Leslies Philosophy on Health and Healing

Leslie’s Philosophy of Holistic Health
Leslie Stangler
St Catherine University

Foundations for holistic health and wellness studies accentuate the importance of the mind, body, and spirit connection when it comes to health, illness, and well-being. I discuss the role of the healer-patient relationship with respect to Curanderismo. I will explore the new role of healer and patient. I will then discuss social activism with respect to Yoga teaching.  I will then share my views on illness, health, and healing as it relates to energy imbalance and consciousness. I will go over important topics such stress, which are contributors to disease and as well as discuss ways to heal from such imbalances. I will emphasize Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and integration of these healing modalities into the current Western paradigm. I will briefly discuss the importance of love and mindfulness practices, the power of thought or intention, and CAM’s ability to heal in a conscious way. The intent of this paper is to explore different ideas revolving around the current paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is a significant change or acceptance by a majority of a changed belief, attitude, or way of doing things of any discipline or group (dictionary.com). The current medical paradigm shift is from that of unconscious healing to conscious healing. I am first going to talk about the healer-patient relationship then onto the new role of the healer and patient.
There needs to be connectivity and focus on the mind, body, and spirit in the healer-patient relationship. All persons undergoing healing must have an understanding of restoration and bringing equilibrium back to the mind, body, and spirit for healing to take place. This can happen in many different ways; to change the thinking patterns to a positive mind-set, to allow relaxation to take place, and to let go of what does not serve you. This requires the healer-patient to build a foundation for a relationship, which makes healing possible. Healers must allow the patients to be as they are, “It is the most destructive powers of modern medicine to undermine people’s beliefs about how they are” is said by Andrew Weil. If people are feeling great, whether they had a disease than let them feel great. Patients are people, doctors are people, we are all people. Many naturopathic, Curanderismo, homeopathic, and Ayurvedic doctors build relationships with the patients. Healing is much more effective when there is a relationship between the healer and patient. It is a team approach for healing to take place where people can be supportive of each other’s wishes. Essentially, we are each-others’ teacher and healer.
The new role of the healer is to experience healing first hand, so they can teach from their experience. Healers are the one’s who give healing meaning. Healers may help patients in a way that is selfless, empathetic, and from the heart. “Service is not a technique; it’s a way of life” (Ramen, Rachel, 1996. pp. 134). Life is a mystery full of wonderful and not so wonderful times, but the heart is what connects us all. We share one common characteristic, that we are spiritual beings living this human experience. The healers are to help bring balance back to the patient and help to relieve suffering. Health and well-being is a constant for those who practice healing on an everyday basis, and this is what the healer needs to be teaching the patient if they have not already figured it out for themselves. Sometimes the patient needs to hear it from a professional for motivation and guidance. The healer needs to remember to put passion and love into their work for there to be integrity, compassion, and good-will. Everyone needs a little push in the right direction. Healers are helpful by bringing CAM therapies to the patient’s understanding to help mitigate their imbalances and suffering. It is the healer’s responsibility to educate the patient in making better lifestyle choices for health and well-being to take place. The healer needs to take their time to get to know the patient inside and out by asking questions, understanding their imbalances, and getting to the root of the problem. It’s interesting that imbalances may be from soul loss. Soul retrieval is the relief from such an imbalance, according to Curanderismo, which leads me to the topic of Curanderismo.
There is much to learn and share amongst the various cultures within the healing community. Healing with a Curandera does not separate the soul and spirit from the body, it is medicine and spirituality practiced simultaneously (Elena Avila, 2000. pp.19-25). Curaderismo is convenient and uses what is useful and available in an intuitive and creative way, by using herbs, counseling, massage, light work, faith, soul retrieval, ritual, psychotherapy, spiritual cleanses, and much more (Avila, 2000, pp. 17). This is what can be done for most people to heal. It is important for the healer and patient to start with the cause of the problem and for the patient to become more active in their own care. The Curandera will work with the patient for some time, preparing the person by strengthening the aura before performing the soul retrieval ceremony (Avila, 2000). Next, I discuss the role of the patient.
It is necessary for the patient to take responsibility for their health, to listen to their intuition, and know their bodies well; to know when it is time to go in and see a doctor or when to stay home and rest; and when to use biomedicine and when to use CAM. Healing for all starts within each person, because healing starts at home.  The healer can only suggest so much to fix a person; the bulk of the responsibility is within the patient and their lifestyle choices.  If we make healing a priority, by integrating CAM, energy healing, and holistic modalities into our everyday lives we can minimize the need to see a doctor and create balance in our lives, physically, mentally, and energetically. In many cases, doctors spend little time getting to know the patient, which leaves the patient alone to heal on their own. Thankfully, there is CAM and many more ways to prevent and treat illness. The healing community is full of healers and patients alike who seek holistic healing modalities. To share the knowledge they have amongst one-another, which leads me to the next topic, I will discuss the healer as activist.
A healer acts as an activist through sharing holistic healing modalities such as touch, intention, and prayer. A healer is to lead by example, through written and spoken language, and to promote beneficial health and healing practices. An activist is someone who goes out into the public and makes a difference in the lives of many by promoting healing within the community. I have chosen yoga as a practice for healer as social activist. Yoga means to yoke or unite the mind, body, and spirit through moving meditation and breath awareness.  I can reach many people through yoga to teach gratitude, self-love, compassion, and stress reduction. We have the power to lift everyone up through higher consciousness. It is a powerful practice to pray that all beings be happy and free from suffering, a time-less intention. Yoga brings balance into our lives. To bring balance within the body, mind, and spirit is a way to prevent illness.
To know what illness is you must understand what it isn’t. Illness isn’t a state of balance, in which your life is defined by purpose, freedom, growth, and joy, because that is what health is. Illness is a sign of imbalance, it is your body’s way of telling you to make changes. (Christiane Northrup, 2001. pp. 430). Illness is inevitable in life, just like death. Illness may happen when we lose sight of our personal needs for nutritious foods, human connection, stress reduction, and so forth. Illness does not mean the absence of health, the two coexist. They are in duality with each other. We may thrive in one area of our lives, and lack in another, but with effort to bring equilibrium to our lives we may sustain perfect health. There are natural biorhythms or ebbs and flows that happen within each person throughout one’s lifetime, alternating from perfect health to illness. Health can fluctuate frequently, as does pain and pleasure. “Health is a dynamic energy flow that changes over a lifetime, with health and illness coexisting” (Micozzi, 2011, pg. 69).  By realizing this, we can prepare for illness or death, and grow to appreciate them, for there is no life without death. To surrender to this amazing existence, where illness and death are imminent. Joan Halifax recommends meditation as a form of letting go to any attachments to health or life, and begin practicing death right now. (Halifax, Joan. pp. 61). Furthermore, illness can be attributed to the stagnation or imbalance of energy, for disease is essentially the result of impairment of the proper balance of yin/yang, which causes obstruction of the flow of qui throughout the body. (Kusinitiz, Marc, 1992. pp. 23-24). Many things may create imbalance in our lives. Stress is a major contributor to imbalance of energy in the body, mind, and spirit. Often times, stress manifests itself as illness, which leads me into the next topic. How stress has its implications on health.
Constant stress may be the greatest contributor to ill health and imbalance in the body, mind, and spirit. The popular saying says it all; “Stress kills”. We become more susceptible to illness when stress is overwhelming us. There are many reasons people become sick and many forces working against us. We deal with stress on a psychological and physiological level.
Our aging worldview has become one of secular materialism, unrelenting technological innovations, information overload, social isolation, and others are forcing us beyond our ability to cope individually, collectively, biologically, and ecologically. It has also created fragmentation, polarization, stress, trauma, resource depletion, and materialistic saturation. (Shift Report, 2007, p.20).
Many times, ‘less is more’ for increased well-being. Less stress and food will automatically increase the odds of having good health. It is possible to live a healthy life by simplifying life, or cutting out stressors. Stress reduction techniques are necessary to find a healthy balance and relieve stagnated energy. Relaxation, deep breathing, energy healing, and love are all ways to alleviate stress related illness. The first thing affected by stress is the ability to deep breath. Stressed people have a shallow breath. If the breath is deep and consistent, stress may not be an issue anymore. With every deep breath the ability to expel carbon dioxide or toxins has increased, thus increasing oxygen intake and feelings of well-being. Secondly, stress needs to be accompanied by energy healing. With so much stress in our lives healing should be a daily priority. For energy healing to be effective, the person needs to relax, because energy flows that much better when the person is relaxed. Relaxation is made possible in many different ways.
Energy flows much better when the body is fit, love is in the heart, body not overfed, and adequate rest. Energy healing practices such as yoga, Qi gong, massage, and meditation are most beneficial to bring tranquility and restoration into the mind, body, and spirit. These practices bring mindfulness and breathe awareness into every activity. Energy healing activities are to use the body’s own innate ability to heal, by tapping into the hearts intelligence. I feel that the heart is the energy center in the body and has the ability to transform negative energy into positive. Energy practices such as yoga and meditation activate the hearts healing energy and are helpful ways to bring love and mindfulness to the forefront. As the Beatles quote goes, “Love is all we need”. Love increases the wellbeing of all people, everywhere. Love will improve and restore the person back to good health and preserve good health. Love is the most powerful of emotions’; it has the power to heal. The world and its people need love more than ever before.
“We need, in short, to address and redress the psychological and spiritual roots of our contemporary crises” (Walsh, Roger, 2005. pp.297). The roots of our energy imbalance may be from lack love and human connection and over-stressed. The heart of the matter is that love is the wisdom within our soul, and has magical abilities to heal our ailments. Merra Young, a mindfulness meditation instructor teaches that Tonglen is the practice of transforming negative energy into positive energy, with the heart as the main focus (Personal communication, September 11, 2013). I like to use this technique in yoga class. I teach to breathe in God and breathe out love, also to breath in the suffering of the world and take it into your heart and breathe out love from that heart space. These are effective means to transform stress into harmony. Notice how good it feels to hug and love others, or just to think about the act, because giving is receiving. To love is the greatest feeling in the world. To have loving thoughts can improve all areas of one’s life. According to St. Paul, “Love Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures’ all things.” How does love have such a powerful effect on people? This leads me to the next topic, the power of thought.
Thoughts can help or hinder our wellbeing, and create balance or imbalances in every person. Positive thoughts are love and to think from the heart, whereas negative thoughts are fear based and from an overactive mind, it is evident that fear is the absence of love, just as dark is the absence of light. What is most detrimental to our health is holding onto the negative thoughts and need to control, “Cancer is a disease caused by deep resentment held for a long time until it literally eats away the body” (Louise Hay, 1984), which shows the correlation that psychology has on body health. Bad or fearful thoughts compromise our immune system, and loving or good thoughts are healing for the body. For example, in the movie “What the bleep do we know?” Dr. Emoto talks about the energy vibration from thoughts as they reflects’ onto external objects. (What the Bleep do we know, 2004). Thoughts alter the shape of water molecules. Positive thoughts and sounds create sacred geometry and negative thoughts and sounds create chaos within the molecule (What the Bleep do we know, 2004). If a thought is altering the water molecule outside of our body, since we are made of water, what are thoughts doing to the molecules inside our body? Thoughts are sending messages to the body and out to the world via energy, which is why energy healing is phenomenally life transforming. The power of intention or thought manifests into reality. As we think so we become, thus consciousness is an important aspect in the healing journey. It is important to gain control over the mind to prevent negative thoughts from consuming your life. Next, I will go over spirituality or consciousness for stress reduction and healing.
Consciousness or spirituality is important in the healing journey, maybe more important than nutrition and exercise. “Consciousness refers to your individual awareness of your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations and environment” (Kendra, Cherry, 2014). The ability to take a step back and observe the whereabouts of your mind and body. To understand the nature of the mind, and to know when to take a step back from a chaotic life and to find rest or healing when you need it, by finding rest with relaxation, deep breathing, and meditation. To take time to connect with the stillness within; to experience who your really are. We currently live in a stressful environment, and suffering is inevitable, but we can consciously choose a path of balance, emotional freedom, and well-being. The placebo effect is a great example of consciousness in action, to think that something will affect us, and it does. There is no better way to overcome obstacles and suffering than through spirituality as stress management, to embrace the changes that are taking place around us. We have freedom to practice spirituality more now than ever before, we have the entirety of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions available to use to practice without fear (Walsh, 2005. pp.294). We are fortunate to have numerous CAM therapies from all over the world, to use and to adore for our well-being and ability to relieve stress. To practice stress management will bring ease into our lives. “It is not the stress itself that is harmful, but our reactions to it that create havoc in the body and mind” (Micozzi, 2011, pg. 115). To become more aware or conscious to our reactivity, while the changes around us take place, through loving kindness meditation, and understanding ourselves more. Meditation is by far my favorite CAM therapy for treatment of psychosomatic disorders and “All disorders are psychosomatic” says Natwar Sikhwal (Krishna), (personal communication, November 5, 2012). Meditation is free, it brings you in touch with your true nature; the soul, where loving and healing energy resides within. Stress management may simply be done by changing our attitude about a certain situation or to find peace no matter what the circumstance. Gandhi says, “When you don’t have any desires, than you will be happy” hence, to find peace by letting go of wants, this can be done with the help of mindfulness meditation, energy healing, and Yoga practice, next I will explain why these practices are so effective.
CAM and other holistic healing modalities are bringing light, love, and consciousness where it is dark and lacking love. For example, there is nothing conscious or holistic about having heart surgery for a problem that can be treated alternatively with psychotherapy, CAM, etc. This would require mind, body, and spirit awareness to increase. CAM or lifestyle changes can fix the root of the problem; hence prevent use of invasive surgery or quick fix medications. CAM is a conscious way of healing. Since there is a correlation between psychology or psychosocial functioning and disease outcome, there needs to be mind-body interventions for healing to take place (Simonton-Atchley, S. & Sherman, A., pg.91). Interventions such as nutrition or life coaching for life style changes. CAM is growing in popularity as people are growing frustrated with the current health care system.
There is a growing trend of alternative therapies taking place in people’s homes, schools, and hospitals. More schools are offering elective courses in holistic healing modalities, and more doctors are pursuing continuing education in complementary and alternative medicine therapies (CAM, 2014). This additional training in CAM will increase the doctors or healers awareness of mind, body, and spirit. Doctors would benefit by becoming healers with an understanding of energy to increase the efficacy of other treatments. People heal best in a supportive community, where therapies help and not hinder the healing process. This is a vision in action; for holistic therapies to be integrated into the current medical institutions’ curriculum. There has been much progress for CAM integration, but there are many needed changes for conventional medicine to be called integrative medicine. It is an uphill battle with pharmaceutical companies and big hospitals who shun the rise of holistic healing modalities for the loss of illness bearing profits. Western medicine institutions may be bigger or stronger, but CAM users can outnumber them. More people use complementary and alternative practices than biomedicine, which has been around a lot longer too. The number of visits to CAM providers now exceeds the number of visits to conventional primary care physicians in the U.S. (World health organization, 2002). People vote with their dollar, and more people are using CAM now than before; hospitals are catching on by including more holistic modalities into their system of western care. Hospitals and insurance companies are outrageously expensive. It is unfortunate that the current medical system is profiting from disease and illness. Big hospitals may integrate holistic modalities for monetary reasons. It is for certain that positive changes are taking place because people are consciously waking up. There are many reasons CAM is in demand.
People want CAM because the therapies allow the patient to relax and enjoy their stay at the hospital. CAM offers additional pain relief and relaxation through acupuncture, sound, aroma, art therapy, etc. There is much to say about the benefits of human touch. Many nurses are practicing touch as a way to connect with their patients on a more intimate level. Healers know the importance of kindness and gentleness throughout the healing process. There are many reasons why people are choosing CAM therapies, and why western medicine is on its way to integrating these therapies into its current model of health care. In the end, CAM saves energy, time, and resources. People are more than likely to heal faster when CAM therapies are involved with their treatments. CAM is sustainable. During a time when health insurance rates are skyrocketing, people seek out care that is local and affordable. For example, Curanderismo blends folk medicine, nutrition, massage, energy healing, sacred ritual, etc. It is much more affordable than seeking Western care, also holistically beneficial. It utilizes all four groups listed in the CAM practices, listed by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The National Institutes of Health groups CAM practices into four areas:
1. Biologically based practices involve supplementing a person’s normal diet with additional nutrients, herbs, extracts, and certain foods. If you’ve ever taken a vitamin or herbal supplement, you’ve followed a biologically based practice.
2. Manipulative and body-based therapies focus on the bodies various systems and structures. If you’ve ever seen a chiropractor or had a massage, you’ve been treated with manipulative therapy.
3. Mind-body interventions use the connection between a person’s mind, body, and spirit to enhance the total well-being. Mind-body techniques include meditation, yoga, and biofeedback. (NCCAM, 2014).
4. Energy therapies are meant to restore disturbances in the body’s natural energy. Energy therapies include such practices as Qi gong and Reiki. (The Nemours Foundation, 2014).
All providers should have a basic knowledge and understanding of integral awareness, or the idea that we are more than our body. Providers of health care, whether Western biomedicine, CAM, or combination of both, need to become educated about the integral model so that they are at least integrally informed and can bring this awareness to each patient encounter (Lawrence, 2005, pp. 476). Integrating CAM is to move from the mentality of treating the disease to treating the whole patient. This model brings meaning and purpose into the practice of medicine. Integral awareness allows the medical system to become more conscious and complete. As of now, the Western medical system is unconscious because it lacks mind, body, spirit connection.  The current health care system revolves around science and body performance, as if the body were a machine that needed fixing. This current system is not working and people want holistic health therapies; for good reason. There is more to the person than the body. There are many layers to the human to consider when treating for disease. This is the paradigm shift that is occurring in the medical system.
The paradigm shift we are experiencing, as stated in the Shift Report of 2007, is a shift in consciousness.  We are overcoming the obstacle from one of corruption and separation into one of harmony and wholeness, while leading others to ultimate health and happiness. The current medical system separates the mind from the body by focusing only on diagnosing the body, which leaves us incomplete. We are whole people and have whole needs. Practices such as Yoga, CAM, Curanderismo, spirituality, and higher consciousness are all ways to care for the whole person. In the East, holistic therapies are the norm. A paradigm shift towards a more integrated health care system, including whole person care, can transform everyone’s lives. A paradigm shift is currently underway, which molds integral awareness or holistic with western science, but it is not to fruition.
The current medical care system is in the process of integrating CAM holistic health modalities, and we have yet to see the full benefits of such a transition. This is a paradigm shift into a conscious way to live and heal. Healers and patients alike must work for their spiritual evolution for there to be a paradigm shift from that of unconscious healing to conscious healing. We all experience some degree of suffering and need care that is dependable by spiritually evolved healers. It is important for us to have a health care system we can trust, respect, and come to when we are experiencing periods of illness, and not one that may make us more ill. It is also important to understand the body’s own ability to heal, by listening to the body when there is an imbalance within the body, mind or spirit connection. It is a fact that we are more than our bodies, and we should be treated as a whole, with a mind, body, and spirit. Another important aspect of wellness is to remember that disease is an imbalance of energy and to seek balance with holistic and therapeutic remedies for healing. As a yoga teacher, my main concern is to teach letting go of that which does not serve you, to find peace and everything will fall into place, and to live with gratitude. Yoga works to bring balance into the body. When you give yoga practice your time, yoga gives you balance, mental clarity, and spiritual harmony. There are many positive changes taking place globally, especially in the West where yoga and CAM are growing in popularity and spirituality is booming. We are learning to heal and let go of things, especially resentments of the past or cultural grief. To live fully in the moment and embrace what is taking place is what will allow us to heal our wounds. A positive transition is taking place, into a more holistic or integrated way of healing. Holistic healing modalities and CAM allow the patient and healer to find relief from stress, thus preventing disease. To find natural means of healing and greater ease for healing of the body, mind, and soul.  Holistic and integrative healing has its place for the betterment of everyone’s lives.

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