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Some Thoughts on Immunity
by Jim Brinkley

Have you had your flu shot yet? This flu season is predicted to be one of the worst in many years. At work we were all offered flu shots but unfortunately, the person who was supposed to order the vaccine forgot to do so. Now the supplies are exhausted and the drug companies cannot make more because it takes four months. By then the flu season will be over. Even if we had the vaccine, apparently some of this year's prevalent strains of virus are not included. What if we are exposed to one of those? Without the vaccine, what are we supposed to do now?

Well, that depends on your view of what causes flu. Western medicine teaches us that a virus causes flu. Students of Huna understand that in fact neither viruses nor bacteria actually cause disease. There are several valid reasons why many physicians think they do. There are many controlled studies showing that these organisms are present in the bodies of people with certain illnesses. When these organisms are eradicated with anti-viral drugs or antibiotics, the people get well. However, this does not mean that the organisms were the cause; only that they were a vector. In other words, one cannot have viral influenza without the virus but the virus is not the cause. Huh?

It is late afternoon on Christmas Eve in a corporate office suite in Chicago. The building is old but the suite has been upgraded and the conference room is beautifully paneled with dark woods and equipped with every modern convenience. A Christmas tree has been placed in the corner and its multi-colored lights twinkle gaily. A dozen employees are gathered around the conference table. They are waiting for a consultant who is scheduled to make an important presentation. She is late.

The conference room is cozy and warm and because of the steam heat of the old building, quite humid. Outside a blizzard is raging and several inches of snow have already accumulated. The employees are anxious to finish the meeting and to get home to their families for the long holiday weekend. Finally, the consultant arrives. Even though she removes her coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and boots, the rapid change from the cold, dry air outside to the warm, humid air inside provokes a fit of sneezing and coughing. Everyone realizes that this unfortunate young lady is quite ill. Everyone would like to postpone the meeting but her presentation is critical to an important project scheduled to start immediately after the holidays.

Someone thoughtfully moves to the wet bar where there is a microwave and brews a cup of hot tea; then places it beside her at the table. She nods gratefully and takes a sip. She then begins her talk. It takes an hour. She is well prepared and well mannered but her upper respiratory infection forces her to make frequent interruptions. She takes a small box of Kleenex from her briefcase and keeps it readily at hand but a sneeze frequently takes her by surprise and before she can cover her mouth, she inadvertently sprays virus-laden droplets throughout the room. Finally, she finishes her presentation. It has been excellent and will be of great help to the employees with their project. Two of them help our poor consultant on with her coat, escort her downstairs, and hail a taxi for her, so that she can go home to bed.

A week later, the same employees are scheduled to meet in the same conference room to begin definitive plans for the project. Only two are missing. They are home in bed with upper respiratory infections. The other ten are all present and feeling fine. Why is it that only these two became ill, even though all twelve were equally exposed? It was not their proximity to the consultant; one was seated close by, but the other was on the opposite end of the room. It was not that they were facing her; several others were more directly in the "line of fire" of the viral-laden droplets. Why then did these two, and these two alone, become ill when all were equally exposed?

I have told this story to, and asked this question of, many people. Some were trained in western medicine, some were trained in complementary healing methods, and some were not involved in healing at all. Yet, their answers have all been virtually identical:

"They were more susceptible."
"They didn't have antibodies against that virus."
"They had weaker immune systems."
"Their defense mechanisms weren't as strong."

In other words, the folks who became ill had a relative lack of immunity; they were relatively immune deficient. So, it is not a virus that causes flu, it is the immune system's inability to deal with the virus. Viruses and bacteria are ubiquitous. They bombard us all on a regular basis. Yet our immune systems deal with them and prevent us from becoming ill.

What then, causes our immune systems to let us down? Obviously, there can be many factors. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, toxins such as cigarette smoke, and certain genetic deficiencies are a few obvious ones. However, in recent years western medicine has been discovering something that shamans have known for thousands of years; namely that attitude influences the immune system. Laughter has indeed been shown to boost immunity, as has positive outlook, prayer, a spiritual nature, and strong religious involvement.

In other words, our outlook on and our attitudes about life affect the strength of our immune systems. Our thoughts influence our health. One's health, like one's world, is a reflection of one's thought. The world is what you think it is!

Years ago, I would develop at least one serious URI ("cold") each winter. I endured the runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, fever, and aches just like almost everyone else. These symptoms often caused me to miss school or work for several days. In the nearly two decades I have studied and practiced Huna, I have missed only one-half day of work and that was during a time of very high stress from very real and obvious sources. Although I occasionally begin to develop cold symptoms, I am able to minimize them and usually abort them within 24-48 hours. How?

All physical symptoms are messages from your subconscious that something is not right. Remember, your subconscious instinctively moves toward pleasure and away from pain. When faced with two painful alternatives, it will choose the least painful one. Since your subconscious is your body-mind, it communicates with you through the use of symbolic bodily changes. If you are facing a stressful presentation at work or an important exam at school and your subconscious is fearful about the outcome, it may decide that the unpleasantness of being home in bed with a cold is much less painful than showing up for the exam or presentation.

If you heed the symbolic warning from your subconscious and stay in bed, you will recover. If you do not heed the warning, you may worsen or you may recover transiently and then develop a different illness with more powerful symptoms. When you stay home in bed with the chicken soup, hot tea, etc. you are not only pampering your body, you are also removing your subconscious from the threat of the painful idea or event. If you use the time at home to better prepare for the exam or presentation, you are also making the idea or event less painful to your subconscious and therefore removing the impetus for it to produce bodily symptoms as a means of symbolic communication.

Most of the Huna healing techniques are based on the idea that removing the fear (or anger, or sorrow, or guilt) that motivates physical symptoms will result in their disappearance. How do you do this? First you (the conscious, deciding you) need to get in touch with your body mind (the subconscious, feeling you). There are many sophisticated techniques used by the trained shaman to do this. They include using a pendulum, casting, and guided meditation. There is also a very easy way that can be used by anyone. It is as simple as talking to yourself. Sometimes when you talk to yourself, you are simply debating a decision. In this case, the conscious you is speaking with itself. Both sides of the conversation will be devoid of emotion. Your conscious mind is simply viewing each side of the question.

However, when the conscious you is communicating with the subconscious you, one side of the conversation will be rational ("head") and the other will be emotional ("heart") (or as the Hawaiians believed "gut"). A good way to begin to get in touch with your subconscious is to give it a name. I use my middle name to refer to my subconscious body mind, whereas when I state my first name I mean my conscious, deciding self.

So when I begin to get the sniffles, a little scratch in my throat, or some vague aches, I know it is time for a conversation with my subconscious. I usually wait until the end of the day, when I have some quiet time, even though the symptoms may worsen during the interval. I do so because I want to impress upon Roy (my subconscious) that I am serious about the discussion, that I recognize his needs and his FUDS/RAGS (fear, uncertainty, doubt, stress/resentment, anger, guilt), and that I am giving serious thought as to how best to meet them while still meeting the needs of me; i.e., of my conscious deciding self caught up with the every day responsibilities of living.

I remind Roy that if we can just get through the day, or the next few days, or the week (depending on the circumstances) and that if we can just focus on the demands of the outside world for a little longer, there will be a payoff for him. For our example above, this might mean convincing your subconscious to go ahead and cram for the test, to pull an all-nighter to prepare the presentation, or to follow through with whatever demands your external reality has placed on you.

Recall that your subconscious is your body mind and that it seeks pleasure. As you become more in tune with it, you will know what sort of pleasurable reward will induce your subconscious to cease its symbolic message of the cold symptoms for as long as necessary. For many, some special food will do it. For others, it may be a time to relax on the beach, a symphony concert, a massage, a good movie, or a bouquet of flowers. Whatever it is, it will appeal to one or more of your physical senses. Once the task(s) at hand is (are) completed, it is important to follow through with the payoff in order to build trust, loving cooperation, and ease of communication with your subconscious.

Does all this mean that flu shots have no value? No, it does not. Modern western technologically based healing works by changing the physical status of the body. We remove and/or replace diseased parts (e.g., appendectomy, renal transplant), attack invading life forms, (e.g., antibiotics, anti-viral agents), prevent invading life forms from succeeding (e.g., vaccines, condoms), enhance the function of failing organs or tissues (e.g., heart medications, glaucoma medications), eliminate diseased out-of-control cells (e.g., radiation, chemotherapy), or in some other way work with the physical body. We work on that aspect of reality defined by separation.

Shamanic and other faith based healing systems work by changing the thoughts that cause the physical changes (e.g., affirmations, blessings) and/or by modulating the emotions that reinforce those thoughts (e.g., guided imagery, symbolic posturing). We work on those aspects of reality defined by reflection and connection.

These two approaches are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary and synergistic. Your subconscious mind will be impressed by the fact that it is important enough to you to avoid or reverse the symptoms that you have decided to undergo discomfort (a shot), expense (medication), or other intrusion into your life. Therefore while you are training your minds (conscious and subconscious) to dwell on thoughts of what you want rather than on thoughts of what you fear, go ahead and take the flu shot and if necessary, the aspirin. Remember, effectiveness is the measure of truth. As we are motivated by pleasure, knowledge, and love, it is easy to determine one's level of effectiveness at any time by reflecting on the amount of these qualities in your life. The more effective your life is, the stronger your immunity will be.

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