All it takes is just a moment of time to take a good look around you. A moment of quiet observation, if you allow for it, will reveal many things that often go unnoticed, yet they fully exist. Take that moment and observe our world, the state of affairs in which we are all in at this moment, our state of health, and ultimately our state of mind which includes our beliefs. Disease is all around us and if it is not impacting us personally, in our own body, it is impacting another close to us. Even if our health may be good, at this moment, many fear of what could come to them and what disease they could contract or be exposed to. It creates this state of fear, panic, and anxiety in which we are in, as a world, right now, considering the COVID-19 epidemic. I’ve discussed the viewpoints of Chinese Medicine and the coronavirus, yet, is there an even bigger picture that we may not be seeing?
(Article notation: These are the personal thoughts, viewpoints, and opinions of the author)
Current times, such as these in which we are all living in, can cause a person to take a moment, and sit back to reflect. It is not just a time for gratitude for what you may have been blessed with, but a time to put pieces of the overall puzzle together to create clarity and to make sense in your own mind. As a doctor and a living being susceptible to my own health concerns over the years, I have taken many opportunities such as these to truly seek answers and to make sense of many matters, whether if they are involving health or otherwise.
I think that this is one of our main purposes for being here, in this world, is to take time to reflect, express gratitude and potentially see a bigger picture.
There are many ways one can look at health, our state of affairs, and worldly events. With each perspective may come new insights and opportunities, and likely, there is no one ‘right’ way of looking at things. As I reflect back upon my career in the medical field, I realize that despite the vast amount of information which may have been taught to me and retained, one thing stands true and that is that I had little control over the outcome of that patient. I could apply the correct therapies, as dictated by a medical text or the ‘standard of care’, but not every patient would respond the same or appropriately. In the end, for many of my colleagues, this didn’t matter as they ‘did what they could‘ and followed the standards, removing them from any liability or risk. Medicine can almost be viewed as a cookie-cutter science, applying accepted standards of care, hoping for the best, but knowing or believing that nothing more could have been done if all does not go well for the patient. Then, if things did turn out well, more times than not, the improvement was credited to the doctor, rather to the patient, or potentially a higher source. This is not to denounce the importance of the physician, veterinarian, or otherwise, but more so should shed light on the fact that there is something bigger out there and a piece of the puzzle which many choose to deny its existence.
As a part of my training, honestly as a result of my own health ailments not responding to traditional western medical approaches 14 years ago, I was guided to alternative medicine. This was not an area of therapy that I would have chosen and in truth, as a veterinarian, I denied it’s existence. To be honest, at that time, I even denied the influence of a proper diet upon health, and just viewed food as a ‘fuel’ source to keep my body moving as well as that of my patients. I was ignorant and I will admit that completely, but a door was opened for me 14 years ago that gradually changed my perception upon many topics.
In the world of ‘alternative medicine’, and I use that term loosely, health is viewed as a state of imbalance within the body. Dependent upon the type or form of imbalance, disease or a lack of health is then created. It makes perfect sense, as anything that is unstable is susceptible to damage which may include the body, the foundation of your house, or even a retention wall around your garden. There are all types and forms of imbalance which may exist in the body, opening the door for health problems, which is beyond the scope of this editorial. The fact is that they exist. Once you understand them, they are quite obvious to the naked eye, and in truth sometimes do not require vision to detect, but can be readily picked up by our other senses of listening, smelling, touching or hearing.
One interesting ‘root cause’, if you will, which is associated with most forms of alternative medical philosophies, is the connection of emotions with disease. Chinese medicine recognizes it as does Ayurveda, which both date back centuries, well before the technology and medications of the Western World. For some reason, they made the simple connection thousands of years ago, yet we fail to connect the dots today. Emotions are simply a physiological response of the body to a thought. They are thoughts played out on a stage, which is our body. The thought then is associated with the mind, not the brain, as the mind and brain are not the same. The brain is an organ, the mind is not. The brain is essentially a hard drive, a computer program, which implements prompts given to it and deciphers information from the outside. The mind is capable of both ‘reception’ and ‘transmission’ of thought, which then impacts the brain and the internal workings of our body and those around us. Like sound waves or energy, our mind receives outside transmissions but can also transmit them just the same. Those are then picked up by others around us, impacting them equally, one way or the other.
Science or Spirituality and Disease
There’s an old adage in the world of medicine which goes something like “the doctor applies the bandage, God heals the wound”. While this is very true, it is often denied by many of my colleagues and even their patients. This goes along with what I mentioned above, regarding applying the ‘standard of care’, yet having a patient not respond, even in the course of a simple infection which generally resolves. There is something bigger going on, yet, you have to take a moment to sit and observe. In the world of alternative medicine, the viewpoint exists which notes differences in causes of disease, different patterns which are present from one patient to the next, which may explain why one responds and another does not. This is very true and explains why only a percentage of people respond to any given medication. There is always a group that fails to respond. On paper, in research, we may think they all should respond because of how that medication works or the details of the disease, yet this is not true. We know it as researchers and as doctors, but fail to acknowledge that differences exist or if we do see it, we fail to dig deeper and try to understand beyond what science may tell us.
As I evolved in my own growth as a doctor, understanding and incorporating alternative medicine, the differences were quite obvious. Medications were utilized as needed, but patients were not treated identically, despite having similar illnesses or health conditions. In order to do that and succeed, the therapy goes beyond a medication or a surgery, and may incorporate specific foods or herbs targeted to that specific patient. The goal was to recognize the imbalance, see the cause or source, and then encourage balance. It is like seeing a patient that is experiencing hypothermia, a severe state of cold, and realizing that the solution is to create warmth. Through this approach, many patients could be helped on a higher level, increasing the overall response rate in general, but despite this, it was still practicing medicine but on a different plane. This approach required a different mindset and one not evident in the average practitioner or doctor. We can go much deeper when it comes to health, either mentally or physically.
For most, when it comes to health and disease, a person stands on one shore of the river or another in most instances. A person can have a strictly scientific viewpoint on one shore, or a view of spirituality on the other. In all truth, it is like walking on thin ice in the world of medicine and health if one even raises the ‘spirituality’ card, so I must be careful in my relaying of thoughts. In reality, science and spirituality are not mutually exclusive and alternative medicine to me, includes spirituality as part of it’s foundation.
My wife and I have adopted a couple of Greyhound dogs over the past year, coming directly off of the track or from foster homes. They are a unique breed and one which I enjoyed caring for as a veterinarian. We started with one, a young female, a couple of years ago and in being the only pet in our household, she became somewhat spoiled. When we visited the rescue, she was in the back of her run, almost in fetal position, trembling at the loud sounds of the barking around her. She was not aggressive or a fear biter, but it took some encouragement to get her to come to us and create trust. She was simply afraid of the world around her and was in need of security. What created that state of mind in her? I have no idea, but overall we felt a bond and a desire to create security. Over the first year, she came out of her shell, regained her health with proper nutrition and herbal support, and became very secure in her being, yet lonely because she was the only dog. Thus, we recently adopted another out of a foster home. Now, with the introduction of another Greyhound, being a male and of a totally different personality, it has rekindled the insecurity which resides deep within her. We’ve noticed in the past, that even with the raising of a voice in our house, she would respond negatively, often going off her feed, and even develop transient bloody colitis or diarrhea. Currently, she has not gone to this degree, but has exhibited some reverting to past feelings and emotions, which impacts her overall state of well-being.
The point in that brief story is how emotions influence health. Our female Greyhound’s story is real and it is reflective of my health and yours just the same. That female dog has a mind pattern which is present, her view or perception of the world which was likely influenced by a past experience, which then transfers to the brain, and then to the body, creating ill-health. Her mind may experience a state of fear, which impacts the brain function, then through neurotransmitter signaling her digestive function is impaired, creating a loss of appetite due to nausea and if severe enough, altering the digestive microbiome creating colitis or diarrhea. In most cases, her condition is temporary and resolved within 24-hours, which may include just reassurance that all is well in her world and maybe the addition of some herbs to ease her mind and settle her digestion. In truth, she is living in the past, recalling past emotions and relating them to current experiences. What she is feeling is not real, but is just a misinterpretation of current events.
Her situation is generally very short lived, but it demonstrates how the mind, even one of a dog, can influence health. If you then step back and observe yourself and those around you, it is pretty easy to see how our state of emotions influence our health and state of being. In our current world, prior to the emergence of COVID-19, there was already much anxiety, depression and tension in society. There are many causes for this, but technology plays a major role in my opinion, creating self-doubt, inflated egos, and a general need to be better and have more than another on some level. People were often at each other’s throats, even if not in person or face to face, quick to judge, quick to condemn and quick to criticize one another. These are all thought patterns, in our minds, which transfer to physiological form in our bodies on some level. In truth, these are not just thought patterns, but really stories that we keep telling ourselves over and over. If you tell yourself something repetitively, you soon begin to believe it is true. Depending on what you keep telling yourself, that is how it impacts your body and your state of health.
Take that moment, sit still and reflect. It is all true, but it can be hard to grasp and define. This is what goes against science as we know it. Science likes things that it can define and completely explain, and this concept of the mind and body is not something that can be fully understood or explained. Throw spirituality into that mix and the waters get even muddier. Despite not being able to explain them in some research paper or trial, the concepts do exist. All you need to do is observe and physically feel it.
The world of medicine likes to define things, taking a disease and further breaking it down into details, going to a cellular level, which is fine as these details do exist. However, one needs to use caution, as the deeper you go to explain something, the further you become distracted from truth. This may be where the saying ‘fail to see the forest for the trees‘ may come into play. Many like the ‘details’ as it may allow them to separate themselves from another, making them unique in some way, when in truth they are not. A person may not just have ‘X’ disease, but they have sub-type AB12. We like to think of ourselves as being unique, which we are on some levels, but in truth, we are all the same, are all linked together, have the same original source, and are susceptible to all things under the sun.
As I look at the broader picture of humanity, which includes health and disease, spirituality is the common denominator or the bottom line. This is a touchy area for many and thus, I have to tread lightly on this subject. In talking or conversing with many people, despite it being a touchy subject, on some level you can literally feel it in them, a searching, a desire to know, and a belief that something greater is out there, some other truth if you will. However, bring up the concept of spirituality and watch out! Even in the world of medicine, we may have some doctors that truly know they are just pawns in the game of health and will go to the extent to pray with their patients, while for other doctors they believe in only one power which resides in their hands or a prescription bottle. Either way is okay, to be honest, because what matters most, in my opinion, is where the belief of that patient falls or resides.
Belief is defined as ‘an acceptance of a statement as true or that something exists, or, trust, faith, and confidence in someone or something’.
This definition often mirrors faith, and with that often implies a belief in something that is not tangible or perceptible at this moment in time or state of being. Now, this concept of belief is huge and impacts you and I in every facet of our existence. In truth, we create what we believe in our own body, in our lives, and the world around us. What we believe or perceive is based on our past experiences, our own thoughts, and the thoughts of those around us. If you hang around negative people, you will become negative. If you believe that a doctor can ‘cure’ you, and fully believe, then I believe personally that it can become a reality. If you believe you are ill or lack health on some level, then that may be what you create. If you believe your life is miserable, you lack something or live in poverty, then that is what you will create. Think long and hard about this.
The concept is not hard to understand and in truth, it is not hard to see, yet, we like to ‘define’ things if we are strictly science based. If you want proof, then look at the ‘placebo-effect’ as evidence. It is a natural phenomenon which has plagued research and medicine for eons and is something that cannot be scientifically explained, thus it is often dismissed. A person can be given a placebo medication, a sugar pill if you will, and exhibit improvements in a medical condition without explanation. The truth here is that ‘belief’ has played a role, and that person believed the fake pill or medication would benefit them. This belief may be of their own doing or could be further rooted by another through verbal commands, telling them that this ‘pill’ is a powerful new remedy to cure disease. If you are told something the right way, it becomes rooted in your mind, and the body will respond to that thought pattern.
What is interesting to me, as I explore health and medicine, is that this power of belief runs very deep. As I look back upon ancient methods of healing, it is quite evident. I tend to do a lot of reading and many of the books I treasure are quite dated in their text, going back a hundred years or more. I look for confirmation, evidence if you will, of what I believe to be true and what is often denied in society today. In truth, if we look back upon holy scripts, including the Bible, the truths are there but often misunderstood or overlooked, not being applied. It was evident in the teachings of Jesus as well as that of Buddha and many others. Despite this, it is hard to grasp for various reasons and therefore apply. Going outside of these ancient teachings, there is medical evidence regarding the power of our beliefs, even outside of the placebo effect.
In one medical text from I believe the 1800’s, a physician during the time was commenting on his observations of the power of the subconscious mind and healing. He relayed a story of a patient that had an incurable disease at the time, being bedridden with little time left. The doctor tells the story of how the son, just returning from a trip to the Middle East, and knowing his father’s firm belief in Jesus, fashioned a piece of wood found in the yard with ornamental leather and told his father that it was believed to be a piece of the cross which Jesus was nailed to. His father, hearing those words, firmly grasped the item, and held it to his chest in prayer. The doctor then goes on to tell how the patient experienced a miraculous recovery to full health in the next week.
Then, we have Phineas Quimby, lay-healer from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Now, Phineas explored the power of the mind in healing and overall well-being, seeing how many healers during the time were using odd therapies such as magnets and hypnotism, including other therapies. He explored those therapies, seeing how they produced some miraculous healings, but inside he knew there was something more. The subconscious mind, the power of thought, became evident to Quimby and he realized that what the patient believed became manifested in form. However, despite his realization, understanding, and the ability to help patients, Quimby still felt there was more to the story. Upon further exploration and contemplation, Phineas realized that healing was created not just through the mind and influence upon the body, but this mind and power within it was a realization of God.
Quimby realized and then truly understood what lied in the words of Jesus. He often said that healing occurred through a greater understanding of Christ, and that he, as the healer (being Quimby) was just a tool to help the patient to get there. Quimby came to understand that our beliefs were at the root of all of it and in his seeing that one belief could create disease while another could cure it, he then came to refer to the first belief as an ‘error’ of sorts. Quimby’s job, as a healer, was to literally convince the patient otherwise, get them to see truth, and in that truth they were healed. The stories of patients that he recalls in his journal notes are quite fascinating. Convincing that person was not an easy task, almost like trying to convince someone that the sky is really green rather than blue. Our past beliefs and those of people around us over time accumulate in our minds, and in that can be rather difficult to overcome. Quimby could not accomplish this alone, but he needed the patient to be in a state where they desired help, and of course, relied upon a higher power to accomplish his goals. He did not always succeed, mind you, but this was not much different than the disciples of Christ. The results or outcome also relied heavily upon his beliefs, as Quimby, which were under the influence of others just as well. This gets back to establishing a ‘deep foundation’ in your faith or belief, for if it is not deep enough, it can be easily shaken.
Then, we can look at the teaching’s and stories of various yogis throughout time, seeing how their primary objective was to seek God, a higher level of spiritual understanding and application. This was achieved through meditation, often for prolonged periods, set routines, and even diet, used to cleanse the body and the mind. Some yogis, as noted in literature, were able to arrive at very high levels of understanding, being able to cure disease, predict death and even intervene in the process of death. For some, they may view these as just stories, when in fact they were real. They are easily dismissed and for some they may believe, but feel for themselves it is not possible. The truth, as the yogis tended to convey, is that what is possible for one is possible for another as there is no separation. Seek God and the rest will follow.
The overall point here is the concept of thought, how it influences our mind, and then our body. Thought impacts how we react to the world around us, people around us, how we perceive ourselves, others, and even what we choose to do. In our current state of affairs, as a world, we are enduring the COVID-19 epidemic. Now, while this virus is real and exists, as do many other things, we need to step back and assess our thoughts and how we are responding to it.
If you are a Christian, which I am, in the Bible we are given truths. One truth is in the saying “Be still and know that I am God.” In this truth, what you realize is that ‘truth’ in anything is gained only from going within yourself and in order to do that, you must be still, in a state of reflection with a focused mind. Not easy to do in today’s society with the technology, the constant communication, bells and chimes going on and off all over the place with notifications. You can either be distracted by all of this, or take time for truth seeking, which involves dedication, intent and will to go within and to the source. When you do this, you often see that all of this around us is nothing more than an illusion, a distraction of sorts.
Then, Jesus repeatedly has teachings of dispelling fear and anxiety, and not looking to the past. He tells us not to fear or be anxious about anything, nor look to the past or to the future, but just trust. Again, not easy to do in today’s society, which currently is so fear stricken that it can be overwhelming. This fear and anxiety that we have generated goes against all that we have been taught, whether if that is in the teachings of Christ or others. Our mind can play games on us, creating illusions, things that may be ‘real’ on one level and exist, but yet not truly impact us as we believe. The coronavirus may be real, and it is, but how it impacts you is up to you. You can create all sorts of scenarios in your mind, which look to the future, and in those thoughts not only do you breed more fear and anxiety, but those thoughts become emotions, played out in your body and health. Your body responds to those emotions like a computer program. Is there a sense of fear? Then the body responds with an elevated heart rate, increased respiration, blood pressure and altered hormone production. In the short term that is okay and quite normal, but in the long-term, not a good idea as it further weakens the body and instills imbalance. These hormonal changes associated with the stress response, are tightly linked with many health ailments that impact you or I, so it is wise to take notice.
In truth, if you can see and understand the connection between your thoughts and your health, one can actually hypothesize that all illness is self-created. According to Quimby, it was an error in thought, a misdirection of sorts of the mind, and a lack of wisdom, being God. Understanding this, the concept of miraculous healings is not so far removed and one can then understand the works of Christ and many others that followed him. The power lies in a greater source than you or I, being God or otherwise if you prefer. The bottom line is that this ‘greater source or power’ exists and if you take the time to reflect upon it, it is hard to deny. On a more basic and comprehensible level, one also realizes that their current thoughts, beliefs about themselves, dictates their lifestyle. If you are down on yourself, have low self-esteem or lack of purpose, this can translate into poor eating habits and a negative lifestyle, which equally then impact your health.
Take a good look around you, the evidence is there. It is present in the stories of those that have healed themselves of cancer, diabetes or other ‘fatal’ disease, often without the intervention of modern medicine. In all of their stories, the common denominator is one of faith, at least in themselves or of a higher being (God), placing trust in that source. As is typical of our world, it is not easy and even those that choose this path of ‘self-healing’ experience much resistance from those around them. Imagine a person with terminal cancer telling their loved ones that they were declining all therapy, opting for a change of diet, lifestyle and spirituality! The fact is that many have healed themselves or at least improved their situation dramatically, but many fail and likely this is due to the influence of others upon their own mind.
Where does diet and herbs come into the mix? In my mind, they are tools, very effective ones, but still tools. They are meant to assist us in attaining and maintaining health, but by themselves are not the sole answer. As with any medication, herbs and foods can be used in a person but fail to achieve results as expected, which indicates another factor, which is the mind and belief. Then, in another situation, a person can use foods and herbs and acquire high levels of health and well-being, but if they don’t pay attention to the mind and thoughts, it can quickly bring them down a notch despite. The body, in my opinion, is a device used by us, as a spirit, to obtain a higher level of understanding. The body is almost like a car we are driving, taking us from one point to another. If you desire to reach that end point, what ever that may be, you are best served to take care of the car you are driving. This is where diet and herbs come into play in my mind and practice, helping to ‘heal’ the body or car, enabling that person to continue on their journey or get back on the path.
It can be a scary world, there is no doubt, and none of us are immune to the concept or feeling of fear, but how you respond to it is a choice. I look at it as a small child who believes there is a monster under their bed. They hear noises but don’t know what it is. They have a few choices here in order to eliminate their concerns. First, they can ask another to tell them what that noise is, and that person could react by saying ‘it is a 5-headed, fire-breathing dragon…be very afraid!“. Second, the child by themselves or through the assistance of another can squat down and look under the bed, hopefully realizing that nothing is there or maybe it is just a kitten playing. Either way, what ever is gained from the situation is then instilled in thought. If the child is told it is a scary monster, then that is what they believe and it transfers to other areas of their life, fear is instilled deeply. If the child analyzes the situation and realizes it was all an illusion in his own mind, then the fear is dispelled and going further into time, the child doesn’t just take another’s word on anything, but analyzes every situation for himself to determine what is real and what is not.
There are only two emotions in truth, being fear or love. The ultimate question is which one do you choose, knowing that this choice can then impact all other aspects of your life?
Author: Tom Schell, D.V.M, CVCH, CHN