The Kitchen

Can Passion Heal the Body?

medicine

Our wellbeing is a direct result of harmony between our true nature and all the vibrations of form, including mental, emotional, and physical. This harmony does not demand perfection, as nondual qualities are unconditional – they are inherent to consciousness. They flow from beyond the limitations of time and space and are available regardless of our physical state.

When you are sick, do you love less? When you feel unwell, are you less yourself? When you have a virus, do you lose direction? When you break a leg, are you ready to take care of others?

Becoming physically unwell crashes our normal patterns of acting out in the world and opens the possibility of change and evolution through the receptive principle. Suddenly, there is no escape from the questions held within the living body. We are crashing into passion as a first-hand, visceral, embodied experience. The pure science of being physically alive suddenly becomes very much applied.

Spinning around core helplessness, we get shifted from the active principle to the receptive. We are moved into the intimate dimension of need. We need to be seen in our suffering, and to feel love, care, and support. We all have difficulties in receptivity because we are helpless in it and risk becoming dependent. Many of us have spent decades being the active lover, caregiver, and doer and at first shun the notion of being on the vulnerable, receiving end.

Core Coding of Physical Wellbeing

PASSION AS A HEALING PANACEA

Our relationship with pain is hardwired in childhood. This includes our coping strategies, attitudes, beliefs, and emotional responses to physical illness. In naturalness, we do not differentiate between physical and emotional pain. Pain is pain arising in a unified field of experience. The same brain areas light up with physical pain as with the pain of rejection, according to a 2003 study published in Science.[1] Although we try to divide ourselves into parts, there is no clear border between the physical dimension and the dimension of feelings and emotions: it is one field of experience.

How it expresses – physically, emotionally, or mentally – will depend on the environment. We opt for that dimension of manifestation that most effectively invites the qualities of true nature. For example, our scream of jealousy at the family dinner table is less likely to bring appreciation than a gut-gripping belly ache. It can feel safer to sweat out the toxic family shame with a fever where no pretense is required than to act out gross games or food fights. When we are physically impaired, there is less expectation of us to perform which can mean less stress and less emotional distress. We avoid the daunting prospect of becoming a failure or a disappointment to our tribe. Instead, we elect for the exemption of illness. For others it might be the other way around: there could be much more belonging possible through telling a heart-breaking story of bullying to our father than through throwing up on the kitchen floor. This also has consequences to wellbeing through all layers simultaneously. We live and learn.

Interdisciplinary pain

There is a highly responsive switch in the brain between emotional and physical response.[2] This interpretation of distressing stimuli includes brain areas such as the hypothalamus, which simultaneously manages hormones, body temperature, daily physiological cycles, appetite, sexual behavior and our emotions. Signaling from the center will depend on overall connectivity and connectivity depends on the freedom of consciousness.

Where there is trauma, resistance, stress, and exhaustion, our connectivity gets reduced and we become less responsive in real time to what is needed for the wellbeing of the whole. Where we are caught in the agenda to avoid suffering, we lose information, connection, and physiological fluidity. We under-react, over-react, suffer isolation, and get caught in loops in which the system suffers its confusion on a secondary level, and again refuses the helplessness in the suffering.

Our pain expresses through varying layers through conditioned reflexes. We do not know we are doing this, and whether our immunological, hormonal and pain responses are sourced in the physical environment, in trauma or both, they are real. This brain switching between psychological and physical experience is programmed when we are children and can be reprogrammed when we are older. This reprogramming can occur through the fresh, rejuvenating, awakening of consciousness and vitality through the quality of passion.

The Symptom Imperative

AND THE GHOSTING OF PAIN

The fields of psychoneuroimmunology and neuroplasticity are still in their infancy, but month by month, they reveal the holistic ingenuity of body-mind systems, and the impact they have on our physical health. All disciplines at the shifting frontiers of mind-body medicine require a paradigm shift from mechanistic, simplistic thinking. To advance, they require that the vibrational experience of the individual be the leader, acknowledging that feelings are both physically and mentally formative. They have a direct effect on, and express through, our state of health. We use our bodies to process stuff, and our tissues are working on our issues. The way we feel has a biochemical and neurological translation. Our emotions have a living physical manifestation, and where these are in conflict, we invite certain kinds of physical experience as a container to work the conflict out. Our bodies are of service in the deeper processes of our evolution, which involves the implicit and explicit unfolding of true nature. And it goes both ways. How we feel, the resonance of nondual qualities in the system, will give direction to the unfolding of healing in the body, offering templates of wellbeing, happiness, and fulfillment, not only surviving but also thriving.

In Nondual Medicine, we go further, affirming that our ability to feel, our freedom to experience, and the liberation of consciousness, offer master-keys to the healing elixir of wellbeing. In this, passion offers a primary healing principle. Passion is the transformative energy through which our willingness to suffer as a service to the whole brings an alchemy of healing transformation.

Passion is the quality that has the power to switch the manifest form from destructive feedback loops into feedback loops of healing. Disorientation occurs where we fail to honor suffering. What doctor would presume to heal an affliction without first gaining insight into it? For the individual, who is the first authority on the sense of wellbeing, this insight into the nature of suffering requires that the suffering be felt. To feel a feeling or to allow a physical sensation, does not mean we get trapped in it, quite the opposite. The freedom to suffer brings freedom to suffering.

Through experience, the system gains information. Within this information is the need, and when we follow the need, the healing happens. When our suffering is held as the formula for healing, the nature of our experience changes, as our whole physiology and our consciousness becomes pivoted toward the wellbeing of the whole.  This shift entirely depends on our attitude toward suffering, an attitude we are born with and which first unfolds in childhood. Is suffering a punishment? Is suffering happening because we have no value. Do we suffer because we are wrong and don’t belong? Does our physical suffering even matter?

Between 1995 and 1997, the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study[3] conducted one of the largest investigations into the connection between childhood suffering and later-life health and wellbeing. The results were revolutionary, showing that the higher your ACE score, the higher the risk of long-term health problems. Childhood suffering was strongly associated with adulthood high-risk health behaviors including the full range of addictions, and was directly correlated with ill-health including depression, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and shortened lifespan. A score of four or more adverse childhood experiences was associated with a 700 percent increase in alcoholism, a doubling of cancer diagnosis, and a four-fold increase in emphysema. Initially published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the ACE study also uncovered increased risks in heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

To heal trauma, we need to move toward affliction not away from it. We cannot heal a rupture in the psyche with a psychiatric drug, we can only numb the stress of it. To address where we are traumatized, we need to be free and supported to experience the suffering in it and to offer this experience to the resilience of the whole. If we do not address it through the deeper opening of the heart today, our hospitals will be addressing it through the breakdown of public health in the future. Remember, passion is the quality at the tipping point where trauma becomes resilience. This is also the case physically. When passion moves through us, through the unique expression of our gifts, talents and qualities, the whole physical entity vibrates toward wellbeing.

Above all, it shows us where we lost our passion, where purpose drained out of experience due to pure sentient dissonance, where the senses dulled and we retracted from life, no longer connected and no longer even wanting to belong. Even though on the face of things we might have still been functioning, our energy source was stress and counter stress. Within this stolen vitality, disconnected and unable to process the deeper pain for lack of resource in the environment, the cells of the body become depressed, undercharged, and dulled in receptivity.

The body is a processor of experience as much as the brain. Each time we become physically sick, there is the opportunity to rewire our relationship to suffering, which is our relationship to being alive. In the healing crisis, we have the chance to shift gear in repeating cycles of psychophysical suffering. The whole is devoted to the wellbeing of the body, just as the true healing of the body, brings formulas for the healing of the whole. This movement is all about passion.

To unlock the healing principle, which is passion, we take a step that moves beyond cleaving to individual survival. In our determination to be of service to the whole, to follow the sense of purpose, we move beyond the fear of death. In so many healing stories, there is this vital junction. The individual arrives at a position where they are ready to die in the disease. They lose hope. In this moment, they look into the dark night of despair, devoid of all purpose. But through their consciousness, through the existential gaze into absence, a deeper sense of purpose spontaneously begins to stir, as if out of the core of consciousness itself. In this arousal, there is an inspiration and empowerment to make this suffering or this death mean something. Experience finds purpose as a service to the whole. Some start to journal what remains of their time. Others share existential insights and peace. In many cases, this has led to remission of chronic disease, and to a vast expansion of true nature, with insight following insight. There is a kind of liberation in life. For the remainder of their time, people live well, and they die well too. There is suffering, but the pain no longer holds them. There is death, but the fear of it no longer restricts them. They are held in a wellbeing which is far greater.

Something to live for

In her book Radical Remission, Surviving Cancer Against All the Odds,[4] Dr. Kelly A. Turner, an expert in the field of integrative oncology, reports on nine factors that are at play where there is a remission from cancer in the absence of conventional medicine or after conventional medicine has failed. The factors are: dietary change; herbal remedies and supplements; individual authority; intuition; release of suppressed emotion (agreement to suffer); increase of “positive” emotion (agreement to resource true nature); deepening of spiritual connection (moving beyond the separate self); and strong reasons for living (purpose). Taken together, all these factors touch aspects of passion described in this book.

In the reclaiming of the authority of our own direct experience, within a wider, intuitive spiritual context, we allow the interplay of nondual qualities with both negative and positive emotions and states. In this we open our senses and life begins to make sense. We find a deeper sense of purpose, which orientates us toward the greater wellbeing of the whole. It is healing beyond survival – a release into the intimate yet unconditional dimension of the living, in which resistance is no longer the taskmaster of consciousness.

A fundamental part of every healing process is the movement beyond the fear of death, not in the sense of not having that very natural fear, but in the sense of being free within the fear, while accepting death as a universal principle which is inseparable from all forms of life. This movement beyond personal survival is the key moment where alchemy occurs, and the fear of suffering becomes the fuel of passion.

When we are free within fear, there is the possibility for fear to be experienced as bliss. In the words of one of this century’s greatest pioneers in psychoneuroimmunology, Prof. Candace Pert, whose books include The Molecules of Emotion:[5]

“My research over the last 30 years has led me to this conclusion: we’re actually “hardwired” for bliss – both physical and divine. By hardwired, I mean that we have major endorphin pathways that lead from the back of the brain to the frontal cortex, where we have the most opiate receptors: the cellular binding sites for endorphins… We really all are one. When you start to get this, maybe even only on a subconscious level, I think you will start to experience more bliss.”

Bliss is a tremendous healing factor. The neurotransmitter associated with both bliss and reward is Anandamide and is named after “Ananda” which is Sanskrit for primal bliss. As we noted earlier, bliss comes forward when we move out of the parameters of pleasure and pain, and into pure experience. Anandamide has a direct impact on the state of our immune system – our immunological attunement to the here and now. Anandamide and the endocannabinoid have been cited as therapeutically relevant to cardiovascular disease,[6] and has been shown to have an alleviating effect on inflammatory disease.[7] In one study, Anandamide was linked to the inhibition of human breast cancer.[8] While this research has led to a rush for pharmacological interventions, it is possible to recognize that the experience of bliss – including sexual, sensual, and spiritual – will awaken and multiply the neurotransmitter, just as when we receive happy news, the brain floods with happy chemicals.

It is a philosophical, scientific, and medical responsibility to recognize the true, psychospiritual causality of the healing process. When we allow bliss, bliss is naturally signaled and allowed throughout our neurological, immunological, endocrinological, psychosexual, and cellular systems. It is a natural uprising of healing and regulation. The only way to stop it is through interference, such as with attempts to control it, possess it, create it, engineer it, and separate it from the whole.

The bliss of pure experience is expansive, it is asking to be shared. It opens the senses and life begins to make sense. You can feel bliss at any moment, even right now, by lightly touching the skin surface of your cheek with tenderness and care. Let yourself receive the bliss of the physical sensation. Let the cells awaken where they are touched. Let the physical sensation of bliss spread around the body, wherever it needs to go, from cell to cell, without controlling it. There is a physical, psychological, and spiritual immediacy in bliss as it moves us into the powerful authority of living qualities in the here and now. Here, we access deeper value, and there is an awakening of the sense of purpose.

Purpose differs from agenda because purpose is pivoted toward the greater whole. In the past decade, a research team, led by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Steven Cole, a professor of medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles showed how the sense of purpose has a direct effect on physical immunity. To do this, the scientists differentiated between hedonic happiness (characterized by material or bodily pleasures such as eating well or having sex) and eudaimonic happiness (deeper satisfaction from activities with a greater meaning or purpose, such as intellectual pursuits, social relationships or charity work). They found that the latter – that in which energy traverses the energetic boundaries of the separate self – has a direct positive effect on the immune system.[9][10] Such findings show us that the immune system, rather than being a function of defense and attack between self and “other” as it is often described, is much more a system of compassion, communication, engagement, and resolution. Our wellbeing is a result of a willingness to move into areas of experience, not a compulsion to resist them.

Both the sense of purpose and the sense of connection directly effects our physical health. There has been a wealth of research into the correlation between disease and loneliness, the number one suffering of the belief in the separate self.[11] Speaking during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, neuroscientist Prof. Asya Rolls of the Technion in Israel explained:

“Neuronal pathways that are involved in socializing are actually also activating specific pathways in the immune system… There are even studies that show being connected to something – togetherness – correlates with a better ability to cope with viruses. Another thing that is correlated with the activity and effectiveness of the immune system is how much people have a sense of meaning or of a bigger goal.” [12]

When we open to the sense of purpose, there is a willingness to be of service. We offer the experience we are having to the process of the whole. What follows the movement of service is often the vibration of gratitude, both within us and from the outside. Gratitude is also a healing elixir. Scientists have shown that feelings of gratitude can rewire the brain, releasing fresh vitality through alleviating areas of stress and depression, and encouraging the alignment between mind and body.[13] It has been shown to effect cardiovascular health or the wellbeing of the heart.[14] The energy of gratitude signals our willingness to receive the healing resources of true nature. It is only when we open in receptivity, that we may be healed, and that they can penetrate and awaken within the depth of the physical experience. This is not just a mental attitude, but physical permission given through tiny receptors in every cell of the body.

When we move from surviving to thriving, regardless of our physical condition, we take a step from fear to freedom. This movement, out of the patterns of stress and depression which are a reflexive survival response to trauma, and into an agreement to live regardless of conditions, is where passion plays its role.

Shedding Stress with Viral Load

From the physiology of survival, we reflexively grasp what we know, and we develop a traumatized dread of the unknown. This dread is biochemical. It has even been found that the painkiller Tylenol (Paracetamol) helps relieve this existential dread.[15] In reverse, it must then be possible to bring the vibrations of relaxation and spacious wellbeing to relieve such pain-disorders as migraines. How do we find that spaciousness if not with a pill?

Existential dread, or the terror of the unknown can switch, through a change in attitude toward suffering, to the sense of awe and wonder. In both we disappear, but in the first it is in a cloud of anticipated evil. In the second, it is in the pure humility of opening to the beauty of creation. The vibration of awe, especially the responsive, existential awe at the interface with nature, has been shown to have a direct healing effect on inflammatory diseases and immune system function.[26] With the sense of awe, existential dread is released as the suffering of the unknown becomes the celebration of the mysterious. Passion is a core quality that enables us to move from the horror of the unknown threat to the wonder at the magnificent and endless possibilities of being alizve.

 

The Passion Effect

WHERE EXISTENTIAL DREAD BECOMES THE WONDER OF EXISTENCE

A key aspect in the transformation from suffering to passion, and from physical distress into physical wellbeing, is found in the placebo effect. The placebo effect has been diminished by scientific dogma to delegitimize much of the healing which is not yet understood. However, placebo is not a bogus result of wishful thinking, but a real phenomenon which is creating real problems for pharmaceutical drug trials. When people get better even on a placebo, it shows that there are deeper healing mechanisms at work than the drug at hand. The placebo effect involves a complex neurobiological reaction that includes everything from increases in feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins and dopamine, to greater activity in certain brain regions linked to moods, emotional reactions, and self-awareness. With the ritual of the medicine, the switch gets flipped, from suffering to healing, and this has been shown to literally save lives.

Positive or negative expectations (with placebo or nocebo effects) have a direct impact on our health. The patterning of this subtle strata of expectation echoes that early relationship with suffering we covered at the start of this chapter. With the placebo effect, we are opening the area where attitudes of consciousness – such an attitude of wellbeing, care, peace, or release affect our physical health. It is through the alchemy of passion, that the nocebo effect that could kill us (such as a medical prognosis of one month to live) can turn to a placebo effect that can unlock an unconditional psychophysiological love for life.

According to Prof. Rolls:

“We know that when people have this positive expectation there is a brain area called the reward system and this area is activated. We have shown how a brain activated by the reward system attacks bacteria in the blood of mice. Just by activating the brain, they were able to kill bacteria much more effectively. We also showed it also with tumors, we can reduce the size of the tumors by half.”[13]

Bliss, purpose, reward, and the sense of fulfilment are all partners of passion. Again, the deeper individual responsibility is in how we meet life – how we are ready to let ourselves directly experience being alive.

Do you recall how in Chapter 14, we explored the inward movement to the core of longing? We showed how by tracing our felt sense into the areas of lack, through the missing, we find the inner, living memory of what we have been searching for on the outside. In feeling the love which we long for, we experience the love, and the love expands through the lack or ubiquitous emptiness, radiating back out into the world. In the same way, we can begin to understand the power of placebo effects.

The felt sense of what we miss (the missed love, care, or freedom) is found at the core of our physical pain. When we touch it with our consciousness it awakens and resonates. Vibrating from the inside-out, it sends healing waves reverberating the sense of wellbeing and expressing as “positive” expectation. Love calling from the inside, repeats through all the layers of form, meeting love on the outside. The whole entity harmonizes with greater wellbeing.

When we open our senses, life makes sense. The shock behind stress shines with the light of awakening as areas of depression begin to melt into life. With senses open, we become channels of consciousness. Consciousness brings the field of infinite potential and unfettered quality. As the ultimate resource of the living, consciousness includes the potential for miracles. We reorient from conformity to historic states of disease, to actualization of the deeper resonance of true nature. True nature gets agency, our agency, as a power source in which all layers of form can happily find themselves.

Passion Panacea

When passion moves through the psyche and the psyche transforms to express the purpose or deeper need within passion, there are tremendous healing effects, through body, mind, and soul. It brings us to the aliveness of the here and the now, in which anything is possible. The dread of being shocked in our naturalness, because anything terrible could happen in any moment, transforms to the wonder and miracle of our naturalness, which includes the pure possibility of healing transformation. Anything could happen in any moment. This releases the infinite possibilities of healing.

In the brain, when we break patterns or take on new activities, there are a flood of neuronal stem cells. These allow neuroplasticity, which is how the brain heals itself. Stem cells are the undifferentiated master keys of life. They are full of the potential for everything. They are points of living cellular light seeking purpose, of service to the greater need. This is the same in the body. When the pure vitality of passion arises out of the ancient, epigenetic need in our bones, through the muscles and tendons, into the blood, warming and awakening every organ, messages of healing are flashed out in all directions. Stem cells are generated to meet the needs of the here and now, awakening to the mistress of consciousness, as she lights up the body. These stem cells have life-saving potential are able to differentiate to carry the light of all the healing qualities of true nature.

Passion is that quality that brings consciousness to the place of unmet need, that area of pain or imbalance, where it lights up the invitation to healing and transformation. As the whole energetic field of the body elevates and orientates to a oneness with all life, the field of possibility becomes truly unrestricted. Passion lives through us, we are lived by passion, and we find that we are this passion, in the awesome unfolding of the miracle of life.


References

[1] Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. 10 OCT 2003: 290-292. Rejection by other people in a social situation triggers brain activity resembling that produced by physical pain. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/302/5643/290

[2] The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain Paperback – October 1, 1999, by John E. Sarno M.D. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0446675156/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_HJ-LFb1HD1NJK

[3] Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, VOLUME 14, ISSUE 4, P245-258, MAY 01, 1998. Vincent J Felitti MD, FACP; Robert F Anda MD, MS; Dale Nordenberg MD; Valerie Edwards BA; Mary P Koss PhD; James S Marks MD, MPH. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(98)00017-8

[4] Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner. HarperOne; 1st edition (March 18, 2014) ISBN-13: 978-0062268754

[5] Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, by Candace B. Pert. Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (February 17, 1999) ISBN-13: 978-0684846347

[6] Martín Giménez, V. M., Noriega, S. E., Kassuha, D. E., Fuentes, L. B., & Manucha, W. (2018). Anandamide and endocannabinoid system: an attractive therapeutic approach for cardiovascular disease. Therapeutic advances in cardiovascular disease, 12(7), 177–190. https://doi.org/10.1177/1753944718773690

[7] Chiurchiù V, Rapino C, Talamonti E, et al. Anandamide Suppresses Proinflammatory T Cell Responses In Vitro through Type-1 Cannabinoid Receptor-Mediated mTOR Inhibition in Human Keratinocytes. J Immunol. 2016;197(9):3545-3553. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1500546

[8] De Petrocellis, L., Melck, D., Palmisano, A., Bisogno, T., Laezza, C., Bifulco, M., & Di Marzo, V. (1998). The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 95(14), 8375–8380. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.95.14.8375

[9] How Happiness Boosts the Immune System, by Jo Marchant, Nature Magazine, November 27, 2013 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-happiness-boosts-the-immune-system

[10] Kaplin, A., & Anzaldi, L. (2015). New Movement in Neuroscience: A Purpose-Driven Life. Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science, 2015, 7.

[11] Social isolation, loneliness, and mortality; Andrew Steptoe, Aparna Shankar, Panayotes Demakakos, Jane Wardle; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2013, 110 (15) 5797-5801; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1219686110

[12] Prof. Asya Rolls, Webinar with the American Technion Society, 25 March 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=ZkaSdbb–e4

[13] Decomposing Gratitude: Representation and Integration of Cognitive Antecedents of Gratitude in the Brain; Hongbo Yu, Xiaoxue Gao, Yuanyuan Zhou, Xiaolin Zhou; Journal of Neuroscience 23 May 2018, 38 (21) 4886-4898; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2944-17.2018

[14] Greater Good Magazine. Can Gratitude Be Good for Your Heart? By Paul J. Mills, Laura Redwine; October 25, 2017

[15] Can Tylenol Dissolve Feelings of Dread? By Maia Szalavitz, TIME Magazine, April 19, 2013, https://healthland.time.com/2013/04/19/tylenol-fights-fear-of-the-abyss/

[16] Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C. L., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15(2), 129–133. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000033

[27] Ben-Shaanan, T.L., Schiller, M., Azulay-Debby, H. et al. Modulation of anti-tumor immunity by the brain’s reward system. Nat Commun 9, 2723 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05283-5 

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