Editor’s Note: Andrew Weil, M.D. is a world-renowned leader, best-selling author, and...
We are the only creatures on the planet who can change our biology through our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. When we fall in love, positive thoughts and emotions course through our body and strengthen our immune system. On the other hand, the dark thoughts and feelings of depression can leave us vulnerable to illness.
Over the past three decades, hundreds of studies have shown that nothing holds more power over the body than the beliefs of the mind. This is the quantum worldview, which teaches that we are all part of an infinite field of intelligence – the source of our thoughts, mind, body, and everything else in the cosmos.
With each thought we have, we are practicing brain chemistry. Our thoughts are actually biochemical events in our brain and are called neuropeptides. Wherever a neuropeptide travels in the body, receptors are waiting for it to plug into. Our immune cells are all constantly eavesdropping on the body’s internal dialogue. Both negative and positive thoughts, along with our deepest desires, have corresponding physical reactions in the body.
One part of the body cannot keep secrets from other parts — this is one of the basic laws of physics. What the foot feels, the mind knows; what the mind desires, the body aches for. At every moment, an infinite symphony of interactions and information transmits between each cell in the body.
Our Thinking Immune System
Immune cells are certainly no exception to this incredible biological conversation; they also are thinking cells. And as our immune system thinks, it has the power to be mired in weakness or strength, bliss or anger, struggle or relaxation, stress or acceptance—all emotions and feelings based on our current modes of perception. We often struggle against the acceptance of what has occurred in nature or what will occur, and in that process, we stir up weaknesses, embrace resentment, and focus on regret. Illness begins the moment negative mental influences weaken the immune system.
If we remain present in each moment of awareness and welcome that awareness, we transcend the problems of living and the internal dialogue that weakens the immune system. Strength returns, and a different world arises: It is the healing and holy world of nature in which strong immunity and quick recovery are a natural state of being.
The heart expands at the possibility of health, happiness, and love. When we begin to create health and a strong immune system, our mind transforms itself into a higher reality — the world of the heart. At that level of our being, we have all the power we could possibly need to create a new reality — a reality of healing and nurturing.
The Ayurvedic Perspective on Healing
In ayurveda, a level of total, deep relaxation is the most important precondition for curing any disorder. The underlying concept is that the body knows how to maintain balance unless thrown off by disease; therefore, if one wants to restore the body’s own healing ability, everything should be done to bring it back into balance. It is a very simple notion that has profound consequences. Ayurveda is commonly classified as a system of medicine, but you could also call it a system for curing delusions, for stripping away the convincing quality of disease and letting a healthier reality take its place.
The first and most important step in healing is trying not to be so convinced by disease. As long as you are convinced by your symptoms, you are caught up in a reality where “being sick” is the dominant input. The reason why meditation is so important is that it leads the mind to a “free zone” that is not touched by disease. Meditation takes the mind out of its boundaries and exposes it to an unbounded state of consciousness. Until you know that such a place exists, your disease will seem to be taking over completely. This is the principal delusion that needs to be shattered.
When you “pay attention” to something, you shift from passive to active awareness. In ayurveda, each and every symptom of disease, from a minor neck pain to a full-blown cancer, is under the control of attention. At first the symptoms may be as subtle as a slight uneasiness or discomfort, but if we ignore them, the body may try to get our attention by speaking more loudly. For example, if we have been feeling tired but push through our fatigue, perhaps with the help of caffeine or other stimulants, we block our body’s innate healing abilities.
Ayurveda teaches us to become aware of the subtle signs of imbalance: a digestive problem that comes and goes, a slight muscle ache that persists, a lack of restful sleep. The goal is to listen carefully to what our bodies are trying to tell us and take appropriate action to restore balance and reestablish the healthy flow of energy and information throughout the body. We have only to point ourselves back to our being, and nature will heal us. This paradigm, which is gaining increasing acceptance in the world of modern Western medicine, is based on the following ten assumptions:
These may seem like vast assumptions, but they are rooted in the findings of modern quantum physics. I want to encourage you to see that you are much more than your limited body, ego and personality. At the deepest level, your body is ageless and your mind is timeless. Once you identify with this reality, you have unlimited freedom to create greater health, joy, and whatever else you wish to bring into the world.