At least a hundred years before health care reform became all the rage, religious reformer and medical pioneer Mary Baker Eddy spoke of a growing interest in "a higher mode of medicine." Little did she know it would take so long for many of the changes she envisioned to find the broad support and practical application we're seeing today, particularly within the field of mind-body medicine.
Just one bit of evidence can be found in the publication earlier this month of "Spiritual Pregnancy," a book that superimposes Joseph Campbell's mythical "hero's journey" over the three trimesters of pregnancy, drawing special attention to the spiritual awakening that takes place throughout this process. During an interview last year, Shawn Tassone, one of the book’s two authors, spoke about the unexpected and often dramatic nature of progress in all aspects of life, including medicine.
His inspiration came from an advanced math class he took where an exploration of S-curves taught him that the nearer ocean waves approach land, the closer they become, the larger they grow and the faster they move until, at last, they come crashing onto shore. Years later, he noticed these patterns appearing again, this time in his practice as an OB/GYN.
In 2002, Tassone and his wife began running a busy women’s health clinic in Arizona, a veritable proving ground for the latest advances in medicine. But in 2009, it was the advances being made in a different although related arena that led him to enroll as a graduate student in the College of Mind-Body Medicine at San Francisco-based Saybrook University.
It was at Saybrook that Tassone began working on a "narrative biopic" about Dr. Larry Dossey, best-selling author of a number of books on health and healing and the man widely credited with infusing the term “nonlocal mind” into the modern-day vernacular.
Broadly defined, “nonlocal mind” refers to the presumed source of a variety of interactions that are beyond the comprehension of the physical senses, including intuition, synchronicity (simultaneous occurrences) and spontaneous healing. According to Dossey, it’s this ability to affect physical cure for yourself and others by means of a singular nonlocal mind – or Mind for those who consider this a divine consciousness – that represents what he describes as the most advanced era of medicine.
“It makes sense to me that at some point that wave is going to break, or hit a break-point where nonlocal healing has to happen,” said Tassone, relating this concept to his earlier research. “I don’t think it’s something that you can avoid.
“The question that I have is, has it been there the whole time and we just discovered it? Or is it something we invented? I would venture to say it’s probably been there the whole time. We just weren’t able to incorporate it.”
As surprising and as futile as it may seem to people like Tassone, there are still quite a number of people doing all they can to keep this wave from reaching shore.
Last year he wrote a column for Psychology Today detailing a case of his involving a woman suffering from severe pelvic pain. Long story short, rather than operating on her, which was Tassone’s first inclination, he chose an approach that dealt directly – and successfully – with the patient’s troubled thought.
“What I discovered that day was the mind holds so much power over pleasure and pain,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, the response he received from mostly women readers was so vitriolic, a number of comments had to be removed from the website.
“I got so distraught about all these threats because these women were saying to me, ‘You are so wrong for saying that pelvic pain is all in your head,’ said Tassone. “I wasn’t saying that at all. In a way, it was almost worse than [the] response I get from doctors when I tell them about mind-body medicine.
“So, what I took away from that [experience] was that, even though there is definitely a physical and mental component to pain, we as a society are more geared to fix the physical and unconsciously ignore the mental, maybe because that’s easier to deal with.”
Despite this resistance, however, the wave that Mary Baker Eddy envisioned so many years ago keeps coming. Whether it’s being propelled by people like Shawn Tassone, or the thousands if not millions of others who for years have recognized this connection between our thoughts and our physical well-being, it appears to be getting closer, higher, faster.
“The Bible says, ‘Doctor heal thyself,’" said Tassone, "but I think that what it [should be] is, ‘Patient heal thyself.’
“If patients would make the transition themselves and push this issue, that’s when I think that wave is going to crash.”
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear weekly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.