For the past two or more decades we have been taught that the brain is an inflexible machine incapable of change once programmed at an early age, and if damaged, it has little chance of recovery.
But this limiting theory is being actively challenged on many fronts through the new science of neuroplasticity.
Canadian psychiatrist and best-selling author Dr. Norman Doidge is at the forefront of this change of thought. Scheduled to come out next week is his new book on the subject. The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity.
Doidge’s book focuses on accounts from people who were suffering from a plethora of different diseases deemed irreversible and hopeless, but who found healing through various methods of retraining the brain.
The realization that thought can heal the material brain is becoming increasingly recognized and discussed.
At the base of this rich discussion are differing opinions about what consciousness is. Is it something physical, based in the brain, or is it spiritual – that which is considered the source of all, i.e., the Divine? Obviously, these two views are very different.
American soldier, David George, was injured in a car bomb in Iraq. The trauma of the experience left him sleepless and suffering, He said that PTSD is like driving through a rain-storm, but you can’t see where you are going or where you are. However, learning the practice of meditation helped him to clear the fog and to look forwards. The more he does it, the more he feels reconnected to life. He is now running a non-profit foundation called Operation Warrior Wellness to help others who suffer as he did, and has published his first book.
George’s story indicates that the brain is not the master of our destiny. His choice to take control of his thinking and, thereby, of how he experiences his life, shows that we are not helpless servants of the brain or the body. And, experiences like George’s are beginning to inform and influence the ways in which mental and physical illnesses are viewed and treated. For some health researchers, and for some people seeking relief from mental or physical illness, these experiences also raise the question about whether the effects are more than just a manipulation of the brain. Could it be that some forms of meditation connect us with a divine Consciousness as a source of healing?
Current popular approaches to meditation focus mainly on being observant of thinking patterns and bodily functions, like breathing. In contrast, both Christianity and Judaism have a long history of practicing meditative prayer – a communing with the Divine in a way that changes how we see, think and experience life. The teachings of Jesus, and of those who came directly after him, especially counsel us to put aside the human and focus on the Divine.
The apostle Paul advised his followers to “let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” So what mind or consciousness would that be?
It seems to me that Jesus saw and felt his connection to God so clearly that he was always thinking, seeking and translating that divine consciousness into human experience.
It was in this connection that Jesus understood life as spiritual – as an expression of God, who is Love. His conscious, prayerful practice of this divine Love enabled him to achieve a startling record of healing by changing how people saw themselves. His healing of insanity showed – even then – that the brain is not the master of our destiny. Most of his patients were un-treatable, even by today’s standards.
Prayer should not be relegated to being just an aid to help us feel better about a hopeless situation. New ways of researching and understanding the efficacy of a prayer-practice that has tangible results are already underway, but ultimately the best researchers are us.
We can challenge the belief that we are helpless victims of our past, or of some illness, and make new discoveries about what real Consciousness is and how it impacts our health.