The yogis say we have to learn to adapt, adjust and accommodate. This is an excellent affirmation to help the mind deal with issues of health and healing. As our bodies change, they require an attentive, compassionate response from us. Taking the body for granted can lead to some difficult moments when you realize “the way it always has been isn’t the way it is now.” You break your wrist and have to do everything with one hand, or your knees become arthritic and don’t bend as easily, or maybe you are diagnosed with asthma and your breathing becomes laboured, requiring you to slow down and relax more. My steps are often halting or unbalanced these days. The natural grace and flow of movement I have enjoyed all my life escapes me now as my body stiffens up through Parkinson’s disease.
Having to surrender to these changes involves humility, respect and careful attention. Getting frustrated takes precious energy and doesn’t help. The surrender isn’t submissiveness; it is active participation in the process of learning. Healing involves taking responsibility, working with myself, the condition and its symptoms, taking the whole process to a deeper level.
You can ask yourself: What is the body trying to tell me? What is the story here? What is the lesson to be learned? In yoga class recently, we were instructed to do the Tortoise pose and observe the body-mind interaction. My mind wants to go ahead and hold longer. My body says enough. Body wants to ease up. Mind always has big ideas about where we are going. My body is encouraging me to listen, to be compassionate and reasonable. My mind likes to be in the driver’s seat. I like the idea of body and mind working together as a team rather than mind racing ahead and demanding that my body perform.
The importance of our state of mind in maintaining health and in healing cannot be overemphasized. Instead of worrying or imagining the worst or even ignoring the problem, the mind can be used in positive thinking. The power of visualization is well known and can be used to great advantage. One of the most powerful abilities of the mind is the ability to visualize and identify with Divine Light. Swami Radha taught a meditation on the Light, called The Divine Light Invocation, a spiritual practice for healing and recognizing the Light within.
At the beginning of a yoga practice, I visualize my whole body filled with brilliant, radiant white light. It feels very nourishing to put light into every cell, to affirm that I am well, whole, healthy and happy. As I stretch into a Hatha Yoga pose, my mind imagines that I am stretching into the Light – within me and all around me.
The gentle presence of the Light creates a space to go beyond that pushy part of the mind, helping me to focus on the lessons of chronic disease: patience, compassion, understanding, humility and inner strength. This is the story that is emerging, enlightening my mind. It is not about carrying on in the old way. I have an opportunity to grow into Light!
The Light of understanding can penetrate the mind, supporting a cooperative, positive attitude toward healing. Swami Radha has said that by identifying with Light we are encouraged to “emphasize the positive side of our nature and take energy away from the negative – the resentments, complaints and self-pity we hang onto and identify with…and to go beyond past mistakes and future fantasies by filling the mind with positive images. Light is a symbol for the force that heals. The Light can heal us.” And for people who are healthy it can help early on to maintain the body by catching symptoms that are subtle.
The importance of a positive attitude is well illustrated in the studies done on the placebo effect. So outstanding are the results of these studies that a new science is emerging called psychoneuroimmunology. Its thesis is that a state of consciousness such as an expectation can cause changes in both the central nervous system and the immune system. People are becoming well because they believe they are being helped.
Swami Radha also gave us a mantra to affirm our connection to the light. “I am created by Divine Light, I am sustained by Divine Light, I am protected by Divine Light, I am surrounded by Divine Light, I am ever growing into Divine Light.” Helping myself by repeating the mantra keeps me in a receptive frame of mind when I most need it – allowing in the help and kindness from all those offering support in whatever form it comes. The mantra also moves me closer to my inner Light, to an intuitive sense of what to do next.
This body of mine, ignored during years of Catholic upbringing, startled and wondrous with the experience of childbirth, awakened by years of asanas and prayer dance, has turned into a teacher, my teacher. Knowledge is at my fingertips if I can recognize it. In listening to what the body says, something opens up and new ideas come to light. I am learning that illness is a path in itself, opening the door to the inner guru.
Swami Radhakrishnananda is a disciple of Swami Radha. She lives in Spokane Washington at the Radha Yoga Center. Because of her experience with Parkinson’s disease she has a keen interest in yoga for health and healing.