By Niru Vishwanath
We all know of the mind-body connect. Yoga is all about the “yog” or joining together of the mind and body. There is enough medical evidence to show that the mind can lead the body to sickness as well as to health.
While going through my treatment for breast cancer, starting with chemotherapy followed by surgery and then radiation therapy, I had first-hand experience of the power of the mind over the body. Keeping my mind in the positive zone where thoughts of wellbeing, joy and good health prevailed was the key to my healing. I believed from the beginning that I was going to beat the disease and never once doubted it.
Finding Niall McLeod Waldman, a psychic healer, who ultimately became my guide, mentor and spiritual teacher, helped me see that connection even better. Right from the start, he instructed me to talk of the disease in the past tense, as though it was already gone. “God I am healed God”, “God I am perfectly healthy God” were to be my regular chants and more so when I was assailed with doubts or negative thoughts. My mind was commanding my body to heal, to be healthy. I stayed in a positive healing space through keeping out negative thoughts, energy and emotions. One piece of advice I had from Niall was to tell as few people as possible about my sickness so as to limit the conversation about it. Thought is energy and we didn’t want to give energy to the sickness. While there is no doubt that anybody who learnt of my condition would only mean well and wish for my recovery, apparently worry is also a negative thought.
So this is clearly about the mind-body connect. As Niall would say, if the mind can cause the body to be sick, it can also bring about its healing.
However, I also discovered the mind-body disconnect through this period. And that is the paradox. This is a slightly harder concept to explain. I realized that while my body was going through the sickness, in my mind I was absolutely healthy. I was no different from what I was before the diagnosis. This is also one of the reasons I did not wish to tell too many people about my condition. I was not the sickness. I did not want people to immediately think of the sickness when my name was mentioned. That was just something happening to me, besides all other day to day stuff and it did not define me. I was still the same person, with the same interests, intellect, failings and strengths as I was earlier.
So while the mind and body are connected, it seemed to be a one-way connect in my case. The mind was telling the body that it was healed, while the body was not telling the mind that it was sick. While trying to figure this out, I wondered whether it was because this sickness does not manifest in physical symptoms, or did not in my case, such as pain or discomfort. The treatment did of course, but not the sickness per se. Even with that discomfort, I felt a disconnect in my mind and my core that the sickness is somehow separate from ME. That despite whatever happens to my body, I remain essentially the same, whole and healthy.
This is perhaps why I do not like the description “Cancer survivor” as I am likely to be labelled from here on. Sure, the disease has changed me, both physically and spiritually (not mentally), but I am still unchanged. In private I would like to think of myself as “restored” or “renewed” or “recalibrated” but I do not see the need for a label that somehow indicates a pre- and post- person. This is not to trivialize the disease or its life-threatening possibilities. I think my point is to not give the disease power over you either during or after the treatment.
As this is all about paradox, let me end with another one. I say that you remain you, but in fact you do also change. You cannot but be changed. For most people there is growth - in awareness, in spirituality, in compassion, in gratitude and so on…
How we make use of this opportunity is up to each one of us. It would be a horrible waste if we didn’t. I was lucky enough to have never looked upon this situation with a “Why me?” lens. Instead I took it as a chance, rightly or wrongly, to wipe the slate clean and begin again. Was I being given the fortuity to reduce or make zero my negative karma and start to add to the positive side of the karma balance sheet? I strongly believe it is so and I hope to make the best of the rest of my life.