catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 5 :: 2006.03.10 — 2006.03.24


The "info-realm" of being

Most of the time we think we’re sick, it’s all in the mind. (Thomas Wolfe)

Our mind isn’t a metaphor. It is part of an extraordinary link that
exists between psychology and biology: of mind and body. Of how they
have been dexterously fabricated, by evolution, over the millennia.

been once the basic nature of fairy tales, imagination, poetic license,
or folklore—and, now New-Age literature—we can today, thanks to
scientific evolution, construct a modernistic dimension for a
fascinating subject.

We’d dispel notions about its status, now at
loggerheads, and strongly entangled between two vastly different realms
of thought.  Logically, we’d, in so doing, also engineer a sound
“coup” of sorts: by including the increased scientific evidence that
mystifyingly connects the brain and the immune system. The best part is
that as two operational companions, they earnestly endeavor to operate
together at all times. Paradoxically, they could also be at odds on
occasions. It’s only when the interaction between them becomes
disconcerted that we become “game” to illness.

In other words,
sickness of the mind, or the body, reveals how our systems work and why
loss of equilibrium often leads to a breakdown. To bring a sense of
cadence, or measure, to this element, we’d also draw on a wealth of
information related to the latest biological and medical findings,
especially in our age run amuck by stress, or psychosomatic illnesses,
and in the light of the glorious connections that already exist between
ancient puzzles—the brain, behavior, immunity, and disease.

case in point: though the fantasies of novelists aren’t exactly the
same as hard scientific evidence—albeit there’s plenty of it as
well—the sharp divide between those who proffer psychological
explanations of diseases and those who reject such theories in favor of
purely physical causes is reflected in attitudes towards two particular
disorders: tuberculosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

As Sir
Peter Medawar, the Nobel Prize-winning immunologist and virtuoso
writer, put it: “[Tuberculosis] is an affliction in which the
psychosomatic element is admitted even by those who contemptuously
dismiss it in the context of any other ailment.” Not surprisingly,
there’s abundant evidence, dating back hundreds of years, that the
course and progression of tuberculosis are influenced by the sufferer’s
mental state.

It goes without saying that someone who is infected
with Mycobacterium tuberculosis develops a protective immune response
that could hold the bacteria in check and prevent them from
multiplying. The resultant stalemate between the body and bacteria can
mean that the disease will remain dormant for years. But, if something
happens to compromise, or weaken, the body’s immune defenses, the
bacteria can run riot and cause a resurgence of the disease.

depression, and other psychological factors, evidently, can just as
well alter our vulnerability to many diseases, including
bacterial/viral infections, heart disease and cancer. The supposition?
The relationship between mind and health, for more reasons than one,
maybe construed to be mediated not only by our behavior, but also by
our biological connections between the brain and the immune system.
These connections work in both directions. Result: our physical health
can influence our mental state.

This is precisely the point where
one could think of what maybe succinctly termed as tangibility
dynamics. In simple terms, it could be related to a leisure pursuit—a
way of diversion from obvious “traps”—to leading a better life. You
engage in a hobby because you take pleasure from it, or because it
relaxes you. You don’t get frustrated with it because you could have
done better with it. The whole idea of a hobby is to let go and
experience something for itself. You don’t do it to prove your
brilliance, genius, or self-esteem. You do it for inner peace, bliss.
Your relationship with a hobby is natural, not self-conscious.

of meditation as a hobby, as it were—if it is or isn’t one already—in
much the same manner, not as something that gets caught up as one of
your usual preoccupations. Rather, think of it as an inherent area of
life where you can let go of the obsessive desire to improve yourself,
get ahead in the rat race, or do better than anybody else.

as a hobby is worth its weight, but not if you want to project yourself
as one who is meditating for peace—to improving the world. You also
ought to think of meditation as an open approach. You do it because you
like doing it, without fanfare. Think of meditation as a sport: of
reaching a goal, a goal that brings happiness or fulfillment. When you
practice meditation in this mode—simply, sensibly, and without
jargon—it decreases the hubbub of our lives. It makes you feel
better—in word and deed.

It would be quite interesting to note
that the relationship between brain activity and meditation has been
extensively investigated during the last three decades. The popular
view today is that meditation produces a type of relaxation, not sleep.
Which is one reason why it has become one of the many ways to teaching
people, and patients, how to relax. It also comes as no surprise that
mind research has shown that meditation may not just be a “novel” state
of consciousness, but also multi-faceted. Researchers, like Daniel
“Emotional Intelligence” Goleman, for instance, argue that behaviors
typically called concentration and mindfulness could be best described
as strategies used to change one’s awareness of internal, or external,

One thing is, however, crucial. You should always think
of meditation as a fulsome hobby, without ever losing the lightness of
your first approach to it. Always stay as a beginner, never the expert.
That way you will never be caught up in a neurotic game. Because a
person who meditates truly knows its value: of happiness, contentment,
and that everything else that happens is happening now. As the great
Indian philosopher J Krishnamurti put it so precisely: “Meditation is
not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.” This is not
all. Meditation is more than a state of bliss—it is a positive
paradigm, of being one with the Universe.

There is no best way to
practice meditation. You’d do it your own way and that could become
your best way of doing it… in course of time. Well, if you don’t have
an “ideal” methodology, you’d do something on the lines outlined
hereunder, or even modify it to suit your own “introduction”—if any.

quietly wherever you are for a few minutes. Remain still. Don’t speak.
Don’t do anything at all. It’s something like facing the blank stage of
your mind. That’s how it should be. Once you have done that, approach
meditation with a non-judgmental, accepting attitude. Begin by closing
your eyes and scanning your body with your awareness. From your feet,
ankles, legs, knees, thighs, pelvis, lower back, stomach and chest to
shoulders, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, fingers, face,
neck, and head. As you attend to each segment briefly, ask it to
relax—gently. Avoid waiting for a response, or trying to relax. Just
let it be, and move on. Next, bring your attention to your breathing
mechanism to quiet your mind, and make it a part of your meditating
experience. Let new ideas and messages flow, for 15-20 minutes every

You will, in course of time, delight in the experience—a
natural, effortless function of your mindfulness. Of mindfulness as
meditation, a slowing down of the “racy” processes, in your career, and
life. Of a relaxation mode that will not only nurture greater
awareness, but also clarity, and acceptance, of “present?moment

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