The human skull has been called an ivory box and I like the term. Ivory is valuable yet versatile. Within this Holy of Holies dwell the corporeal brain and the conscious self, one of the most mysterious entities in the multiverse. (The “self” is also referred to as the mind, ego, soul or spirit. I suspect these words represent different facets of the same gem.)
The self is somehow animated by its roommate, the brain, which is necessary but not sufficient to explain consciousness. More than the brain’s doppelganger, the self has a mind of its own. Quantum physics is probably involved, but no one understands quite how.
What we do know is that we experience life as a stream of electrical impulses from the body that trigger chemical processes in the brain. The mind also absorbs the data and generates uniquely personal thoughts, intentions and emotions.
These intangible thoughts, intentions and emotions play a vital role in our physical well-being. The West is just now catching up to the East in this realization, as Barbara Bradley Hagerty points out:
It was not until the 1970s that scientists finally began to acknowledge a connection between mind and body. … The research flowed quickly, and showed that nonphysical things like thoughts and emotions affect our bodies at the cellular level just as surely as do genes or lifestyle or the medicines we take. Emotions—particularly depression and stress—are linked to heart attacks. They suppress the immune system as it tries to fight the flu. One’s thoughts and attitudes affect the course of cancer and the recovery from breast cancer.
Hagerty also notes that even illnesses as lethal as AIDS can be influenced by positive thinking, particularly in regard to God and the spiritual realm:
Turning to God rather than rejecting God appears to boost your immune system and stave off disease nearly five times as effectively. … Neither Sheri Kaplan’s story nor Gail Ironson’s research claims that there is a God who puts a restraining hand on the HIV. It is the belief that there is a God who guides, not abandons, loves, not punishes, and occasionally intervenes to cause the miracle.
The brain controls the body and the self/mind powerfully influences both. Mind over matter isn’t absolute, but it’s much more than an aphorism. Therefore, be mindful.