There's a school of thought in spiritual circles that ascribes to the idea that everything that happens in our lives—the blissful things, the growth edge things, the horrid things—all happens with purpose. This spiritual teaching suggests that everything reflected in our lives is the result of our conscious or unconscious desires, and that when things aren't going our way, it's because the blueprint of the subconscious actually desires the very thing we think we don't want. In other words, we may believe that we want to meet the love of our life, or we may hope to have the cancer cured, but if someone were to muscle test us or read the subconscious mind intuitively, we would discover that at the level of the subconscious, we’re actually terrified of falling in love because of a past heartbreak, or the cancer is meeting some core need for rest, connection, or freedom from a toxic job, for example.
“Wait!” you say. “But I really DO want to find The One!” Or “Hang on a minute! I swear I want to be cured of my cancer.” Or “Watch it now. Are you suggesting that my business is failing because I want it to fail?”
Yes, and no. Those who promote this viewpoint are not suggesting that you CONSCIOUSLY want a crappy love life or cancer or failure in your business. They’re saying you subconsciously want it, and because your subconscious is in charge 95% of the time, this subconscious blueprint will sabotage the very thing your conscious mind wants to create. They say that everything in your life, you create. The good, the bad, the ugly—it’s all up to you.
My next book The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage As Medicine For The Body, Mind & Soul comes out February 24! What inspired me to write The Fear Cure? After writing Mind Over Medicine, I had a post-publishing epiphany. I realized that it's all well and good to teach the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself, to invite people to do the deep transformational work that makes the body ripe for miracles and facilitates “spontaneous” remissions. But even if people are intuitive enough to tune into what their bodies need in order to heal, and even if they’re wise enough to write The Prescription for themselves, way too often, fear gets in the way. You may know what needs to change in your life, but if you’re not courageous enough to act upon your inner guidance, you’re likely to stay sick—and stuck.
That’s when I realized (with a gulp) that I needed to write a book about fear and courage.
(You can preorder it here.)
A lot of people think of fear as a painful, disruptive emotion, and they may be aware of how fear is holding them back in their personal or professional lives. But few people, including physicians, are aware that fear predisposes you to illness and interrupts the healing process. In The Fear Cure, I share scientific data proving that fear and disease are linked and that fear can out-picture as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain syndromes, and even the common cold.
But fear doesn’t just make you sick. It limits your ability to fully step into your soul’s purpose in what poet Mary Oliver calls “this one wild and precious life.” Perhaps even more importantly, it keeps us stuck in a cultural world view that will destroy our planet—and us along with it—if we don't WAKE UP.
In The Fear Cure, I share what I call the "Four Fearful Assumptions," beliefs we have adopted that contribute to our fear-mongering culture and lead us to make choices based on a scarcity mentality, and these choices not sabotage your efforts to be happy, healthy, and thriving; these choices harm us all.
I just returned from two weeks in Peru, where my friend Dennis and I trekked up to 16,000 feet in the Andes and stayed in a small village with the people of the Q’eros as part of my research for an upcoming book Sacred Medicine. What I gleaned from the trip was not what I expected. I didn’t come home with a “10 Things I Learned From the Shamans of Peru” list, though perhaps that will come in time. What I gained was something far more profound and much more difficult to translate into words.
I found it almost laughably ironic that I am about to teach a free teleclass with my friend and mentor Martha Beck called “An Invitation To Peace.” (Register here to receive a copy of the recording.) This idea was born of a conversation between Martha and I, when we were sensing into the busyness and frenetic energy of modern life, noting the social isolation, reading the collective feelings of disconnection, anxiety, and depression that plague our culture, and dreaming into being a mass awakening of consciousness and infusion of healing peace. Martha and I could sense that, on some other plane, in some cosmic dimension, this collective peace had already been achieved, and we wanted to help people remember what already belongs to us, the peace we can experience when we return to the true home of our spiritual essence. This was our intention, and when Martha and I felt into the meditative peace we wanted to create on this teleclass, we both dropped in to a sort of trance that felt very deep and connected and effortless and yummy.
And then I went to visit Q’eros, and I recognized instantly that the sense of peace Martha and I were dreaming into being is already RIGHT THERE in this village in the Andes. I could feel it the minute I stepped off the horse that deposited me into the center of the quiet village. What was it I was sensing? Where did this vibration of pure peace originate from, and why did it feel simultaneously so familiar and so foreign? What could we learn from them, and how could we implement it in a way that might bring this kind of peace to the people of our culture? I just kept thinking of the movie When Harry Met Sally, when filmmaker Rob Reiner’s mother looks at Sally having a fake orgasm in the restaurant and says, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Whatever these people of the Q’eros were having, I wanted more . . .
If you have a conscientious doctor, you’ve probably been asked important health questions such as:
Are you eating a mostly vegetable based diet?
Are you avoiding sugar and limiting glucose-spiking carbohydrates like white pasta and bread?
Are you choosing organic?
Are you avoiding habits that can harm your health, such as cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and drinking too much caffeine?
Are you exercising regularly?
Do you get enough sleep?
If your doctor is particularly hip, you may have also been asked about your stress levels and what you’re doing to keep your stress under control. But is your doctor helping you understand what stress really is? You may think it’s all about how long your “to do” list is, but you may not realize what stress is to your body.
What Is Stress?
As I wrote about in Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, as far as your nervous system is concerned, stress is anything that triggers the amygdala in your primordial limbic system to activate the “fight-or-flight” stress response. And whenever this happens, your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms- the ones that help prevent heart disease, fight cancer, ward off infection, and assist in anti-aging- get flipped off. As far as your body’s health is concerned, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that trigger the stress response may damage your health more than a poor diet, avoiding exercise, bad habits, and sleep deprivation.
But the good news is that the opposite is also true! Because your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings are at least partially under your control, you have the power to switch off your body’s stress responses and return the nervous system to the health-inducing relaxation response that activates the body’s natural self repair.
So which questions should your doctor be asking? Which ones should you be asking yourself? Check out the following questions which assess your “whole health” and which all have been scientifically proven to affect your health and longevity.
How many times have you heard variations on this conversation?
Person A: How’s it going?
Person B: I’m insanely busy. You know, the usual.
Person A: Yeah, me too. I’m scheduling into 2015 already.
Person B: I get it. Haven’t taken a real vacation in over a year.
Person A: Well, gotta count our blessings for being busy, right?
Person B: Amen.
It seems to me that we wear busyness like a badge of honor. I’m busy, therefore I’m important and valuable, therefore I’m worthy. And if I’m not busy, forget it. I don’t matter.
Recently, I hired Anne Davin to help me run my business, and because she’s much kinder to my schedule than I am, I find myself with a lot more free time than I’ve had in decades. Anne reins me in so I don’t bulldoze full steam ahead into exciting new projects that, while thrilling and fulfilling, will invariably wind up over committing and depleting me and overworking and depleting my staff. So lately, I have a lot of days on my calendar labeled “Succulent Space Day,” which basically means I’m free to do…whatever.
Because it looks to the outside world like I achieve a lot, people assume I’m insanely busy. But the reality is that, because I have such a great support team, both in my professional life and my personal life, I have a lot of down time, and this down time leaves me admittedly uncomfortable. In September, my whole month was blocked for a PBS station tour that got postponed until December (check listings for my public television special here). So when that tour got postponed, I had loads of free time on my calendar. So what did I do? I filled up the time by writing a 124,000 word book that I started and finished in seven weeks.
I guess you could say I’m more than a little uncomfortable with down time.
The Addiction of Busyness
In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes about numbing behaviors that we use as armor against vulnerability. And lest you think numbing doesn’t apply to you because you’re not hooked on cocaine or alcohol, she clarifies by saying, “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having twelve-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
While we shame people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, somehow, as a culture, we’ve normalized- even praised- busyness addiction. But are we really doing ourselves any favors by staying so busy?
Because I suddenly have more down time than I’ve ever had in my adult life, I find myself faced with the time to reflect upon my life. And facing my life isn’t always so pretty.