Friday, July 04, 2008

Daoism on Healing requires a flexible mind

This is one of the articles I wrote for my "Illuminating the Dao" column in the Qi Dao newsletter.

Healing requires a flexible mind

By Michelle Wood

Today's quote teaches us why flexibility is crucial for life. This lesson should be applied to the power of the mind in healing as well. When you read the verse, substitute the word "mind" for "body" and you will see what I mean.

Verse 76 of the Tao Te Ching (Skylight Illuminations) courtesy of and translated by Derek Lin.

While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid
All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle
Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death
That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life
Therefore, an inflexible army will not win
A strong tree will be cut down
The big and forceful occupy a lowly position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place

When we talk about self-healing, there is nothing worse for curing a chronic illness than a hard and rigid mind. An inflexible mind doesn't like change, and healing is all about change…changing from illness to health!

There are two main types of inflexibility when it comes to the perception of the mind in healing; self-defeat, and doggedness.

Self-defeat, the idea that your illness is incurable, the idea that you will just have to "live with it," is the single, most influential thought that keeps people from healing. You simply believe that you are doomed to bear your illness for the rest of your life. By thinking this way, you lock yourself into the box of chronic illness.

Even worse is when medical professionals tell you that there is no cure for you. You often take their word as the ultimate truth because they are the professionals. They know the score. They know what can and can't be done. But, the thing they don't know is the amazing power of the mind to heal. You can easily entertain thoughts of self-doubt which impair your self-healing ability in the face of a negative professional opinion.

But, look at the other side of that coin. How many times have you heard of the "miracle" cure, usually of a popular sports figure told by medical professionals that he would never even walk again, never mind play his game, run his race, stay his course? However, he is eventually able to participate again in his sport because his mind wouldn't give up. If he had believed what others told him, that he wouldn't walk or participate in his sport again, his mind would have gone rigid with a negative belief, and he would not have recovered….just as they predicted. Believing in illness and defeat can be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Doggedness means sticking with a course of medication or other therapy because you know (or were told) that it worked for someone else even though you gave it a fair trial and it is obviously not working for you. Sticking with something that isn't working is not only contrary to what we know about healing – that each person is unique and must be treated individually – it has the potential to allow your condition or illness to become worse because it isn't being treated properly, as well as having that deterioration in your health adversely affect other organs or body systems.

Here is a look at Verse 76 in the context of the way you can school your mind for flexibility and self-healing.

While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid

A hard and rigid mind is the epitome of the doggedness mentioned above. When dead in this way, the mind cannot see in any direction but straight ahead on the same narrow road it presently travels. There are no turns or detours into new thoughts or ideas. The dead, self-defeating mind often goes to the place of "nothing has helped; nothing will help." There is a rejection of anything new or innovative because the past therapeutic experience has so far been ineffective.

You know the saying: "whether you believe you can or you believe you can't, you're right!" That is especially true in the area of the healing power of the mind. It is important to understand that even though you agree to try a new idea or therapy, if you go into it with the belief that it won't work, it won't work.

Carrying the belief in your mind that a new (and hopefully, holistic) therapy is beneficial goes a long way toward making it beneficial for your body.

"Belief" in the context of self-healing means your emotional intensity of desire. It helps you determine what is true and what is false, what will happen and what won't happen. Emotions are the bridge between immaterial thought and material manifestation. Emotions are the tool the mind uses to get things done.

You can have a million thoughts in a day of things you would like to do or to be – and it often seems as though most of us do, which can be quite distracting! – but unless your emotions are involved, those thoughts will drift away, never to be seen again.

Whatever health and wellness goal you have in mind, the greater the intensity of your desire that you dedicate to the outcome, the more likely you will do it, and that you will succeed.

All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle

Just as there is little hope for the leaves at the end of the dry and brittle tree limb, the blossoms at the ends of dead flower stems, the brown and withered grasses, dry and brittle thinking does not have what it takes to nurture new ideas and let them grow. Dry and brittle thinking can't even entertain new thoughts or ideas just as a dead tree limb can't grow new leaves. It has lost the energy to live.

Self-healing requires thoughts and ideas and energies that are alive, that can flow with the waters and wander with the winds. This is especially important in the use of meditations that employ healing imagery and symbolism. These meditations often use the imagery of water and light which the power of the mind directs through the body, removing disease and restoring health. The mind and the body must work together to effect this healing.

Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death

Following physical death, it takes a while for the body to reach rigor mortis which literally means "stiffness of death." Rigor mortis is the result of "the unavailability of energy needed to interrupt contraction of the muscle fibers." [rigor mortis. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rigor%20mortis]

Rigor mortis of the mind can happen instantaneously and without warning. It can be caused by almost anything; a chance comment, an upsetting encounter, a traumatic experience. Often it takes the form of repetition; you get stuck in a program of replaying over and over again the comment, encounter or experience. It freezes the thought process, making self-healing impossible.

Additionally, if your thought process becomes stuck in constant worry over a chronic illness, it certainly isn't moving toward ways to alleviate it. Stagnant thoughts contribute to stagnant energy, and can actually make an illness worse.

That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life

Thoughts and beliefs that concentrate on change are the promoters of health and wellness.

One of the best things you can do when working toward health is to get your disease off your mind by engaging in a variety of activities that raise your spirits and make you happy. Joy and happiness, and laughter, send very powerful messages of wellness throughout the body through various chemical and muscular pathways.

In the practice of self-healing, emotional joy should never be underestimated. Laughter itself is one of the most powerful healing methods you can practice.

Therefore, an inflexible army will not win

An army is basically a body made up of multiple parts that must act in unison to win its engagement. If a commander goes into battle with a wedge-shaped frontal assault but doesn't adjust his plan when he sees the enemy start to flank him on both sides, the inflexibility of his plan will allow the enemy to surround and defeat his troops.

Any body, including yours, will not win if it isn't flexible enough to adjust to changing circumstances.

A strong tree will be cut down

The big and forceful occupy a lowly position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place

You know what they say about strong trees; they are more vulnerable to damage from storms because they can't bend in the strong winds, they break, and their branches end up scattered on the ground. Bamboo, hollow and supple, survives due to its flexibility. It can be bent almost in half, but it won't break.

Don't be so inflexible that you break. Be like bamboo; keep a flexible mind and bend with the winds of changing thoughts and ideas so that at the end of your illness, you'll be vibrantly alive and standing tall.

Derek Lin's translation courtesy http://www.taoism.net/ and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1594732043

You can enjoy both of Derek's books:



Read my review of The Tao of Daily Life.

2 comments:

Geraldine said...

What an excellent article/post Michelle. You have brought up some very good points and as usual, many many things that I also totally agree with.

Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over even though it's not working. And so it is with the healing arts too.

www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

Michelle said...

Hi Geraldine,

I've found that Daoism and Stress Relief go hand-in-hand rather nicely!

Perhaps I should make that my niche....Daoist Stress Relief! ;-)

Love the definition of insanity, and it's so true that many people take that approach to their healthcare...doing the same thing over and over even though it doens't work.