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Jun
01

The Four Pillars of Healing - Page 2

Author // Joe Dispenza, D.C.

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The Four Pillars of Healing
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Coincidence #3: We Can Reinvent Ourselves

Motivated as they were by serious illnesses both physical and mental, the people I interviewed realized that in thinking new thoughts, they had to go all the way. To become a changed person, they would have to rethink themselves into a new life. All of those who restored their health to normal did so after making a conscious decision to reinvent themselves.

Breaking away often from daily routines, they spent time alone, thinking and contemplating, examining and speculating about what kind of people they wanted to become. They asked questions that challenged their most deeply held assumptions about who they were. “What if” questions were vital to this process: What if I stop being an unhappy, self-centered, suffering person, and how can I change? What if I no longer worry or feel guilty or hold grudges? What if I begin to tell the truth to myself and to others? Those “what ifs” led them to other questions: Which people do I know who are usually happy, and how do they behave? Which historical figures do I admire as noble and unique? How could I be like them? What would I have to say, do, think and act like in order to present myself differently to the world? What do I want to change about myself?

Gathering information was another important step on the path to reinvention. Those I interviewed had to take what they knew about themselves, and then reformat their thinking to develop new ideas of who they wanted to become. Everyone started with ideas from their own life experiences. They also delved into books and movies about people they respected. Piecing together some of the merits and viewpoints of these figures, along with other qualities they were contemplating, they used all this as raw material to start building a new representation of how they wanted to express themselves.

As these individuals explored possibilities for a better way of being, they also learned new modes of thinking.

They interrupted the flow of repetitive thoughts that had occupied most of their waking moments. Letting go of these familiar, comfortable habits of thought, they assembled a more evolved concept of whom they could become, replacing an old idea of themselves with a new, greater ideal. They took time daily to mentally rehearse what this new person would be like. Mental rehearsal stimulates the brain to grow new neural circuits and changes the way the brain and mind work.

In 1995, in the Journal of Neurophysiology, an article was published demonstrating the effects that mental rehearsal alone had on developing neural networks in the brain. Neural networks are individual clusters of neurons (or nerve cells) that work together and independently in a functioning brain. Neural nets, as we will affectionately call them, are the latest model in neuroscience to explain how we learn and how we remember. They can also be used to explain how the brain changes with each new experience, how different types of memories are formed, how skills develop, how conscious and unconscious actions and behaviors are demonstrated, and even how all forms of sensory information are processed. Neural networks are the current understanding in neuroscience that explains how we change on a cellular level.

In this particular research, four groups of individuals were asked to participate in a five-day study that involved practicing the piano, in order to measure the changes that might take place in the brain. The first group of volunteers learned and memorized a specific one-handed, five-finger sequence that they physically practiced every day for two hours during that five-day period.

The second group of individuals was asked to play the piano without any instruction or knowledge of any specific sequence. They played randomly for two hours every day for five days without learning any sequence of notes.

The third group of people never even touched the piano, but were given the opportunity to observe what was taught to the first group until they knew it by memory in their minds. Then they mentally rehearsed their exercises by imagining themselves in the experience for the same length of time per day as the participants in the first group.

The fourth group was the control group; they did nothing at all. They never learned or practiced anything in this particular experiment. They never even showed up.

At the end of the five-day study, the experimenters used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, along with a few other sophisticated methods, in order to measure any changes that took place in the brain. To their surprise, the group that only rehearsed mentally showed almost the same changes, involving expansion and development of neural networks in the same specific area of their brain, as the participants who physically practiced the sequences on the piano. The second group, which learned no piano sequences at all, showed very little change in their brains, since they did not play the same series of exercises over and over each day. The randomness of their activity never stimulated the same neural circuits on a repetitive basis, and thus did not strengthen any additional nerve cell connections. The control group, the ones who never showed up, evidenced no change at all.

How did the third group produce the same brain changes as the first group without ever touching the keyboard? Through mental focusing, the third group of participants repeatedly fired specific neural networks in particular areas of their brain. As a result, they wired those nerve cells together in greater measure. This concept in neuroscience is called Hebbian learning. The idea is simple: Nerve cells that fire together, wire together. Therefore, when gangs of neurons are repeatedly stimulated, they will build stronger, more enriched connections between each other.

According to the functional brain scans in this particular experiment, the subjects that were mentally rehearsing were activating their brains in the same way as if they were actually performing the endeavor. The repetitive firing of the neurons shaped and developed a cluster of neurons in a specific part of the brain, which now supported the pattern of conscious intent. At will, their thoughts became mapped and plotted in the brain. Interestingly, the circuits strengthened and developed in the absolute same area of the brain as the group that physically practiced. They grew and changed their brain just by thinking. With the proper mental effort, the brain does not know the difference between mental or physical effort.

Sheila’s experience of curing her digestive illness illustrates this process of reinvention. Sheila had resolved that she would no longer revisit memories of her past and the associated attitudes that had defined her as a victim. Having identified the habitual thought processes she wanted to release, she cultivated a level of awareness where she had enough control to interrupt her unconscious thoughts. She therefore no longer fired the same associated neural networks on a daily basis. Once Sheila gained dominion over those old thought patterns and no longer fired those neurological habits of thinking, her brain began pruning away those unused circuits. This is another, related aspect of Hebbian learning that we can sum up as follows: Nerve cells that no longer fire together, no longer wire together. This is the universal law of “use it or lose it” in action, and it can work wonders in changing old paradigms of thought about ourselves. Over time, Sheila shed the burden of old, limited thoughts that had been coloring her life.

Now it became easier for Sheila to imagine the person she wanted to be. She explored possibilities that she had never considered before. For weeks on end, she focused on how she would think and act as this new, unknown person. She constantly reviewed these new ideas about herself so that she could remember who she was going to be that day. Eventually, she turned herself into a person who was healthy, happy and enthusiastic about her future. She grew new brain circuits, just like the piano players had done. It is interesting to note here that most people I interviewed never felt like they had to discipline themselves to do this. Instead, they loved mentally practicing who they wanted to become.

Like Sheila, all the people who shared their case histories with me succeeded in reinventing themselves. They persisted in attending to their new ideal until it became their familiar way of being. They became someone else, and that new person had new habits. They broke the habit of being themselves. How they accomplished this brings us to the fourth credo shared by those who experienced physical healings.


Coincidence #4: We Are Capable of Paying Attention So Well That We Can Lose Track of Relative Space and Time

The people I interviewed knew that others before them had cured their own diseases, so they believed that healing was possible for them, too. But they did not leave their healing up to chance. Hoping and wishing would not do the trick. Merely knowing what they had to do was not enough. Healing required these rare individuals to change their minds permanently and intentionally to create the outcomes they desired. Each person had to reach a state of absolute decision, utter will, inner passion and complete focus. As Dean put it, “You just have to make up your mind!”

This approach requires great effort. The first step for all of them was the decision to make this process the most important thing in their life. That meant breaking away from their customary schedules, social activities, television viewing habits and so on. Had they continued to follow their habitual routines, they would have continued being the same person who had manifested illness. To change, to cease being the person they had been, they could no longer do the things they had typically done.

Instead, these mavericks sat down every day and began to reinvent themselves. They made this more important than doing anything else, devoting every moment of their spare time to this effort. Everyone practiced becoming an objective observer of his or her old familiar thoughts. They refused to allow anything but their intentions to occupy their mind. You may be thinking, “That’s pretty easy to do when faced with a serious health crisis. After all, my own life is in my hands.” Well, aren’t most of us suffering from some affliction— physical, emotional or spiritual—that affects the quality of our life? Don’t those ailments deserve the same kind of focused attention?

Certainly, these folks had to wrestle with limiting beliefs, self-doubt and fears. They had to deny both their familiar internal voices and the external voices of other people, especially when these voices urged them to worry and to focus on the predicted clinical outcome of their condition.

Nearly everyone commented that this level of mind is not easy to attain. They had never realized how much chatter occupies the untrained mind. At first they wondered what would happen if they began to fall into habitual thought patterns. Would they have the strength to stop themselves from going back to their old ways? Could they maintain awareness of their thoughts throughout their day? But with experience, they found that whenever they reverted to being their former selves, they could detect this and interrupt that program. The more they practiced paying attention to their thoughts, the easier this process became, and the better they felt about their future. Feeling peaceful and calm, soothed by a sense of clarity, a new self emerged.

Interestingly, all the subjects reported experiencing a phenomenon that became part of their new life. During extended periods of introspection on reinventing themselves, they became so involved in focusing on the present moment and on their intent that something remarkable happened. They completely lost track of their body, time and space. Nothing was real to them except their thoughts.

Let me put this in perspective. Our everyday, conscious awareness is typically involved with three things:

  • First, we are aware of being in a body. Our brain receives feedback on what is happening within the body and what stimuli it is receiving from our environment, and we describe what the body feels in terms of physical sensations.

  • Second, we are aware of our environment. The space around us is our connection to external reality; we pay attention to the things, objects, people and places in our surroundings.

  • Third, we have a sense of time passing; we structure our life within the concept of time.

However, when people inwardly focus through serious self-reflective contemplation, when they are mentally rehearsing new possibilities of who they could become, they are capable of becoming so immersed in what they are thinking about that, at times, their attention is completely detached from their body and their environment; these seem to fade away or disappear. Even the concept of time vanishes. Not that they are thinking about time, but after such periods, when they open their eyes, they expect to find that just a minute or two has elapsed, only to discover that hours have gone by. At these moments, we don’t worry about problems, nor do we feel pain. We disassociate from the sensations of our body and the associations to everything in our environment. We can get so involved in the creative process that we forget about ourselves.

When this phenomenon occurs, these individuals are aware of nothing but their thoughts. In other words, the only thing that is real to them is the awareness of what they are thinking. Nearly all have expressed this in similar words. “I would go to this other place in my mind,” one subject said, “where there were no distractions, there was no time, I had no body, there was no thing—nothing except my thoughts.” In effect, they became a no-body, a no-thing, in no-time. They left their present association with being a somebody, the “you,” or “self,” and they became a nobody.

In this state, as I was to learn, these individuals could begin to become exactly what they were imagining. The human brain, through the frontal lobe, has the ability to lower the volume to, or even shut out, the stimuli from the body and the environment, as well as the awareness of time. The latest research in functional brain-scan technology has proven that when people are truly focused and concentrating, the brain circuits associated with time, space and the feelings/movements/sensory perceptions of the body literally quiet down. As human beings, we have the privilege to make our thoughts more real than anything else, and when we do, the brain records those impressions in the deep folds of its tissues. Mastering this skill is what allows us to begin to rewire our brains and change our lives.


Pathways Issue 42 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #42.

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