided to ignore; that our body reacts in a chemical way to our surroundings. We understand very little really about what to do with this fact.
Trauma is an extreme example, and one that I would like to address because I think it is an experience that we have all been faced with at one time or another. I understand how the pain nerve fibers react from an automobile accident even when there are no broken bones, torn skin or loss of limb. But why do the pain fibers continue to fire when we seem to be fully recovered? And what about the trauma of someone who angers you or scares you? How does our body process these emotional upsets that in turn signal chemical changes in our bodies? I want to know how we can deal with all types of trauma, and I want to know in what ways can we get back to normal?
I think touch is the answer. As a health practitioner and bodyworker I see patients who are in pain from no particular incident other than they “moved the wrong way” and now they are in pain. I also see patients who went the normal route of medication for pain and muscle tension, a practice that is far too prevalent in the emergency room, and went to physical therapy and were told they would never be their old self again. I treated that same patient with tender care, evaluating where the tension was affecting their body, the musculoskeletal system, and more importantly their emotions. How is it that after a year of the “standard of care” they made no recovery, but with my skilled hands and gentle heart, they were able to return to their “pre-accident” state within six weeks?
When we think of Mind Body Medicine, there is another component that is not ever discussed; the healing quality of touch from another. In the book, Psychology of Yoga, they discuss how simple touch can have many physiological benefits as well as emotional benefits. A young woman with seizures that are not well controlled with medication saw dramatic results in just a few weeks of gentle massage. I saw a young child who having been born addicted to heroine was finally able to relax spastic muscles after just a few minutes of CranioSacral Still Point.
If we are to speak of Mind Body Medicine, then we should also include in this discussion the idea that energy is also shared between people especially if the intent is to share compassion and love for another human being. I think there is agreement among providers that trauma victims lose sight of their self. Being able to reconnect to their true self is difficult, but when we experience the touch of another compassionate soul there can be a shift. Healing Touch has been taught to nurses and other bodyworkers as a non-invasive modality to help bring energy back to the body, mind and spirit of anyone willing to receive.
Trauma-sensitive yoga therapy is very aware of the disconnection between the body and the mind and uses yoga postures to guide the individual back into the awareness state of the body; to speak to the Inner Physician that Dr. Upledger identifies when working with the body. The dialogue between the tissues and the subconscious mind happens between the individual and their inner self to reconnect their body and their mind in a more healthy relationship.
Being consciously aware of our body is the first step to enlightenment. How many of us are aware? Our jobs seem to be so much more important than our bodies and we neglect the basic needs like drinking water, exercise or relaxation. That is how our American society is expected to act; do your job and your day is about getting the work done and who cares about what your body needs. A difficult dance, I admit, but it is a sad state of affair. I once was fired from a job because the owner caught me reading a book on Grieving that I used to keep me calm after my mother died. He did not ask me what I was reading or what it was for, just that I was taking time at my desk to read something not work related. That was really dumb and stupid on his part and I was happy to leave. I never went back to another “job” after that and have remained self-employed; thank God.
Listen to the video with Deepak Chopra and the scientific search for Body Mind Medicine:
My own idea about trauma goes deeper than most. I have experienced many life-altering traumatic experiences; drowning, automobile crash, loss of loved one, emotional trauma, and even disease which can also be traumatic. I think we have forgotten or may not even be aware of how connected our thoughts are to our body and how powerful they can be if we use them as the vehicle to change the chemical process that our body undergoes; change your thought and change your life. Not really hard to understand for some, but very foreign to many.
In What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses, Daniel Chamovitz talks about the chemical messengers in plants that help it thrive and survive. Even messengers that are spread from plant to plant through space, they emit chemicals that warn other plants of predators making them less appealing. We all know how wonderful a green salad can be, but did you also know that the anti-oxidant properties are enhanced when you tear the lettuce? This is the plant’s automatic healing process; to emit chemicals to begin the wound repair and thanks to them we can eat the anti-oxidants they produce to help our own bodies heal.
When I first got into Mind Body Medicine as a massage therapist and nutritionist, I used hair analysis. I could not work with a lab back then, and the hair is really accurate in showing how our bodies are using the food we eat or reacting to the drugs we take. Hair has become a gold standard in determining if someone is a drug user; it is registered and stored in the hair shaft and stays there until you cut it off. We used the first inch from the scalp as a sample for the lab to test. The lab I worked with would send me back a report on the metabolic markers so that I could then determine what imbalances in their diet needed to be corrected. It was the only lab that would also tell me their metabolic type: slow, mixed, or fast. I think this is similar to the Dosha type in Ayurvedic Medicine: Vata, Pita, or Kapha. Our goal in either case is always to locate the cause of the imbalance, treat it temporarily to reduce symptoms, but inevitably to find the missing link, remove the underlying cause, and regain our health.