State of Mind

There is no more important determinant of one’s health than the state of mind. Of course, genetics, constitution, lifestyle habits, etc. have a large impact, but the power of our minds has the most pivotal of roles. In Chinese medicine we differentiate causes of disease into multiple categories: (1) internal: emotions and state of mind (including, anger, fear, grief, overthinking, etc.); (2) external: climactic factors (wind, cold, damp, heat/fire, etc.); and (3) miscellaneous (which is not meant to minimize its importance): habits, trauma, toxins, etc.

Of these three categories, the emotions make up the largest percentage of the etiology of disease. Controlling one’s emotions, therefore, would seem to have a tremendous impact on our health and the prevention of disease (or treatment thereof). Listening yesterday (again) to a series of lectures that Taoist priest Jeffrey Yuen gave on cancer and Chinese medicine, I couldn’t help but notice the correlation between what Jeffrey states and Dharmakirti’s psychological law (see previous post). Essentially, Jeffrey was mentioning how the diagnosis of cancer is viewed as a death sentence by most of us and that it is, in fact, how one handles this diagnosis that has tremendous influence on whether or not someone will heal. So often, people get so overwhelmed by the fear of death that they are constantly focused on death. This reinforcement perpetuates negative states of mind and set a vicious cycle in which the disease grows stronger and the patient’s health deteriorates (mentally and physically). Jeffrey even goes to say that cancer support groups are for the most part detrimental in that they give credence and power to this deadly disease. He advocates for support groups which foster hope and the desire to heal.

As always, our minds have the greatest power and potential to either bring us towards happiness and health or towards undesirable states of mind and illness. It all depends on how much attention we give positive thoughts and emotions or negative thoughts and states of mind. On a website I visited recently, I read the following tale:

One evening an old Martial Arts Master told his young students about a “Great Battle of life and death” that goes on inside all Human Beings.
The wise man said, “The battle is between “Two Dragons” … They are battling for dominance inside us all.
One is Dark, it represents Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Light, it represents Good. It is joy, love, peace, hope, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, serenity, compassion and faith.”
The students thought about it for a while and then asked the Master: “Which Dragon wins?”
The old wise man simply replied, “The one you feed.”
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