Mind Over Matter
Mind and body are inextricably interlinked. Here are some amazing examples:
1)Meditation and body temperature
Buddhist monks are able to achieve a state of consciousness during meditation where they are able to control their body temperature. They have the ability to meditate for hours on end, to abstain from food for days, and take vows of silence – most us would agree that Tibetan Monks have better control over their minds and bodies than the average person.
In one of the most notable exhibits of their skills, a group of Tibetan monks allowed physicians to monitor the monk’s bodily changes as they engaged in a meditative yoga technique known as g Tum-mo. During the process the monks were cloaked in wet, cold sheets (49 f / 9.4 c) and placed in a 40 f (4.5 c) room. In such conditions, the average person would likely experience uncontrollable shivering and would shortly suffer hypothermia. However, through deep concentration, the monks were able to generate body heat, and within minutes the researchers noticed steam rising from the sheets that were covering the monks. Within an hour, the sheets were completely dry.
The Buddhists say the heat they generate is a byproduct of the meditation, since it takes energy to reach a state of alternate reality – a place unaffected by our everyday world.
2) Multiple personality disorder
Multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, is a mental condition that’s interesting on many levels. Perhaps most intriguing of all is how some sufferers not only exhibit personality and behavior changes as they switch between their different identities, but some also have measurable physiological variations between each persona. For instance, one of a patient’s personalities may need eyeglasses and another won’t. Or, one identity might be diabetic and another will have perfect health. In such cases, it isn’t simply a matter of the patients thinking they need eyeglasses or insulin, their bodies actually go through legitimate alterations, such as differences in intraocular pressure or blood sugar levels.
3) The nocebo effect
The nocebo effect produces negative results, such as a cancer patient vomiting before chemotherapy starts or someone breaking out in a rash because they thought they touched poison ivy, even though it was merely an ordinary plant.
One of the most talked about examples of the nocebo phenomenon was an incident published in “New Scientist.” According to the account, late one night an Alabama man, referred to as Vance, went to a cemetery and met up with a witch doctor who told Vance that he was going to die soon. Believing the witch doctor’s prediction, Vance soon fell ill and within a matter of weeks was emaciated and close to death. Vance was taken to the hospital but the medical doctors could find nothing wrong with him. Finally, Vance’s wife told the physician, Dr. Doherty, about the encounter with the witch doctor, which gave the creative physician an idea. The next day, Dr. Doherty told the couple he had tracked down the witch doctor and physically threatened him until the medicine man finally admitted he had put a lizard inside Vance that was eating him from the inside. Of course, the Doctor’s story was completely fabricated, yet he made a big show of injecting the patient with a mysterious substance and snuck in a genuine, green lizard that he pretended to extract from Vance. The next day, Vance awoke alert, hungry, and it didn’t take long before he fully recovered.
Apparently, that story was corroborated by four other medical professionals, and is often cited when explaining why Voo Doo sometimes works (i.e. not because of magic, but because of the nocebo effect).
4) The placebo effect
A placebo is an inert substance or belief which produces real biological effects in humans. It’s so widely accepted as fact that a placebo variable is included in most medical tests as way of proving if, say, a drug works on its own merits or because people “think” it works.
There are tons of experiments showing the proof of the placebo, but one of the most amusing to watch is a test done by a group of Princeton students who decided to throw a non-alcoholic keg party for their unsuspecting classmates. The experimenters secretly filled a keg with O’Douls (contains about 0.4% alcohol while regular beer has around 5% alcohol) and then watched as their peers acted silly, slurred words, slept on the ground, and generally acted drunk. Although it’s nearly impossible to get intoxicated on O’Douls, these college students had such a strong belief they were drinking standard beer that it affected their behaviour.
Curiously, researchers have discovered the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger, and some drugs that have been on the market for years, such as Prozac, are now proving less effective than placebos. Naturally, this is a major issue for big pharmaceutical companies, which has left many scrambling to conduct neurological studies in an effort to come up with new ways to safeguard their industry from ordinary sugar pills. Incidentally, Big Pharma is currently more profitable than Big Oil, so there’s quite a bit at stake.
5) The power of thought in sports performance
Many athletes claim it helps them perform better when they “play” the game in their minds before ever stepping foot on the field or court. While we might assume doing so is just a mental exercise that enables them to better focus on the game, there might be more concrete changes happening inside the body.
Take, for example, Air Force Colonel George Hall who was locked in a small, dark North Vietnamese prison for seven years. While most would lose their minds in such circumstances, Hall went to his happy place, so to speak, by mentally playing golf every day of his imprisonment. His visualizations were extremely in-depth and included everything from hitting the ball off the tee, raking the sand traps, feeling the wind, and of course tapping the ball into the hole.
Regardless of being weak and 100 pounds lighter than before his capture, one of the first things Hall wanted to do after his release was to play a legitimate round of golf. He was invited to the Greater New Orleans Open where he astoundingly shot a 76. When a member of the press suggested his performance was a case of beginners luck, Hall replied, “Luck, I never 3-putted a green in the last five years!”
So, despite his physical deterioration and not stepping on a course in over seven years, his body had developed muscle memory based simply on his imaginings.
6) Stop Pain
Jack Schwarz, a Dutch Jewish writer, lived in horrific conditions while forced into a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Like so many others, he was beaten, starved, and tortured beyond what most of us can comprehend. To cope with his situation, he began the practice of meditation and prayer, which he developed to the point where he could block out the pain of his torment and subsequently withstand his situation.
After his release, Schwarz continued his mind over matter practice and occasionally demonstrated his skills by putting a long sail-maker’s needle through his arm without injury. He also displayed his ability to regulate his body’s blood flow by causing the puncture hole in his arm to bleed or stop bleeding at will. Schwarz was studied by researchers at the Menninger Foundation who found that he could indeed control many of his bodily processes with only his mind. Furthermore, through an electroencephalograph, they determined his brain had different electrical activity as compared to most other test subjects. According to Schwarz, he could also see people’s auras, which allowed him to gauge their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental conditions.
7) Positivity and Meditation
Undoubtedly it’s difficult to keep a positive attitude when you’re facing a life-threatening disease, but, based on a variety of medical studies, doing so may mean the difference between living and dying.
For example, in 1989, Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University conducted a study on 86 women with late stage breast cancer. Half of those women received standard medical care while the other half were given weekly support sessions in addition to the standard medical care. During the sessions the women shared their feelings, talked with other patients, and generally had a positive outlet where they could cope with their illness. At the end of the study, the women in the support group lived twice as long as those not in the group. In 1999, a similar study found that cancer patients who have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness have a lower chance of survival.
The power of imagination
In recent years, David Seidler, writer of “The King’s Speech,” claimed to have eliminated his cancer through meditation and imagination. After battling bladder cancer for years and only two weeks away from surgery, Seidler decided to see if he could get rid of the cancer through his imagination. He admittedly thought the idea was a little “woo-woo,” but by that point he figured he had nothing to lose. So, he spent the two weeks leading up to his surgery envisioning a clean, cream-colored, healthy bladder. When Seidler went in for his pre-surgery biopsy, the doctor was stunned to find a distinct lack of cancer – he even sent the biopsy to four different labs for testing. While Seidler believes his visualization were behind the cancer’s disappearance, his doctor labeled it a “spontaneous remission.”
Our minds are extremely powerful. If you want to find out more read: The Power of the Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy. It’s claimed we only use 10% of our brains. Perhaps practising mind over matter will help to increase our brain capacities.
Therapy can help you fine-tune your thoughts for a better quality of life. If you want help with this, get in touch.
Photo by seaternity