Mind-Body Medicine

Personally, body/mind is analogous to earth/sky… staying present with the reality of our material, human experience and cultivating the qualities of higher consciousness – compassionate self-awareness and unlimited potential.  For me, this photo reflects this concept and was taken looking west from my home in the Tucson Mountains.

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The Center for Mind-Body Medicine defines mind-body medicine as a set of techniques and an approach to care that “focuses on the interactions between mind and body and the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors can directly affect health.” I would add that mind-body medicine is thus based on the notion that thoughts, beliefs, feelings and all things that we call “mind” and even those that we call “spiritual” are found to have a physiological basis and therefore can not be distinguished from other biological processes that are normally labeled as “physical” such as organs, muscles, joints and the like. In essence, if we look at the shared substrates of physiology, particularly at cellular function, peptides and hormones (chemical messengers); and at the inseparability of the nervous system to the immune and endrocrine systems, we can begin to understand that everything occurring in “mind” is in “body” and vice versa. If we work with traditional physical therapy versus work with traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy, we are accessing different levels of the same physiology. It is not an “either/or” dynamic. It is “both/and”. We must integrate the two in our understanding and present this truth in a simple and understandable way that is non-threatening (no, it is not all in your head!) and which helps to undermine the pervasive stigma around mental health by conveying the science, and by normalizing the patient’s experience at both levels… body and mind.

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Finally, and perhaps above all else, I believe mind-body medicine is about cultivating healthier relationships – with self and others – and doing so in a way that reflects the age-old meaning of the heart.  I saw this beautiful plant and couldn’t resist translating the image into a heart.  The plant, a cycad, comes from a class of plants dating back 280 million years.  I read that fossil records support that this is likely the oldest living class of plants.  Botanists suggest that in looking at the regions where they grow naturally today, it indicates that their former distribution was within a particular climate within the Pangea before the continents separated.  For me, this reflects the spirit of our world returning to unity, as well as reflects the profound resilience that is found in human experience.