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Partners in Healing: Mind, Body and Prayer
Dr. Larry Dossey

Dr. Larry Dossey is the author of seven books and is the executive director of the journal Alternative Therapies. He is a former practitioner of internal medicine with the Dallas Diagnostic Association and chief of staff at the Medical City Dallas Hospital, and he co-chaired the Panel on Mind/Body Interventions, Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institute of Health. As a boy Dossey suffered from migraine headache. Later, as a young medical student, he sought out biofeedback treatments to relieve his symptoms. So began his fascination with the relationship between the mind and body.

"There are simply scores of very well designed experiments out there that show, in ways we can't completely explain as yet, that prayer has a positive effect on the state of the world and living organisms, not just human beings. So this is a great challenge, and a great opportunity, to bring the power of thought and intention and compassion and caring and love into the healing process.

"If you look at these studies, one of the things that is so dramatically apparent is the role of love and caring, because if the individual who is doing the praying in these experiments doesn't have this feeling of genuineness and compassion, these experiments don't work very well, and often they fall flat. This is in alignment with the perennial wisdom in the history of medicine that love is really important in what goes on between doctor and patient. These studies in prayer and healing bring this out. It's a lesson we desperately need to relearn.

"Medicine has become so cold and remote and technical and so divorced from human feeling, that patients are hungry for a return of these qualities to healing. If you can bring the need for this together with good empirical science which shows that it's valuable, we have no defense any longer for not doing this.

"I think most people who are sick and go to a doctor could care less about whether or not love is documented scientifically to have an effect. It just feels right for most people, and that's the end of the discussion. But if we want to have an effect in the way that medicine is practiced in our culture, we better go through science if we can. If we can bring science into the mix, and we can ally it with our spiritual and intuitive qualities of thinking and being, we're going to be healthier human beings as a result.

"There has been a gradual divorce of spiritual and religious thinking from science for well over 150 years. The most dramatic split came over the theory of evolution when religion and science really came to blows in the Western cultures. It isn't written in stone that you can't get spirituality and science together. We made that up. That's a cultural assumption, and we're in the happy position now of being able to bring these things together. I predict that is what is going to happen, and we will look back at this historic period and say, 'How did we get it so wrong?'

"For most folks, we can say that nobody's cornered the market on prayer. This is important for our time because this democratizes and universalizes prayer. It says that prayer is an activity for which there is no formula. It belongs not to specific religions and techniques and strategies but to the entire human race. One can show that love and genuineness, compassion and authenticity, feeling it in the heart, is probably the most important factor of all.

"One of the promises of prayer is, there is some aspect of who we are that's beyond space and time, that's immortal and eternal, and it's highly therapeutic for people to be able to get in touch with that. It's particularly consoling during moments when we're facing death, or a loved one is facing death. When you compare that with the findings that diseases do have a way of responding positively to that kind of impact, then we should be using this in medicine. We should make a place for this."

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Larry Dossey, M.D.
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Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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