Healing holistically is not exactly an intuitive process to the Western patient’s mind. I have come up with twelve “keys” that may help to increase your understanding of how holistic healing works.
1. People are an inseparable part of their environment and are affected by it in palpable ways.
Here I am referring to an expanded definition of “environment” to include not just your physical locale but also your diet, lifestyle, emotional life, family life, work life, spiritual life, etc.
In Chinese medicine, we assume that a human being has an internal clock, seasons, and weather patterns which reflect the time, seasons and weather patterns of the world. The external weather can affect our internal weather patterns and therefore, our state of health.
2. There are consequences to not living according to the laws of nature.
When we live according to the laws of nature then we will usually experience health and happiness because we can give ourselves what we need. This means eating properly, drinking enough water, getting enough rest, and protecting ourselves from experiencing extremes. When we subject ourselves to ideas that disregard the natural order, we put ourselves at risk of becoming imbalanced.
3. The body cannot be separated out from the mind, the emotions or the spirit.
This is the core idea behind the “holistic” approach. The word “Holistic” itself is one that comes from the word “whole.” This should give you a very good sense of how we look at the human body, health, and healing.
To say, “my problem is purely physical in nature,” is a false statement from the holistic viewpoint since the body-mind-emotions-spirit is a complete unit. Anything that affects one aspect of the whole necessarily affects all other aspects.
4. To stay healthy, one can choose to adopt moderation as a way life.
We are fond of saying, “moderation in everything, including moderation.” Which means that on rare occasions it may be okay to “go nuts” so long as you diligently apply moderation as the general approach to your life. In holistic healing specifically, moderation is applied to one’s diet, lifestyle, work habits, pastimes, and to every aspect of one’s activities.
5. What we do or do not do in our lives has profound effects on our health and longevity.
It should be pretty clear to most readers that smoking cigarettes has the potential to dramatically shorten one’s lifespan. We can look at this from a much less obvious angle as well. In fact, I insist that my patients do so.
What is it in your lifestyle that is preventing you from getting well? Do certain activities exacerbate your medical condition? If so, why do you keep doing them? Or perhaps you know that there is something that you should be doing, such as eating well, but you just don’t for some reason. In my opinion there is no good reason to continue with behaviors that keep you from experiencing optimal health.
6. Medical conditions and diseases occur when a person becomes out of balance.
Balance, according the holistic viewpoint, means that there is health. Even small imbalances can, whether over time or instantaneously, create changes to one’s health. These changes are usually not welcomed ones. These changes are in fact the signs and symptoms of a medical condition.
Chinese medicine has long established norms for how the human “system” works while still acknowledging the potential for individual differences. It is our job as holistic practitioners to discover the roots underlying those signs and symptoms to help patients understand what lead to the imbalance, and to treat is using this understanding.
The treatments we use in Chinese medicine are always aimed at bringing a greater level of balance to an imbalanced patient. When performed well and with skill, these treatments result in healing and an increased sense of well-being.
7. Restoring balance requires changes on the part of the imbalanced person.
One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. If what you are doing doesn’t provide you with the desired outcome, I would encourage you to look outside of what you already know or have learned in order to seek a new approach.
Holistic healing can occur without the help of a medical practitioner but it cannot occur without the active participation of the patient. The more you “own it” and take action to change your condition, the more likely it is to resolve.
Also, active participation on the part of the patient often results in more rapid and complete healing. Generally speaking, there is no “magic bullet” which will quickly and easily cure the imbalances which lead to medical conditions.
8. Everyone is a unique individual.
Therefore, an individualized approach to healing is required for optimal results. No two people have the exact set of physical realities, experiences, mental capabilities, coping mechanisms, emotional life, education, income, locale, etc.
The way I see it, people are really more different than they are alike. We can certainly see that humans (usually) all have a set of similarities such as having body structures, ranges of motion, etc. However, to say that one person’s case of sciatica is the same as someone else’s is a false statement from the holistic viewpoint.
9. Human beings are complex creatures.
So not only are we all unique in significant ways, we are also very complex beings. Chinese medicine theory and practice allows us to look at the complex human “system” and see discreet patterns emerge out the apparent chaos.
It has been said that the typical Western patient with a chronic disease presents with multiple Chinese medical patterns at any given time, perhaps as many as 3-8 patterns simultaneously! Even for well-trained and experienced practitioners of Chinese medicine, these complexities create the inherent difficulties of practice. However, this difficulty is not insurmountable.
It is precisely because we can identify the complexities in any given case that we can make progress in some cases which have not previously responded to other medical modalities or practitioners. Breaking-down the complexities in any individual is a part of the art and science of Chinese medicine.
10. Complex problems are not commonly solvable with simple solutions.
A good example here might be the American economy. What is the problem with the economy? Is it unemployment? Is it outsourcing to foreign countries? Are the corporations to blame? Is student loan debt to blame? Perhaps the American workforce is too lazy or works too much? What is it that explains the deficiencies in our economy?
The answer is probably all of these factors and many others which weren’t mentioned. You see, this is a complex subject. No one single solution like “forgive student loan debt” will solve the complex set of issues involved. This is as true for Chinese medicine and holistic healing as it is for any other discipline.
11. People have a great capacity for self-healing.
This is a greatly under-appreciated fact of the human experience. Perhaps the erosion of the virtue of patience is to blame, I don’t know. I think that in our society, we have some idea that every solution can and should be instantaneous. For problem “x” take substance “y” and get the result right away.
This turns out to be frustratingly inaccurate when we are talking about healing holistically. One could say that to heal holistically is to heal at the speed of one’s body-mind-emotion-spirit. That is to say, everyone heals at their own rate and that usually it’s a gradual process.
Nevertheless, the human “system” can heal itself and does so every day. Have you ever gone to bed with a headache just to awaken the next day without one? That is you healing yourself. Perhaps you have heard (as I have) that everyone will at some point in their life have developed some cancer cells. To the best of our current understanding, this is a truth. Then why doesn’t everyone succumb to cancer?
The reason is that we are equipped with the capability to deal with cancer cells when they crop up. The problem with cancer (as a medical condition) begins when the person’s self-healing capacity is overwhelmed with the development of cancer cells (for whatever reason). It is then that tumors develop and put the health and longevity of that person at risk.
So long as the person has balance and a moderate lifestyle, they can often deal with these events without extreme outcomes, often without realizing that they are doing so.
12. Sometimes people get stuck in the process of self-healing and need a “push” in the right direction.
Even though human beings enjoy the ability to self-heal (as I have just discussed above), it is not a guarantee that we can heal completely from every medical condition without engaging some outside help.
Your body, mind, emotions, and spirit may very well already be on the job trying to resolve symptoms and in making a serious attempt to restore balance to your system. Unfortunately, we can get “stuck” in this process. Often all it takes is a little push to tip the scales in favor of self-healing.
Chinese medicine treatments such as herbal medicine and acupuncture can help to increase the patient’s self-healing capacity enough to allow their own systems to take over and complete the healing process.