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Immunity and spirit

Immunity and spirit

Chronic stress is probably the primary cause of immune deficiency in the modern world, especially in the crowded urban centers of industrially developed societies.

The human body is equipped to deal with the sort of stress people faced in the pre-industrial world, such as crossing paths with a saber-toothed tiger, tribal warfare, avalanches, floods and other situations that provoke the fight-or-flight response.

In such situations, the adrenal glands spurt adrenaline into the bloodstream and switch the nervous system over to the action mode of the sympathetic branch.

The body then responds by fighting, running or some other high-energy physical reaction, burning off the simulative hormones and extra glucose pumped into the bloodstream for the purpose, then returning to normal.

Such situations occurred occasionally, not chronically and when they passed, the body naturally recovered its energy and endocrine balance.

Today, the same biochemical responses are triggered, hundred of times throughout the day and night by frustration in the office, marital strife, repressed rage, bad news on television, exposure to microwaves and abnormal electromagnetic fields, fear alienation, peer pressures and other hazards of modern life.

However, instead of making high-energy physical responses, people repress their rage, fear and other negative emotions provoked by stress, thereby failing to utilize the powerful hormones and aneurochemicals released into the blood.

These potent biochemicals quickly break down into various toxic by-products that poison the system, suppress immunity and impede other vital functions.

Under chronic stress, the body never has a chance to excrete these toxins thoroughly and restore proper balance in essence, energy and spirit.

Stress is basically a sudden demand on the body to adapt quickly to a new situation and therefore it depends largely upon perception and sensory input, which belongs to the realm of spirit.

However, the effects of stress instantly reverberate down through the realms of energy and essence via biofeedback and the nervous system. Stress thus preoccupies the entire human system whenever it strikes, engaging body, mind and energy in a vicious circle of tension and turmoil that has no outlet.

In recent years, stress has finally become recognized as a major immunosuppressant and a primary cause of dis-ease.

Unfortunately, the tendency of modern Western medicine is to treat stress with tranquilizers, which temporarily relieve the overt symptoms but compound the physiological damage.

Stress causes the adrenals to secrete adrenaline and cortisone, the latter being a particularly powerful immunosuppressant, especially in the thymus, lymph nodes and spleen.

Cortisone also impairs production of interferon, one of the body's most potent immune agents. Disease associated with high cortisone levels include cancer, hypertension, arthritis, stroke, chronic infections, skin diseases, Parkinson disease and ulcers.

Elevated cortisone is also associated with an increased tendency towards suicide. In Maximum Immunity, Dr. Michael Weiner states: "Psychological stress releases powerful hormones that suppress our immune defenses". In Eat Right or Die Young, Dr. Cass Igram states the case against stress even more bluntly.

The role played by stress in the causation of cancer is so great that it would not be an exaggeration to say that 80% or more cancer cases have their immediate origin in some form of mental pressure or strain.

Grief, distress, fear, worry and anger are emotions which have horrible effects on the body's functions. Researchers have discovered that these emotions cause the release of chemicals from the brain call neuropeptides.

These potent compounds have a profound immune-suppressive action.

Scientists have traced a pathway from the brain to the immune cells proving that negative emotions can stop the immune cells dead in their tracks. This results in part from the release of chemicals from nerve endings. Once this happens, harmful microbes or cancer cells can invade any tissue in the body.

Dr. Igram's analysis is virtually identical to the traditional Chinese medical view of negative emotions as potent causes of disease.

Since the central nervous system has branches with nerve endings that terminate in the glands which regulate the immune system, there is constant biofeedback between hormones and neurochemicals. The immune system functions much like a sensory organ, responding to external stimuli based on sensory input mediated by the nervous system.

A fight-or-flight response from the brain immediately triggers a similar response in the adrenals and other glands and those glandular secretions in turn sustain continued activity of the neurochemicals that triggered the original stress response.

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Similarly, calming, soothing, neurochemicals stimulate secretion of calming, soothing hormones, which in turn sustain the activity of those neurochemicals through biofeedback.

Recall the statement of Master Luo Teh-hsiou of Taiwan that the primary mechanism by which chee-gung generated vital energy and rejuvenates the body is by establishing soothing biofeedback between the nervous and endocrine systems.

Dr. Weiner states in Maximum Immunity: "By learning how to control our mind, subtle hormonal changes emerge that then control our biochemical reality". Yale university's cancer surgeon Dr. Bernie Siegel agrees: "Psychological and spiritual development are capable of reversing the disease process". This is virtually a paraphrase of a statement in the chapter entitled "The Oldest Truth" in the 2,000 year-old Internal Medicine Classic; "If one maintains an undisturbed spirit  within, no disease will occur".

The PNI system can be stimulated into a mode of positive biofeedback, which heals the body and restores immunity simply by adopting the right mental attitude. PNI explains, for example, the placebo effect. If the mind can be made to believe that a sugar pill or a capsule of vitamin C is actually a miraculous new drug, it promptly mobilizes the immune system, triggers the healing response, and orchestrates a cure. The "Power of Positive Thinking" is thus rooted in the physiological and biochemical effects it triggers in the body via the nervous system. As Norman Cousins writes; "The will to love is not a theoretical abstraction, but a physiologic reality with therapeutic characteristics.

There are many aspects to positive thinking, foremost among which is will, which the Chinese call yi and equate with primordial spirit. But mental factors, such as enthusiasm, are also important in maintaining health.

If you are bored or frustrated by your job, hobby, marriage or other activities, your mind lacks enthusiasm for life, which in turn saps the will to live.

Simply by changing your habits or creatively solving the problems that frustrate you, you recover enthusiasm, which in turn stimulates vitality and boosts immunity.

A good example of this is the investment banker who late in life contracted "incurable" leukemia. As it turned out, he had always wanted to be a concert violinist rather than a banker, but he repressed his dream in order to please his father and went reluctantly to Wall Street. Condemned to death by his doctor's diagnosis, he decided to shuck his pinstriped suit, retired and learned to play the violin with such enthusiasm that he actually performed on stage before an audience, realizing the dream of a lifetime. Before long, his leukemia went into what his perplexed doctor called "spontaneous remission"; his renewed enthusiasm for life triggered his psychoneuroimmunological defence system to attach the mutant cells causing his leukemia.

Visualization is another effective way to restore immunity and heal the body.

Carl and Stephnie Simonton of the Cancer Counseling and Research Center in Dallas, Texas, reported a case of a young boy with cancer to whom they taught a therapeutic method of visualization. Day after day, the boy vividly imagined jet fighters zooming into his body to strafe and bomb his tumors and sure enough, the tumors soon began to shrink and finally disappeared altogether, without chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Using this technique, the Simonton's have managed to double the survival times of terminal cancer patients under their care.

Despite this impressive achievement, however, conventional medicine continues to rely on radical chemical-mechanistic therapies which destroy the human immune system and make the remaining days of terminal-cancer patients utterly miserable.

Visualization is also a key technique in triggering the healing response during the practice of the Six-Syllable Secret healing chee-gung exercise introduced in an earlier chapter.

The breath mobilizes energy, the lips, tongue and throat establish the required frequency and the movements of limbs stimulate the associated energy channels; at the same time visualization directs the stream of energy into and out of the target organ.

Similarly, in order to activate "palm breathing" during chee-gung or meditation, all you need to do is visualize energy streaming in and out of the points in the center of your palms while performing deep abdominal breathing and soon you can feel it happening.

If you can't it means that you're not concentrating fully on the visualization, that you have serious doubts it will work, or that you're simply not paying sufficient attention to the resulting sensations, any of which factors will negate the effects of the visualization. Mind over matter works both ways; while faith in the method delivers the desired results to the body, doubt obstructs it.

Meditation is a very effective method for boosting immunity and cultivating the power of positive thinking, visualization and mind over matter.

Simply by "sitting still, doing nothing" for a while each day, you give your mind a chance to retire from the stresses of daily life and explore its own innate powers. Even in the beginning stages of practice, when the "monkey mind" hops from one trivial thought to another, meditation still boosts immunity on the physiological level by switching the nervous system over to the restful, restorative, immune - enhancing parasympathetic mode.

Later when you've developed a feel for internal energy and learned how to transport it wherever you wish within your system, you can apply that power to heal injuries, balance energies, stimulate glandular secretions, enhance cerebral energy, exchange energy with your sexual partner, dissolve tumors and other useful purposes.

Though it may sound like a cliché, as so many truths do, love also has great healing powers. Dr. Siegel says: "If I told patients to raise their blood levels of immune globulin's or killer T-cells, no one would know how. But if I can teach them to love themselves and other fully, the same changes happen automatically. The truth is "love heals".

Love energizes the entire immune system and specifically stimulates the production of antibodies.

Lack of love for oneself and others gives rise to negative thoughts and emotions, which as we've already seen, releases immunosuppressive hormones and neurochemicals into the system via the PNI mechanism.

Many people, especially in crowded cities, find themselves stuck in situations they hate, but cannot do anything to change, so they end up hating themselves and others. This results in a state of chronic immune deficiency.

Many of the Chinese medical texts dating from 2,000 years ago lament the ills of "modern times" and allude to the traditional "good old days" another 3,000 years before that. A common theme in these texts is the decline in human health due to careless lifestyles and the deterioration in human relations due to lack of love: degenerative conditions that Taoist alchemy as well as psychoneuroimmunology would link as symptoms of the same syndrome.

In his essay entitled "Loving People" Chang San-fen, the thirteenth-century master, summed it up by saying: "Therefore to those who want to know the way to deal with the world, I suggest, "Love People". This is a potent prescription for health and longevity that generates positive healing energy throughout the human system by stimulating the internal alchemy of psychoneuroimmunology.

Source: Daniel Reid, The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity.

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