Will Your Way to Better Health
Emotional stress and other psychological factors can influence your physical health.
Research in this field of psychoneuroimmunolgy (PNI) is proving what the world's spiritual healers and holistic medical practitioners have been saying for thousands of years: Our thoughts, moods, state of being and feelings are powerful influences on our health and immune system.
A University of Miami study of HIV-positive individuals showed that the belief system of an HIV-positive person plays an important role in influencing the strength of his or her immune system and its ability to fight HIV.
Thus, changing thoughts, beliefs and behavior may affect the body's ability to fight disease. UCLA AIDS Institute research showed that stress enables HIV to spread more quickly in HIV-positive persons and impairs antiretroviral drugs from restoring the immune system. Depression and negative attitudes have also been linked to lowering the immune system. Another study found that even being "closeted" or hiding gay identity leads to a decline in the immune system and more rapid progression to AIDS, possibly suggesting that the stress of having to hide one's gay identity may be stressful to the immune system.
Thoughts and the various body systems don't work in isolation. They work together as a whole system. Through chemicals, called neurotransmitters, they are constantly trading information back and forth. These neurotransmitters travel along pathways within the brain and body to provide messages to nearby systems and cells, including our immune system.
Neurotransmitters are responsible for sensation, feelings, dreams, thinking, memory, emotions and all the physical and mental activities that make up our inner universe. Without them, we would be unable to relate to the outer world through sound, smell, taste, touch and light. Thus, these chemical exchanges of information received through our senses deliver that information to the mind and body.
Working on the body affects the mind just as working on the mind affects the body. Doing this with the intention of healing is called Mind-Body Medicine.
Mind-Body Medicine includes exercise, meditation, shamanism, biofeedback, yoga and guided imagery. It also includes hypnosis, dream work, and various kinds of psychotherapy. Some of these systems have been around for centuries. Only recently, however, have scientists begun to map out mind-body medicine on a molecular level.
This is not to suggest that HIV itself can be controlled or eliminated. However, mind-body medicine can help an individual take control, reframe and impact beliefs about HIV. This, in turn, will affect their health, well-being and the body's ability to fight the virus.
The meditation on these pages can be done with the eyes opened or closed, or even as a focused walking meditation in nature once it has become familiar. It can help reduce stress, connect you to healing energies in the natural world, and increase energy and magnetism. Take a few minutes and start out the day with this for a week or so and notice how it affects your state of being. Then once you've got it down you can take a few moments aside and practice anytime and almost anywhere. The breathing should be slow, gentle and focused. Repeat each element concentration four times.
Meditation With the Elements on the Breath
EarthBreathe in through the nose and out through the nose. Bring your attention to the bottom of your feet if you are standing or sitting on a chair. If you are sitting cross-legged on the floor bring your attention to the area between your anus and your genitals. Visualize the molten core deep within the Earth. As you inhale, draw the magnetism from within the earth up through your feet into the cells of the entire body. As you exhale, radiate the energy out through the pores of your body in all four directions as well as above and below.
WaterBreathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. As you do, imagine a clear stream of pure water gently pouring from above over the crown of your head and washing over your entire body. Cleansing you of environmental toxins, internal negativities, and tension. Repeat four times.
FireBreathe in through the mouth and out through the nose. Imagine a pure white flame burning in the solar plexus (three or four inches below the navel). Breathing in through the mouth fan the flames into a burning fire. Allow the white fire to rise and ignite the heart center. Breathing out through the nose, radiate the fire's energy from the heart center out through your upper back and shoulder blades. Wrap the energy like a cozy blanket around your shoulders, upper back and over your head. Inhale fire. Exhale light. Repeat four times.
AirBreathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth. Imagine a warm balmy breeze caressing your body and penetrating through the spaces between the molecules of your body like a soothing balm. Repeat four times.
It's always good to finish this exercise with another round of the Earth cycle to ground yourself back firmly on the Earth in the here and now. The effects can set a wonderful tone for moving forward with your activities.
Selected Resources: Mind/Body Medicine
Alternative Community Health and Healing ResourcesWellnessWorks Community Health Center
540 W. Broadway
(818) 247-5125 clinic
Low-cost alternative therapies for HIV infection or other life-threatening conditions. No one turned away for lack of funds. Offers nutritional counseling, acupuncture, energy balancing, chiropractic networking, massage, special workshops and alternative healing.
The Village Health Foundation Clinic
More Reading About Mind/Body MedicineIntentional Healing: A Guide to the Mind/Body Healing System
Elliot S. Dacher
Marlowe & Co.
Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins
Wheels of Light: Chakras, Auras and the Healing Energy of the Body
Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
Plant Spirit Medicine: The Healing Power of Plants
This is the first on a series of articles on spirituality and wellness.
Illustrations by Michael Storc.
Back to the April/May 2002 issue of Positive Living.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.