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Welcome to my island of sanity and serenity. I'm Sandra Pawula - writer, mindfulness teacher and advocate of ease. I help deep thinking, heart-centered people find greater ease — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curious? Read On!

Can Your Mind Heal Your Body?

Can Your Mind Heal Your Body? Some hold the notion that you can heal your physical body by adapting the right attitude and unearthing all the wrong ones.  I’ve wondered for a very long time if this might be true.

Chronic illness has challenged my body, my heart, and my mind for a good ten years, but I can actually trace it back for twenty.  I didn’t hold a healthy attitude for most of those years so I certainly wasn’t a star for the law of attraction or quantum healing.

I once knew of a woman who lived in a bubble due to environmental sensitivities.  My heart went out to her. I couldn’t fathom being so restricted.

So naturally, when I became very ill - 84 pounds at my lowest - and sensitive to everything from foods to medications to herbs to laundry fragrance, my inner self declared, “This can’t be happening to ME.”

Can you imagine someone unable to eat a tablespoon of bone broth, thought to be one of most healing substances in the world?

The Frantic Search for Healing

For years, illness overwhelmed me.  I only wanted it to go away.

So I focused on solutions. I visited a half-million doctors (traditional and functional), tried out all sorts of healers (wild, wooly, and sane), and took countless vitamins and herbs, most of which made me ill.  The vitamins and herbs that is, not the doctors or healers.

I felt constantly frustrated because no one could give me an answer.  I received some minor diagnoses, but nothing that explained the chronic inflammation illuminating my whole body.  I wanted an answer and acted in a fairly compulsive way to obtain one.

One day, with my doctor’s help, we discovered a chronic and abnormal elevation of serum tryptase.  Not enormously high, but sufficiently raised to at least be one of the culprits behind my physical challenges. It’s an indication of leaky mast cells, the guys and gals involved in traditional allergies as well as rarely known and less understood disorders like mast cell activation syndrome and other forms of mast cell disease.  I still don’t have a definite answer, but at least I have a more substantial clue.

Quantum Healing, Karma, or Both?

If I choose a metaphor for this illness, it might be war and peace.  My whole body engages in subtle warfare against itself.  I imagine this illness might be related to long held trauma that I've been gradually learning to release.

I wonder, how do I effectively hold up the truce sign?  Is it even possible after so many years?

So this question comes to me time and again:  Can your mind heal your body?  The answer seems to be sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.”

I’ve been reading the classic, Quantum Healing, Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.*  According to the author, Deepak Chopra, spontaneous healing occurs, but very rarely.  As I read the stories of people who put their cancer into remission, I sometimes thought, “Why can’t that be me?”

There’s a pesky guilt and even shame that can travel alongside chronic illness because you haven’t been able to make it magically disappear, especially when The Secret says you can.

I haven’t finished Chopra’s book, but I look forward to his “answer.”  I know he believes (or at least believed back then) that the body is controlled by a network of intelligence emerging from quantum reality; that could be a code word for “emptiness” in Buddhism.  I suspect he will propose that silence and meditation are the intersection with quantum reality and thus we can effect physical change with these approaches.  Yet so few actually accomplish this, it appears.

In my own tradition of Buddhism, I’ve been told by reliable teachers that the contemporary spiritual master, Dodrupchen Rinpoche, healed himself of cancer through mantra practice.  That’s the repetition of sacred syllables for an intentional purpose.  I don’t know the details, but I presume this took months not minutes.

On the other hand, his predecessor, the remarkable 3rd Dodrupchen Rinpoche fell ill and never recovered, although he became a prolific contributor to the stream of Buddhist thought.  Here’s his story:

“One day while he was giving teachings, a strong storm suddenly swept across the area.  As the storm touched Dodrupchen, he felt sick, and thereafter he remained sick and unable to walk.  As a result, he moved to his hermitage and remained in seclusion for the rest of his life.”  - from Masters of Meditation and Miracles, * p. 242.

Despite his chronic illness, the 3rd Dodrupchen Rinpoche authored many seminal works and continued to teach a select group of advanced students, many masters in their own right.  He’s one of the most revered spiritual masters in recent Buddhist history.  Illness, it seems, doesn't always detract from accomplishing your true purpose.

Surely, the 3rd Dodrupchen Rinpoche held immense spiritual power, but still he seemingly was unable to heal himself.  I don’t know the reason for this, but perhaps karma was at play.  Even the Buddha was subject to the effect of his past actions as he explained one day when he had a headache. The Words of My Perfect Teacher, * p. 119.

Those who believe healing is possible with the mind do not necessarily take karma into account.  Karma can indeed be changed through our current thoughts, words, and actions.  But each karma has its own lifespan.  Some may resolve quickly and some may last a lifetime.

In his book, Boundless Healing, Meditation Exercises to Enlighten the Mind and Heal the Body * p. 40), Tulku Thondrup says:

“Although we can overcome many problems through the healing meditations, we cannot heal all of them.  We have to get sick and die, as that is the character and nature of life.  But if we are able to generate the experience of peace through meditation and our general approach to life, then we can handle problems with greater ease.  This is especially true if we can cultivate an awareness of positive attitude and feelings.”

That seems clear.  So where does it leave us?

These are my conclusions about healing the body with the mind.

1.  Can You Heal the Body with the Mind? Sometimes we can heal a physical illness with our mind; sometimes we cannot.  It's so individual.  Your genetics, biochemistry, personality, and karma combine in complex ways to make you. Every individual must discover their own, unique healing path.

2.  Be Sure to Work with the Mind Buddhism proposes that illness (for the most part) stems from the three “poisons” of desire, anger, and ignorance. These three core emotions represent shorthand for all negative thought modes that occur in the mind.

Therefore, as Tulku Thondrup suggests, working with our own mind can decrease these negative mind states and increase positive ones like love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.  This can lead to healing of our heart and mind and sometimes the physical body, too.  Powerful healing stories abound in Buddhism, so this option cannot be excluded if one engages sincerely in the practice.  But the key is to engage in healing practices without attachment.

3. The Wisdom to Know the Difference

It can be difficult to know when to accept an illness and when to invest your energy into healing.  As it says in the famous Serenity Prayer,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

How do you find the wisdom to know the difference rather than acting out of fear and insecurity, and in the process, beating your body against the wall ?

I spent a long time trying to push my way forward, but now I try to sit in stillness and listen for inner direction.  I try to see the signs and follow my intuition as well as my direct experience.

But even following my direct experience can be tricky at times.  Sometimes, it feels like a filter covers my own experience so I don’t quite believe myself.  When I’m confused or uncertain, talking to my husband helps me better hear the truth in my own experience.

I aspire to develop the capacity to automatically tune into my own cues.

4.  Surrender

So much hope and fear can surround ill health.  It’s these emotions that add suffering upon suffering to the illness itself.  As difficult as it might seem, true freedom can only be found in surrendering in every moment.  Not an easy task, but one worth a lifetime of effort.

This prayer from The Great Path of Awakening* by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche speaks volumes to me about the depth of surrender that’s truly needed to be a genuine spiritual practitioner.

“Pray to put an end to hope and fear: If it's better for me to be ill, I pray for the blessing of illness.

If it's better for me to recover, I pray for the blessing of recovery.

If it's better for me to die, I pray for the blessing of death.”

It takes tremendous courage to allow life to unfold without attempting to exert authority over every outcome.  Yes, our thoughts, words, and actions make a difference.  But we don’t control every element that effects us in this world.

Ideally, we will not collapse in hopelessness nor surge compulsively forward out of desperation and despair.  Instead, let us return again and again to our wisdom essence and from there slowly transform the negative aspects or our mind and heart.  That’s one area where you are clearly in charge.  And as these transformations occur, you physical being may change too.


I gained weight once I started on anti-histamines, enough so that I could fly to Hawaii to rest and rejuvenate.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve increased my strength and extended my bubble so I’m able, in moderation, to go to parties, events, and even box stores, though I don’t frequent the latter.  I subscribe to a modest diet, which keeps food sensitivities from overwhelming me.  My one trip to Honolulu for just a day turned out to be a disaster, triggering a 2-month illness afterward.  So I don’t dare to travel over water, but I enjoy the beauty where I live.

I accept this illness far more than ever before.  Yet, I’m still open to the possibility of spontaneous healing.  I know it's a paradox, but why not!

What do you think?  Can the mind heal the body?

Note:  A book title that includes an asterisk {*} is an affiliate link.  I'll receive a tiny commission if you use this link.  Thank you for your support.

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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