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The power of the mind and body connection

Posted on August 02, 2013

I used to think that walking over red hot coals was some kind of hoax. The people doing that had something on their feet that prevented burns. Burns are a physical process. Well, that’s what I thought until the other morning when I poured the seconds prior, steam-whistling kettle full of boiling water over my hand instead of my intended mug full of tea. I winced for a nanosecond, and then quickly told myself to stop. I wasn’t going to get burned. Madness at worst, hopeful thinking at best. As my friend stood watching in shock, I calmly replied, “I’m fine, I didn’t’ burn myself.” How was that possible? I had just poured boiling water all over my hand, didn’t run it under cold water and my hand was barely warm.

The only explanation is that I told myself that I was not going to burn. Now, please don’t take this as medical advice, that you can do whatever you want to and face no repercussions. That I do not endorse at all. What I am saying is that there is more to the human mind than many of us give it (ourselves) credit for. I am not alone in thinking that the power of the mind is something extraordinary that we have only begun to understand.

Now, not burning yourself with hot water and curing cancer don’t even seem to fall into the same league. But to me they are. During my time in Boston while completing my Masters degree, I heard many stories of patients previously diagnosed with stage four cancer of various types that were in remission or had continually shrinking tumors while receiving Tong Ren and acupuncture at the Tam Healing Center in Quincy, MA with my teacher Tom Tam.

For many the idea of spontaneous remission, or “radical remission” from something as life threatening as cancer is unbelievable. Many acupuncturists cautioned me while training to be wary of those that make claims of even remotely helping cancer patients. Had I not met and worked with these patients personally I would not have believed it myself. The truth is that I while I am certainly more open minded than I was in my youth (when I thought the walking on coals was a silly hoax) and decidedly more open minded than many people involved with conventional medicine, the fact of the matter is that these people were healing. And my belief is that the power of the mind and its ability to heal were working.

While my western trained scientific mind wants an explanation, my eastern mind says, “who cares?” (or as Tom says, “whatever”). A bit flip, yes, but really when it comes down to it, the point of going to the doctor or the acupuncturist, is to get well. We seek medical care because we need guidance. We often know that we need to change, but we don’t know where to begin.

When I made the decision to choose acupuncture over orthopedics (arguably my family’s specialty) I made the decision based on logic, but also largely on intuition and feeling. I knew that it wasn’t the right fit for the form of medicine that I wanted to practice. The healing process also requires a bit of that intuition and feeling, as well as other factors that are arguably as important as the actual medical care that you are receiving.

Choose the right practioner

Having the right medical provider is one of the most important factors in your healing process. Now as an acupuncturist, I often explain to people that the needles themselves are not what is doing the healing, you are. Again, your mind and body are working together to heal. That being said, finding someone that you trust is integral to your being able to relax and let the process work. Being able to trust that person enough to share personal information is one thing, but entrusting your health into someone’s care is another. When you find a practitioner that you trust and believe in you will have a better outcome.

Look at your lifestyle

Many of us like to think that we’re healthy, but when someone asks us how many vegetables we eat everyday, or how much coffee and caffeine we consume, we are apt to make excuses for our habits. The reality is that if something is wrong with your body, you need to take a serious look at what you are doing and honestly decide what is causing the problem. Often we cause our own ailments. Athletes in particular are notorious for injuring themselves, because they refuse to listen to what their body is telling them, because their training plan says otherwise. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the signs only to be one of the many that, “knew I shouldn’t have done that”.
Stop and ask yourself, “if I had three months to live, would I be doing this?”

Think about your job, where you live, your support system. Are these they way you imagined it in your mind when you were young and full of dreams? If not, perhaps it’s time for a change. Change is never easy, but often necessary.


Trust that what is happening at this moment is what should be happening. If you live in the moment, it frees you from the anxiety of the future and regret of the past. Life is too short. Just accept and be.

Eat good food and drive carefully,