I was reminded in a recent conversation with a client that many people with chronic pain and illness struggle with the concept of the mind-body connection. While I know this, I often wonder, why the confusion? Why the resistance? This is what is on my mind.
As a teenager, I remember seeing an episode of Phil Donahue (remember him?) during which a proponent of mind-body medicine (this was in the 70’s, so very early days) asked the audience to visualize a lemon. He told them to picture the color of the peel, feel the firm, heavy feel of it, smell the delicious citrusy, flowery scent, imagine it full of juice…and now… TAKE A BITE!
Did your mouth water? Probably. That is proof of the mind-body connection. That episode stayed with me for many years as I learned to appreciate this connection more, and more deeply, through meditation. I still feel I’m only just beginning to understand the depths of the truth of it, still struggling to fully believe in its power. And today I am wondering, why are we so slow to believe when there is ample proof of it everywhere!
Some explanations I have come up with include the notion that, if the mind-body connection is real, that means we have the power to affect our pain. And if we can’t, or we don’t, then we are failures. And if we have not done so up until now, then we are to blame for the pain we are in. Basically, if we are in pain it is our own fault.
I encourage you to stop this type of thinking immediately! There is no blame and no fault in illness or pain. We feel what we feel, and all of it is real. Even when we learn, through practice and discipline, to release pain through meditation and visualization, that does not mean we are bad or wrong or inadequate just because we have not been ready or not had the tools to do so in the past!
Even if we still struggle to fully embrace and understand and utilize the mind-body connection, we should still be able to see its truth as good news. It is good that we know it exists. It is good that we can cultivate these tools. It is good that one day, when we are ready, we will be able to use the power of the mind to address and release pain in the body. But until that day arrives, I encourage you to let go of shame, doubt, self-judgement and any other negativity.
As a great teacher once said, “don’t look back, it’s not the direction you’re going.”