Your body is an incredibly complex, dynamic system. Mind and body are not separate entities as we have been led to believe. They are opposite ends of the life continuum and they need to be experienced this way. For how you think is at the core of tapping into the kind of vitality and aliveness that fuels charisma. Does this sound like some old wives' tale or one of those 'growth techniques' that urges you to 'smile in the mirror every morning and think positively'? Far from it.
What I am talking about is hard core science. The latest research in one of the most exciting fields of scientific study taking place today, psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), has a lot to tell us about charisma. PNI has begun to quantify scientifically a lot of the things which we as human beings already 'know' somewhere deep inside but which, as a result of the mechanistic paradigm or world view implicit in our Western 20th century culture we have all but forgotten. PNI studies the complex bi-directional interactions between the central nervous system and the immune system. Leading researchers in the field such as Dr. G.F. Solomon at the University of California, have discovered that the human mind (which includes our conscious thoughts, unconscious impulses and our transcendent or superconsciousness as well as our emotions) is elaborately interwoven with all the functions of our bodies via nerve pathways and chemical messengers such as the endorphins, intestinal peptides and hormones. A hormonal-nerve relationship exists between endocrine glands such as the pituitary (the master gland regulating the actions of all others), the adrenals (which deal with stress) and the hypothalamus which is called the hypo-thalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. It links thoughts and emotions with physical responses. This may sound complex and high faulting but what it all means is simply that how you think, feel, the way you see yourself, how you respond to the world around you powerfully influence the levels of vitality you experience, how slowly or rapidly you age, and whether or not you resist infections from colds and flu to the viruses behind such conditions as AIDS and ME.
Despite a proliferation of articles, books and television programs for popular consumption which speak of the body as the 'human machine', in reality it is nothing of the sort. Use a machine a lot and it wears out. Use your body a lot with respect for its needs and it only becomes stronger.
Leading edge research is also amassing evidence that through our consciousness we are linked via extremely complex energetic interfaces both with other living organisms and with planet itself. Becoming aware of these interfaces - connections which are now being mapped by brain researchers, biologists and high level physicists - can be fascinating. Coming to make use of them is another highly subtle yet tremendously potent and exciting aspect of living with charisma.
Throughout history the basic unity of mind and body has formed an integral aspect of man's belief systems and healing practices - from ancient Egyptian medicine and Ayurvedic medicine (the oldest known system of healing in the world from India) to Chinese Medicine, homeopathy and spiritual healing. But, during the eighteenth century and especially from the onset of the industrial revolution this awareness was largely replaced by a dominant paradigm or world-view which sees man as a blend of mechanism and egotism. A world-view is a dominant way of looking at reality which remains unconscious in a culture but which tends to govern the judgments one makes whether large or small. Ours holds first that all phenomenon in the universe, even life itself, are nothing more than a complex yet ultimately explainable series of chemical and physical reactions, second that differences between organic and non-organic life are only in degree, and finally that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. This mechanistic paradigm has been useful. It has enabled us to study and organize experience scientifically and it has been responsible for our technological development.
But no matter how useful, every dominant paradigm has its limitations. Ours for instance has led us to ignore the organic interrelatedness of nature in favor of the notion that it is man's task through science and technology to 'harness nature' for his own ends - the results of which we are having to wrestle with in the increasingly unstable weather conditions, the dangerous thinning of the ozone layer, and unprecedented ecological disruptions so serious that many believe they could herald the end of human life on the planet. Our mechanistic world view has also contributed to a sense of human alienation which is expressed in our art and our literature and in our destructive social behavior. Now however our dominant paradigm has begun to explode around us thanks to findings in high level physics, PNI and the new biology. Energetic links are being established between the inner and outer world of man and the complex nature of interactions between consciousness and material reality are being mapped. The scientists and the philosophers now know that a mechanistic world view is no where near big enough to explain reality. As a result, new world views are rapidly evolving all of which, strange as it may seem, can play a powerful role in the development of charisma, in no small part because they enable us to break down the barriers of the self-limiting images each of us hold. (How often does one think thoughts such as, 'Oh I could never do that' or 'I am too small... too stupid... too afraid.) Coming to terms with them may seem a long way from deciding what kind of lipstick you wear or how you look after your hair and skin yet an understanding them can lead to as great an expansion of self-expression in those areas as it can in how you think, dream, behave and choose to direct your ambitions.