Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of the New York Times best-seller Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, said in her TED talk, "The Shocking Truth About Your Health," that the most important part of your health is -- surprise! -- not daily exercise, taking vitamins, balancing your hormones, getting enough sleep, or seeing your doctor for regular checkups.
Instead, she suggests that caring for your body is actually the least important part of your health. "What if the body was actually a mirror of how we live our lives?" she asks.
It's easy to think of our bodies as machines with parts that need to be fixed and an outside that needs to be maintained. But simply taking care of the body ignores what's truly going on inside. Because one of the most important parts of caring for yourself is considering the quality of the thoughts you think on a daily basis.
Beyond maintaining your physical health, how do you keep track of your mental and spiritual well-being?
You don't have to look very far. Each one of us has a spiritual identity that can be nurtured and discovered through daily prayer and contemplation and a deeper understanding of the divine, whether you call that God, Spirit, Allah, or something else.
I think of God as divine Love, a tender, guiding force of wisdom that is constantly communicating with us and giving the precise guidance needed in any situation. It just takes listening and weeding out some of the states of thought that might precipitate ill-ease, such as hatred, envy, dishonesty, anger, or fear. This relates to the scriptural wisdom Jesus taught in his parable of the tares and the wheat, which is a metaphor for our consciousness.
A daily practice of gradually turning those "tare" thoughts into forgiveness, honesty, love, joy, etc. has a way of reversing what could otherwise be difficult mental and even physical states and instead bring about healing.
Not long ago, I sat down with Peggy Huddleston, author of Prepare For Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques. During our conversation, she shared the example of a woman whose case shows how seeking peace of mind can bring about a healthy adjustment in the body.
Chris was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer and her doctors recommended an immediate hysterectomy. After some consideration, she decided instead to explore alternative approaches to healing, including eventually contacting Huddleston after a friend recommended her book.
In her first meeting with Huddleston, Chris shared what was going on in her life. She had been adopted and was in the process of finding her birth family, which was very emotional for her. She had recently located her family, but then received the sad news that her mother had just passed away.
Huddleston listened to her story and then said, "There's all this upheaval going on in your life. I have a feeling that once all this resolves that what's going on in your uterus is just a reflection of all the turmoil you're going through with finally finding your birth family. I have a feeling that, too, will resolve."
Several family reunions and meeting seven half siblings and her mother's side of the family was very healing for Chris and brought her deep peace.
She eventually decided to see a different doctor who listened to her story and considered all of the emotional factors in her case. A brief surgical procedure showed that all of her uterine tissue was now normal, with no sign of cancer. Chris concluded that the advice, counsel, love and direction from her work with Huddleston were "instrumental in my healing, and totally changed my life."
Huddleston said, "I just knew that when she found her peace, her body would reflect that, too."
If you, too, are looking for healing, perhaps a good place to start is not by consulting the mirror to see what your body is telling you, but by first taking an inventory of your thoughts and events in your life and listening to your spiritual intuition.
You just might discover some surprising answers!