Health – harmony of the body, mind and spirit
In all our conversations you emphasised several times that not only the person’s physical sphere is crucial in the therapy but their emotional condition as well. That reminds me of Hippocrates, the father of the medicine, who stated back in the 5th century B.C. that the essence of the treatment is to bring the patient back to the state of their internal harmony, which consists in achieving balance both on the physical and mental level.
In my practice I noticed that the treatment that addresses only the physical symptoms is not sufficient. This approach eliminates only the external signs of the disease, which recur after some time and the patients keep coming back. Gradually I understood that it is not enough to take care only of the physical component. What is needed, is to discover deeper causes of the disease, to look for its hidden meaning. In conversations with my patients I started addressing their emotional lives, their mental conditions.
Together we searched for solutions on other levels. The treatment then had a different course and a more satisfactory outcome. After some time I realised that I worked in the way that doctors used to work many centuries ago. In Ayurveda – the medical wisdom of India, the Chinese medicine, and in the foundations of the Western medicine, i.e. according to Hippocrates, the doctor was trained to consider not only one sphere of the human being, that is the physical sphere, but all the spheres of an individual’s existence.
Perceiving a person in their wholeness without separating particular spheres of their life reminds me of the principles underlying the holistic medicine. What does the principle of holistic therapy consist of?
To start with, let me make a comment: firstly, the holistic medicine does not mean – as some people might think – exclusively natural therapeutic methods. In the light of this medicine, the doctor’s objective is the total wellbeing of the patient. Depending on the patient’s condition and their predisposition, the type of disease and its severity, the doctor may either use the achievements of the conventional Western medicine or draw from the experiences of natural medicine.
He or she should then be proficient in both of the domains: on one hand – follow the current research and on the other – expand the skills of natural healing methods. Secondly, the holistic medicine assumes that the health of a person is based on the balance which we achieve on all levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. Thirdly, here the patients are not cases, that are considered in complete isolation, separately from the surrounding life. They are not treated as examples of a particular disease, but as individuals, as unique human beings. Fourthly, the patients are treated by the doctor who is like a teacher – he or she gives guidance, advice and instructions.
The patients themselves after having learned how to recover from the disease become independent in order to avoid recurrence of the disease. They learn the healthy lifestyle, they apply the rules and – as a consequence – they no longer need a doctor in reality. After having developed some awareness they become their own doctor and are able to use the self-regulation and self-healing abilities given to them by nature. It is the greatest satisfaction and an award for the therapist when the patients no longer need to come to visits because they are able to take care of themselves – are autonomous.
And finally, fifthly, the patients who is treated according to the principles of the holistic medicine become a role model for others after some time. They don’t patronize, but rather set an example. When they say that smoking or excess of sugar is bad, then in fact they neither smoke nor overeat sweets.
You said that the doctor is like a guide and leads the patient. The patients themselves shouldn’t remain passive. Hippocrates was said to advise his patients to isolate themselves from their everyday environment so that they could work on themselves in peace and quiet – to gain insight in themselves, analyse their own lives, look inward. What is the patient’s task in this process of the holistic treatment?
In a therapy that is carried out according to the holistic medicine the patients are not necessarily separated from their current environments, however an in depth analysis of the conditions in which they live is certainly recommended. The patients reflect on their personal and professional lives. The most important questions they should ask are: ‘Do I feel happy?’, ‘Have I made the right choices?’, ‘Am I fulfilled in my family, my work and other spheres of life?’, ‘Are my relations with other people healthy?’
Answers to these questions are essential. Then, the patients try to analyse their internal world, the state of their emotions, desires, dreams. At the beginning not everything they discover is understandable. They know what they feel, but they don’t know what it is called precisely and where it came from. But when they manage to identify some states of their psyche, they can start to work on themselves in a constructive way. The psyche and the personality are key in achieving the balance of the whole body.
If we have problems, we experience internal pressures, we are tired from unfulfilment, regret and longing; we are dissatisfied and frustrated or feel guilty, then our body starts to react to this difficult situation too. Its balance becomes increasingly distorted until finally the immunological system is so weak that a disease starts. Negative sensations, unhealthy emotions are a source of disharmony and the disease is its natural consequence.
What is the doctor’s role in the holistic medicine? I suppose it is not limited to patient education – providing theoretical advice and guidance?
Usually patients come to the doctor when they are in a state of a disease, they have some ailments. The first task of the doctor then is to relieve the suffering and/or eliminate the physical symptoms of the disease. The doctor with a holistic mind-set knows however that the disease has some deeper roots and that it resulted from some long-lasting and complex processes so it can’t be cured by suppressing or eliminating the very symptoms with painkillers or antibiotics. The medicines will work but they will do the job temporarily.
The patient will feel some relief but the core cause of the disease will remain intact. Unless we eliminate the cause, the disease will come back. That is why, for a doctor the focal point should also be the patient’s current emotional condition and features of the patient’s personality along with the symptoms of the disease. In the holistic medicine it is said that we don’t treat the disease but the patient, the person. Therefore the conversations with the patients who undergo treatment are so essential. It is vital as well to make them realise how important the emotional and spiritual spheres are. Mutual trust between the patient and the doctor is necessary, creation of a certain bond based on openness and acceptance.
The next principle, which is compulsory for the doctor, is to abstain from doing any harm. We know that chemical medicines may have various side effects. Therefore if pharmacotherapy is not necessary it is worth trying the natural treatment using an adequate diet, herbal therapies, homeopathy. There is also one rule of an extraordinary importance: according to the principles of the holistic medicine, the purpose of the doctor is not only to treat but also to prevent diseases. In Ancient China emperors paid doctors to watch over their health. Hence, the doctor was always present and was always busy although nobody was sick at the court. But when someone got sick the doctors remuneration was lowered. His main task was health protection and maintenance, not fighting diseases.
A holistically thinking doctor doesn’t fight the diseases?
The very notion of the ‘fight’ is inadequate here. Disease is not our enemy. It is a critical moment in fact, a result of a disturbance, a disharmony that lasted long enough. But on the other hand – as I said earlier – it is a much needed signal for us, sent by our body to our consciousness. It is a voice which communicates that the body can’t regain its balance because some factor – probably of mental nature – keeps dominating and disturbs the balance. We don’t listen to our internal voice we don’t listen attentively to ourselves and as a consequence, the body rebels and says ‘stop’.
It is communicated through the ailments. So the disease is not something that comes to us from the outside. It originates from within, its aim is to initiate something good. It is not hostile.
Pardon me, but what you are saying now might sound absurd to many people.
I realise that it is difficult to accept this notion because a disease can be cruel, it causes so much pain and suffering. However there is a deep meaning to the suffering. Disease is an echo of what is happening with us and what we are going through. Thanks to it we ask ourselves again about who we are and whether we are heading in the right direction. And often when we change the direction, we change ourselves, for the better. By transforming ourselves we transform others, our environment, the world around us.
Through the disease, or rather through the work on ourselves that the disease forces to do we get to know ourselves and we gain an opportunity to reach to fullness. However, the fullness doesn’t consist in withdrawing inwards and closing oneself, escaping from the world. Quite opposite – it is a sense of accomplishment and openness, an ability to enjoy the little things. As you can see, the disease – as a way to completeness – can be friendly, beneficial and helpful for us. We only need to deeply understand it and correctly interpret its meaning.
What is health then?
First I will give you a definition by negation – health is not only a lack of symptoms. Health is a state of harmony on all the three levels: physical – when the body is healthy and functions correctly, emotional – when we feel happy, fulfilled and able to enjoy the here and now, and spiritual – …
Does spirituality mean being religious?
It is not about being religious. By referring to spiritual balance I don’t mean one’s relation to God but rather good contact with oneself. We often lose contact with our interior; as the life goes on we give up what is most important to us and suppress our deepest dreams, we don’t realize our longing and aspirations for various reasons (environmental influences, pressures, thoughtless ways, rigid habits).
If we regain contact with our own ‘self’ and rediscover our own identity we will understand the reasons of our downheartedness, withdrawal, irritation and being conflict oriented. If we use this knowledge properly we have an opportunity to change ourselves and our lives. Regain harmony.
It sounds beautiful, not everyone though has enough strong will. They don’t know how to change.
Strong will matters greatly. The patients should be conscious that the result of the therapy doesn’t only depend on the efforts of the doctor but on their own efforts as well. Voluntary participation of the patient is an extremely significant element of any therapy. The doctor is not able to fully access the world of the patient’s emotions. By working on themselves the patients assume co-responsibility for the therapy.
‘People who put the whole burden of their disease on the doctor’s shoulders are not alive anymore. They are just sick.’ said doctor Nona Kuchina.
Active participation of the patients in the therapy is vital. In order for the treatment to be successful the patients should be willing to participate in it, they should be open, accept the doctor and accept themselves in a role of their own therapists. The results of the therapy are influenced by whether the patients are willing to cooperate with the doctor, whether they have faith and optimism or rather resentment and hopelessness, which make it impossible for them to make an effort to defend their own health.
That is a frequent situation – in pain, suffering and disease we just lack strength, will, and desire…. We are unable to defend ourselves. Even conscious people who know what to do happen to lack determination. They are entrenched in their old habits although they know how to take care of their health and what disease prevention consists in.
I realise that sometimes it may be difficult to pull oneself together and mobilise. The most important, the key moment (and I know this from my own experience) is to make the first step. If we can afford a bit of faith and we go for it and take that first step forward, even the tiniest movement in the right direction – then it is already a very good start. Because the subsequent change follows it. At first, it may go unnoticed, for a long time it may seem to us that nothing is happening. In reality however, we change, we change our lives.
The smallest, even a minimum movement ripples next movements. That is how nature works – everything flows. It is enough to enter this flow of the universe. What we have set in motion will move something else in turn. The result will not appear instantaneously. Sometimes we need to wait for it.
Whereas we usually think differently: ‘since I invested in it, I deserve the profits as soon as possible’.
This is the law of economy and business, not of the nature. Indeed, most of us really have this need for immediate answers, for managing and being in control of everything. And the nature has her own laws. According to them a plant doesn’t sprout right after the seed is sown. It doesn’t mature at once, nor does it bloom immediately nor bear fruits. It needs time to grow. The same applies to us. Let’s allow some time for ourselves.
Let’s try to make even small efforts, make small steps and we’ll see that the results will appear – sometimes in the least expected moment, quite unexpectedly. In my life I have been down that road myself. Despite efforts and attempts the results that I expected were still missing. The change came by itself, suddenly and by surprise. Suddenly I realized so much and understood so many things that became crystal clear to me.
It doesn’t mean, though, that I already know everything, that I have achieved some kind of an ultimate fulfilment. I still have much to do. All the time, there are new challenges ahead of us all. Nothing is still. One step follows another and a new gate opens on our way. Just keep walking.