Holistic Medicine by Alan Steinfeld
To become familiar with holistic medicine, it is important to understand some of the central ideas upon which this practice is based. Dr. Yeshe Donden, the physician to the Dalai Lama of Tibet, has said: "Health is the proper relationship between the microcosm, which is man, and the macrocosm, which is the universe. Disease is a disruption of this relationship."
Holistic medicine looks at the whole of one's life. Health and disease are byproducts of all aspects of one's life: nutrition, career, mental frame, family and social activities and spiritual life. If one area is weakened, all areas begin to suffer. If a person is unhappy at work, it will affect all other areas of life.
Disease Versus Illness
The word "disease" defines itself: Dis-ease means-not at ease; the inability to be at ease or relaxed. The name of a disease is usually a label that conventional medicine uses to identify the site of a problem, like tonsillitis, an inflammation of the tonsils. In alternative medicine, illness is sometimes viewed as something that affects the whole body, not just some of its components. Curing a disease means fixing a part, whereas healing an illness involves the whole person.
Resolving illness may require people to make significant changes in their lives. Illness may offer people a chance to examine issues and conflicts in their lives that they might otherwise have ignored. From this perspective, illness can be viewed as an opportunity for growth and personal development, rather than as a problem.
Symptoms are the body's response to illness. Fever is a response to infecting bacteria and viruses. If the fever is reduced too quickly, the body's natural mechanism is thwarted, and the immune system is weakened.
The word symptom is Greek for "signal." A symptom is the body's way of saying "Help." It is like a light on the dashboard of a car that illuminates to warn that something is wrong. In holistic thinking, the source of the symptom is investigated so that the condition can be addressed. As a result, the symptoms will disappear.
Many illnesses today are "lifestyle" illnesses, caused by addictive consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and junk food. It has been proven that toxins in our food and in our environment contribute to the majority of illnesses in most of the United States and Canada. These conditions fragment our body, mind, and spirit. Albert Einstein said that you can not solve any problem from the same level of reasoning that created it. In order to heal, you must change the way you feel.
The results of many recent studies indicate that emotions significantly influence the immune system. Dr. Candace Pert, formerly with the National Institute of Mental Health, found that neuro-peptides, chemicals within the brain associated with feelings of anger, sadness, love, and hate, are also present in vital immune system organs. This suggests that there is a connection between emotional states and immune response. Similarly, depressed patients often have elevated levels of cortisol, which can suppress the immune system. Dr. James Gordon, head of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, says that the anatomical connections are indeed apparent and that we are hardwired to respond physically to that which affects us emotionally.
Many illnesses are self-limiting, meaning that they pass on their own. Alternative medicine recognizes this fact and believes that health usually occurs spontaneously when conditions for health exist. Therefore, once you become ill, getting healthy again requires the same input that is needed to keep you healthy.
Dr. Leon Chaitow, Doctor of Naturopathy and Doctor of Osteopathy in London, says: "To regain health once it has been lost, we need to reverse some, and ideally all, of those processes which may have negatively impacted us. This includes taking responsibility for stopping those lifestyle choices which we know are harmful, whether this is smoking, alcohol, or drugs." Chaitow explains that "our bodies know what we need as long as they [are kept] healthy. Once we begin to take responsibility for ourselves and our bodies, health will follow naturally and spontaneously. We must look at changing our diet, getting exercise, and keeping away from toxic substances."
"Biology is the study of the larger organism, whereas physics is the study of smaller organisms." - Alfred Whitehead
Basically, mechanism sees the world as a machine, a ticking clock that is winding down. Life is an anomaly in the universe, "a glorious accident," a term coined by neo-Darwinist Stephen Gould, who refers to consciousness as merely a “trick of swollen neurology.” (Pollack, 2000)
The new paradigm, however, is really a resurrection of the old view of vitalism that says life defies material explanation. It recognizes life as an intimate part of creation, a natural extension of a mysterious inception that has now brought creation to contemplate itself. This has been called wholism. Fractals, holograms, complexity, and chaos theory are ways of explaining our interconnectedness. There appear to be organized hierarchical systems which at each level of complexity possess properties exhibited by their parts in isolation. At each level, the whole is more than the sum of its parts and yet each part contains the whole.
For instance, it appears that when matter organizes into cells and organisms, it develops properties of life that are not based simply or directly on physics and chemistry. This is a radical shift from the old paradigm, which views life and the universe as a machine, to that which sees the world as an organism, a single, whole, living being (Smith, 1989). Life is not a matter of survival but is predicated on a deeper unknown essence, motivated by complexity and a growing awareness of self and others.
The next step, beyond our recognition of our wholeness, is the reaching out into the unknown to transform the planet into a greater system of organization in a greater realization of our most vital potential. This is the essence of evolution. The highest form of holistic medicine is connecting people to their destiny.