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The future of health: Tech-based or thought-based?


I love my iPhone. It’s my window to the world, my multimedia playground, my constant companion. However, it’s not something I would consider essential to my health.

This isn’t to say that others haven’t – or shouldn’t – tap into technology as a means of achieving better bodies. In fact, the trend appears to be very much headed in this direction. I’m just not so sure it’s the panacea that some may think it is.

Even so, I couldn’t help but tune in to Body 2.0's recent conference in San Francisco, described as “a chance to check out fun, user-friendly technologies that will enrich your health and shape up your body.”

The products on display were enough to make the likes of Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas look positively old-fashioned. Little did I know that my humble iPhone could help me to improve my sleep, transform my posture, optimize my fitness plan, test my vision, regulate my medications, analyze my breathing, prevent ulcers and help me to locate the nearest health food store.

(And here I thought my phone’s preloaded compass was pretty cool.)

Although not nearly as flashy, Dr. Larry Dossey, editor of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, has been observing a very different trend in health care – one that’s been evolving for at least the past 150 years.

Dossey describes this development in terms of three distinct “eras” of medicine. Era 1 began just after the Civil War, a time when the body was seen as an essentially mechanical construct requiring physical remedies. Era 2 began in the late 1940s when physicians started to recognize the impact that emotions and feelings can have on the body. Era 3, which Dossey considers both the present and future of medicine, delves even deeper into the mental nature of health by proposing that consciousness is not confined to an individual’s body but, instead, is nonlocal; a “mind that is boundless and unlimited.”

For me, it’s this mental nature of health that is left largely unaccounted for with many of the new health technologies. Sure, we may be able to detect what medical researchers would describe as an angry or stressed out brain – maybe even measure the physiological impact of these emotions on the body – but will technology ever be able to detect the nonphysical factors that are likely causing these reactions?

A friend of mine, an OB/GYN and an avid student of the so-called mind-body connection, told me about a case that illustrates just this point.

A woman suffering from debilitating pain was referred to him from the local emergency room. When she arrived at his office, she was barely able to make it onto the exam table. Feeling somewhat nervous about the situation, my friend excused himself from the room and asked, as he describes it, “the universe” for the ability to help this woman.

When he returned, she began describing her pain. However, he had a sense that whatever injury she was suffering from was not physical. It was then that she told him about an affair her husband was having and how this reminded her of an earlier experience when she was brutally attacked by two men.

“I referred the patient to a psychotherapist,” my friend writes in an essay describing this event, “and within two weeks she returned to my clinic with a different look on her face. She claimed that the pain had significantly improved, and she was working through her memories. I look back to this case frequently when I think of operating on patients, and I say a small prayer to make sure that I do not needlessly perform operations.”

When I first heard this story what impressed me most was my friend’s quality of thought. Rather than relying on gadgets and gizmos to tell him what needed to be addressed, he relied instead on what I would call his innate spirituality. It’s this spirituality – this “fidelity to Truth and Love” as 19th-century religious and medical pioneer Mary Baker Eddy describes it – that I’m certain enabled him to “discern the thought of the sick … for the purpose of healing them.”

Eric Nelson lives in the Bay Area. His articles on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional and national online publications, including The Washington Times. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesman for Christian Science in Northern California. This article was published with permission by Communities @WashingtonTimes.com.

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