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Prayer, Meditation, Faith, & the Placebo Effect

It's been exactly three years since I went under the knife for the first time to have a cancerous tumor removed from my face. The first procedure was going to take about 7 hours. I didn't know it yet at the time, that there would be a second emergency surgery that would be an additional 13 hours. I was pumped for it. I really put myself into a strange state of mind. I was looking forward to it. In a sick way I was excited to see what I could put this body through. It was a defense mechanism that maybe I had learned in the Marine Corps, as there is nothing natural about doing what Marines do, at least not my opinion. I believe the mind has to be reprogrammed, in order to go against its nature. I flipped the switch, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

One of my doctors was a female, and she was telling me how she liked my attitude. We started having a conversation about the placebo effect. She was explaining that when a person is very sick but believes they are going to get better, they will often get better, while that when a person that is not so sick but believes they will not get better, will often not get better. And it wasn't an anomaly that could be racked up as just being a coincidence, she explained to me that it had better results than just about any medication. It worked like magic. Scientist can't explain it, but they most certainly can measure it.

I had some time to ponder on that before I went under. At the time I was sort of an atheist, but probably more agnostic. I didn't know, and I liked thinking about stuff that I can know, or at least study, if I couldn't study it, it didn't interest me. For the most part I rarely thought about the afterward, I was more concerned about now, and learning as much as I can while I'm here. It got me to thinking about faith, and that maybe there was something more to it than just random accidents. When measuring the placebo effect, something is happening. It can be measured as not being random, and isn't that really what faith is? When one believes something is going to happen but they can't really prove it? In many ways faith is a lot like the placebo effect.

I got through the first surgery fairly easily, but when I came through, I was told I had to do another one, and that I only had one day in between to heal. I'd be back under soon, and I had to mentally prepare myself. Which was not possible. The second surgery was above and beyond the strangest and hardest thing I've ever lived through. I had to have two blood transfusions, and have my carotid artery removed and then replaced by a vein in my arm. It was a 13 hour procedure, and I was not super confident going into it, as I was still in rough shape from the first surgery.

I remember I had a lot of people praying for me from different churches, even the Buddhist Temple in Reno did a chant for me. I was happy they were doing it for me, but to be honest I didn't really believe in that stuff. During the second surgery and the next two weeks in the ICU it was like I was between worlds. During the surgery I was aware but I was not me, I could hear people's prayers, and the chants, it was like I could hear everyone rooting for me to make it. It was very strange, and when I awoke in the ICU came the pain. I was on machines doing everything for me, breathing for me, feeding me, and a high fever that wouldn't go away. Those two weeks were very strange, and I'll just leave it at that. I was part here, but a part of me was somewhere else.

I did become religious after that experience. But I'm not the type that's going to blast that. I'm not about telling everyone, "Hey you are a sinner, change! change! change!" "My way!" And to be honest I don't believe in any of that. That way of thinking makes me cringe to be honest. I believe we are like caterpillars going through a struggle so we can become what we were meant to be, something even more beautiful. My religion allows me to be around like minded people that also want to grow. I like to pray and meditate, and my beliefs allow me to do that. When I pray that is me talking to God, or the universe, however you want to look at it. When I meditate, that is me listening.

No matter what you believe, and even if you believe in nothing, isn't it strange that we are all here, in it together? Here we are. How wonderful is that? How crazy is it? A universe that evolved from millions of years ago, so we could have this moment together. The moon perfectly the right distance to appear the same size as the sun that is much further way, exactly how it needs to be so we can all be here. Saturn with its strong gravitational pull, to pull away large objects that might come here to harm us. Or the asteroid belt? So perfectly in place like a force field. The odds are astronomical. They are beyond winning the lottery. The odds are more in line with winning the lottery and then winning it again and again and again, everyday for the rest of your life. Imagine that for a second. It's hard to not think that something might be going on behind the scenes.

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