Mindfulness & Health

I’ve been thinking lately about the connection between thoughts, thinking patterns, and health, and especially about the origin of our unconscious thoughts, which I understand are much more powerful than our conscious thoughts. Paul Brenner, MD, PhD, in his 2013 TEDx talk titled “Epigenetics & the Space Around Us” talks about the impact of the physical and emotional environment during childhood (prenatal through about the age of 10 years) on thought patterns, and how these in turn affect health. Paul is a local treasure … a former gynecologist turned psychologist, who now works primarily with cancer patients. Many years ago as a newly trained dietitian, I was privileged to teach nutrition classes to his maternity patients.

With an appreciation for the effect of environment on the expression of our genes (epigenetics), Paul describes how he helps those he counsels to better understand the impact of the emotional environment during childhood on current health issues. Paul says he tells those he counsels, “You have cancer, but you are not cancer.” He talks about the power of words and suggests that a physician might consider instead of naming a disease, say instead “You have a difference … how do we treat difference?… with change … “ I am guessing that he means change as related to body, mind, and spirit — spending some time taking stock of behaviors and thought patterns that preceded disease and considering what might be changed, and then working out a plan to implement these changes.

Often over the years, the truth in the title of one of Paul’s books … “Health is a Question of Balance” … has come to mind as I have thought about nutrient balance and the synergy between body, mind, and spirit as related to health. In his thought provoking book titled “Buddha in the Waiting Room – Simple Truths About Health, Illness, and Healing,”Paul says, “At every moment, you have a chance to reinvent yourself. It is through the balance between intellect and body-knowing that you will find your personal truth, guidance, and authenticity. Each moment takes you further along the path that leads you to health.” May it be so.

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