The possibility that the mind has a great deal of power that we may not be using is an idea that has been around for a long time, and one which many of us feel instinctively must have some truth to it. One of the earliest attempts at utilising and controlling the power of the mind was the form of positive thinking advocated by the Frenchman Emile Coue. The latter suggested the repetition of "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better," reasoning that we all tend to react emotionally to our thoughts, so therefore we should make a point of having positive thoughts.
A lot of work has been done more recently in the form of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), which is based on understanding how the brain works and taking the process in hand. The medical profession, on the other hand, has never shown much interest in mind power, tending to dismiss it as "placebo." It never seemed to occur to them that if this placebo can do what they say it can do, it might be worth looking into it to see if we can make use of it instead of merely dismissing it.
My own experience of mind power has been relatively tangental, for the simple reason that, for over forty years, I have been on one of those spiritual paths that rule out any attempt to cultivate power of any kind. However, I have, over the years, learned a thing or two about how mind power can affect healing, so I will pass on what I have learned.
The first thing I learned about this subject was something that seems relatively trivial at first glance, namely how we can talk ourselves into getting a cold. When I was younger, I used to get a lot of "head colds," which meant mainly congestion, sniffles etc in the head, without any symptoms in the throat or chest. In short, it was all above the chin. Then, one dark and stormy night when I was in my early twenties, I noticed how I seemed to talk myself into getting these colds. In other words, if I felt a draught, for example, which momentarily gave me the sniffles, I would think, "I'm getting a cold," and would promptly get one of my head colds. Having noticed this, I began to observe the process, noting the thoughts that would come if I were exposed to a draught, and making sure I let go of them. In effect, it was an exercise in mindfulness or self-observation. The result was that I stopped getting head colds.
In a similar development, I decided to try this form of mindfulness on those annoying tickles in the throat that we all get from time to time. Invariably, when this happens, we try to cough it out, but it never works. So, I tried the mindfulness, focusing my attention on the sensation in the throat without trying to cough it out or get rid of it in any way. What happened then was that the tickle would well up until I felt like I was going to choke, my eyes would water and my nose would run, then the tickle in the throat would simply go away. In other words, I got rid of it by not trying to get rid of it.
This was by no means the end of my colds, however. I would still get a cold every winter, like most people do, and I learned to keep them in check by inhaling clove oil or black pepper oil. One night, however, I forgot to take the oil with me, so I decided to try a bit of mind power. I proceeded to psych myself into the attitude "I don't get colds." This involved a different kind of mind power, in which I was using the imagination. In effect, I was playing the role of someone who never gets colds; as a result, I stopped getting them.
This worked so well that I had no colds for several years. Finally, many moons later, I got a cold after exposure to the air-conditioning at the movies. This time, the attitude "I don't get colds" was not enough, although it kept the cold under control so that it never became a "bad" cold (a bad cold being a cold that makes you feel bad enough to go to bed). The cold lasted two weeks, but even after it cleared up I still got symptoms like a sore throat very easily if I felt the slightest draught. As a result of this, I decided to try the mindfulness again, focusing my attention on the symptoms -- soreness in the throat or nostrils -- without trying to get rid of them or react to them in any way. Again, I found that the symptoms simply disappeared when I focused my attention on them, just as the tickle in the throat had disappeared (although without the welling up and watery eyes).
The reason for this seems to be that, by getting rid of the normal thoughts and attitudes, we allow the body to heal itself without the usual mental and emotional reactions getting in the way.
From my experience, then, I can delineate three main ways of using the power of the mind on illness:
1. Self-observation, watching your thoughts and feelings to make sure you do not "talk yourself into" getting sick.
2. Using the imagination to play the role of someone who does not get sick (note that this is an act of the imagination, not so-called willpower).
3. Focusing awareness on the symptoms, which allows the body to heal itself without the normal reactions interfering.
Try experimenting with these techniques. Their potential is unlimited.