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Integral Medicine -
Script of live talk at IONs SEMINAR
by Marilyn Schlitz

 


This is a time of tremendous cultural complexity. We have this convergence of different worlds, views, belief systems, ways of approaching reality at an unprecedented rate. We now have all of the insight and the power and the prowess of western science, and I mean on the other hand we have access to the world's wisdom and spiritual traditions. These traditions come with their own belief systems, bodies of feeling, bodies of understanding what it means to be embodied. And so what happens when these different viewpoints and perspectives come into contact, is often confusion and it's often conflict and tolerance for difference and when we hold one world view and somebody else holds another it's very easy to think that our perspective is the right one or the only one.

So how do we begin to open ourselves and how do we use our own experience and relationship with healthcare is a way of really looking at and unpacking some of the ways in which consciousness, belief systems, world views permeate all of our life, even when we're not fully conscious of it.

In terms of the history of medicine, there are various pathways. And if you actually look at the history of health here in America, it is characterized by pluralism. Early on before the rise and sovereignty of allopathic, scientific based medicine, was the notion that there were many different paths that people could take in order to alleviate suffering, alleviate pain and at the time when in fact medicine made its move, a lot of these alternatives were pushed aside. They were felt to be ungrounded or unscientific and in many cases they were, in many cases that was true. But we also lost some of the power and potential of the healing arts and the nurturing that comes from these kind of alternatives.

Holistic health then became a movement in the late 50's and 60's as a way of beginning to address the deficiencies we were seeing in the biomedical model. We saw allopathic medicine reign supreme with the advent of public health and the notion that we could eradicate these kind of epidemics, for example. And as we began to see that there was resistance to some of the western quick fixes to those things like cancer and heart disease that weren't as easily fixed by the notion of antibiotics, holistic health began to speed up for the treatment of the whole person.

Then we began to see largely with the trip that Nixon took to China, the beginnings of an interest and appreciation for alternative and complementary medicine. What we saw when Nixon went was one of the members of his entourage being treated by an acupuncturist and suddenly America's eyes were open to the idea that here was an alternative to the kinds of pain relief that we had used in the allopathic model.

David Eisenberg then published a classic survey study where he identified billions of dollars being spent out of pocket in order to purchase complementary alternative practices. So this was stuff that wasn't subsidized by the insurance providers but was really something that people were choosing with their feet, with their pocket books, these were elective strategies. And suddenly this was a wake up call for manly people who were administrators or people who were interested in the market share. Billions of dollars are being spent on these alternatives and they are not going into the allopathic pockets, And so a big part of that motivated the campaign was really economic basis. There was also a grass roots uprising where people were really interested in and passionate about how will we begin to know what works and what doesn't and so the Office of Alternative Medicine was created through the National Institute of Health. That then grew in its power and potential when it became a national centre for complementary and alternative medicine. So this said that our government was beginning to appreciate the importance of alternative and complementary medicine and also to recognize that science was an important way of knowing and validating some of these claims that were made in that field.

The move toward integrated medicine was really where we began to see the hospitals bringing these complementary practices in and often times it's like a big umbrella and under it you find little smatterings of lots of different things, without a deep immersion. So for example, if you go in and you want to get acupuncture treatment through your HMO you're not really getting the full appreciation of the philosophy, you're getting a piece here and a piece there and you're being asked to mix and match. And that's really what integrated medicine looks like today.

We find it in most of the major medical centres, we find it is something that has been very important in helping to bring these ideas into healthcare. But what we're asking in terms of this integral medicine is that we cast a wider net and a deeper net. We're really interested in trying to recover some of the fundamental issues about what happens in these complementary and alternative practices,the nature of human caring and the sense that we are whole beings, body, mind, spirit, society, culture, environment. It's the position that we articulate in the book Consciousness and Healing and I think that this book speaks to a couple of things. One is it speaks to the emergence of the field and there are 66 contributors to this book. This means it's not just one person or one institution that's advocating this kind of change, but really represents a whole group of people who are beginning to speak to an alternative viewpoint.

I also think that it speaks to the coming of age of this perspective. Elsevar Press is the largest publisher of medical texts in the world so this says that there was a place for this kind of conversation within the mainstream. And in fact we sold this book on one phone call to the publisher, so not only was it of interest, they were eager to participate. So this I thinks speaks to the change that we're talking about. It's a shift from a disease oriented model to a healing oriented model. It's a shift from something that is about treating the symptom, treating a crisis to something that is about prevention and again the whole system. So this integral perspective requires a deep examination of our core assumptions and the role of healing. So I think one of the big things that we're going to talk about is the notion that we do need to look within ourselves and observe our blinders of what is possible for us in terms of our own health and healing.


Many one time patients can insist that disease can be a wake up call. So one of the things that we find in the context of this integral perspective, is a meaning centred approach that disease, illness, wellness all have meaning systems associated with them and so one of the things we need to identify is our relationship to the meaning of health and illness. Again when we think about the set of nested relationships and consciousness as a set of dynamic relationships, the notion of our interpersonal connections and the consciousness that comes in our context of being with one another we find in a number of significant studies . A paper in the American journal of sociology showed 88% of married men live to 65, 63% of never married men, and 69% of widowed men live to that age. Well this was really interesting it says something about the healing capacity of being in the right relationship.

The statistics are similar for women but not as striking. 92% of married women and 81% or never married women live to 65 so there's something particularly insulating about healthy relationships for men but it's equally true for women. One of the recent findings was that one of the reasons that women may on average be healthier than men is our capacity to have intimate relationships, like girlfriend talk, the ability to communicate with the girlfriend about what is truly meaningful, what is deeply disturbing, what is most profoundly inspiring. We talk that way women do. Men often talk about their golf par, so it's one of those things that I'm talking about from a socio cultural perspective. And also there's the difference between masculine and feminine and male and female and we need to make that distinction.

Ken Ornish who is known for his work on diet and nutrition speaks about the number one predictor of health, and it isn't diet or exercise, it isn't anything to do with the biochemistry of our bodies, it has to do with the healthiness of our relationships and how much we feel a meaning centred context for our lives. And this just doesn't mean romantic relationships this means interpersonal relationships. We find it in the context of the epidemiology of spirituality . People who participate in a religious or spiritual practice are on average healthier than people who don't.

When I thing about consciousness I see it as a nested set of relationships. Healing encompasses many facets. The consciousness of the body, the fact that our bodies have an enormous capacity to self regulate and that they have intelligence that is innate. In particular, the relationship between the mind and body becomes fundamentally important. C Edward Cooper was the former general surgeon of the United States who wrote there's no question that the things we think have a tremendous affect upon our bodies. If we can change our thinking, the body heals itself. So how do we really begin to bring this idea of the consciousness of the body and the consciousness of the mind body as a system and a relationship. Don Johnson who is an expert in the areas of somatics writes, 'a practiced intimacy with the body cultivates an intimacy with the cosmos itself the natural world and the great works of evolution'. So when we think about this intelligence of the mind body it's something far greater than our own encapsulated self. It's our relationship to a bigger more dynamic emerging whole which is our relationship to the cosmos.

Dr. Marilyn Schlitz
IONS Vice President of Research and Education is Dr. Marilyn Schlitz.
http://www.shiftinaction.com/discover/teleseminars/marilyn_schlitz/frontiers_of_integral_medicine
Her recent book Consciousness and Healing, highlights the pioneering work of some 60 leaders in the field, has proven to be a cross-over success, reaching into both professional and lay audiences.Marilyn's research has been featured in the New York Times, LA Times, and most recently ABC News. In this teleseminar, you'll hear about state-of-art advances in the practice of medicine and the paradigm shifts that underpin them.