As soon as the word ‘therapy’ is mentioned we start to think of what is called the ‘medical model’ of disease and its treatment, in which one waits patiently until a disease comes along and then does something to try and get rid of it. Of course, that’s not really what health is about, but it seems to be what a lot of things that are nowadays called ‘health’ are about. In yoga we keep coming back all the time to the mind and its effect on the general well-being of the whole person, back to this incredibly powerful mind, powerful for its positive effect and powerful for its negative effect.
It has been shown that the human mind can affect the activities and development of plants. We certainly know that we can affect each other with our thinking. But the mind can even affect external events at the sub-atomic level, and this is one of the amazing facts of quantum physics. When we realize that the way one observes the experiment actually alters the experiment itself, we begin to realize just how powerful the mind is. We realize the effect of consciousness at the personal level. But what about the bigger picture?
The universal mind
Quantum physicists are also amazed by another phe-nomenon. They have found that two events can occur simultaneously, apparently related to one another, at a great distance apart, seemingly without anything going on between them. Now this has the physicists scratching their heads, and Isaac Newton would certainly be rolling over in his grave trying to work it out.
Because we tend to approach life from the physical point of view, we tend to have a materialistic outlook. We see the whole universe as physical things out there that are giving off other effects. The planets are attracted by this mysterious force called gravity, and there doesn’t seem to be much in between. But of course if we look at the universe the way the yogis do, that the universal mind or consciousness is the primary substance and the physical things are its results, it becomes clear. Einstein once said that the universe seems at times to be a ‘great thought’.
Now if you consider with quantum physics these two isolated events occurring simultaneously, and if at the back of those a mind is working, it explains the whole thing perfectly. It’s simple. So it depends really on whether we approach our life, our health, each other, planet earth and the whole universe from the material point of view, or whether we see the primacy of mind in the thing.
The effect of the mind on the body
The mind affects the chemicals in the physical body as well. It has been said that if your body is having a good time then it is flooded with positive hormones and chemical messengers within the brain (called synaptic transmitters). We can actually think the body into having a good time, or having a bad time. It is just a pattern of thinking, and if we can develop the witness position, if we can stand back mentally and see our patterns of thinking, we can choose one way or the other.
If the body is having a good time it is flowing with endorphins, encephalins, melatonin and serotonin, those pleasure and relaxation chemicals. Even the immune system is having a good time and working strongly. The same applies if you are having a bad time, if you are full of fear and insecurity about what is going to happen tomorrow. If you’ve lost the plot, forgotten your real human potential, then you are chock full of adrenalin, noradrenalin and the other stress chemicals. Then you know that the immune system is having a bad time as well. It is no surprise that so many physical diseases and conditions are actually caused by your mind having a bad time, and so much well-being is caused by your mind having a good time.
This even applies to the ageing process. Swami Niranjan has talked about ageing gracefully. The body just goes along very slowly as it is supposed to do, as is inevitable, and everything quietly winds down. There are no horrible crises of terrible diseases and agony, just a body ageing slowly as its normal process of energy production leads to the release of these electrically charged particles that we call free radicals. They gradually change the tissues of the body. They deteriorate the cell membranes, stick connective tissue proteins together and change the genes. Although we have mechanisms in our body to heal breeches and breaks in the genes, slowly but surely that is going to be overtaken and the body is going to age.
Many people die very quietly, at peace, after a full and fulfilling life. There is the story about the fellow who said, “When I die, I just want to go the way my grandfather did, peacefully and quietly in his sleep, not yelling and screaming like the other passengers in his car.”
So it is all about peace of mind. If you have just had a good laugh at that joke then your body had a good time, so you probably just added at least another five minutes onto your life. Having fun is such an important part of life. It’s yoga; it’s union. People can be very united when they are laughing together.
Some people take everything so seriously and if they can’t find anything serious to worry about they switch on the television, and there’s plenty of tragedy there to worry about. Or they go along to the video shop and borrow a video with a cover showing one horrible creature just about to wring the neck of another one.
So it always comes back to the mind. The gradual working through of the mental impressions that are pulling the mind down, the gradual working through of all these old things that give us our attitudes and opinions, which of course we ‘know’ are right. It’s quite amazing how many ideas and opinions I had in my past that I’d ‘known’ were absolutely correct, which I now realize were a lot of rubbish. I’ve got a terrible suspicion that I’ve still got a lot more of them left in there too, but I’m getting help from some very significant places and I think there might be a chance.
In the Readers Digest there is a section of jokes entitled ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’. It reminds us that therapy is really about attaining the state of well-being. It is not just about eradicating diseases that have already occurred, though that can be a necessary phase. Disease should be a warning that there is something wrong with one’s well-being. Paramahamsaji used to always talk about disease being like the little light on the dashboard of a car. Disease says: “Wait there, there’s something wrong in the engine of the body.” Nowadays, when the little light shines a warning, the person goes along to the surgeon, who gets a knife and flicks the light off the dashboard. Problem solved. Of course if the surgeon’s knife has to be used, if medicines have to be used, we should do so, but we should also start to think, “Is that a warning light? What is behind it, what should I be doing about it?”
This is where the complete integral yoga that we teach in Satyananda yoga covers all bases. It teaches us to deal with the physical and the vital energies. It also covers the mind and the psychic aspect. By psychic I mean those subtle communications that go on between all of us, not body language; the psychic is another level above that. We are all in communication and this is especially noticeable to those of us who are close to each other. Yoga also addresses the spiritual aspect of our life, communication with the highest consciousness and realization that we are a part of it, that we are an emanation of it.
Yoga also develops and evolves all of those areas of our everyday life, such as our basic security, the security that deep down inside lets us know that each of us is a part of this great whole, and can’t be separated. It develops the joy aspect of our nature, which is related to sexuality and bliss. It evolves the power and self-esteem aspect of our nature. It covers the love, the consideration and compassion for other human beings. It covers all the levels of communication, intuition and unity with the highest consciousness.
As you are getting into yoga you realize just how much it covers, just what a goldmine you have found. You realize that you have found a way to well-being and the evolution of your best qualities. That’s what therapy is about. We become our own therapist before the illness strikes by developing our own wellness: physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual.