Moving Beyond the Mind in Medicine
Cheryl A. Kasdorf, ND
I, the doctor, am getting sick, even though I don’t want to admit it. It is the night before I leave on a trip, a three-day drive to get to an important seminar. It is supposed to be a fun, relaxing summer vacation, too, but now this! It’s nothing serious, but I feel achy all over, so I lay down and cover up, even though it is hot in the room. Suddenly I am so tired, shaking with chills and fever, my body hurts – even my eyeballs – and I can’t think because of a splitting headache.
So, what did I do?
Well, with the headache and malaise, I had no idea what was around the house to get me through this. Homeopathic remedy indications ran confused through my brain, and I just could not sort it out. I simply wrapped myself tightly in the covers and kept my eyes closed. Thoughts of what might happen if I could not drive to the conference flitted through my head, but were drowned out by the intense body sensations. The pounding headache was the worst part. How long would this last? Lying there practically incapacitated, what could I do?
For me, the answer was easy. I had learned phrases called Ascension Attitudes, which I was told to use whenever I remembered them throughout the day as well as in closed-eye, 20-minute sessions. I experienced deep relaxation using them and was told that they would speed healing when used while sick. One Attitude effortlessly came to mind, and I started to feel that familiar relaxation and silence. By gently introducing another Attitude in my mind and then letting it go, resting in the stillness, and repeating the process, I was relieved of the intense headache and extreme body aches. I did notice that the body was still experiencing these symptoms, but it was tolerable and did not consume my attention. Curiously, when my focus drifted back to the head pain, it was viciously intense. But by simply introducing an Attitude again, the pain faded to the background.
After a little while of Ascending – that is, using the Ascension Attitudes in this way – I fell asleep. Was I surprised to wake up an hour and a half later, out of pain and without a fever! Wisely, I went to bed, falling asleep again with an Ascension Attitude in my awareness. The trip was on as planned!
This is a powerful personal experience of accessing the healing power of nature, moving beyond the mind to directly experience the absolute source of well-being. I accessed that place where dis-ease not only is impossible, but where there is no memory of it existing. While at first I still had symptoms, I truly experienced them as insignificant. The restoration of wholeness, or healing, arose from that place in surprisingly little time. My immune system kicked in with fever and mobilization of immune factors, and I accompanied that natural response with directing my attention on the source of all healing.
Viruses and Psychoneuroimmunology
Remember when mind/body medicine was identified as psychoneuroimmunology? One of the first places that science proved the connection of the mind and the biochemical workings of the body was by finding neuropeptide receptors on immune cells. Research shows that the immune system is modulated by brain chemicals that reflect the workings of the mind, and the immune system communicates back to the brain to affect the state of consciousness. The research of Candace Pert broke scientific ground in this area.
Here’s an important piece: Viruses use the same receptors as neuropeptides to enter a cell! Viruses are inert packages of genetic material that cannot reproduce on their own. It is only when they take over the machinery of a living cell that they can reproduce. And the cell itself decides whether or not to let a virus inside, through the cell membrane receptors. So, it is the complex communication loops of cell signals like neuropeptides that are reflective of the state of mind and that determine whether the virus can gain access to a cell. For example, if your cell receptors are flooded with norepinephrine – the signal for a happy state of mind – then the rheovirus, found in a common cold, will have a harder time getting into the cell and multiplying. Researchers such as Howard Hall have shown that conscious intervention directly affects cellular function in the immune system.
My own research before attending naturopathic medical school, during and since included many methods of mind/body medicine using visualization, finding issues and beliefs, making affirmations and choices, even using muscle testing and dowsing to harness the power of the mind and move the energetic system of the patient towards healing. The more I got into these methods, the more I uncovered deeper issues and beliefs and dissected even more details of what was wrong to find the underlying cause and make the correction. I quickly became frustrated at the endless uncovering of what was wrong. By continuing to focus on what was wrong in order to neutralize, eliminate or fix it, I locked into an endless process moving me away from the stream of well-being.
We can know as a concept that our true nature is well-being and wholeness, but having a concept does not actualize wellness. The gap between the concept of wellness and its experience is often filled with other concepts, called faith and hope. When wellness is experience-based, faith and hope are replaced by a solid inner knowing resting in peace and joy.
The outward movement of the mind to think, fix, analyze and figure out is an addiction in life, reflected in mind/body medicine as well. Oh yes, intuition plays a big part, but even so there remains an identification with whatever is going through the mind; what we are thinking, feeling, sensing and perceiving. When I was feeling lousy, with head pain and fever, and I identified with it – feeling how bad it was and bemoaning the probability that it would upset my vacation – I was participating in the outward movement of the mind. Now, if the quantity of my thoughts or feelings would have been less, it may have felt like progress, but it remains the same identification. If I had changed the quality of my thoughts, telling myself it would all work out, going up the scale to optimism, I may have felt better, but I would still be stuck in the same identification with the problem! Identifying with the thoughts running through the mind and the body sensations instead of the still source of the healing power of nature promotes dis-ease! What would have been worse would have been fighting against what was there, saying “I’ll show the body who’s boss, I’ll take an aspirin to bring down this fever,” because that would reinforce the identification, making the malaise and pounding head the only important thing, the real thing.
When the mind moves inward, it ceases to identify with thoughts, feelings, perceptions and so on. Although I had a headache as a byproduct of the fever, it wasn’t important when my mind was focused inward. We all have had moments of this experience in nature, sports, intimate relationships … when everything is just as it should be and nothing will disturb the perfection of it. But if we try to grasp that experience or recreate it, it is elusive. As it has become our habit to move our attention outward, using a technique helps us relearn how to move the mind inward. This inner movement allows us to rest in the stillness, well-being and peace of our true nature. And there is where we find wholeness, the healing power of nature. As our true nature is infinite, the peace and wholeness is also ever more and more full!
The Still Presence
This inner movement of the mind is the essence of meditation or prayer. Too often, it is misunderstood or taught differently. There are books and seminars filled with inspiration to being present in the moment and to finding happiness. Even when completely absorbed in a task, thinking we are present in the moment, most likely we are not aware of that still presence. To be sure, it is always there, as it is our true nature, but our attention is not on it. To train our attention on our true nature within, that place of peace and well-being, takes a tool and some practice. The tradition that I practice and teach maintains the simplicity and clarity that I am describing here.
The tradition of The Ishayas’ Ascension is one that teaches to “rise beyond” or “ascend” the identification with the beliefs, thoughts and feelings in the mind. The Ascension is an ancient tradition that is “for full consciousness” (the meaning of the Sanskrit word “Ishaya”) and thereby not against anything. When identifying with full consciousness there is nothing else, and certainly nothing to neutralize, eliminate or fix. Everything that does not resonate with the wholeness of well-being then ceases to manifest, slowly or quickly.
My patients and students of the Ishayas’ Ascension report amazing experiences. See the accompanying case studies for examples.
It is rewarding to see the practical application of what once was only a concept – psychoneuroimmunology. While it was still a concept to me, it seemed to be tricky in application. How do we change what is in the mind in order to change the neuropeptides and, therefore, to change how the immune system, as well as the whole physiology, responds? My experience with the Ishayas’ Ascension Attitudes makes everything simple. They truly are the technology of accessing the healing power of nature and restoring health.
At the same time, I support healing with other naturopathic modalities. As health is our natural, default state, by going beyond the limiting thoughts and feelings and body sensations we can return to that state of health. The added benefit beyond measure is the ease with which I live my life due to my focus on the still presence of well-being inside.
Case Study 1
One woman, 36, was in the hospital for four days and was catheterized. Upon returning home, she had several days of urinary frequency, burning on urination and pressure with an empty bladder. The discomfort even woke her at night. She was determined to get through it without any help; she did not consult me. Later she reported that during one closed-eye Ascension session, she felt relief from the pressure, and the next time she urinated, she had no more burning pain! Since that moment she has had no more urinary symptoms.
Case Study 2
One man, a financial planner, lived a very stressful life. His wife knew how to meditate, and was often telling him to just sit down and let his mind get quiet. Whenever he tried it, he got even more agitated as his mind became even more active. He came to my introductory talk about the Ishayas Ascension and participated in an exercise where we simply close the eyes and watch what is going through the mind. With those instructions, he experienced for the first time his mind actually settling, and was so impressed he signed up for the class. Since learning to Ascend, he practices “when he needs it” (not ideal) and still affects a drop in blood pressure from around 200/110 to 120/80 after sitting down to a closed-eye Ascension session.
Case Study 3
A student reported being diagnosed with hypertension, and getting medication. Initially, his blood pressure came down, but over months it crept up again. At a return visit to his doctor, the dosage of the medication was increased. Again, there was an initial improvement in blood pressure, but it gradually crept up, back into unhealthy ranges. After the third time this happened, the man recognized that the medications were not addressing the cause, and stopped them on his own. He had always been told to meditate to relieve stress, so he took my class. In a month he reported normal blood pressures with the Ishayas’ Ascension practice.
Case Study 4
Some patients have reported being calm in situations that normally would cause undue stress and agitation. One woman was at Mayo Clinic for heart evaluations, and during the entire time she was waiting and going through the procedures, she used the Ascension Attitudes. She kept her cool, which was unusual for her; the attending nurse even commented how calm and peaceful she was.
Case Study 5
One man whom I taught to Ascend was under a tight schedule, as he was working and also going to graduate school. In one instance, he had a detailed report for school due the next day. That evening, he e-mailed his instructor saying he would need more time to complete the assignment. He then sat down to a 20-minute, closed-eye Ascension session. When he finished, he started his assignment, and was so clear that he completed it that evening and scored a high grade.
Cheryl Kasdorf, ND maintains a private practice in Cottonwood, Ariz. Her specialties include homeopathy and Unda drainage, Bowen technique and craniosacral therapy, as well as lifestyle counseling. Her passion is to assist others in activating the healing process with the least amount of outer resources, and tapping into the greatest of one’s inner resources. To that end, she teaches The Ishayas’ Ascension. She finds these techniques are the gentlest, most easily achieved, most effective and most natural method of meditation.