Healing the Self

The transpersonal in psychology is concerned with the evolution of consciousness. Evolution, in this sense, would imply that we as individuals begin to expand and use more of the capacities of our consciousness. Our consciousness is bound by the interpretations and definitions we impose upon our experiences. By becoming more mindful of each moment we are given, we increase our capacity to engage more fully in any situation. We stop imposing meaning upon our experiences and learn to experience the experience.

As we become more conscious and expand our abilities to sense more from our environment, we will simultaneously move towards better health. Through our awareness we understand that our perception is dependent upon our interpretations and reactions to what is outside of us. Depending on how we label those “things” around us, we develop a reality to fit that prescribed perception. What we often don’t realize, however, is that the associated emotions that are linked to the “things” we encounter in the environment have the power to elicit powerful emotional states within us. This happens because of the similarity of the current event to our past experiences. If in that past experience we felt anger, we are likely to evoke the same emotion in this situation that is similar. It is a “reaction” we are experiencing instead of a “response.” If we can step back and assess our perception and how we may be applying past notions to this new situation, we can deactivate the neural nets that sustain this type of reaction. Knowing and watching for these circumstances allows us to intervene and break the reactionary behaviors that bind us to past traumas.


Our perceptions, in turn, influence our reactions to the environment resulting in our sense of ease with the situation or “dis-ease.” Tantric literature identifies the source of human suffering, or samsara, as the consequence of our tendency to cling to expectations and desires, becoming attached to a preferred outcome to a situation (Yeshe, 1987). To cling to preconceived outcomes or expectations inevitably leads to suffering or anguish when things turn out differently. If we expand our comfort zone, we may find that although we didn’t get what we want, it helped us to achieve a particular insight that we needed. I like to look at our experiences, especially the difficult ones, as an opportunity to learn a new lesson. I can ask myself, “What can I learn from this situation that will help me evolve my consciousness and better my life?”

Our health reflects the relationship between the body/mind interactions. Patterned fear responses developed in childhood and through life experiences can result in beliefs that are not necessarily based upon the current situation. These patterned fear responses become activated and we experience mental and physiological reactions “as if” the threat still exists and is present in the current situation.

panda2The human body acts as a barometer about the state of affairs within. The autonomic nervous system regulates the processes that allow for emergency action through sympathetic nervous system arousal. This prepares us at the biological level to either flee, freeze, or to fight if necessary. This is adaptive behavior, but when the threat is merely perceived through faulty interpretation, our body remains in high gear, prepared to do what is necessary. Unfortunately, sustained levels of stress will keep this system activated and not allow for the parasympathetic nervous system to do its job which is to bring the body back to its “business as usual” state.

Overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system can negatively affect the immune system, often causing illness. Since the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to flee, fight, or freeze, blood is diverted from the brain and viscera to the arms, legs, and hindbrain (reptilian brain). Decreased blood flow to the body can result in muscular tension compromising our ability to fight off infection, disease, and viral contagions in the environment. The resulting immunological effects exacerbate muscle tension, headaches, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, and other physical complaints and contribute to lowered immunity as well (Ornstein & Sobel, 1987; Chopra, 1993; Wickramesekera, 1987). These signs can be interpreted as indications of the biological wisdom of the body signaling awareness to the individual that a “dis-ease” process is in motion. Note that when I use the term “disease,” that I use a hypen to separate “dis” from “ease.” This implies that disease is often the result of the dis-ease I am experiencing within my life. New information is coming out regarding the activation of the disease process and how our emotions and personality interact with any genetic predisposition we may have for illness or disease.

lilybrightStudies in psychoneuroimmunology support claims and buttress the notion that the mind does in fact affect the body. This implies that what Glaser (1984) refers to as the “pictures in our head” can and do feed our immune response and energy within and around us. In his book, Control Theory, Glaser cites that humans often use outdated templates of belief and apply them to current situations even if these “pictures in our head” are irrelevant to the present. We need to update our “pictures” so that we are able to appreciate each moment for what it is.

As Ken Wilber cites in his book, No Boundary, eternity is not simply time that lasts for a long, long time. Eternity is now. There is no time more eternal than the present one we are in and if we are focused on the past or anticipating the future with anxiety, we lose the moment or the experience of eternity. I remember a specific Star Trek: Next Generation movie wherein Picard is with a female who gives him the ability to slow time down so much that he is able to see the fluttering of a hummingbird’s wings. That is the appreciation of the now that mindfulness teaches us. Mindfulness allows us to experience the fullest expression of what we are experiencing in any given moment.

We will be examining various alternative approaches to healing that are now becoming integrated into western medical models. This integration is a healthy indication that eastern and western approaches to healing are being valued and recognized for their strengths in the human search for better and longer lives. By moving beyond simple treatment of disease to a more preventative, approach, individuals are being handed back the responsibility for achieving and maintaining a healthy body and sound mind. Becoming informed is more important to health than knowing which doctor to contact when problems arise. Being individually responsible for the state of our physical and mental health is empowering people to take a more proactive stance in the quality of life we can enjoy.


Through greater understanding of how stress impacts our physiological systems we are encouraged to recognize when we may be pushing ourselves beyond our limits and taxing the body’s ability to “house” the self residing in our bodies. We are not simply spiritual entities riding along on our bodies. To paraphrase St. Francis, we are not simply riders on an animal, (he called this animal, Brother Ass) separated from our bodies. We are an integrated, mindbody, complex organism that works in a holistic manner, each affecting the other. Our state of mind will have a corresponding effect upon the physical aspects of our being and vice versa. With this understanding, health becomes something each person must personally own.

We come to realize that we are much more powerful than we have been led to believe and that if we knew more about the powers of consciousness and our ability to use this knowledge towards healing ourselves and others, we will be taking a quantum leap in many ways. Whether we are referring to healing from disease or to the simple maintenance of everyday well being, consciousness evolution would dictate that those characteristics and abilities that allow our species to adapt and survive will help us adjust to this rapidly changing world in which we find ourselves. Within one person’s lifetime, much can be achieved that provides a sense of purpose to being conscious animals. We not only create, but also can heal from headaches, backaches, tension, gastrointestinal upset, and anxiety through conscious intent.

If you will do a search of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) Office of the National Institutes of Health (NIMH) you will find sure proof that we are now embarked upon a more holistic approach to health in this country. I hope you will find some modality of healing that piques your curiosity enough to do further research on the alternative health approach, either through trying the method as an approach to your own health, or as a way to help others.