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The Mind-Instructor Clinic, London, England treats a variety of neurological disorders including spinal-cord injury (SCI) and dysfunction. Developed by clinic director Hratch Ogali, the program’s underlying philosophy of consciousness-driven healing is difficult to explain with conventional, body-focused, biomedical concepts and must be described more through the mind-body-spirit healing wisdom inherent in many of the World’s older healing traditions.

Let your mind go and your body will follow – The movie LA Story (1991)


Although Hratch stresses rigorous strengthening exercises like other rehabilitation programs that are emerging for SCI, the program’s foundation is based on a shift in patient consciousness. He catalyzes and reinforces this change, from the defeating “you will never walk again” and other negative, recovery-inhibiting attitudes that are deeply imprinted in consciousness after injury to a positive “Yeah, I will do it.” When this new attitude is embedded with conviction in our consciousness - the captain of our ship - the physical body starts to follow.

Hratch’s role is catalytic; he is not the healer but metaphorically the force that opens the prison door allowing the patient to step through if so desired. Patients heal themselves, starting from the deepest soul level.

Then, demonstrating the neuronal adaptability (i.e., plasticity) scientists now believe is inherent in all, Hratch speculates that nascent neuronal growth commences, dormant neurons turn on, and new neuronal connections are created. Regardless of the specific intervening physiological mechanisms, Hratch believes that physical healing stems from the healing in consciousness, which is then reinforced through aggressive physical rehabilitation. According to Hratch, most patients who have persevered with his demanding program have accrued additional function, sometimes subtle but life-enhancing and sometimes dramatic.

Over the past year, Hratch’s program has received extensive press attention in the United Kingdom and also was the focus of a recent Discovery Health Channel documentary Miracle Steps featuring Christopher Reeve.

Much of this media attention has revolved around Gemma, a 19-year old woman who sustained a complete cervical C2-3 injury when she was seven in an auto accident. After treatment by Hratch, Gemma can now initiate movement with effort in much of her body below the injury site for the first time since injury, including standing and taking up to 20 steps.

As expected for such an unconventional, consciousness-directed program, the British SCI biomedical establishment has been skeptical and dismissed Gemma’s progress as a development that may have occurred anyway. In Miracles Steps, Gemma succinctly responds: “Medicine didn’t make me take a step; this guy did.”

Given my PVA-supported role to explore therapies that expand the SCI-healing spectrum, Hratch invited me to visit his clinic and observe first hand his approach. Over four days, I watched him treat people with SCI and a diversity of other neurological disorders, including ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and rare developmental disorders in children, such as adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a myelin disorder featured in the movie Lorenzo’s Oil. Hratch has treated over 50 individuals with SCI, as well as many with multiple sclerosis (MS).

A Different Perspective

Age 55, Hratch is of Armenian descent who grew up in the Middle East before immigrating to England as a young man. As a severe dyslexic, he finds in-depth reading challenging. Demonstrating once again that many disabilities are the source of strengths, Hratch’s perceptions on disability come from a different view of the universe than conventionally trained doctors and scientists, who acquire much of their knowledge through reading texts and journals.

Denied traditional sources of knowledge, Hratch’s intuitive insights that evolved into his program came from 14 years of extensive contemplative meditation. Although Western science eschews such a process for acquiring knowledge, ancient-based cultures embrace it as the only effective way for obtaining higher-level insight (e.g., Native-American vision quests, Indian yogic experiences, early Christian mystics, etc).

Perhaps reflecting the inner peace that accrues from such cumulative meditation, Hratch has a gentle, almost sage-like attitude when interacting with his patients. He treats them with love and develops a seemingly soul intimacy that creates the connection needed to generate healing in consciousness.

Hratch’s Clinic is located in the heart of London, several blocks from Sherlock Holmes’ Baker Street and a mile from Buckingham Palace. In a setting conducive for fostering spirit-driven healing, the clinic is housed in a former presbytery for the attached St. James’ Cathedral.


As a biochemist who was for many years a senior National Institutes of Health (NIH) official, I once embraced, like most of my colleagues, a mechanistic model of healing that essentially viewed the body as a summation of parts - whether they are molecules, cells, or organs. Under such a model, consciousness has no role.

Although the scientific community traditionally disdains mind-body-spirit healing, in a-rose-by-any-other-name fashion, has grudgingly acknowledged a more scientific-sounding discipline called psychoneuroimmunology, which, to some degree, conceptually represents the same thing:  i.e., how attributes of consciousness (such as emotions, attitudes, etc.) affect health.

Although I have often de-emphasized esoteric healing concepts of consciousness in this series, Hratch’s program is so anchored in them that discussion can’t be avoided. Hratch himself states that it is difficult to describe what he does: “there is no description that you can give to what takes place; it will always seem mystical and mysterious. Yet to me, it is a simple calculation of the mind and the brain working under instruction to create change.”

The Role of Consciousness

The role of consciousness or mind in healing has always been troublesome for scientists. The famous 17th century French philosopher René Descartes framed the contemporary debate on the subject by stating that everything under the sun consists of either res cognitas (i.e., consciousness, mind) or res extensa (i.e., physical matter) (see  November 5, 2004 Science magazine for discussion).

Unlike neuroscientists who tend to equate consciousness with brain chemistry and biology, many alternative healing traditions view the brain more from Descartes’ perspective; specifically, the brain is merely the body’s physical processor for consciousness. Under this view, although possessing a good processor affects your overt intelligence, and although outward expression of consciousness may be a function of processor’s neuronal synaptic connections, etc., it is not the site of your consciousness anymore than your big toe. 

With such beliefs, even if the brain is damaged from severe head injury, stroke, ALS, MS, or Alzheimer’s disease, the consciousness is always whole and complete, and, relevant to Hratch’s work, possesses the blueprint memories of our able-bodied selves that can be accessed for healing.

However, all the disability-related negative attitudes and emotions that may have been picked up interfere with accessing these healing blueprints. Like burrs sticking to Velcro, these beliefs are difficult to eliminate and, unfortunately, often are imposed by our medical professionals. Sometimes, it is called “hanging crepe,” as in a funeral. For example, when learning that they have only six months to live, cancer patients often die after that time period because an authority figure has imprinted that expectation in their consciousness.

For SCI, the imprint is even deeper because it is based on medicine’s cumulative historical experience for the disorder and not the ever-growing possibilities of the future. Patients are told that they will never walk again and any thoughts otherwise will just prevent them from getting on with their lives. That is a tough, deeply imprinted sentence that must be surmounted to have significant physical healing. It is like trying to push a car in one direction (i.e., healing the physical body) when the steering wheel (i.e., your consciousness) is cranked in another direction. Any healing modality will work better when the steering wheel is turned in the right direction – basically, Hratch’s goal. 

According to Gemma, in addition to busting apart the pervasive you-will-never-walk-again attitude, Hratch made her “deal with a lot of painful memories and remember how it was to move.” As Gemma watched her siblings and friends move on with their lives, her resentment and dislike of herself grew; she notes, however, Hratch “made me like myself again.”

In Miracle Steps, Ogali summarized his approach: “I basically teach natural wisdom - how the mind, body and spirit work together; what kind of power we possess; what kind of creativity we possess; how we can use that creativity to activate, bring to life, to create something new. And when the mind becomes free, the mind is capable.”

He adds, “The mind is all spirit. Spirit remembers everything, including how it built the body; it knows.”

Mind Instruction

A key program element is a guided meditation session. Because the session’s purpose is to establish a one-on-one communion of consciousness between Hratch and patient, I did not observe them; however, I had my own session.

Although I have meditated for years, I have rarely gone into a deeper, trance-like state. It is in such a receptive state that Hratch begins the process of breaking up the negative belief patterns that inhibit physical healing. To help further germinate these nascent seeds of consciousness, such sessions take place periodically.

Reinforcing these private sessions, Hratch continues his mind instructions in the more routine physical-therapy sessions. Gemma’s father Mike felt that such a bond had been created between his daughter and Hratch that he felt like an intruder when present. I often felt the same way in my observations.

Furthermore, Hratch’s soothing mind instructions frequently spilled over into my consciousness. As he encouraged patients to relax muscles, I was soon nodding off. This reaction became ridiculous when I nearly dropped my coffee after Hratch gently instructed Alan, a C2 injury, to relax his severely contracted left shoulder. I was told that Hratch’s soporific influence on observers was common. Given such a bystander effect, I suspect its effect on the patient -the target of the instructions - is substantial.

These mind instructions, however, are of relatively limited value unless the patient carries out extensive daily, reinforcing breathing, meditative, and mental-concentration exercises, which are individually tailored to help replace the old thinking with the new healing paradigm in the patient’s consciousness. Although uniquely developed by Hratch, meditative breathing exercises are, in fact, a key component of many Eastern-healing practices, such as qigong and scalp acupuncture.

Energy Work

In addition to his consciousness-influencing efforts, Hratch views himself as a hands-on, energy worker, a concept discussed periodically on this website. He believes that we are all fundamentally electromagnetic beings who are a part of or connected to a greater electromagnetic universe; this electromagnetic relationship can be used for healing.

Hratch claims to tap into our ubiquitous electromagnetic universe and then “activates the brain …by penetrating the magnetic energy of patients, who instantly feel some sort of sensations in their legs and feet.” This gives Hratch a sense of the patient’s residual function, which he then exploits and builds upon through further energy and physical therapy. Hratch states: “If you have one-percent function, you can have two percent” …and so on.

Physical Therapy

Although Hratch’s mind instruction is carried out on an ongoing basis, much of his program involves intense physical exercise and conditioning. At this point, his once empathetic persona turns into a bust-your-behind, motivating coach. Although his clinic contains a variety of standard strengthening and rehabilitation equipment, Hratch emphasizes conditioning on a semirecumbent hand and leg cycle and the use of a body-supporting hoist for walking efforts.

Hratch believes that SCI-associated spasms should not be suppressed but exploited to stimulate functional recovery. With this belief, patients are encouraged to gradually wean themselves from spasticity-controlling medications, which Hratch views as reducing the body’s sensitivity to the mind’s healing instructions.

Overall, this program requires a substantial effort commitment. In addition to carrying out time-consuming, discipline-requiring, mind-instructor exercises, the program requires considerable physical work. Although Gemma’s functional recovery was dramatic given her injuries, it required many months of dedicated, focused work that pushed other activities to the background.

Physiological Explanations

In spite of the program’s radical nature, scientific findings are, to some degree, consistent with Hratch patients’ functional recovery. First, neurophysiological assessments show that most clinically-classified complete injuries have some intact, albeit perhaps dormant, neurons running through the injury site. Second, studies indicate that only a small percentage of working neurons are needed to have fairly substantial function. Third, the spinal cord and interacting neuronal networks are physiologically much more complex than originally thought, suggesting the function-stimulating integration of different neuronal systems above and below the injury site. Finally, a number of aggressive rehabilitation programs have triggered some restored function in individuals with chronic SCI, including the late Christopher Reeve.  All these findings suggest possibilities on how Hratch’s program, which taps into the patient’s will at the deepest level, restores some function


Although difficult to explain from a conventional biomedical context, this Mind-Instructor program reflects healing wisdom embraced by mankind through most of history until modern medicine’s emergence. Even if modern medicine acknowledges the role of consciousness through disciplines such as psychoneuroimmunology, it is ill equipped to assess its healing potential.

Specifically, medicine’s most powerful analytical tool - the randomized double-blind, clinical trial - is worthless for measuring the healing effects of consciousness. For example, what would be a standardized dose of consciousness and what would be the placebo? Hence, consciousness, perhaps the most powerful component in our healing armamentarium, is off the radar screen when it comes to science’s preferred way of looking at the world.

Most of us, however, intuitively understand that our consciousness, will, or mental and emotional attitudes affect the outcome of whatever we strive for, ranging from athletic performance to rehabilitation. Given such understanding, little of Hratch’s mind-influencing, soul-motivating, function-restoring program is truly radical.


Mind-Instructor Clinic: 11-12 Manchester Mews, London W1U 2DX, Phone: 011 44 20 7486 0202, www.mindinstructor.com.

Hratch Ogali's book My Mind My Master, which further explains his healing insights and approaches, can be also obtained at this site.

To obtain the Discover Health Channel documentary Miracle Steps, which focuses on this program, contact: Advance Medical Productions, 307 W. Weaver St., Carrboro, NC 27510, Phone: 919-933-3553, www.advancedmedical.tv.