“The Happiness of Your Life
Depends on the Quality of Your Thoughts”
~~ Marcus Aurelius
Thoughts are things.
Throughout time, the words of the sages and scientists, the philosophers and mystics resonated with this theme: how we think and what we think determines how we live. For several centuries, Delphi in ancient Greece was the site to which many people traveled, including Philip II, King of Macedonia, Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, Cicero, and Julian the Apostate. The recorded works of Aeschylus, Cicero, Pliny, Plato, Pausanias, and Plutarch gave life to this setting which today only consists of some ruins at the foot of a mountain.
At 22,965 feet above sea level and 5.9 miles away from the Gulf of Corinth, Delphi was revered as a powerful and sacred place, for it was the location where the famous Oracle of Apollo stood. This was the place where any mortal could receive a message from the gods regarding what destiny had in store for them, or what course of action to take in a particular situation. Inscribed above the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, were the words Gnothi Seauton – Know Thyself.
These words were carved into the marble almost as a warning in the vestibule of the Temple of Apollo and it was Plato who actually transmitted this phrase via his dialogues. Indeed, he suggested the importance of looking inwards before making any decisions or taking any steps forward.
So what does the ancient Delphi temple have to do with the notion that thoughts are things? And why would we even care?? EVERYTHING!!! Acknowledging that our thoughts take up so much residence in our mind and that we are not even conscious of most of them is the starting point for being able to examine what the heck is actually going on behind the scenes. During the past 20 years, neuroscience research has determined that the brain processes between 6000 to 80,000 thoughts per day – way too many to be consciously following. YET, those imprints of data remain in the neural pathways, firing off information that might not always be relevant nor helpful. Combine that with the fact that, according to neuroscientists, we are all operating at 95% subconsciously or with only 5% of conscious awareness. Imagine that all those programs from our early childhood moments to all that we read, listen to and watch are constantly hijacking our daily thoughts and our subsequent behaviors. This directly impacts our health and wellbeing.
“Thoughts become perception; Perception becomes reality.
Alter your thoughts, alter your reality.”
~~ William James
From a healing and healthcare perspective there is so much more to us than simply a physical body, and the messaging about how we can incorporate the unity of mind and body for our wellbeing continues to emerge. For over 40 years, Dr. Ellen Langer, award winning social psychologist, Harvard professor and the “Mother of Mindfulness” has studied Mindlessness/ Mindfulness in everyday situations where mindlessness is pervasive and very costly. Mindfulness (without meditation), on the other hand, has been shown to be literally and figuratively enlivening, and results in health, well-being, and improved relationships. In an interview, Dr. Langer says, “Certainty is mindless. Using mindfulness, we’re more aware of subtle changes in our health and could use this information to address many of the symptoms of chronic illnesses. We too often only notice symptoms when they are acute. What might happen if instead we noticed subtle improvements and asked why they occurred? We’re testing this with several chronic diseases — like Parkinson’s, mild cognitive impairment, diabetes — and already have data for several disorders like chronic pain, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. We are finding that mindful attention to symptom variability may be a key to health.”
When it comes to our health, we tend to live our lives as though our ailments—our stiff knees or frayed nerves or diminished eyesight—can change only in one direction: for the worse. But Dr. Langer’s life’s work proves the fault in this negative outlook as well as the healing power of its alternative: mindfulness—the process of active noticing where we are not bound by past experience or conventional wisdom. In The Mindful Body, Dr. Langer shares her findings and outlines her bold new theory of mind-body unity, along the way demonstrating how our thoughts and perspectives have the potential to profoundly shape our well-being. She shows how influential our thoughts are to the state of our bodies and her work has likewise proven that discouraging health news can have negative effects. Learning you are prediabetic, for example—even if your blood sugar reading is only a fraction away from “normal”—may actually play a part in the development of the disease.
In Dr. Langer’s work, mindfulness is the simple process of noticing new things about the familiar. She reminds us that when we notice actively, we become sensitive to perspective and change and she reasserts that her forty years of research have taught her that exploiting the power of uncertainty results in well-being and health.
Another one of my favorite researchers is Dr. Candace Pert (1946-2013), who stated “your body is your subconscious mind” and was an internationally recognized neuroscientist and pharmacologist who published over 250 research articles. She was a significant contributor to the emergence of Mind-Body Medicine as an area of legitimate scientific research in the 1980’s, earning her the title of “The Goddess of Neuroscience” and “The Mother of Psychoneuroimmunology” by her many fans. When I first read her brilliant book, The Molecules of Emotions back in 1997, it reaffirmed my belief that our bodies are magnificent and capable of healing, if only we listened to our innate wisdom.
How can we change this scenario of the unexamined thoughts and programs running our life to bring us to a state of health and harmony??
First, we need to return to the body – the “soma” of the psychosomatic word. Consider it a homecoming of sorts … begin to be mindful of your thoughts, your breath, your movement, your habits. Just observe in the beginning without judgment – just allow yourself to witness and be present with your Self. That is the beginning. Take a walk in nature, put down the phone for 10 minutes, decrease your activity on social media, read an inspirational book, prioritize your sleep, take an epsom salt bath … the possibilities are endless and rewarding when you begin to be with yourself to quiet the mind and detach from the external distractions.
As a practitioner of Chinese medicine and as an accredited Integrative Hypnotist and Changeworker, I have many options available to support your wellness journey and give you the tools to create your own healing endeavors. Reach out for more info if you are curious about the next steps to healing and self-empowerment.
“Knowing yourself has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind.” –Eckhart Tolle