When I decided to rewrite 2/3 of my classic bestseller Mind Over Medicine a year ago so I could update much of the science, add new tools for healing and transformation, and entirely modify the Six Steps To Healing Yourself based on my deeper understanding of how radical remissions do and don’t happen, I had no idea that I would give birth to this REVISED Mind Over Medicine in the middle of a pandemic, economic collapse, and Black Lives Matter protests. The chaos of our world, especially amidst the trifecta of personal and public health risks of Covid-19, racism, and widespread poverty, makes this book full of medicine more timely than ever. Whether you need cutting edge healing tools as treatment for existing mental or physical illness or help preparing a more resilient body for reopening, I hope you’ll find this new edition of an old classic to be just what the doctor ordered.
If you’ve already purchased the original Mind Over Medicine and are uncertain whether it’s worth buying it again, the following preface to the new revised edition explains how this version is different and why it might be worth buying it again. If you buy now, we’ve extended the preorder bonuses, and you can get The Whole Health Meditation CD free if you buy one book or the Connect To Your Inner Pilot Light program free if you buy three books. Thank you for making this book a New York Times bestseller published in 30+ languages! It has helped many, and my prayer is that this revised edition helps even more.
Preface to the Revised Edition
Back in 2009, when I first dove down the rabbit hole of the science of spontaneous remissions and the placebo effect—a journey that would result in the phenomenon that became Mind Over Medicine, including several TEDx talks; two national public television specials; and the Whole Health Medicine Institute, a consciousness and healing training program for health-care providers, I was blessedly naïve about how deep down the rabbit hole I would be called to travel. Although mind-body medicine has been in the zeitgeist for at least half a century, I was not raised by open-minded hippie parents and was not exposed to mind-body practices at home or in medical school.
It was not until I left my job as a conventionally trained physician working in a hospital in 2007 that I was first introduced to best-selling books that had been published in my lifetime and gobbled up by the public, such as Love, Medicine & Miracles, by Bernie Siegel, M.D.; The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson, M.D.; Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.; or Kitchen Table Wisdom, written by the doctor who would become my mentor, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. On the contrary, I was raised by a rigidly skeptical physician father and a family full of Methodist ministers and missionaries, where I was brought up to separate science and spirituality at all costs. Any attempt to combine the two was judged as New Age nonsense or charlatanism at best—or the work of the devil at worst. This kind of childhood programming set me up to be the least likely person on the planet to write a book like this.
Had I known what I would discover on this journey to where science and spirituality intersect, I might have spun around on my heels and hightailed it in the opposite direction. But curiosity combined with cluelessness led me down the rabbit hole. As Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., told me, “Sometimes the soul grabs you by whatever handle is sticking out and leads you back home to yourself.” Back in 2009, the handle that was sticking out was my rabid fascination and insatiable inquisitiveness about the mysterious healings my patients seemed to be experiencing when I was not ordering special laboratory tests, giving them prescription medication or supplements, or treating them with surgery. I didn’t understand how people who had been sick with chronic diseases and life-threatening illnesses were experiencing unexplained cures and crediting them to whatever medicine I seemed to be offering. Back then, I didn’t understand how powerful an effect deep inquiry, loving presence, and a safe, sacred space for healing could have. I also hadn’t cultivated the humble respect I now have for the human body’s miraculous capacity to heal itself under the right conditions and with the right loving support.
Since this book was first published in 2013, a lot has changed in my life and in my consciousness, as well as in science and the world at large. As part of my research for the book, I’m working on as this revised edition goes to press—Sacred Medicine: A Doctor’s Quest to Unravel the Mysteries of Miraculous Healing—I spent nearly a decade studying with shamans in Peru, Qigong masters from China, Balinese healers, Hawaiian kahunas, gurus from Eastern religious traditions, indigenous medicine men and women, biofield scientists and physicists from around the world, and energy healers, trauma therapists, and faith healers from my own country. I visited sacred sites reputed to facilitate healing, such as Lourdes and the Santuario de Chimayó, where people report experiencing mysterious, unexplainable healings. Because the handle sticking out back then dragged me around the globe in search of answers, I now have the opportunity to come back to the research that lies at the root of Mind Over Medicine with a fresh yet grounded perspective, informing this revised edition of the book that has become a classic for people who are on a healing journey from illness, injury, or trauma.
Letting Go Of Control
Like most doctors, I am a bit of a control freak. Although I didn’t realize it consciously at the time, the conditions of my childhood and a need to feel safe left me yearning to control life and death, as many doctors seek to do. Surely, if I were armed with the best education on the planet, protected from uncertainty with scientific knowledge and medical skills, then I could master the insecurities inevitable to live in a human body, right? Ha! How little I understood back then. Fortunately, most foibles coexist with a silver lining. This unconscious desire to control life and death birthed what you are about to read in this book. Since patients of mine were experiencing what my friend, cancer researcher Kelly Turner, Ph.D., calls “radical remissions,” I wanted to hack the healing process so I could add new understanding to the body of knowledge I learned in medical school. I feel tender for the parts of me that so desperately wanted to control life back then, for those parts fueled my passionate quest to learn what I share with you here.
Even the title of this book reflects my own state of consciousness when I first wrote it. “Mind Over Medicine” suggests that the all-powerful mind can control your reality, and all you have to do is learn to harness it. I desperately wanted that to be true. If it was, then I could comfortably hold on to my old-world view: that doctors are in control of life and death, only now we need to help patients control the mind, in addition to practicing good medicine. The possibility that we might not be capable of controlling life and death was just too distressing to me at the time I first wrote this book. Now I’m more comfortable with the unknown and more willing to trust the mystery rather than trying to control life. I think of the book more as “Consciousness Over Medicine” or maybe even “Consciousness IS Medicine.” I no longer believe that healing is a purely mental process, but I do believe that expanding your consciousness has the potential to cure life-threatening diseases and shift your whole life, and this book will help you do that.
With age comes wisdom, and as I work on the revised edition of this book, I am just now integrating the tensions inherent in the paradoxical nature of reality. Ten years ago, I would have said, “You can heal yourself,” and I realize now this is half true. It’s true that taking charge of your health can move you out of the disease-inducing frequency of victimhood and transition you into the health-inducing state of realizing that you can impact your reality with the brave lifestyle choices you have the power to make. It’s also true that most people can’t heal themselves alone. Some people take “self-help” too far and stress their nervous systems with the all-American story of the rugged individualist, with the idea that you can make anything happen if only you push and strive and exert the power of your will hard enough. I now find it more true to hold the paradox of doing what you can to be proactive about healing yourself while simultaneously surrendering to the flow of an unknowable Mystery so vast that we cannot fathom it with our cute little pea brains. Such seeming contradictions run rampant when you go as far down the rabbit hole of researching healing as I’ve gone.
Since writing the first edition, I’ve also witnessed far too many people in the New Age world exaggerating claims about healing and preying upon vulnerable, sick people who are desperate to end their suffering or extend their lives. This may be a smart marketing ploy, but it’s not fully honest. The truth is that we participate in the creation of our reality, and this book is intended to help you be proactive about doing what you can to participate in your healing, but it is naïve to believe you control life, death, or healing. Tied into the patterns of control that dominate our culture is our fear of death, even our demonization of it. Yet death is part of life. The birth of every new moment is the death of the last. I want to make sure nobody ever interprets my body of work to mean that if you don’t heal, you are a spiritual failure. Nothing could be further from what I intend here.
SO WHAT’S NEW IN THIS REVISED EDITION?
In part, you’ll learn why I now teach the Six Steps to Healing Yourself in a different order, with two steps collapsed into one and one additional, critical step, which I’d missed the first time around, tacked onto the end. It took me years of teaching Mind Over Medicine workshops to realize that I had had several blind spots when I wrote the first edition. These simple but potent modifications can significantly impact the efficacy of the Six Steps. For many years, I’ve been teaching the Six Steps to Healing Yourself differently when I teach doctors and healers in the Whole Health Medicine Institute how to facilitate this process in patients, but my updated modifications were only available to those in my professional training programs. Now, dear reader, you’ll learn the revised sequence of healing steps, as well as my rationale for making these changes.
I’m also updating some of the scientific references, since science moves fast and we are learning at an unprecedented rate as science undergoes its own revolution, fueled by maverick scientists who refuse to dogmatically dig their heels into scientific materialism in the face of new scientific discoveries that upend what we thought we knew about the nature of reality.
You’ll also be introduced to the elephant in the room that never got clearly identified in the original edition, namely that as long as there’s unhealed trauma in your body’s system, complete cure from chronic and life-threatening illnesses may elude you, and when cure does happen, it may not be permanent. This doesn’t mean you have to have experienced the big “T” traumas, such as childhood sexual abuse or addiction in the family or going to war, in order for healing trauma to be relevant to potentially curing illness permanently. We have all endured what Buddhist psychiatrist Mark Epstein, M.D., calls “the trauma of everyday life”—the situational and developmental traumas that keep us from living in alignment with our purest essence, or what I call “your Inner Pilot Light,” which you’ll read more about in the pages ahead. When we are denying what is not working in our lives, pushing ourselves to conform to a society on the brink of environmental devastation and moral collapse, suppressing our emotions, suffering in silence by ourselves, living in social isolation, ignoring our intuitions, disconnecting from our spiritual lives, or otherwise turning away from the truth of our deepest knowing, our nervous systems instinctively react as if a predator is out to get us, triggering the biochemistry of “fight or flight,” which disables the body’s natural self-healing abilities. Yet many of us are doing this unwittingly, thinking we are doing what we must to live a healthy lifestyle, not realizing that with trauma reverberating in our systems, we are creating in our bodies the perfect setup for disease.
This is nobody’s fault. As Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” So why are we pathologizing people who are depressed, anxious, and sick in the presence of a sick culture? When sensitive people feel sad, angry, frustrated, helpless, hopeless, and in pain, why are we diagnosing them with mental or physical disorders rather than acknowledging that their empathic response to the state of affairs in the world is, in fact, a normal, healthy reaction to the kind of dehumanizing behavior many others have simply become numb to? Wouldn’t we be better off devoting ourselves to healing our culture rather than medicating what’s normal and stigmatizing, drugging or hospitalizing those who have tender hearts and energetic sensitivity? Why not turn the billions of dollars we spend on pharmaceuticals toward activism aimed at restoring the sacred in the world?
Don’t get me wrong. As you’ll see, if you read this book carefully, I never have been and never will be “anti–Western medicine.” I’m eternally grateful for medical technology and fully supportive of using it wisely, but not indiscriminately. I’m just making the case that no one can be blamed for succumbing to the conditioning our society programs into us. It is no wonder so many are sick and medicated, given how far off the rails our culture has led us. Yet once we know we have other ways of living, being, and healing, we have the potential to shift our relationship with disease and wellness, expanding our consciousness to include not only the miracles of Western medicine but also the untapped potential of the body-mind-spirit connection.
Although this approach to healing may not be for everyone, what I can say after nearly a decade of feedback from people who have felt moved to include the science, teachings, and practices of what you’ll read in this book in their own Prescriptions for optimal health is that, should you say YES to the call from within that asks you to embark upon this kind of healing journey, your life will never be the same. You are the caterpillar entering the chrysalis, unlikely to come out of the cocoon unchanged. You may feel like you’re dissolving in the process, the way the caterpillar becomes bug soup first rather than just sprouting wings as a butterfly. You will question everything and enter willingly or not so willingly into a place of uncertainty. This might feel unsettling, frightening even, as your ideas about yourself and perhaps even your worldview begin unraveling. You enter what Charles Eisenstein calls “the space between stories,” when one story has ended, but another story has not yet emerged.
In that space, you will find your Inner Pilot Light, and in the divinity, you will discover within your humanity, healing happens; and with healing, cure sometimes follows. If this leaves you unsettled, let me reassure you by saying that if you can trust the journey and even borrow faith from the hundreds of thousands of people who have embarked upon this journey before you, you will discover that you have within you everything you need to be all that you must be. Dare I say that you will become the embodiment of what your soul came here to planet Earth to become? Sometimes this will result in full and permanent cure, and you will feel like you’ve been blessed with a miracle. Sometimes it will not, and I won’t be able to explain why, but I do know that it’s probably not because you failed to do something right.
Whatever the outcome, what I can promise you is that the potent inquiries likely to arise from within you as a result of this book will both challenge and illuminate you. The access to synchronicity and intuition that may open is likely to surprise and delight you. The heart-opening that accompanies these practices, which serve as what cardiologist and mind-body pioneer Dean Ornish, M.D., calls “a conspiracy of love,” will help facilitate the longest journey you’ll ever make—the journey from the head to the heart. By relaxing your mind with the science you will read in these pages, you open a portal that makes a life led by the heart but wisely informed by the intellect more available. Altogether, these transformations are likely to make your body ripe for miracles. Keep in mind that there is no way to do this right or wrong. As Mary Oliver writes in her poem “Wild Geese,” “You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.” In other words, relax. Do what you can, but don’t overdo it. The healing that is possible may be right here, closer than close, underneath all your efforting and striving, available if you are ready to humble yourself before this possibility and receive what awaits you.
Much love and gratitude,
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