Can we consciously influence our health?

January 2013 Three Paragraph Newsletter


When you ask this question of a large group of people, you are certain to get a variety of answers. Some will say “yes, absolutely!” and will give you examples of how mindfulness exercises (like meditation), exercise, a healthy diet and good social connections all improve your health. And there are indeed many clinical studies which have shown this to be true. How we think, and what we decide to do can have a definite influence on who we are and how we live. But there will also be a group of people who will say “no, not if you are really sick,” and can tell you that when you are having a gallbladder attack you can meditate are hard as you want, but what you really need is a surgeon. In a similar way, anyone who has experienced a major depression (which seems like it should be more accessible to our thinking than an inflamed gallbladder) can tell you that feeling better is not a matter of merely sitting down and deciding to feel “happier.” It doesn't work like that. So no, we can't really influence our health with our consciousness, but we can. The challenge is that the answer to the question seems to be both “yes!” and “no!” depending on who ask and what you are considering.
Similarly polar attitudes also exist in the realm of therapeutics, where there again tends to be two schools: one that focuses on conversation and gaining insight; and one that strives to make conversation almost totally unnecessary (think of the ten minute doctor visit!). In the first, more conversational stream, it is very important to learn who you are (as the patient) and then to acknowledge and work on yourself and on your situation. This honors the individual. It has many advantages, but there are situations where someone may talk for twenty years about who they are, and still never find a way to change. They get stuck in their experience of their own personality. On the other hand, in the stream of materialistic medicine which usually aims to treat a biochemical problem, the goal is to find a solution that will work for everyone, regardless of who the individual person is. Large, blinded, randomized trials work very hard to eliminate the variations that are associated with individuals. This helps foster objectivity, which is really important when you need to do something in the moment. But in this stream you can lose your uniqueness, and just become a “colon” or a “tumor.” Your identity in the medical world becomes synonymous your medical diagnosis.
Is there a middle path? Yes, and this is why it is so wonderful to be able to use anthroposophic remedies. Remedies help to guide you into a new way of being, beyond what you would be capable of on your own, but then also encourage the unfolding of a shift in consciousness and intention. They are generally not as strong as conventional pharmaceutical medications, but that is because they are trying to open a door to a new way of being. There is still freedom in the process. With a traditional medication that reduces your blood pressure, or your cholesterol, the medicine works strongly while you are taking it, but you are no stronger if you stop taking it. Anthroposophic medicine is different. As an example: it is very common in the practice to have someone take a set of remedies for 6-12 weeks, feel a good change, and note an improvement in symptoms. But they are not completely satisfied, because they recognize on some level that they need not just to take something, but to do something. And the next visit ends up mostly being about consciousness and intention: “how can I, as an individual person, more consciously guide and participate in my life?” A doorway to change has been opened. Whether anything does change is mostly up to the individual. Then, after some months when we may have lost some of our momentum for making individual change, it may be time to return to some (different) remedies. And the cycle can repeat. There is a natural breathing between receiving a remedy from the outside, taking it up, and then making a step on our own. Children do this very easily: they receive guidance and assistance through taking remedies, which can accomplish something that verbal instructions won't, and they are very often are able to take a new step of development. For adults it is similar–we can't accomplish everything on our own, but we also need to be active participants in guiding our lives–to receive some assistance, and then find new confidence within ourselves. Taking hold and letting go. Sometimes a picture says it all: (worth a few minutes viewing).

Wishing you good health and good transformation in the new year!
Dr. Blanning

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