The mind body connection

I watched a great little doco last night, that I found kicking around the local library.  Suburban libraries aren’t often great places for current and cutting edge information, but a few weeks ago, my daughter and I were early to the free Wiggle n Rhyme classes (if you ever have children in Australia you must look these up, they are a wonderful community arrangement) and I decided to browse the health section.  I was able to quickly swipe up a few items before she decided that was enough and dragged me to the kids section.

One of those items was a documentary that I didn’t realise was Australian made until I began to watch it last night, and I only put it on because the library notified me it was due back.

Get to the story!!  It’s called ‘The Connection – Mind your body’ and was created by an Australian journalist who was struck down during the rise of her career with an auto-immune disease – I think Sjorgens – but the doco isn’t about her.  She said it’s the film she wished she had seen when she was first ill, instead spending thousands of dollars on tests to determine that there was nothing that could be done.

In the 70 minute film, she interviews many high profile people with both views on and personal experience of the affect the mind can have on illness, recovery and health.  It’s fascinating and while this is not a comprehensive film review, I really enjoyed listening to people’s stories of recovery from ‘terminal’ illnesses and particularly seeing Dr Ian Gawler, who I’d heard spoken of as a quack who eschewed all medical opinions and gave dangerous advice however all of these people in the film, took medical advice and treatments and ADDED techniques such as daily meditation, yoga, diet changes and stress reduction techniques.  There is even a claim that mediation can ‘switch off’ genes that family history or environment has switched on and a very inspiring story of a doctor who was diagnosed with MS and now 14 years on lives with no symptoms – describing his life now as unrecognisable from when he was first diagnosed.

It was an inspiring film, if not really providing anything new, just putting it all together in the one spot to peruse, and most of these people spoke about how a major illness or event like a heart attack came after a long period of disconnection in their lives, like striving hard for something they truly didn’t want or living in a way that they thought others needed.

I went to the website (theconnection.tv) and was slightly disappointed to find you do have to pay for the film if you want to watch more than 15 minutes, because I’d hoped to share its message with you.  I understand people have to make a living and make money off what they do but it’s ironically part of the problem contributing to chronic illness in Western society.

The message is, how you think has an effect on how you are.  And it’s frightening that we’ve forgotten that as a people.  Doctors send you away with nothing, they’ve forgotten the art of understanding the whole person and if you can’t be prescribed a pill or an injection then they feel they have nothing to do.  So we turn to alternative therapies and they’re not covered by your health insurance, so you foot the bill of that yourself, along with the derision of many people you speak to, who have also bought into the ‘doctor is all’ approach.

I remember struggling a few months after the birth of my daughter, life had been turned upside down, yet strangely all the people in it were the same and expected me to be the same.  No one spoke to me about the difficulties in adjusting, nor gave me any relief in recognising this was normal, I found it eventually through obsessive reading of other women’s birth stories and hearing the same mental pain expressed.  And I clearly remember someone asking me why I couldn’t simply choose to be happy.  It was such a hurtful question because it came loaded with his needs and disappointments in me, and also came with ‘just think positive’.  And what I want to say is this mind-body connection is NOT about thinking positive.  It’s not a bunch of colourful photos of seascapes and life affirming messages, it’s not about spending your time ignoring what’s going on in your mind and replacing it with steely smiles and determination.

It IS about listening to yourself, not flogging dead horses, not staying in relationships/jobs/homes that are killing you.  Not striving to work hard and save money because you think you should.

When I struggled, I looked for what I knew, what comforted me, which was being a successful manager of a sales team.  I found my way back to it in the most stressful of conditions – starting up a new business, as a single Mum with a 14 month old and mountains of negativity in my life.  Once I’d gotten myself into it, I felt I had a responsibility to myself and others to stay there, and I despised it a lot of the time.  The job still gave me the same recognition and reward as before, but you’ll all know how bad it feels when that reward no longer brings any joy.

I stayed for 2 years, trying different things, changing hours, changing work days, building the team, pushing the negativity out of my daily life as much as possible.  I gave it a good go to get back to what I thought would result in happiness and contentment.

And that, my friends, is how I ended up here.

But here – while it’s felt like it many times this year – is not a dead-end, it’s not a destination,  It’s not a ‘I couldn’t make the other stuff work, so now I’m here’.  Here is a new pathway, leading away from that old life.  And that takes time.  Like I wrote about the crazy super-charged Eckhart Tolle point of view ‘accept it or leave it’… accepting it isn’t an overnight choice like leaving it.

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