Mark Owens is an adventure-seeking animal advocate and PHD scientist who, one day, while searching for grizzlies on his ranch in Montana, was thrown off his horse. The resulting injuries—a broken back and rib cage—would change his life forever.

He had surgery for his back, and his rib cage eventually healed. However, he started experiencing complications from the operation, and for the next nine years after the surgery, he developed extreme chronic pain throughout his back. He was not able to stay on a horse for long before he would experience excruciating pain, let alone journey into the wild, something which used to give him so much joy. He was stressed, anxious, and depressed. Desperate to find a solution, he consulted a few spine surgeons.

Two doctors suggested for him to have another operation which would involve a fusion from the top of his spine to his hips. This meant he would never have full mobility and flexibility in his back again, because the discs in his spine would literally be fused together. But, they explained, it was what he needed to do to stop the pain. It would be a 12-hour surgery. With a 25% success rate. And an 80% chance of further complications. 

At best, he would experience little or no back pain with restrictive movements for the rest of his life. At worst, it could lead to even more pain, with more restrictions on his back or an even more fatal outcome. Either way, Mark realized that he would never go on his much-loved adventurous trips again. He was overcome with sadness, forced to come to terms with living the rest of his once vibrant life with such severe physical limitations. That is, until someone came along with a notion so preposterous that it was either the miracle Mark had been hoping for or the whacky musings of a quack.

But Dr. David Hanscom was no quack…

Dr. Hanscom is an accomplished spine surgeon who believed that while Mark had some disc degeneration and bone spurs, they weren’t the cause of his chronic pain. He proclaimed that Mark needed no surgery at all! He proposed instead that Mark practice therapeutic activities such as expressive writing, forgiveness, and letting go of stress and emotional baggage. (For more information, go to Dr. David Hanscom’s website.)

Mark initially dismissed Dr. Hanscom as an outlier, a doctor practicing unproven techniques backed by wishful thinking results. On the other hand: what did he have to lose? The surgery option would always be there, so what harm would it do to give this insane holistic treatment a try? 

To his utter surprise, within a few days of following the therapeutic program, Mark started noticing an improvement. In around two weeks, Mark’s pain went away completely. Mark had no surgery. In fact, he no longer felt compelled to take the pain medications that for many years he could not live without.

Today, four years later, Mark is his old outdoor-loving self again. He is riding horses up mountainsides, addressing environmental issues, and conducting wildlife research to protect animals (you can find out more about his journey here). He remains completely medicine- and pain-free, with no physical limitations on his movements or back.

Mark is one of numerous case studies that continue to reveal the benefit and healing power we have access to when we release stress and anything else we are carrying mentally in negative ways. 

The Buddha once stated: “Holding on to anger is like holding on to hot coals. You think you’re going to throw it at someone, but you’re the one getting burned.”

Are you still holding on to “hot coals?” Whatever negative thoughts or emotions you are holding on to, however justified it may seem, maybe it’s time to let it go…

Mental exercise:

1. Reflect on a negative emotion you are holding on to. 
2. Where does it reside in your body? 
3. Soften and release tension from that area each time you breathe out.
4. As you let go physically, allow it to be released on other level.
5. Repeat this as many times as you need. You can also continue to relax the rest of your body.