People sometimes ask me, “Can your state of mind really impact your physical body?”
I’m always a bit amazed that the debate as to whether our mental state affects our body seems to stick around. But rather than spend time debating this issue, we can do a simple test.
Close your eyes and imagine you are holding freshly cut slice of a juicy lemon in your hand.
Imagine biting into it. Imagine that the tangy lemon juices are squirting all around the inside of your mouth.
Did you salivate?
If so, you just proved there is, indeed, a mind-body connection. Otherwise, how could your mouth salivate without a lemon present? Occasionally when I do this exercise with a client or student, they will say that nothing happened. But on investigation it comes out that they were distracted and not really following the verbal instructions. When we do the exercise again, with closer attention, they salivate –100% of the time!
Until quite recently, this obvious mind-body connection has been denied by many in our society, including highly trained medical professionals. Many medical doctors are still trained that there is a split between mind and body, between mental and physical activity. This idea prevailed for generations, despite the obvious connection, which actually is not a “connection” between two separate things, but a unity.
Why isn’t this obvious state of body-mind union readily accepted? Because often we simply don’t pay attention to our direct experience! We think a lot of thoughts about whatever appears, and so we mainly experience whatever we are thinking about, rather than experiencing what is right in front of us.
More Examples of the Mind-Body Connection
It is easy to find other examples of this mind-body connection, or this mind-body-emotion connection, in your own day-to-day experience:
Have you ever been absorbed in an intense concern, such as being late to an appointment, when suddenly your favorite song is playing on the radio? Immediately you shift into an open-hearted state, and a warm tingly feeling spreads throughout your body. That music, those lyrics really speak to you! How would you have these physical-emotional responses if there were no connection to your mind?
Here is another good one. You are home alone at night walking from one room to another, wandering down a hallway. You tell yourself that someone (or some “thing”) may be about to jump out at you. You go on high alert, holding your breath as your eyes dart around. One person shared with me they have had this experience on a regular basis virtually all their life, from age 3 up until now in their 60s!
When you consider these examples, it’s easy to see there is a mind-body-emotion connection. But we can get confused when we hear the phrase “mind-body connection” and think that “mind” only refers to the thinking mind. However, the mind’s intelligence is far more wide-ranging than our usual repetitive self talk and intellectual concepts.
Use the Power of Your Mind to Make a Headache Go Away
We often say, “I can’t just talk myself out of having a headache” Or, “I know that smoking (or drinking, etc) is bad for me, but knowing this in my mind doesn’t stop my body from craving it.”
We are right! The discursive thinking, the blah blah blah, mental chatter “mind” doesn’t have any power to affect the body. However, vivid imagining and focused attention does have the power to affect the body and any part of the body and any emotional state. The mind really does affect the body and vice versa — they communicate!
Here’s how to use the power of your own mind-body connection the next time you have a headache:
1. Imagine the pain has a 3 dimensional shape and color. The brightness of the color corresponds to the intensity of the pain.
2. Imagine you are slowly turning a knob. As you turn the knob, this shape gets a bit bigger and brighter and the pain gets more intense.
3. Now slowly turn the knob the other way, as you watch the shape get smaller and smaller. The brightness of its color gets dimmer and dimmer until it disappears. You hear the ‘click’ of the knob turning off.
This simple mind game has an amazingly high success rate making headaches go away. Enjoy practicing the technique a few times — the more you do it, the more skillful you’ll be at getting rid of your pain.
Your mind-body has a playful, imaginative power that will respond in delightful, healing ways once it feels safe and respected. How can you make it feel safe and respected? Keeping a relaxed attitude, guide your body-mind to play healing games, such as this one for getting rid of your headache.
Enjoy your mind-body connection!