You may be immediately faced with an injury, illness, disease or other persistent, unwanted condition and unsure which healing modalities may help you or to which health professional to turn. When you look at going beyond a conventional allopathic physician whose only prescription is an “ill to the pill” or taking a knife to fix your body via some surgical procedure, you will find a proliferation of alternatives going way beyond what was traditionally available, or which was the mainstay of modern culture for a century or two.
This is because we now find ourselves in a world culture and civilization. It is now more possible than ever that you live next to someone born the other side of the world. This is a great blessing, since we now enjoy alternatives our parents and grandparents never even imagined.
What then is your strategy to find the best therapy and the best practitioner? It would be advisable to find a primary health care provider, typically, but not always, a physician, who has solid training in allopathic medicine, but also additional training in functional, integrative medicine, or holistic health.
It is not uncommon today to find physicians with multiple degrees, such as an MD with certification in acupuncture. This physician can act as a counselor to direct you to the most appropriate alternative healthcare provider. The key issue will be what is going on with your body, your mind, your heart, even your spirit.
You are most fortunate if you already have a physician attuned to all four dimensions in health. However, this is not yet the norm in contemporary medicine. For example, many American MD’s never received a single course on nutrition in all their formal medical training.
One way to approach a veritable supermarket of alternative systems, therapies, methods, techniques and practices is to look at those that focus on the body or the mind or the emotions or the spirit. From an integral perspective, any illness or condition will entail all four dimensions of health, in that they all interconnect.
However, one modality will usually predominate in the issue at hand. Did you injure your feet? Do you have great pain in the stomach? Do you feel profoundly depressed? Are you all bummed out about a relationship? Do you feel life has no meaning or that you make no difference whatever? Are you suffering profound feelings of guilt over something you have done decades ago? Whatever challenges you at this time, let us consider the four types of health treatment.
Most likely, some type of physical therapy will come to mind, whether it is something you do, or something done to you. This includes dozens of variations of massage and yoga, as well as participatory therapies, such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong and dance therapy.
Touch therapies include Swedish massage, Acupressure, Shiatsu, Rolfing, Reflexology, Trager, even Watsu (hydrotherapy with massage). Movement therapies include yoga, Tai Chi / Qi Gong, Alexander Technique and the Trager Approach.
Touch will most often be hands on. However, such practices as Reiki and Healing Touch may involve light touch, or even caressing your energy fields without actually touching you. Some touch therapies, such as Chiropractic, CranialSacral Therapy and Rolfing may involve deep tissue work, impacting the muscular fascia, or even manipulating bones and joints. Yoga has many variations, including Vipassana or flowing Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga or Bikram (Hot) Yoga.
One way out of this confusion is to realize that many differences were done primarily for commercial reasons to differentiate one practitioner’s offerings from those of competitors.
Many of the differences are profound and add great value. However, you may find some that are more superficial. The energy and presence of the practitioner may be the most important factor. You may be intuitively drawn to one practitioner over another, even when his or her methodology may be unfamiliar to you.
As with medical doctors, some health practitioners actually have a natural gift of healing, a profound sense of well-being that they offer to others. I personally know someone who has a profound gift of joy and vibrancy that gives peace and joy to everyone she touches. You might consider this a spiritual gift. We may all have some gift of healing, but some of us have a superabundant portion of this gift, even from the very start.
Mind / Body medicine has been increasingly at the forefront with the impressive success of such MD’s as Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil, who have gone beyond the standard paradigm. Deepak started out as a research doctor, wound up in an emergency room, became chief surgeon, and then met the Maharishi, learning Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Everything changed for him, and he ended up evangelizing Ayurvedic medicine in America, and around the world. Deepak practically invented mind / body medicine, giving it intellectual currency in academic and popular medicine.
Andrew studied herbology at Harvard University, and then began a worldwide study of how herbs were used by indigenous people on every continent. His best seller, Eight Weeks to Optimal Health, popularized integrative medicine, where the public was opened up to body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Mind / Body approaches include biofeedback, breath work of all kinds, guided imagery and visualization, as well as all the different types of meditation. Health professionals readily acknowledge that the mindset of the individual facing life-threatening conditions, such as cancer or heart surgery, has a major impact on the outcome.
Is the cup half empty or half full?
Positive thinking is a major factor, often strengthened by the use of affirmations. Increasingly, in clinics and hospitals, physicians are also inviting their patients to actively visualize positive outcomes. Meditation, which can be as simple as silently repeating the word “ONE,” are used to induce what Dr. Herbert Benson called the relaxation response, to give patients a sense of peace and presence.
Chakra healing would be part of this system as well.
Emotional methods deserve a category of their own. They are important, not only in physical healing, but also in mental healing. These include things like Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy, Aroma Therapy, even Light Therapy in northern climates. Both Art and Music Therapy can be participative.
Patients or clients can create a work of art, drawing, painting or sculpture. Music therapy may entail clients actually improvising a piece of music by singing or playing a keyboard. No creative talent is necessary, as the object is to give expression to feeling. Jungian therapy, in particular, does much with this, including dream analysis.
Another emotional approach is peer and group counseling. People facing chronic health, as well as psychiatric, conditions discuss their issues and problems with sympathetic people who may provide useful feedback and vital emotional support to boost the patient’s confidence.
Love is the most important single ingredient in all healing. This love can be from relatives or a primary relationship. However, it is by no means limited to that. It can be purely on a friendship level, and that most likely from a spiritual source. The more vitally people are in touch with Whom and What we call “God,” the more powerful is their love, which can be experienced as an irresistible energy.
Spiritual healing methods include, but are not limited to, all the countless forms of prayer and meditation. They also include going out in nature, being with plants and animals and sitting by the seashore watching the waves come in and hearing the surf pound the rocks. We feel that spirituality is the master ingredient in all healing.
Doctors can give pills and cut away malignant tissues, but our ‘inner peace’ and ‘inner power’ (our Source) does the actual healing. Remember, the body wants to heal itself. If we get out of the way and actually work with our bodies, we will be most successful.
Prayer, whatever your religious tradition - Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shamanic or even Humanist - can be of two varieties. The prayer of faith and metaphysical or “scientific” prayer.
The prayer of faith is a turning to our Creator or the Source of our Being. We simply talk to God in the words that feel most natural to us. It opens up a line of communication that often invites answers back from God, most often in intuitive impressions and an inner voice, as well as synchronicity, even miracles.
We ask God to heal us with an open heart and mind that Higher Power and Infinite Intelligence actually hear us. Metaphysical prayer affirms our healing as an accomplished fact, that we are “whole, complete and perfect” just as we are, encompassed by God’s love. Recognition that we are divine, “sons and daughters” of God, is essential to this approach. Actual recorded miracles of both approaches run into the hundreds of thousands, even millions.
Here is one amazing story of a woman who is miraculously healed after being in a wheelchair for 22 years:
Meditation can likewise be of two approaches, centering and contemplation. Centering meditation focuses on a sacred name, sometimes a single syllable that is repeated internally with eyes closed. TMTM standardized this into 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening, although this could go on for literally hours.
Contemplation focuses on a theme or subject, often drawn from sacred literature. It could be on God Himself / Herself, or it could be on the nature of God, such as God Is Love. The point is to commune with God. The words and name are not so important as the Living Presence, that which goes beyond verbal expression.
In sum, if you live in a major urban center, you have a flood of alternatives for healthcare. Much is available directly from the Internet. We encourage you to explore the possibilities, even take an experimental attitude. We encourage you to find someone else to share the path to profound healing and well-being. It might even be a friend or acquaintance you trust. The first step may be to find an enlightened MD, someone tuned into body, mind, heart and spirit.