Is there a connection between our physical body and our mind? Imagine you are holding a large, ripe lemon. You scratch the peel and sniff that lemony smell. Now imagine you cut it in half and sniff the inside. Now lick it. By now you are probably experiencing something in your mouth, like a puckering or salivating, and maybe your face is changing a bit. Whether it’s aches and pains, suspected disease conditions or even whether some holistic remedy will work (acupuncture included), too often people say, “that’s all in your mind.” It’s just a placebo means that what you are taking doesn’t really work, it’s all in your head. The fact is that placebos work a whopping 40% of the time – a pretty good record for many medicines. How does that placebo effect work so effectively?
Up until 1986, there was no scientific proof of the mind/body connection. Throughout history mystics and regular people have believed that one’s thoughts could influence reality or at least the body, but there was no scientific proof. Then, neuroscientist Dr. Candace Pert discovered the connection in her work with neurotransmitters. In her fascinating, novel-like book, Molecules of Emotion, she describes her pioneering research on how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking brain and body. Her revolutionary work explains the scientific basis for popular wisdom about having “gut feelings”, how emotional states or moods are produced by the various neuropeptides, and what we experience as an emotion is produced by the activation of a particular neuronal circuit simultaneously throughout the brain and the body. Since neurotransmitters and their receptors are in both the brain and the body, the mind is in the body as well as the brain. Deepak Chopra popularized this by saying that every cell of your body is eavesdropping on your every thought.
This discovery of the bodymind connection could be as revolutionary as discovering the earth is round. If we adjust our thinking accordingly, the changes can affect all aspects of our lives. Take education for example. School programs that involve the entire body in the learning process through art, dance, singing and movement seem to be more successful, particularly with hyperactive children. ADD-diagnosed children cease being a problem in a learning environment that engages all their bodymind senses.
Take emotional health as another example. Unresolved negative emotions are stored in the neurology of the body. There are two ways to clear them, through body work and through mental/emotional therapy, with a combination of the two recommended. A frustrated, angry person might find peace of mind by working out, running, massage or yoga. A back ache might have an emotional basis of fear of not being supported, which when emotionally cleared allows the backache to vanish. A client’s bleeding ulcers completely disappeared after our emotional/mental therapy, according to the hospital’s scope.
Now take spirituality as an example. It is a lot easier to move oneself into a prayerful, meditative state through singing, chanting, group readings, breathing, and the like. Since you can’t intellectually meditate, the alternative is to engage the body in some way to get to the trance-like state that allows you to slip into a deep meditation. Many find keeping their body fit, as their temple, through good nutrition, exercise, quality time with loved ones and balance lets them more deeply experience their spirituality.
As food for thought, just consider for a week your own bodymind connections. If you have any body discomfort, look at what thoughts you are constantly thinking to see if there is a connection. There is often a metaphor, like jaw clenching related to something felt but not expressed, diabetes as not enough sweetness in life, shoulders as shouldering too many or other peoples’ burdens. Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body – The Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Metaphysical Way to Overcome Them, is an excellent reference. If you are dealing with emotional issues, complement your work by adding in physical releases such as body work, acupuncture, yoga, and exercise. If you are learning something new, engage all of your body senses in the process rather than just your brain. If you want to deepen your spiritual practice, it is said that one must descend fully into the physical before ascending spiritually. This process can allow you to become more conscious of where you deny or fully use your bodymind connection in your daily life.