LIFE IN BALANCE
Part 2. It’s All in Your Perspective
by Elena Greco
LIFE IN BALANCE is a multi-part series exploring health–what it is, how to get it and how to maintain it, easily and naturally.
Typical reading time: 9 minutes
In the first part of this series, we learned that health is balance, and that to be healthy, we need to learn ways of keeping our balance, physically and mentally, in the midst of life’s many challenges. So the next question is ….
How do we maintain balance? That’s a question that’s not much addressed in our pharmaceutical-driven, mechanistic healthcare culture.
And that’s because our current Western medical paradigm addresses the body as a sum of parts, and health as a lack of symptoms. It treats illness rather than promoting health, really quite the opposite of true health care. It does not reflect the need for balance. It does not offer us healing.
So what is healing? Sometimes in the middle of the challenges of life, we lose our balance. We get sick, or our vitality wanes, and we have trouble finding our footing again. If we lose our balance, we need to heal. For purposes of this series, I’ll use the word healing as “the act or process of regaining balance and vitality.”
To heal, we need to learn and master the art and practicalities of regaining balance—that is, ways to counteract challenges to our balance. But first and foremost, we need to be able to listen to our own bodies and minds through self-observation and self-awareness so that we know exactly what is going on with our health before problems arise, and particularly if they do. We’ll talk a little further on about ways to enhance that listening.
Healing requires a knowledge and awareness of one’s true nature and needs, something that is sorely lacking in the world today. Healing requires thinking on a much larger plane than that which is required to fix the body as if it were a machine. I hope to help you become aware of how to use that perspective to your advantage.
Our innate wisdom is a big part of what allows healing to occur. You might think of it as your higher intelligence. Please let me explain. I’m not referring to a spiritual belief. There is an intangible “intelligence” that exists in all things. It is what makes flowers grow and rivers flow. It exists in us, too; it makes our cells replicate, our thoughts bubble up and our dreams occur. When we stop breathing for the final time, it leaves us. Even Einstein acknowledged this inner intelligence.
When we align ourselves with this innate intelligence that is available to each of us, healing—or health—is possible. Without doing so, it is not. Why? Because this intelligence “knows,” and inexorably flows toward exactly what is needed to restore balance, or health. Think of how a dog or cat will search out and eat a particular grass or herb when they are ill. What in them knows what they need? That is what I mean by higher intelligence. You might it instinct, but while cats and dogs are unfazed by current trends or prejudiced by the paradigm they’re born into, we humans, bombarded from birth with bad health intel, are not. We have to re-learn that particular instinct.
Healing is allowing the potential inherent in your higher intelligence to be made manifest. I believe that any healing that does occur as a result of a health-related intervention occurs due to a respect for this particular intelligence.
Fear is inherent in the Western allopathic medical paradigm because it encourages the belief that your health is beyond your control—that is, that you are at the mercy of external forces, germs and disease, and that you must rely on others to protect you from them.
I want you not to have fear when thinking about your health. I hope to offer you a more helpful view, and offer information and food for thought to draw from in creating your own palette of healthcare tools. Healthcare is a lifestyle and a practice, not just a treatment for illness.
Accepting responsibility in our own healing is crucial. Most people today are so steeped in the current mode of healthcare, in which they are led to believe they are a passive recipient dependent upon a practitioner or drug to save them, that they are not used to taking responsibility for their own healing. Sometimes we want so much for someone else to have the answer or solution. It’s okay to ask for help; we’re all entitled to that. And healthcare professionals are helpful when we need them, and sometimes we need them. Just remember that the ultimate answer comes from inside of us and so does healing. And that includes our innate ability to view information wisely and make decisions for ourselves.
In addition, the majority of the health problems that plague our country are chronic illnesses. Allopathic medicine has dismal results with chronic disease. These are lifestyle-related and cannot be “cured” by Western medicine. The cause of chronic disease is often a multi-systemic one. If treated solely with drugs to relieve symptoms, the cause of the illness will continue to erode the health of the individual, sometimes causing far more serious symptoms than the symptom that was removed with the sledge hammer of pharmaceuticals.
Why is there so little health and healing? People in our culture are taught to look outside for solutions and to think mechanistically. Many have no idea how even the basics of their own body and mind work! Notice the proliferation of health-related articles online, each of which seems to promote a new gimmick, and which are targeted at people who are looking for someone to tell them how to be healthy.
There is a health perspective, on the other hand, which supports you in being fully aware of the workings and needs of your body and mind, aware of what you need to retain and regain balance, and in being fearless in supporting your health. Knowledge is power! Read on to learn more.
Allopathic Medicine. The current Western paradigm of medicine and healthcare is allopathic. That refers to the treatment of symptoms with drugs, radiation and surgery, and the viewpoint that the human body is simply a collection of parts to be repaired and that symptoms should be suppressed. This is a rather limited view which can sometimes help or harm us.
I’m not saying that allopathic medicine doesn’t serve an important function; it absolutely does. I don’t believe in excluding anything from my palette of healthcare tools. If you have a broken leg, you had better find an orthopedic physician to set the bone. If you get run over by a bus, you might need surgery to repair damaged organs in order to recover.
I would like to see allopathic techniques used within the context of healing, rather than used from the viewpoint of only looking at symptoms and parts, as if the human being were a car in need of repair, excluding other methods.
Western allopathic practitioners sometimes denigrate the use of non-Western substances or practices because they’re not “scientific.” There are different ways of determining if something has efficacy—that is, that it works—and whether it is safe. The scientific method uses hypotheses which are challenged through experiments, the data and results from those experiments determined and recorded, and the experiment replicated by others.
But there are other ways of determining efficacy and safety, such as through studies and through recorded history of long-term use. If, for example, an herb has been used for a specific purpose for five hundred years, and if records have been kept of its use and positive results, and there is no record of anyone having been harmed by that herb, we can assume that it is safe and that it works. That is no less scientific than studies which are used in the realm of psychology, which simply record data of results either as observed by the researcher or self-reported.
I’m not “for” or “against” the Western allopathic medical approach when used judiciously. But it’s important to recognize that there’s a time and place for everything, especially in healthcare, and that having a closed mind to all but one healthcare method is not likely to lead to an intelligent or balanced approach. There are other viable viewpoints, and it’s a good idea to explore them.
Additionally, allopathic medical treatment geared only toward removing a symptom usually or often causes harm, even if the symptom is relieved, since the cause of the symptom still exists but can no longer obtain expression through that symptom. The expression of the symptom is our body’s way of informing us what we need to heal; it is how the body speaks to us. The cause of the symptom will continue to erode the health of the individual until it is addressed, sometimes causing far more serious and/or permanent symptoms than the one that was suppressed.
Ideally, the allopathic practitioner would recognize that they are only applying a Band-Aid by treating the symptom, educate their client about this, look for the cause of the symptom, and provide or direct the client to the context for healing that will give the client results that truly create health.
Creating and sustaining health requires thinking on a much larger plane than that which is required to fix the body as if it were a machine. Most Western practitioners—including doctors, psychotherapists and others—are unaware that they are not seeing the whole picture, and so do not realize that what they are doing is not healing, and that what they are doing can even cause harm or prevent healing.
So what else is available? One really excellent way to keep yourself in balance is by familiarizing yourself with one of the healthcare methods that promote balance. These systems represent a different paradigm than that of allopathic medicine. There are several that you’ve likely already heard of, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Holistic Medicine.
Ayurveda is not only one of the oldest healthcare methods we know of, going back thousands of years, but possibly the simplest in its perspective. Ayurvedic physicians in India must complete a four-year intensive school, just as our Western allopathic physicians do, and their training includes surgery. Non-medical Ayurvedic practitioners (the most common in this country) are certified through various programs. And the easy-to-learn basic principles of Ayurveda can be learned and employed by lay people in their everyday lives to great benefit.
A method possibly more familiar to Westerners is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which grew out of Ayurveda. In theory and practice, TCM is in many ways similar to its parent, Ayurveda.
I should point out that the best place to learn about these and other non-Western healthcare methods is not through a Western allopathic medical site. Some of these websites’ descriptions and claims about these healthcare methods are laughable in their disinformation and lack of understanding of these practices. I recommend learning about Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine or other healthcare systems through beginner’s books about these practices written by established and knowledgeable practitioners of those methods.
Holistic Medicine. The holistic health paradigm takes the whole person into account and addresses root causes of imbalance or symptoms. It views the totality of the person and their life and encourages vitality and resilience.
Holistic medicine or holistic healthcare sees the person as a hologram, with each part and each influence contributing to and affecting the whole. Environment, the physical body, mental tendencies, emotions, and circumstances are considered, along with symptoms and history.
An allopathic practitioner who is treating your hand pain is interested only in your hand. A holistic practitioner is interested in everything about your life that might possibly intersect with the hand pain. The holistic practitioner also knows that their treatment ultimately has the potential to affect all of you, not just your hand.
Integrative versus Alternative. Western consumers, realizing that something is missing in traditional allopathic medicine, have for the last few decades been looking at alternative therapies for healing. And in order to remain viable financially, doctors and insurance companies have begun to incorporate alternative therapies into their treatment.
Consumers are attracted to these therapies because they seem more respectful of the body and are more connected to nature. They instinctively know that these alternatives are less harmful, even if used within the allopathic paradigm (using an herb to suppress a symptom in the same way a drug is used to treat a symptom is still allopathic medicine).
Language is important. People throw around words that they’ve heard like “mindfulness,” “meditation,” “alternative,” “integrative” and “holistic” without realizing that they don’t understand what they mean. That’s unfortunate, because those who could benefit from those things are led astray by seeing those words used incorrectly in the media so that they come to assume that the incorrect meaning is the correct one. So I want to be very clear about the language I use to talk about health.
Alternative medicine. Alternative refers to the substances or practices used, indicating that they are not traditional Western pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. Health practices that we tend to think of as alternatives, such as herbology and acupuncture, are more natural alternatives to the allopathic drugs-and-surgery, symptom-relief-only approach, and those alternatives are usually safer than pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. The important thing to consider is how these alternatives are being used.
Integrative medicine is not a health paradigm, but a practice which combines alternative remedies and practices, such as herbs and massage, within the particular healthcare method being used, usually Western medicine. For example, using a substance which is not a pharmaceutical drug or an intervention which is not a surgical technique in an allopathic manner is called integrative medicine, and it is still allopathy. If the use of a substance does not take the whole picture of the person into account, and if its goal is only to alleviate a symptom rather than addressing the cause or trying to help the person regain balance, it is still allopathy.
Be aware that alternative therapies, whether used integratively or on their own, can be used either in an allopathic manner, i.e., treating or suppressing symptoms, or in a holistic manner, i.e., treating the whole person and helping them to regain balance. It’s important to make a distinction between those two ways of using alternative products or methods, because the results can be very different. Again, it’s a matter of perspective: are these alternatives being used from an allopathic or a holistic perspective?
How do you know that someone is healthy? Rather than being free of all symptoms at all times, a healthy person has vitality. And by vitality, I mean that the person is animated and strong. Those who have vitality have a glow in their skin and eyes. You can see their vitality in the way that they speak and move, and sense it in their very presence.
As healthy and vital people, we will encounter influences that destabilize our balance in the midst of our lives—illness, injury, trauma, relationship issues, loss of job, for example—but we will regain our equilibrium relatively quickly, never venturing too far out of balance. Being healthy means being able to weather the inevitable ups and downs of life, along with the unpredictability of human nature, and remain relatively in balance and able to function well in the midst of it all.
What is your current health perspective? I’m going to describe a more holographic way of viewing your health that will have a significant effect on your ability to keep yourself healthy and vital, and to stave off illness and aging, a simple method that anyone can follow to keep themselves healthy. But first, I recommend that you take a look at your current perspective around health and healthcare.
The first thing you might consider in looking at healthcare is what health paradigm you were born into. Just as some of us are born into a particular religion, we are born into a certain health paradigm that is prevalent or accepted in our particular culture or country. When you’re born into a paradigm, you are taught to accept it before your brain has matured enough to make an informed decision (roughly age eighteen). Things that we’re born into are much tougher to escape from or to change later in life. For example, people who are born into a certain religion often have a difficult time if they leave it as an adult. Although they have intellectually made an informed decision to leave that religion, something that was imbedded at an early age can still sometimes cause them discomfort. The same can be true for any paradigm that is enmeshed with our culture, and that includes healthcare. And just as a fish can’t see the ocean because it was born into it, we sometimes can’t see the paradigm we were born into.
The second thing you might consider when thinking about your healthcare is what your current perspective or view of health and healthcare is. Do you see the body-mind as a machine that needs fixing in a mechanistic manner, that is, from an allopathic view? Or do you have a holistic view of health, one of a synergistic interplay of environmental forces and our unique body-mind that can be enhanced and supported?
The third thing you might consider, regardless of which paradigm you decide is better for you, is what external forces interact with the information you receive and imbibe. The first question here is cui bono—who benefits. If a drug company is advertising their product at you, it’s obvious that they want to make a profit from the drug, and of course that colors the way they present it to you, so you might not be gullible about the information they present. But it’s not always obvious what the benefit might be, and to whom, with regard to the health-related information we receive from the media. For example, maybe the person offering the information has the right letters after their name, perhaps they’re a physician, academic or scientist, but perhaps they also own stock in the product they’re recommending, something you realize you might not know. How do you view the information then? There are always forces at work that we’re not privy to, especially when large entities are involved, such as corporations or governments.
Since we can’t always know who benefits or might have a vested interest in health-related information or products that are recommended to us, how do we process this information? Do we blindly accept it or blindly reject it? Do we consider what is being presented, and maybe do a little research of our own, reviewing trusted sources—a quick and easy thing to do with the internet at our fingertips? And do we then put what we’ve heard and learned against what we know and believe about health and come to a conclusion?
The fourth thing to be aware of is that what determines your health paradigm is your perspective, i.e., whether you view health from a mechanistic, symptom-suppression, allopathic view or from a holistic view that supports the health and balance of the entire organism.
In the last segment of this series, I asked you to think about what “health” meant to you. Now I’d like you to think about your chosen view of healthcare. Is it allopathic or holistic? Were you born into your beliefs, did you imbibe your beliefs from those around you or through the media, or did your beliefs evolve through your careful examination, study and logic?
Regardless of your current chosen healthcare paradigm, are you willing to learn about other ways of seeing healthcare? Do you have curiosity about the possibilities they might offer? I invite you to open to ALL ways of looking at health and healthcare in order to choose your own mode of healthcare wisely.
Read Life in Balance: Part 1 here.