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they have lost or failed if their physical
health cannot be salvaged. On the other
hand, the person who seeks an internal
perspective, who enters a battle not to
vanquish but to fight with honour and
find more of themselves in facing their
challenges honestly, gains something
meaningful whether they "win" or "lose".
Like many palliative carers, Gawler has
witnessed extraordinarily beautiful deaths,
where the person has found a sense of
grace within themselves and are able to
leave the body in relative peace. Then,
moving from a physical based reality
into a non physical form is a transition,
a gentle letting go rather than a brutal
breaking of attachments. This transition to
a subtler form can be seen in the context
of spirituality as a positive transformation.
While there will still be grief, there is also
healing for all involved.
The essential fear of humans is to lose
the physical form. Really, all our other
fears boil down to this -- we want to live.
The purpose of living, according to the
ancient sciences of yoga and Ayurveda, is
to express through the physical body for
the purpose of evolving mentally,
emotionally and spiritually. Just like
the universe itself, according to yoga
philosophy, begins in Oneness, expresses
itself through many forms and then those
forms gradually return to Oneness, so,
too, does the individual soul journey
through lifetimes. The extroversial and
introversial flows of life are continually
recycling, moving always from subtle to
crude, from crude back to subtle.
Arthur Barsky is a psychiatrist at
Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital
who published an article in JAMA (Journal
of the American Medical Association) in
2002 urging practitioners to pay closer
attention to the "nocebo effect". The
opposite of the placebo effect where
healing seems to arise even when the
prescribed treatment appears to have no
effect, the nocebo effect is largely ignored.
Yet the research that has been done
demonstrates that patients who believe the
treatment will not work, are often right.
Patients who know the side effects of their
medications have been found to experience
them more (or at least report experiencing
them more) than control groups who
did not have conscious knowledge of the
possible side effects.
So a cancer or heart disease or other
serious diagnosis which leaves you "scared
to death" or "worried sick" is likely to
worsen the condition by stimulating
unhelpful biological responses.
Of the so called "cancer miracles",
including that of well known meditation
and lifestyle teacher Ian Gawler and
champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, there
are strong recurring themes. Dr Bernie
Siegel has documented 57 cases of people
who have healed themselves and survived
despite the odds being stacked against
them. He found that they all gave up
anger and depression by making a specific
decision to do so. From that point on their
tumours started to shrink.
Gawler and Armstrong both embraced
a holistic approach to self care and took
responsibility for their healing through
nutrition, exercise and meditation. While
they may seem to have battled valiantly,
their warrior natures are distinctly peaceful.
This is a crucial distinction. Particularly
in the cancer field, there is a great deal
of language around battles, wars and
victories. Yet Gawler hits the nail on the
head when he says that the Rambo
approach is unsustainable.
Beating cancer (or any other health
issue) is not a matter of violently attacking
the disease with "shock and awe" tactics.
The disease has manifested in your body
after all, so you are really fighting with
yourself. The wiser approach more closely
resembles the stance of the martial artist,
using the forces within to strengthen what
is good and diminish what is no longer
serving the evolution of the entire being.
And when the entire being is addressed,
the mind, soul or spiritual self, as well as
the physical body, the experience is a far
more transformational one.
With this kind of approach to healing,
the survival of the body is not the only
way to measure "success". Even if the
body degenerates (and remember that
ultimately it must), the mind has potential
to find peace, to let go of grievances and
to feel expanded. The expanded
perception opens up new paradigms that
help the person feel ready to transform
beyond this physical form. That is not such
a bad way to go out. Not kicking and
fighting to hold onto the body and worldly
attachments, but content that you took
every step to heal yourself and the inner
life had precedence. Self healing is not just
about the radical shrinking of tumours or
clearing of arteries, but also about the
internal transformation that facing one's
mortality can bring.
Chandrika Gibson ND is a holistic
yoga teacher and naturopath.
'Self healing is the art and science of harnessing vital force and
utilising it to boost the innate healing capacity of the body.'
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