Paradoxically, I first became interested in the mind the moment I wondered if I could no longer control my own.
Seven years ago, I was the victim of a violent burglary whilst on holiday which concluded in my being injected with an unknown liquid, causing my foot to swell up. Waking up on holiday in France to masked burglars in my room was not the ‘Happy Birthday!’ I’d had in mind. Days after that night I was still living in darkness. The event shattered both my privacy and my perception of the world; which, once inviting, now seemed foreign and unpredictable.
Four weeks later, during a trip to Rome, I experienced a horrific post-traumatic hallucination in which the burglary was relived “before my eyes.” Although it was solely a “figment of my imagination”, it was as vivid and real as the event itself — I saw masked men, felt excruciating pain, and was left with a swollen foot. Perplexed, I questioned — how could my mind have deceived me?
It was Hamlet’s declaration “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so” that awoke me. In Rome, in my relived experience, my “thinking” had literally “made it so”, causing not just my hallucination, but also my foot to actually swell up. I recognized that I had put so much faith into fearful thoughts that I had created the fearsome — and ultimately altered my very perception of reality. It was astonishing to consider that my “thinking”, could alter not only my own reality but also my own body matter.
Intrigued by the impact of my thoughts and almost afraid of my own power, I began to question, if our mind can physically alter our reality, as mine had done creating something I did not want but had “put my mind to” through fearful thoughts, what could it do in the reverse? Could individuals harness the vast creative potential of the human mind and perception to create not merely average existences but empowered living? My excitement intensified over that next year as I witnessed psychology rapidly transform my life — by consciously shifting my focus from fearful thoughts to affirmative, empowering visualizations. I overcame trauma, embraced uncertainty, and transformed my thoughts and perception and thus the quality of my life experience.
Fascinated by the power of thought, I interned at Hay House, the world’s leading “Mind-Body” psychology publishers. Editing a manuscript on “Mindfulness” introduced me to the idea that we’re all “sleep-waking”; reacting to thoughts and circumstances in our waking lives impulsively, without thinking, as if asleep. In Rome, I had let one frightening memory trigger an explosion of intrusive thoughts that ultimately crystallized as hallucination. Now, it was liberating to realize that even in uncertain situations, consciously marshaling our thoughts could help define our perception.
After reading Dr. Joe Dispenza’s “You are the Placebo”, documenting his scientific research behind the power of thought, I became gripped by psychoneuroimmunology: the study of the impact that thoughts have on the immune system. It contextualized both my hallucination and its physiological consequences. The notion that our subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is reality and what is “vividly imagined” resonated with me personally — but Dr. Dispenza took it a step further: he proved that the power of thought, through meditation, can undo self-limiting beliefs and stimulate new neural pathways (“self-directed neuroplasticity”), allowing us consciously to establish ways of overcoming long-established subconscious barriers. He emphasized the power of thought to create as only effective when combined with extreme intensity of belief. In Rome, these ingredients paralyzed me — but now, they offer only exciting potential.
I now have a profound appreciation that mind and body are inextricably connected: our thoughts affect both our cognitive and physical realities. This has been immensely liberating for me, and I am now determined to research the mind further and to empower individuals to use mindfulness to unleash our extraordinary creative potential.
As ever, Buddha puts it well: “What you think, you become; what you feel, you attract; what you imagine, you create”. What we “mind” matters — but encouragingly, it can also be mastered.
Originally published at medium.com