Symptoms: back pain, chest pain, cramps, hot flashes, difficulties on the job, unsuccessful romantic relationships — indications of a disease, a disorder, an “issue.” Or are they something more, something deeper? Every symptom reflects a disconnection from ourselves, our community, our Source. Each is a way of saying something is wrong … pay attention! A symptom is an opportunity, a call to action. It’s a signal that you are up to something — maybe even something big.

However, the symptom is not the actual problem; it’s only a sign. The nature of the symptom is the result of a confluence of factors, from genetics to environment to unconscious triggers. It rarely, if ever, is the root of the difficulty. In fact, while the symptom gets your attention, it usually directs you away from the real issue — protecting the tender soft spot in you that is afraid to change.

For example, back pain may be about your shoulder, left brain, or even prosperity. A problem in your shoulder may reflect difficulty with your hips, relationships, or repressed sexual energies. Unsatisfying relationships may mask issues with fitness, abundance, or your digestive organs. Although various theories correlate body parts with particular issues (i.e., shoulders with burdens or responsibility, knees with willpower, or lungs with grief), each individual has his or her own patterns, and it’s best to determine the individual meaning for each presenting pain or life challenge.

Dealing with the presenting issue rather than the underlying matrix of causation often results in unsuccessful treatment of pain and of physical and emotional health conditions. It also often leads to ineffective resolution of relationship, prosperity, or lifestyle issues.

Susan, 33 years old, had suffered with chronic health problems for years — chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and stomach problems. She had dealt with anxiety since adolescence and had long-standing patterns of overwork and many disappointments in her love life. She had lived with these things so long she couldn’t remember which came first — her anxiety, her health problems, or her unhappiness.

In addition to traditional doctors, Susan had tried chiropractic, biofeedback, psychotherapy, and a nutritionist. While each approach brought her some relief, “within a short time,” she says, “my illness always returned — sometimes worse than before. I was so frustrated, and I was afraid that I would have to live like this forever. My life became more and more about illness and limitation and less and less about the things that mattered most to me.”

“ Finally, I got help to change my relationship with my illness, in fact, with everything in my life. I used energetic tools and a process that integrated them with workable principles of change to help me accept that the more I resisted my physical or emotional problems, or made up stories about how they would persist and eventually completely disable me, the worse things got. I stopped focusing my attention on everything I didn’t want and learned to shift my energy to support what I wanted in my life. I also learned to recognize the underlying issues and change the energy patterns associated with them.”

“ Much to my surprise, after years of struggle and intensive treatment, it was so simple. I learned to recognize when something made my energy feel weak — my stomach would seem to drop and get heavy, and then I would think about circles in order to shift it. I also thought about circles when I felt pain or anxiety, and that helped me feel better … often immediately. After I did that, I found I could consciously think about things that made my body and mind feel lighter — things that made me feel happy. Although I had tried different things before, even with hypnosis, I was never able to do them consistently or get lasting, significant results like I do now. I stopped being so attached to how good or bad I feel. I became less judgmental about my family, myself, my life — even my pain. Not only has my health and anxiety improved — everything in my life is better. My work life is more balanced, and my relationships are better — especially the one with myself. I spend time nurturing myself and my spirit and enjoy my life every day!”

Susan’s story illustrates that how you personally define a health problem or life issue can either lock it in or cause it to manifest. There are also stories of people wrongly diagnosed with a fatal illness and given a short time to live. The symptoms they were experiencing worsened, and they died in the time projected. Unfortunately, the autopsy revealed that they never had the illness — they seemed to die from the diagnosis itself. Their energetic patterns may have been influenced by what the doctors said, what they believed about the illness, the collective consciousness of others with the illness, or a genetic predisposition to pessimism or depression.

Vibrationally, energetically, and telepathically, we absorb deep-seated fears and beliefs. Our vibrations attract like vibrations, and while this may result in dire consequences if we attract negative vibrations, we can also consciously create our desired reality by attracting positive vibrations.

Let’s experiment with this right now. Think about having discomfort in your chest. Label it a “heart problem.” Remember the things you’ve heard or read about heart disease — the Number 1 Killer. Think about relatives you may have lost to heart disease, the process of aging, and the sense of hopelessness this may arouse.

Focus on how your energy feels in this scenario. It’s probably not too good. You can imagine how it might affect your mood, performance at work, and relationships with others if you continued to focus in this way. It could interfere with your ability to sleep, affect your stress hormones, impact your immune response, cause your blood pressure to rise, and actually make you more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease.

Now, try a different approach: think about experiencing some discomfort in your chest. This time, however, make no judgments about it. You know that this could be a sign of a problem and decide that you will get it checked if it persists. In the meantime, you don’t make any assumptions — you don’t define it, label it, or create a story about it. You are aware that you could have strained yourself at the gym, slept in a funny position, or eaten something that wasn’t good for you. You decide to be appropriately watchful and to use this discomfort as a reminder to assess what is going on in your life — am I exercising properly, eating and sleeping well, taking care of my heart and connections in a deep way? Am I loving myself, giving and receiving love, and nourishing my spirit? You don’t judge anything you discover in this exploration; you simply use it as information to guide your thoughts and actions.

How do you feel when you think about this situation? Does your energy feel more comfortable, lighter, stronger, more integrated? Coming from this vibration, you are in a much better position to take care of yourself at all levels of body, mind, and spirit. You can open yourself to the deeper realities underlying the situations you’re dealing with in your life.

As you learn to assess your energetic patterns — simply what makes your energy feel stronger or weaker, more or less integrated and coherent, lighter or heavier — you can address the factors underlying those patterns. When you pay attention to these deeper correlates, you’ll see your mental, emotional, and physical symptoms disappear, and your life issues will resolve. You’ll come more into wholeness and experience greater connection with yourself, in your relationships, and with your spirit.