Six months ago, I completed a set of White Papers exploring shamanic self-healing of physical illness, and I am currently teaching an experiential class on the same topic. A fundamental principle of healing that comes up again and again is the power of thought, visualization, and belief to help us heal. Physiology shows us the very real connection between the frontal cortex (thinking part) of our brain, the hypothalamus (the part of our brain that controls the Pituitary-Adrenal Axis), and our body’s ability to respond and heal. In other words, our thoughts play a part in our body’s response to stress and illness. Brain studies have also shown that the more we think a particular thought, the more it becomes entrenched in the neural pathways of our brain. To take it one step further, studies of professional athletes have shown that practicing skills in their minds can be every bit as effective as practicing on the field. Our thoughts and visualizations carry very real and powerful effects in our bodies; however, we can go one step further.
To believe we are healing or healthy is even more powerful than choosing to think we are healthy or visualizing ourselves in full health. Belief isn’t about choice; it isn’t about choosing what to believe; it is about knowing what is true for us. In fact, I don’t think belief is held in our mind at all; it is held in our body. How many times have we made a rational decision, only to wish later we had “gone with our gut”? How many times have we been glad our logical choice fell through, leaving us with a much better-feeling option?
We use the power of our beliefs every day to help us heal and stay healthy. If we believe in the proficiency of our doctor and his or her treatments, our self-healing processes are also activated and nourished in our body, healing us that much faster. If we believe we are loved, we feel love inside ourselves and we bring that love into the world with all the goodness it carries. If we believe we are in danger, our body braces itself against that danger and sacrifices some of our usual body functions in order to be ready to respond to the danger.
There is only one way I know to change a belief. We can’t simply wish it or visualize it or be told by another person. We have to prove it to our body. There are as many pathways to belief as there are people. I think when we can say:
- I feel healthy, vital, and strong
- I feel safe
- I feel capable
- I feel loved, and I belong
- I feel the value I bring to others
- I feel joy
we activate our natural abilities to heal and renew our physical selves. Body work, skill building, drawing on our past experience and successes, exploring our roots, healing relationships with family and valued friends, doing productive work, and cultivating joy and laughter in our lives are all ways to prove to our body that we are healing and well. Spiritual work, personal work, can help us see and feel our true beliefs and to know – in our body – when we are well and it is okay to thrive. Not only is it good for our soul, but cultivating authentic spiritual connection is good for our body as well!