We can literally change our mind, as Rosamund Burton discovers speaking with Dr Joe Dispenza
I walk down the stairs and down the long corridor to the psychiatric unit of Waterford Regional Hospital in Ireland, where I am visiting my mother.
I've brought her some fruit and yoghurt. It's a sunny, spring afternoon and I persuade her to get up and dressed and sit outside in the garden. She anxiously clasps my hand. This was a woman who would host a dinner party for 20 without turning a hair, or impulsively decide to throw a dance and invite 150 people to it. Highly intelligent, insightful and creative, she has been reduced to this. Over the last eight years, those of us close to her have watched her, time and time again, choose to reject life rather than embrace it.
On some days when I visit, her memory has gone and her conversation is an almost nonsensical stream of consciousness. At others, her razor sharp mind recalls a person or fact that I'd long since forgotten.
Unlike all her 80 year old friends who are leading active lives, she is old well beyond her years and, having always been well dressed and well groomed, now has no regard for her personal appearance.
"You don't have to be like this," I tell her. "You've got a choice." But she doesn't see that choice and, instead, can only envisage a life of ever increasing pain, loneliness and desperation. That is the dominant picture in her mind and as much as her family and friends try to help her, that is what she is creating.
Flip the coin and you have Joe Dispenza, author of Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind who featured in the hit movie, What the Bleep Do We Know? talking about how a person can create their day. Since his early twenties, he has dedicated himself to studying the phenomenon of mind over matter and how consciousness creates reality.
He has taught thousands of people how to reprogram their thinking using neuro-physiologic principles, and enabled many individuals to reach their specific goals by eliminating their self destructive habits. He is convinced that every person on the planet has within them the latent potential for greatness and unlimited abilities.
Joe Dispenza was 23 years old and already had a successful chiropractic practice in Southern California when he was hit by a 4WD while cycling in a triathlon. Xrays showed he had multiple compressed fractures of the spine. Four leading surgeons agreed in their diagnosis that it was imperative for him to have Harrington rod surgery. This is a radical surgery in which parts of the vertebrae are sawn off and stainless steel rods several centimetres long are attached with screws and clamps to both side of the spinal column - in his case from the neck to the spine.
Despite warnings that he could be paralysed and never walk again, he decided against the surgery.
"I believed that there was an innate intelligence that heals the body," he tells me when I speak to him on the telephone from his home in Washington State, "and if I could surrender the condition, this innate intelligence would do its best." He checked himself out of hospital and spent the following weeks lying completely still at the house of two close friends. He spent three hours a day in self hypnosis and meditation and visualised being totally healed.
"I decided not to let any thoughts go by that I didn't want to experience," he recounts. "That is the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I never realised how unfocused I was. I saw how my thoughts were slipping past my conscious awareness. It was a weeding out process for me. I was lying face down in order to heal and it was me and my mind."
As Dispenza had gone against conventional procedures, the prognosis was that it would take at least three to six months for him to heal. At nine and a half weeks, he was back on his feet and at 10 weeks, back at work seeing patients in his busy clinic.
But that experience was the turning point that inspired him to delve further into the process of healing the body and the mind. Today, aged 49, as well as working two days a week in his chiropractic clinic, he travels to many different countries around the world teaching thousands of people about the power of the mind. He is also writing his second book: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, which he explains is a "how to" book. It is also the title of the lecture he is giving in Sydney and Melbourne, and of the weekend intensive being held in Melbourne in late June.
After his own healing, he studied the miraculous healings of other people. In all the cases he examined, he noticed the one factor common to all was that the individuals believed there was a greater intelligence giving them life and organising order inside them. They believed if they were able to develop a relationship with this loving intelligence, it might begin to respond - so they focused on doing that.
NOVA readers are likely to be familiar with the idea that our mind creates our reality. Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne are just a few of the hundreds of books on this topic. But what is different about Dr Joe Dispenza's approach is that he looks at the mechanics of the brain in relationship to this idea.
One of the factors responsible for so much disease and dissatisfaction in today's world is stress, he explains. If we perceive a threat, an enormous amount of adrenaline is pumped around the body which provides energy to handle the threat. This is very useful when running away from a hungry bear. But the stresses of the 21st century are more likely to be a mounting number of work deadlines and paying a mortgage. The adrenaline is still produced and because the factors causing the stress tend to be constant rather than occasional, the body becomes addicted to adrenaline to keep going. Unconsciously, the body now relates stress to feeling awake and alive.
The stress response, Joe Dispenza explains, can be turned on by thought alone, so we become addicted to our own thoughts.
"If you can't think greater than how you feel, you'll keep creating the same conditions in your life," he says. "Ninety five per cent of who we are by age 35 sits in a subconscious memory system." Our bodies have memorised who we are, and how we think and react has just become a habit. This is why so much of disease appears to be genetic, because we are relying on our hereditary circuits and we develop the habit of being our genetics.So the question is, "How can we change?"
"If you can hold your attention on a future possibility and you can make that thought more real than anything else, you can make that thought an experience," Joe tells me. If we can make our brain work differently, we are changing our mind.
"As you begin to think about a new way of being, the brain looks like it is already having the experience. If you can emotionally embrace that event, ahead of the experience, to look like the event has happened, then the universe organises the events in your life to reflect your thoughts and emotions."
I ask Joe Dispenza how effective this has been in his own life and he tells me he works on it every day and believes that we should all become scientists of our own lives. He says he has created many wonderful experiences, but also admits he is challenged by others.
Dispenza believes science is the contemporary language of mysticism and that there are many correlations between quantum physics and spirituality. There are an infinite number of realities we can experience. Going back to the science, he claims, it is about connecting to an infinite intelligence which is beyond space and time. Although we put so much of our energy into the material world, we are actually made up of atoms which are only 0.00001% material.
A privilege of being human, says Dispenza, is that we can observe our thoughts and when we become conscious of them we can change. We can break the habit of the old self and reinvent the new self. Our personalities create our personal realities.
I think of my mother lying in the hospital bed and of Joe Dispenza's conviction that we all have the ability to change, regardless of our age. She is still strong willed and I know she can change her mind and reverse the downward spiral of depression.
Finally, I ask Joe if he has a message for NOVA readers. At the beginning of each day, he says, ask yourself:
"What is the greatest expression of myself that I want to be today? Next, remind yourself of what you don't want to be and get conscious of that. Then give some time to thinking about and mentally rehearsing how you do want to be. Do this on daily basis and the effects will be profound."
Dr Joe Dispenza will appear in Sydney on June 22 and Melbourne June 23, 2011 with a weekend intensive on June 25-26 2011.
More details at www.chrishooper.com.au
Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind
Dr Joe Dispenza