Dosey (1994) described the Zen Buddhist idea of balance and applied it to health. Opposites are always represented in the whole. Beauty-ugliness, static-dead, intuition-reason, and health-illness are examples. He describes Western man as often attempting to eliminate one side of the pair. Reason is emphasized while intuition is ignored. Reason is used to attempt to eliminate illness in order to arrive at a state of health. According to Dossey a Buddhist would not try to figure out how to be healthy. He would accept that he is health but he also is illness since one cannot exist without the other.
These participants represent a “Western” view because of their active involvement in trying to restore health and eliminate one side of other dichotomous pairs. The participants did recognize that there could be an ideal place between many pairs and sought to find the balance (for example, overdoing, underdoing). The connection between mind and body seemed important but difficult to articulate for many participants. In their description of the mind, they included spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. The body included internal and external physical changes.
Some concepts such as tiredness were sometimes related to the mind and sometimes the body. One of the early outcomes of surgery was disconnectedness within the mind-body relationship. The balance was somehow disturbed. Participants attempted to take conscious control of something that was usually automatic. Healing felt to them like it occurred at different rates in the mind and the body. The mind became impatient and the body was not ready to respond. At times the opposite was true with the body seeming ready to function normally and the mind having difficulty.
However, the mind and the body were not necessarily seen as totally separate. It does not seem unusual that these participants had difficulty describing the mind-body connection. It is a phenomenon that has been grappled with for hundreds of years. Philosophers such as Gallagher (1986) have discussed the “lived body” as being a non-conscious experience until it loses its equilibrium through pain, fatique, injury, distortion or embarrassment. The lived body then becomes the central focus. When the body cannot do what is desired it becomes an obstacle to be overcome rather than a connected whole.
Gallagher proposed that these times of acute awareness of the body may be the basis for mind-body dualism. Merleau-Ponty’s view the conscious and preconscious mind and the material body are not separate. The “subject” is the centre of meaning and wholeness always. The “conscious I” may feel disconnected but the “natural I” or preconscious is always aware of the true connection of the mind and body in the context of the world. Similarly, when Frank (1993) discussed Shamanistic healing, he stated that the mind, body, and spirit did not need to be rejoined but only the awareness of wholeness needed to be restored.
Increasingly, physical evidence exists to support the participant’s notion that the mind and body are connected. Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the physiological connection between the mind and the body. Emotions, neurological responses, and immune responses have all been demonstrated to have chemical connections (Levy, 1998). Along with being important in supporting the mind-body connection, this growing body of knowledge adds credence to the participants’ idea that emotions and attitude can influence healing.