Integrating the Language of Holistic Health

Language has been shown to be formative in the development of culture and societal as well as individual perspective.  To learn a language means not only to be able to make and use sounds, alter sentence construction from what is natural for you, but also to be able to completely shift your perspective on life and all that it includes.  It seems that medicine and healing systems may also act as a language of their own, shaping how we view health, disease, our bodies, and if and how healing can occur.

photo credit: Susan Noyes Anderson

In mainstream thought the body is often viewed as a set of separate structures.  If you have digestion issues you see a GI doctor.  If, as a woman, you have menstrual issues you see an OB-GYN.  Fortunately, doctors have begun to establish more of a cooperative relationship amongst each other, allowing for more problem-solving to occur in their joint efforts to help the patient.  Previously, this separatist view greatly confined diagnosis and treatment.  With the advance of integrative medicine and complementary and alternative medicine gaining scientific recognition, doctors, patients, and researchers alike have been recognizing the interconnectivity of the body and thus the interconnectivity of their practices.

Though this separatist view is slowly morphing into a more cohesive and inclusive view of the body, the view of health is still lagging in this regard.  Mental health is not necessarily correlated with digestive health and vice versa.  The coffee you drink three times a day may not be at all connected the with heart, liver, skin, stomach, or muscle issues that you have.  With a separatist view in place, the communication and influencing connective pathways that are recognized seem to take on more of a role of a highway between entirely different worlds.  The stomach is one world with one language and the brain is another with an entirely different one.   The food you eat is either “healthy” or “unhealthy” in a one-definition-fits-all view because, after all, you only have one stomach and yours is the same as everyone else’s.  But what if your stomach isn’t just a separate world?  What if it’s interconnected with the rest of your body in a very integral and real way?  One-definition-fits-all, size 4, please!

Other medical systems hold a more holistic approach to the body.  According to Ayurvedic Medicine, your body is a unified, interrelated whole.  Proper digestion is pivotal for proper health because it directly influences subsequent creation of the “tissues” of your body.  Mental ease is significant because worry or any other sort of imbalance will undermine the functioning of one of the primary channels of the body which influences the functioning of all the rest of the channels of the body.  Furthermore, health is a daily practice which simply integrated into everyday life will, over time, result in the presence of “wholesomeness” of the body, mind, and spirit.  This “wholesomeness” is the definition of the aim of Ayurved, which further defines health in many ways but ultimately as the balance of the three biological energies, or doshas, of the body.

Reiki, likewise, recognizes the presence of and use of energy for healing.  It is not possible to explore or practice this form of healing without acknowledging the interconnectivity of the body-mind and this with the world around us.  Even more so than Ayurved, which holds that man is a miniature replica of the universe, individual health is interconnected with the happenings and state of the world and all things in it.  These views of interconnectivity greatly alter the view of health, the body, and healing, leaving much more to ponder, explore, and research.

Each medical and healing system is like a plane, a transparent map, which can then be laid one on top of the other as we step back to consider and interweave them all.  They have many overlaps and each is just as important in seeking, defining, and providing routes to health.  Allopathy, Ayurved, Reiki, TCM, Chiropractic care, Naturopathy, etc. all have their place in health care.  It is up to us to integrate them and to bend our minds to walk in each other’s shoes and unleash the joy of learning each other’s languages.