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Does Mind-Over-Body Healing Work?

By Professor Majid Ali
: South African Journal of Natural Medicine

Life is energy, and all living beings are energy beings. When life begins, it begins to end. Thus living is at once the process of ageing and dying, as well as the process of healing. In this sense living is a continuity of injury and healing, and healing is a natural state of energy.

The subject of healing energy fascinates me, and should interest everyone who cares for the sick. At an intellectual level, the energy of living beings is simple to comprehend. When we turned the great cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into rubble, we fully realised the power of atomic energy, and of course, that the human frame is nothing but billions of ever-changing atomic kaleidoscopes.

It should naturally follow that all life is essentially an energy function, all living beings, from a single-celled amoeba to a flower, a child, and a dinosaur, are energy beings. The energy of each being is irrevocably linked to the energy of all other beings. It is one grand network. This is not merely a theoretical concept for those who care for the sick.

If life is energy, how can healing not be an energy function? If living cells and tissues are energy, how can they be injured except by energy? When injured, how can they heal except with energy? How can the subject of energy ever be dissociated from the subject of healing? And yet in medical circles the very mention of the word energy invites derision. I clearly recall how much hesitation I felt before I used this word in my medical writings for the first time. Why?

We physicians associate the word energy with faith healers, witches, charlatans and mystics. We are bitterly irritated when we hear people claim successes that to us are nothing more than blatant lies. Thus, in medicine the word energy is linked with ignorance, abuse and fraud.

This is unfortunate because in our ignorant animus against the healing phenomenon that may take place without our drugs and scalpels, we turn our backs on a subject worthy of serious study. Thus, we relinquished our role in the area that is clearly of overriding importance in clinical medicine.

Does mind-over-body really work?

Notwithstanding the rather limited and temporary benefits of positive thinking, comforting words and affirmations, I have not seen any evidence that the mind-over-body approach to healing works. By contrast, energy-over-mind approaches heal. I observe evidence of this every Wednesday evening during self-regulation training sessions. When the ceaseless clutter of the thinking mind is put to rest, we are guided by the energy we are made of and that surrounds each of us at all times.

Our infatuation with mind-over-body healing is a rather recent development. Since humankind became aware of the healing response in injured tissues, we have been interested in energy phenomena. Since antiquity people have explored various dimensions of the healing phenomenon, and have considered the question of how the natural-healing response may be facilitated in injured tissues.

To date, I have not uncovered any ancient records showing that the ancients ever succeeded in using their minds to order healing in tissue. Nor have I ever seen convincing evidence from faith healers, mystics, shamans and modern gurus of the mind-over-body industry that they have figured out a way to use their thinking minds to force healing onto injured tissues, at least in physical ways that can be seen with a microscope or assessed using other chemical and physical means.

This is not to say that miracles do not happen. I know they happen. I have seen them take place among my patients a thousand times. Miracles are energy phenomena. To date I have not seen proof that miracles can be brought about by clever thinking.

Can the mind coax injured tissues to heal more quickly? Or do tissues heal faster when the mind is stilled?

In many well-documented cases, the course of illness appears to have been altered radically by certain measures taken by the sick. The question that intrigues me is whether the observed benefits resulted because the mind ordained the injured tissues to heal, or because injured tissues were spared the disease-promoting activities of the thinking mind.

Do diseased tissues regenerate more expediently when they are relentlessly driven by clever schemes of the thinking mind, or do they heal more quickly when the unrelenting mind is stilled?

Before the thinking mind can heal hurt tissues, it must first know what that healing problem is. The issue is not that the phenomenon of healing can be facilitated – clearly it can be – the question is what, if any, role does the thinking mind play in the healing response. It amuses me that those who speak the loudest of their mind's ability to heal are the people who seem to have the least understanding of the healing response in tissues under duress.

A very large number of patients have told me that they can control migraine attacks, asthma episodes, colitis and other disorders with mind-over-body healing. Some people have told me that they can heal chronically painful backs using their minds. Such stories are of intense interest to me. I never doubt the veracity of people who relate such events to me. What I do pursue vigorously is how they use their minds to heal the body. How do they persuade their tightened arteries to let go so that they might get some relief from migraine pain? How do they plead with, coax or simply order their spastic bronchial tubes to open up so that they can breathe without using any drugs? How do they argue their case with their ulcerated colons, and convince them to cease and desist from cramping and bleeding episodes? How do they use their minds to tell the irritated, rebellious muscles in their backs to loosen up?

Early man and the body-mind-spirit trio

I am fascinated by the ancient records of spiritual healing. In all cultures and in all segments of human history, there is clear evidence of spiritual healing. Methods change in different epochs, but the essence of healing does not. It is also clear that such healing was always an energy phenomenon although the essential nature of the phenomenon escaped critical intellectual scrutiny, as it continues to do to date. If it was all hocus pocus, as my colleagues in drug medicine believe, how could it have survived for millennia? Fads and falsehoods come and go. Why did the essential mystery of spiritual healing endure?

The primitive healer of yesteryear closed his or her eyes and went into an altered energy state for the healing ritual. It is so with today's shaman. Closed eyes and the rhythm of the drums allowed the ancient to escape the confines of the thinking mind. It is the same with the shaman and the others who take this healing approach.

The mind can make us sick.

The mind can make us sick. Of this, I have no doubt. I see evidence of this every working day. The cortical monkey loves to recycle misery. When that is not enough, it recycles feared, future misery. It thrives on packaging and repackaging past hurts. It turns a natural state of healing energy into turbulent 4th-of-July chemistry. It mercilessly drives the energy enzyme pathways of the body, literally short-circuiting and blowing fuses of human energy systems. Unable to cope with the unending demands of the thinking mind, the energy-depleted and exhausted tissues succumb. The unrelenting and clever thinking mind succeeds in its relentless pursuit.

I know from extensive personal clinical experience how the energy patterns of injured tissues heal when we eliminate the ceaseless chatter of the mind. Every Wednesday for several years now, I have spent about 3 hours with my patients doing energy work with autoregulation. We have reached a point where almost every patient perceives some pattern of healing energy in one body organ or another. Time and again I see healing responses take place only when the overheated minds is quieted, and the unrelenting chatter of the cortical monkey is stilled. As long as a patient stays involved in a thinking activity, nothing ever happens.

We take pride in our minds, but healing is not an intellectual function. Healing cannot be forced upon injured cells and tissues by a demanding mind. Rather, healing occurs when the tissues are set free from the ceaseless censor of the mind. I have repeatedly observed that many of my patients control their asthma and migraine attacks, lower their raised blood pressure, or reverse other chronic illnesses with an energy-over-mind approach.

Psychosomatic and somatopsychic models of disease are artifacts of our thinking

Diseases are burdens on biology. Human intellect and human body organs are integral parts of the human condition. To separate them, as Socrates lamented, is to negate the completeness of the human condition.

Our technology has rendered irrelevant the debate on the psychosomatic and somatopsychic nature of diseases. Advances in behavioural biology and experimental psychology have put these two disciplines on a collision course; a complete merger between the two is simply a matter of time.

Hope is an energetic-molecular event. So is dejection. Neuropeptide research is closing in on defining emotions and behaviour as chemical sequences. The French philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, dreamed of the day when human technology would have conquered oceans and winds and would begin to explore the energy of love. We are seeing the dawn of that day.

Self-regulation with an energy-over-mind approach brings forth profound energetic-molecular changes in human biology. In other works I describe various biochemical, electromagnetic and high-resolution microscopic changes that I have observed with autoregulation methods in my patients. Clinically, many of my patients can control asthma and arthritis, lower blood pressure in hypertension, and normalise overactive and underactive thyroid glands with consistency and predictability.

Clinically, I see far superior results with energy-over-mind approaches than are possible with positive thinking and affirmations. I have not seen the mind-over-body gospel work. Many of my patients reversed their chronic diseases when they learned how to quiet their minds, perceive their tissue energy, and allow the tissue energy to guide them. Tissues evidently know their business, and do respond. We need only to learn how to shut our thinking cortical minds and limbically perceive the healing energy of the larger presence that surrounds each of us at all times. This is not simply a clever play on words. Molecular and tissue repair are visceral and limbic-energetic functions. Injured tissues do heal, together with their innate energetic pathways, when we keep the disruptive influences of the thinking mind (cortical monkey) out of their healing ways.


Looking back, my work with autoregulation evolved in the following sequence: stress management, autonomic regulation, self-regulation, and aspects of hope and spirituality in the healing response. One of the essential lessons my patients taught me is this – slowing the heart rate, keeping the arteries open, and slow, even breathing profoundly affect our mood and state of mind. These basic methods of autoregulation are very effective in dissipating anger and anxiety even when that is not our intended purpose. But this is just a beginning. Autoregulation reveals the path of self-regulation and healing. A passage through the realms of self-regulation inevitably ushers a person to higher states of awareness and consciousness.

Beyond positive thinking – cortical and limbic states

Early on in my work with autoregulation I learned from my patients a useful (and now clinically validated) conceptual model for self-regulation and energy work that restores the essential healing state of the human organism. In this model we see human biology in two conditions. First is the condition of biology that is created and sustained by a part of our brain (the neo-cortex) that calculates, computes, competes, cautions and clutters our minds. I call this the cortical mode. The second condition of biology is created and sustained by a part of the brain (the limbic system) that cares, comforts and consoles. I call this the limbic mode.
I learned from personal experience and by working with my patients that it is extremely difficult, if at all possible, to be aware of, to become sensitive to and to regulate our biology when we are in the cortical mode. Thus, one needs to learn how to escape into the limbic mode.

As desirable as it may seem positive thinking is still thinking. My work with very ill patients has convinced me that positive thinking alone is not sufficient to transform one's biology from a state of turmoil to a calm, steady and regenerative state.

It is cruel to advise a patient to think positively when s/he is in the throes of intense suffering.

Beyond these two states there is yet another state – the spiritual state. I write about this third state in my book The Canary and Chronic Fatigue.

The cortical mode
The cortical mode counts, computes and competes. It censors and cautions. It controls and constricts. It assesses and analyses. It wavers and warns. It gives us chronic thinking. And with its unrelenting chatter, it causes stress, impaired immunity and leads to a state of absence of health, a dis-ease state. If not reversed, the dis-ease state damages tissues and causes disease.

The limbic mode
By contrast, the limbic mode cares and comforts. It soothes and pampers. It gives and accepts affection and love. It creates images of health. It heals. In the limbic mode, our biology is in a steady state, ensuring the continuity of basic life functions. It keeps in order the rhythm of the heart, arterial pulses, muscle tone, breathing cycles, and other essential life functions.

In the limbic energy model of healing we learn to perceive the healing energy of living tissues and simply allow the superior wisdom of this energy to guide us. No attempt is made to use the mind to order the injured tissues to heal. (Injured tissues do not seem to have much respect for our clever-thinking schemes anyway.)

This article is printed with permission from Professor Majid Ali. For more information on Professor Ali’s books, the Journal of Integrated Medicine and the Capital University of Integrated Medicine go to

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