In order to fully appreciate the healing power of meditation, it is important that we understand the spiritual side as well as the physical and mental. Actually, the psyche is one; these three cannot be separated.

Such great leaders of mankind as Gautama Buddha, founder of a religion that has lasted 2500 years and embraces a billion people, have reached their great enlightenment through meditation. The Buddha’s aim was to do away with suffering. Is there anything more healing than to understand the causes of suffering and to be free of them? This is healing in its truest sense.

It is said that the great Yogis who have reached the Liberated State are almost impervious to ordinary illness. A sick Yogi is not a true Yogi. In truth, the spiritually advanced have dropped most of the burden that causes illness. The Buddha counseled that true fasting was not abstaining from eating but, doing without greed, anger and delusion. When the hold of these three is broken, what is there to cause illness, except old karmic debts (reaction to long-past actions)?

Ultimately, all illness has spiritual roots; it is grounded in such things as delusion (mistaking the unreal for the Real) and is nurtured by such things as greed, anger and resentment. The enlightened man’s mind has reached the state of equanimity beyond the debilitating effects of such emotion. The Japanese Healing Church realizes these spiritual seeds that have physical manifestation, and so gets good results. All true healers have done the same.

However, in the long run self-healing is the only lasting healing. We change inside, and the world appears to change around us. We are no longer caught in the violent ebb and flow of the emotions, and we begin to see things as they really are, not through the screens of affective emotion. When the mind is really still, creative and receptive, the joy of being shines through. “To the mind that is still, the universe surrenders,” says the poet. Then we are truly healed.

The spiritual task is an inner one, but the results must show outwardly in our relations to others. If we are at peace inside, we can show love to all beings. When there is turbulence, it spills over to our relationships. We cannot be half-loving and half-hating at the same time.

One of the most puzzling curiosities of our culture is the amount of self-pity in which seemingly well-fed and prosperous people indulge. This is crippling. The author has his students supplant this self-pity with gratitude; the two cannot exist in the same breast. We are not grateful for what we have – which is not lasting and so is not ours – we are grateful for what we are. When self-pity is displaced by gratitude, automatically half our illness is gone.

The author made a trip through much of Japan, staying at the simple Tenrikyo Church centers, and noticed the joy with which these people do every task. Theirs is a hard life, living without running hot water and other modern conveniences, and yet there is a joy pervading life in those centers. The answer seems to lie in their slogan: Joyous Life! They do not mean that you should try to be joyous; they say it is your duty to be joyous, you have no business spreading negative vibrations. This arigatai (gratefulness), with not too many things to be grateful for, is the secret of their joy. These are healthy people, and we can learn much from them.

By doing some of the meditations in this book, one will begin to get insights into impermanence, and the struggle against the lack of the permanent is one of the great causes of unhappiness, worry, and, ultimately, illness. I have a wonderful job, a beautiful wife and two lovely children. We live in a fine old home in a pleasant neighborhood. So I assume I will always have these beneficial possessions in their present state. Although I dimly realize there are accidents, people lose jobs, houses can be destroyed by fire and children go astray, I am certain none of these mishaps could ever happen to me. My status is a permanent one; my wife will always be beautiful.

But is life like that? The Chinese say, “The wise man goes to his triumph like a funeral.” He does not rejoice in his brief moment of good fortune; he knows well that too much yang (positive) can quickly turn into yin (negative). In our world, every day we see people destroyed, not by impermanence, but by their failure to understand and accept impermanence. In 1929, when the stock market crashed and people’s fortunes were quickly dissolved, the answer for many was immediate suicide. This is incredible. It is the result of the failure to comprehend the inevitability of change. “The only thing permanent is change itself,” says the wise Book of Changes, the ancient Chinese I Ching.

When through meditation, we come to realize that joy comes from within and has nothing to do with objects, neither possessions nor lack of possessions, we are already free of the demon of necessity. “I have to have that” means frustration, sooner or later.

When a strong desire is gratified, it is not the acquisition that gives us a short-lived feeling of elation; it is the great emptiness we feel once we are relieved of the apprehension of that desire that makes us joyous – until, once again, the heart runs after something burdensome and we feel, once more, an incompleteness. When Saint John of the Cross said we could have everything if only we want nothing, he was expressing a paradox from which we can learn a great lesson. The “fasting mind” does not push us to ceaselessly acquire; it counsels us to cut down on the acquisitive taste. Two cars, a swimming pool and three television sets hardly equate equanimity to the possessor.

One time an enlightened friend was having dinner with the author. As we were about to bite into the delicious Sachertorte that came for dessert, she suddenly asked, “Can we do without these?” In answer we both pushed the appealing pastries aside. “Okay, we might as well eat them,” was her verdict, graphically illustrating that we can only enjoy what we can do without.

Those who practice holistic medicine well know illness, particularly chronic complaints, cannot be cured through drugs that drive down the fever or act as a palliative to the apparent symptom. “There’s a bug going around,” hardly serves as an explanation for the ills that mankind suffers, or the growing amount of mental illness that crowds our hospitals. Something deeper is needed. Ignoring symptoms (except as indicators), the ancient Chinese attempted to determine if the life force, the Chi, itself was out of balance, too positive or too negative. When this Vital Force was back in balance, the symptoms dropped by the wayside. The author, in the chapter on moving meditation, has shown that such a spiritual exercise as T’ai Chi Chih seems to bring the yang and the yin together and reintegrate the individual – with the results mentioned in the delighted letters received having to do with weight control, asthma, eye trouble, high blood pressure and more. These are very real manifestations, and they seem to respond to the true spiritual disciplines practiced in the various forms of meditation.

Whether one believes or one does not believe, the sincere practice of meditation should bring results. With the life in greater harmony, the ills tend to disappear. And as the ailments leave, a joy is uncovered and we find we get lasting (spiritual) benefits far beyond what we had anticipated from our meditative practice.

This article is published in Meditation for Healing.