| 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
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.