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.
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.
The Village Health Foundation Clinic
4073-75 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles 90019
(323) 733-0471 clinic
Offers Chinese medicine and Healing Techniques, chiropractics, acupuncture, massage and herb and nutrition programs. Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and English translators available.
Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins
Three Rivers Press
Wheels of Light: Chakras, Auras and the Healing Energy of the Body
Rosalyn L. Bruyere
Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
Andrew Newberg, M.D.
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.
|Steve Solberg is a Health Promotion Specialist in AIDS Project Los Angeles' POWER Program. He can reached by calling (213) 201-1558 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.|