"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Friday, 12 December 2014

World War 1 football match - the Christmas Truce

Much has been made in the UK media this week of the football match which is said to have been played between German and British troops at the first Christmas in the trenches of the First World War; the Christmas Truce. Even warring factions can forget their differences in some circumstances. The said troops were understood to exchange small gifts, and sing carols, as well as playing football together, much to the consternation of their senior officers.
But this is not the first record of a temporary truce from hostilities. In the Crimean War, British, French and Russian troops at quiet times gathered around the same fire, smoking and drinking. In the American Civil War Yankees and rebels traded tobacco, coffee and newspapers, fished peacefully on opposite sides of the same stream and even collected wild blackberries together.
On 29 July 2007 millions of Iraqis, Shia, Sunni, Kurd and Christian,  became united for a brief interlude to rejoice over their football victory against Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup Final. Shots were fired in the air in jubilant celebration rather than for political squabbling and killing. Iraq had been momentarily unified by eleven footballers. But the euphoria was short lived. In no time the city had reverted to its politically fueled bombings and shootings.
The truce in war has a long tradition and is surely a sign of hope for this world? Are things so very different now? If in dire warring circumstances we can all unite for sport and in No Man's Land, why can we not work together peaceably now for our own futures when the stakes are so very much higher than they were in 1914- 1918?
I have written about this before in this blog and it is also discussed in my first book, Healing this Wounded Earth, in Chapter 3, The Hope of Faith.
Thomas Merton wrote in his lovely book New Seeds of Contemplation:
"If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, his italics, not mine) not in another."

Friday, 14 November 2014

Relationship and community - indigenous and ancient wisdom

Now couldn't that be what we all need in the world today?
I spotted this in the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery, spread over two levels, in the South Australian Museum Adelaide North Terrace. This is said to be the most comprehensive Aboriginal Cultural Gallery in the world, and I found it a wonderfully fascinating experience.

I explore the issue of relationship and indeed relatedness in the context of community in my book Healing This Wounded Earth, devoting a whole chapter to this very important healing influence...explaining why it is so important and what we can do to promote real healing community.

So often I find evidence that the world's indigenous tribes carry much wisdom that we would do well to heed. We ignore the ancient wisdoms at our peril. We may think we know best but we surely do not. 
And by one of those happy coincidences which are surely meant to happen, I just heard news of "The  Global Indigenous Wisdom Summit being organised by the Shift Network. Here is a free online gathering of some of the best the world can offer of indigenous wisdom - running from 18th to 20th November 2014. Please follow the link to see what will be covered and to sign up if you are interested.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Startling New Thinking? Epigenetics and Social Healing

Waiting for my car to be fixed and browsing last weekend's papers, a review in The Times caught my eye by David Aaronovitch of the recent book At the Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise by Michael Brooks. Actually it was the headline "Feeling Sick? Blame it on the Ancestors" that caught my attention with the promise of "startling new thinking" and the apparent revelation that events in our past could affect the way genes behave and our present day circumstances; our physical or mental health for example.
This field of "epigenetics" is far from simple or straightforward, and of course our understanding of such things continues to develop as I write. But this is not such a new idea as to warrant the label "startling new thinking." Whatever the exact mechanism involved, we have known for some time that who we are and how we behave as adults is not only a combination of our inherited gene and possibly also our meme makeup, but we are also affected by subsequent influences in our upbringing and our experiences as we develop through childhood and beyond. This is at least part of what is meant when we talk about ‘nature versus nurture’.
I became interested in this subject when I started research for my first book, Healing This Wounded Earth, and found the article by Judith Thompson and James O’Dea in Shift, the magazine of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, or IONS, in Issue 7, May 2005: ‘Social Healing for a Fractured World; a Summary Report to the Fetzer Institute.’ This is a very important document in the context of how we address and transform the collective wounds of the world's population and the implications for social healing, and it was a huge influence and encouragement for me in drawing together the chapters for my own book, endorsing my own thinking. As the authors pointed out, we do indeed pick up mental wounds from the collective experiences of our ancestors, as well as our inherited physical characteristics, and the unhealed wounds of mankind inflicted through millennia of evolution by strife and violence and disaster mean that hundreds of millions of people are psychologically, emotionally and physically scarred and wounded and in need of healing. It has even been suggested by some psychologists, they go on to say, that ‘human culture as a whole has been saturated by unhealed wounding, which, if unchecked, will continue on a downward spiral toward inevitable disintegration.’ Now that is a frightening thought, and we need some healing on a huge scale. And day by day as more and more horrors of war and strife unfold on our screens the wounds in that pool of humanity multiply relentlessly.
I havn't read Brooks' book yet, but Aaronovitch's review implies that epigenetics is only referred to in a fun and fascinating context, linking place of birth with health risks for example. I am far more fascinated in the implications of all of this to our behavioral patterns and how they impact the future of our world; the world that our children and grandchildren will inherit. Because it is clear that wounds manifest themselves in many different and undesirable personality and behavioral traits. We see greed and envy, craving for love and attention, consumerism, lust for power, superiority, violence, overspending, addictions to work and substances, depression, cynicism, despair. As Thompson and O'Dea conclude, "transitioning from violence and massive social wounding to building peaceful and just futures is no easy journey; the complexity lies in finding the balance between truth, justice, peace, and mercy. All of these are necessities for healing and none can be ignored." Definitely!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What we need now is a spiritual hunger for justice

This morning we remembered in our church service the life of William Wilberforce, British politician and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade, who died on July 29th in 1833.
And that reminded me of the piece I wrote in Healing this Wounded Earth about what we could all learn from the slavery abolitionists who hungered for justice in the world and thereby became catalysts for sweeping changes. Here is an excerpt:
On 30 July 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and for the subsequent ‘Jim Crow’ discriminatory laws. In the previous year the Virginia General Assembly had acknowledged ‘with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans,’(Larry O'Dell Washington Post 2007) and called for reconciliation among all Virginians. Virginia became the first of the 50 United States to recognize through their governing body the state's negative involvement in slavery.
In that same year the UK celebrated the 200-year anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade. The Church of England have since offered a full apology for profiting from the slave trade, and Prime Minister Tony Blair offered deep sorrow ‘that it could ever have happened’ and said that we could ‘rejoice at the better times we live in today.’
Among the media attention in both the United States and the United Kingdom, much was made of whether we should now be apologizing at all for what our ancestors did all that time ago, and whether any compensation was due.
Rather less publicity or thought was given to the feelings of those in the original abolition movement. What motivated them?
The prominent American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said in a talk delivered in the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, 14 February 1854: I am a believer in that portion of the Declaration of American Independence in which it is set forth, as among self-evident truths, ‘that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable social rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Hence, I am an Abolitionist. Hence, I cannot but regard oppression in every form, and most of all, that which turns a man into a thing, with indignation and abhorrence. Not to cherish these feelings would be recreancy to principle. They who desire me to be dumb on the subject of Slavery, unless I will open my mouth in its defense, ask me to give the lie to my professions, to degrade my manhood, and to stain my soul.
In the UK, a group known as the Clapham Sect drove the abolition movement. Taking their name from the Surrey village where they mostly lived and held their meetings, this group of evangelical Christians saw the treatment of slaves as an affront to their own dignity.
It was the overwhelming spiritual hunger for justice that drove these and other abolitionists, often among controversy and even violence, to strive towards making a real and permanent difference to the lives of so many. 
Sadly there is still slavery in today’s world, alongside so many other inequalities and human suffering, even in so-called ‘civilized’ Western societies such as ours.
So how can we make a difference today to alleviate the many injustices in the world?
As it was then, so it needs to be now if there is to be any real change in the lives of so many who still suffer. We need to feel again that degradation of humanity, the affront to our dignity, that staining of our souls.

Inside the Mount of Beatitudes church
commemorating the Sermon on the Mount
overlooking the Sea of Galilee
We need to find again that hunger for justice that the abolitionists felt. In the Beatitudes that Jesus preached to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, He spoke of the happiness and joy, or blessedness, that would be felt if we ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’(The Gospel of St Matthew chapter 5 verse 6)
The then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in his New Year message for 2007 spoke of the need for us to feed our own spiritual hunger. For real change to be made, to put right the injustices of the world, we have to follow, he says, the example of the Clapham Sect. We must realize that such issues are indeed an affront to our own dignity. In some way they make each of us less of a person. We will be fed and nourished spiritually only when we really and honestly wake up to the needs of our fellow human beings, learning together to reach out to them, to heal, feed, and befriend those less fortunate than ourselves. Then we will discover what it really means to be truly human.

From Healing This Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope 
Chapter 4 Hope For Our Destiny
A New Era of Responsibility

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Healthcare and the incredible reinvention of medicine

In these musings of mine around the subject of healthcare we must not forget to give proper credit for the many wonderful advances that are being made in medical science; the technological achievements, the surgical and clinical skills, the development of ever more efficacious drugs and the efforts of the very many health care professionals working competently and tirelessly using best knowledge, experience and facilities for the benefit of the patient.
Lyme Regis February 2014
Perhaps more doctors than we realize do understand and practice the philosophy of holistic health care, with due regard to the full impact of body, mind and spirit in considering the ‘wellness’ of the person. Even so it is unlikely that this can often be realistically achieved within the normal time constraints of a busy practice. Nevertheless there is an opportunity here that should not be ignored; indeed we may not be able to ignore it for much longer, given the escalating costs of traditional healthcare.

Several years ago I picked up in our local library a very battered secondhand copy of Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine by Larry Dossey. I hadn't heard of Dossey at that time, and I was intrigued by the book’s title. Now I realize that Dossey has been in the vanguard of mind body healing for some time and is even sometimes credited with being the father of this genre of medicine with which so many are still uncomfortable. His influence was perhaps first felt in the 1990s with Healing Words. Upon reading further, I was immediately fascinated by Dossey’s division of the history of medicine, from when it first became scientific in the mid 1800s, into three Eras.
Studland Bay January 2014
The first 100 years or so from around the time of the American Civil War of Independence up until around 1950 he calls Era I, the rise of ‘mechanical medicine’, because, he says, ‘of its adherence to classical, mechanical physics.’ Era II from then until the first publication of his book in 1993 and still developing to this day he described as the age of mind/body medicine. During that period there was an increasing recognition that the state of a person’s mind, their thoughts and emotions can affect the physical body and cause what is usually described as psychosomatic illness. Such illnesses are often unfairly misrepresented, by being thought of as imaginary, or ‘all in the mind’, a misnomer that is unhelpful to the further study of this important phenomenon. Dossey now says that he prefers to look at this concept the other way around: that it is better to show how positive feelings keep us healthy, or whole.

Both Era I and Era II medicine remain, he says, ‘wholly devoted to the tenets of classical science as an explanation for all events, including the actions of the mind.’ Dossey also talks of an Era III, the era of non-local mind medicine. But that is for a later post…

If you are finding this series of blogs interesting, I have treated other vital aspects of our lives to a similar analysis - always urging spirit over matter - spirituality and healing over materialism and curing, bringing a more holistic lens to our economy, creativity, creation, pastoral issues, and so on… 
All in Healing This Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope.

What readers are saying about Healing This Wounded Earth:
"Within a few pages ... I was making a mental list of all the friends and colleagues I wanted to give or lend this book to. I loved reading this book and am sure will turn to it again in the future."
From review by Dr Yvonneke Roe GP in London, in Network Review, Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Mindfulness and Mental Health

I wrote in this series on 31 December last year, perhaps a little optimistically, that we are seeing the dawning of a new paradigm in the history of medicine, entering an era where the spiritual healing needs of the patient can be met alongside both alternative and complementary therapies and the very best of the latest clinical medicine. I said that there are certainly pockets of excellence across the healthcare establishments, for example the Integrative Medical Clinic, of Santa Rosa, California, at the very forefront of this exciting new world of enlightened healthcare.
But this dawning is truly only a glimmer at the moment.
As in so many fields the UK will in due course follow the lead of America in the full recognition of truly holistic healthcare that is available for all.
But a great deal of work needs to be done
on both sides of the Atlantic.
This is made very clear as far as the UK is concerned in an interesting recent post in the Webzine Bidushi, "Mindfulness for mental health: snail’s pace provisioning in the NHS." This article emphasizes just how poor the provisioning still is for mindfulness-based therapies for mental health in the UK, in spite of the recognition of its benefits by many, including many doctors, and in spite of its recommendation by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. "On 20th January the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech to launch the government’s “Mental Health Action Plan”, a speech that makes no secret of how
the importance of mental health has been consistently marginalised in society, policy and National Health Service (NHS) provisioning
till now."
The article in Bidushi makes particular reference to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy MBCT, acknowledged to be extremely effective for the treatment and cure of depression and anxiety, yet still woefully unavailable for most patients. Instead antidepressants and other drugs are doled out time and time again, drugs with known and indeed unknown side effects,
drugs which cost far more than the cost of MBCT sessions,
and drugs which effect no cure, only mask the symptoms.
The article has some fascinating statistics about the disparities in mindfulness availability across the country and in the understanding among health care professionals of both its effectiveness and availability. It also highlights the tireless efforts being made by John Kapp who for 4 years now has been campaigning for much greater access to mindfulness techniques in his own Brighton and Hove health area.
Why does our healthcare system seem so reluctant to extend the availability of mindfulness based treatments for sufferers of depression and anxiety: when we know these treatments work and when so much money could be saved by the cash strapped NHS? Could there be vested interests at play here, from "Big Pharma," the pharmacological companies who have so much to lose from the drop in sales of antidepressants and other drugs to treat depression and anxiety?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Michael Mayne on Holistic Medicine

Michael Mayne, busy parish priest who subsequently became Dean of Westminster Abbey within the Anglican Communion, was well qualified to write about the patient’s perception of healthcare. In his book A Year Lost and Found he describes his experiences and struggle with a debilitating episode of ME, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, the post-viral fatigue syndrome. Of all the various treatments and advice he received for a condition that is still very little understood, he significantly gives special credit to a certain Dr D, whose particular efficacy in helping him cope with his condition is attributed to his grasp of the inter-relatedness of body and spirit:

"…he talked and he tested or massaged parts of my body. Sometimes he just talked. He had the great gift of encouragement. He understood that the question ‘How are you?’ is at root a metaphysical question, which is not sufficiently answered with clinical lists and data …but goes to the deepest part of ourselves as the complex and uniquely precious beings we are." (1)

Mayne tragically died from cancer in 2006, but not before heroically putting the finishing touches to his final book The Enduring Melody. This started as a meditation of his life, but when the cancer struck it became his daily meditations interwoven into an autobiography of his final year. The book is a brave and very thoughtful journal through those last ten months. It culminates in a reflective essay on illness and healing, and the need for a holistic approach:

"To treat a disease," he said: "is to inhibit it and hopefully help the body to destroy it or control it: to treat a patient is to observe, foster, nurture and listen to a life...
In an ideal [health service] it would be good if every doctor and nurse in training would reflect on the mystery of the human being with both the learning of the scientist and the observation and sympathy of the novelist or the poet." (2)

Mayne was writing of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service but his thoughts are equally relevant in the United States, which is actually ahead of the UK in recognizing the importance of spirituality in healthcare. Mayne understood only too well that chasm that is so often evident between what the patient actually receives from a short medical consultation and what he is really looking for.

(1) Michael Mayne, A Year Lost and Found, London: Darton Longman and Todd, 1987, p. 22. 

(2) Michael Mayne, The Enduring Melody, London: Darton Longman and Todd, 2006, pp. 13.
Studland Bay in January


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Biological repair men or healers? Our over burdened doctors

"Doctors are not merely biological repair men, people who know how we work and people who can twiddle knobs or replace faulty parts when they threaten to go wrong. A doctor must be a healer in the fullest, most spiritual sense, someone who accepts that human beings are congenitally lonely and dissatisfied but who may be able to reconcile them to the difficulties of their condition...to share the journey [of pain or anxiety or grief] with the patient." (1)

The renowned Austrian Psychiatrist Viktor E Frankl survived four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz, during the holocaust. ‘Man lives in three dimensions,’ he wrote, ‘the somatic, the mental and the spiritual. The spiritual dimension cannot be ignored, for it is what makes us human.’ (2)

The early links between spirituality and healthcare in the history of American medicine were just about abandoned entirely with the Flexner Report of 1910. It was not until the 1960s that any links between spirituality, religion and healthcare began to re-emerge, primarily it would seem driven by the charismatic movement and the neo Pentecostalism churches.
the chapel at the Burrswood Christian Healing Hospital

But the movement to bring the soul back into medicine had started in the 1950s with psychiatrists such as Jung and Rogers, together with the work of Methodist Minister Leslie Weatherhead. Real growth in this field, however, really only came about in the late 1980s and the 1990s and started with what is probably the most famous experiment of all on the healing power of prayer. In 1988 Byrd, a cardiologist at the San Francisco General Hospital and also a devout Christian was struck by a conversation with a colleague about a terminally ill cancer patient. All medical avenues had been exhausted and the physicians really did not know what else they could do for the patient. We could try prayer, said Byrd (3). Thus began the prayer study that has inspired so many subsequent experiments into non -local healing phenomena, but at the same time has been ridiculed by many. The scientifically designed and double blind trials produced more positive responses in those groups of patients who were prayed for, when compared with the control groups. Although the sample was small and the statistical interpretation of the results controversial, there have been many more studies since then that have corroborated in different ways the principal of that pioneer experiment; non local intervention such as prayer can give a positive outcome. Byrd’s work certainly proved to be a catalyst for physicians such as Dossey who was interested in exploring the spiritual questions of medicine within wider parameters beyond the known interaction of mind and body.
The Burrswood Christian Healing Hospital 

In a paper published by the Fetzer Institute in 1993 David Aldridge noted the need to ‘recognize that patience, grace, prayer, meditation, hope, forgiveness and fellowship are as important to many of our health initiatives as medication, hospitalization, incarceration or surgery.' (4)

As I look around and see our overburdened health services and our seeming reliance on drugs and new technology, have we made very much progress in 2014? 

(1) from Kaptchuk, Ted and Michael Croucher, The Healing Arts, BBC Publications, 1986, pp. 26, 37, cited in Michael Mayne, A Year Lost and Found, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1987, p. 38.

(2) Viktor Frankl, (1905 to 1997), 1973, p.16, latest edition, Souvenir Press Ltd (April 19, 2004). A 2008 Kindle edition is also available.

(3) Story related by Larry Dossey, in his Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing, Shaftesbury, Dorset, Boston, Massachusetts: Element Books, 2000, p. 53 et. seq. followed by his critical analysis of non local studies and positive responses obtained from non local prayer and healing intentions.

(4) Aldridge, David, Is There Evidence for Spiritual Healing? Advances 9(4): 4(1993) cited in Michael Lerner, Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: MIT Press, 1996, Chapter 9 p. 135: an excellent and comprehensive textbook in this field.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Where is medicine's soul?

For far too many of us, the soul is nowhere to be found in the clinical medicine setting.
The modern physician is able to draw upon a vast wealth of advanced techniques that may be available, whether drugs or surgery or radiation or other interventions that he deems to be suitable from his scientific knowledge, training and experience. With the amazing march of scientific progress and the significant development of clinical medicine, physicians have welcomed the predictability and precision provided by these advances. They have become increasingly trained and skilled in clinical excellence, curing disease, with some wonderful achievements to record.
Chapel at Burrswood Christian Healing Hospital
With the increasing demands of the twenty first century, the work related stress, the bombardment with bad news, relationship problems, even chemical imbalances in the brain, the patient often presents himself at the surgery with mind related disorders. These may include mental disturbances or psychosomatic illness or simply an indefinable need, perhaps even subconscious, to be made whole in some intangible way.
The physician is often not prepared or adequately trained for this modern need. We may be cured clinically, as far as is possible within the capacity of the available treatments; but what have we cured, the illness or the disease? Are we healed?
There can be a mismatch between what the doctor offers and what the patient needs.
It is often said that the physician used to be able to cure rarely but care always. Now it seems that the reverse is the case: he can cure very often but somehow it seems that there is often little room for the caring and the healing.
Burrswood Healing Hospital
The fact is that millions of times a day our health professionals in our surgeries and hospitals come face to face with patients in search of curing, but in need of healing. And that basic need is so often not being met. The physician can feel frustrated and wounded, even sense that in some way he has failed his patient. There is often an equally frustrated patient who remains wounded and who is likely to be back before too long with another physical complaint requiring some ‘listening’ treatment. Although the patient may not fully comprehend his own need to achieve wholeness, to be healed, he certainly recognizes that the consultation has been unsatisfactory in some way.
It is surely because so many of us do not receive the healing for which we yearn on the visit to the physician that we join the ever increasing number of people who seek complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs) elsewhere, often without our physician’s knowledge and with varying degrees of success. It is no coincidence that the number of practitioners trained in such therapies has mushroomed. This is also one of the reasons for the increasing interest in faiths and religions.
Doctors have even sometimes been deserted in favor of spiritual retreats and similar events, but the help that these can offer may often be limited by time constraints and lack of suitable training. Pastoral Counselors are another important resource but of course they do not have the clinical medical training. Because our woundedness remains, we may even resort to dealing with those wounds in other ways, through retail therapy, with drug abuse (including alcoholism) and with smoking. These habits may alleviate our problems in the short term but at the same time are harmful to ourselves, to the environment, or indeed to both. This all raises a serious and fundamental question.
Should healthcare be seen as a problem of cost, or an opportunity for growth?
It should be neither! It should be a dynamic and readily affordable system that continually strives to integrate its conventional allopathic disciplines with the various and increasingly popular complementary and alternative medicines, including spiritual and religious healing methods. These should all work alongside one another in a spirit of full cooperation and mutual respect. This is truly integrated medicine at its very best.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Visions of a better healthcare contd.

This series of blog posts on healthcare is really about the healing of suffering. It is about healing the individual, healing the medical profession and about the contribution that the healthcare profession can make towards healing the world.

It is also about finding the Wounded Healer in our healthcare system; and about infusing that healthcare with spirit. Indeed an understanding of the former should assist a greater appreciation of the latter.

There is a new era of spiritual awakening in the context of pastoral care, which I have written about elsewhere. Medicine is also at the dawn of a new understanding of consciousness. While such changes are for the moment only evident in a few pockets of holistic excellence across America, even less in the UK, progress in this interesting and exciting field is being fuelled by the much more rapid dissemination of information now possible through that most wonderful of tools when used responsibly and with selective discernment, the worldwide web!

Sadly these exciting developments in holistic medicine are yet to be embraced universally in spite of the growing mass of empirical evidence in their support. I also understand that some may find it difficult to share this excitement when tens of millions of American do not have access to free basic healthcare, when so many physicians are disillusioned with their work and when morale within the profession is probably at an all time low. When people are preoccupied not with the state of medical advances but with how they can possibly afford to pay for even basic treatment, perhaps urgent treatment for a sick child, it may seem hopelessly inappropriate to suggest that existing healthcare needs to regain its soul, to suggest that a new spirituality needs to infuse the healthcare profession.

Now I know I am touching on a controversial topic here, but as I watched President Obama make his inaugural speech to the American nation early in 2009, I was concerned. ‘We will restore science to its rightful place,’ he said, ‘and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its costs.’ With the emphasis on technology there was no recognition of the need to support an integrated healthcare. Perhaps that was neither the appropriate time nor occasion to raise such issues. But it may be that Obama’s two aims for healthcare are incompatible. Ever more complex drug regimes and technological advances are alone unlikely to lower the costs of healthcare. Also hurling more money at the present healthcare system seems to me like handing out more pills to deal with the side effect of a prescribed drug, rather than looking for a more appropriate initial treatment without that unwanted reaction.

Let me stress, by contrast, that the healing power of the spirit is free and wholesome, with no unwanted side effects. And healthcare is certainly not a commodity to take or leave. The quality of its provision should not depend on the wealth of an individual.

It is a matter of religious compassion and social justice that a basic healthcare should be freely available for all as a human right, not only for fellow citizens but also for all populations across the world.

As we work towards a more integrated and less expensive health system, is it too much to hope that the money saved could be redirected to help to provide basic medical needs across the globe in the fight to combat malaria, AIDS and the other crippling health concerns of so many who are very much less fortunate than ourselves?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Is holistic healthcare our future?

"Future generations, looking back, will regard conventional medicine during the twentieth century as being as limited as five-finger arithmetic. A new medicine is arising; one which embraces spirituality and consciousness as emphatically as conventional medicine has dismissed them." (Larry Dossey, M.D (1)  

Is it?
Is conventional medicine now looking so outdated?
Is Larry Dossey right or do we still have a long way to go?

The future of an integrated healthcare looks considerably more certain than it did only a few years ago. By integrated healthcare I mean a system that considers not only the interaction of the mind and body, but also the influence of the soul and spirit, in a holistic approach to healing. But there are still many who are not ready to accept such developments into their lives. This is in spite of the increasing evidence and support for the power of unseen forces within the holistic healing experience. Some even become aggressive in their denial of any hint of such spirituality, soul, Higher Being, or God. That is their great loss. But it is also a loss to the world.

I believe that only by experiencing the transcendent in our lives, submitting ourselves to this new consciousness and spirituality that is all around us, infusing our lives with spirit, will we achieve a personal level of real health, wholeness and well-being never before seen in the history of scientific clinical medicine. Not only that, but I think the social significance of some of these changes could be immense. This fractured world would be healed in so many ways, with increased potential for us all to enjoy a life of well-being, global justice, love and peace. The cost savings could also be significant, relieving the healthcare profession from its present almost unbelievable financial burden. Indeed medicine could be leading the way for us all in this spiritual journey if we only had the will.

‘To be a good doctor you have to be a compassionate chameleon, a shape shifter, a shaman.’ So wrote Cecil Helman, family doctor, medical anthropologist, poet, traveler and observer of health systems worldwide, in his book Suburban Shaman (2). From fascinating anecdotes of consultations with traditional South African shamans or Sangomas to the curative trance dances in the Brazilian favelas, he reflected on how western Doctors can learn much from the folk wisdom and shrewd knowledge of human nature as demonstrated by these indigenous Wounded Healers. In the midst of the poverty, illiteracy and appalling living conditions of the shanty - towns of Southern Brazil, a Brazilian doctor, Carlos Grossman, has developed an innovative Community Health Program. The ‘social doctors’ who work in such areas not only provide the primary health care for their patients but also devote as much as half of their time to community development, to health education, to campaigning for improved conditions and generally engaging with the underlying social conditions of those patients in their care. This, says Helman, is ‘real’ medicine. The shantytown conditions of Brazil or the indigenous medicine man may seem far removed both culturally and geographically from our own Western experience. But the healing methods of indigenous tribes are found in the culture of the Native Americans, in the Ayurveda of native Indian, in Chinese Oriental medicine and in many other cultures worldwide. These traditions go back thousands of years. I would suggest that the importance of the personal, subjective and social elements of patient care are no less relevant in mainstream healthcare provision in the USA or the UK than they are in the favelas of Brazil.

The World Health Organization (WHO) first recognized the value of these traditional shamanic healers as long ago as 1978, as being especially relevant in areas where there were few conventional doctors. The shamans, the WHO said, should be allies of conventional healthcare, not opponents, as they had the holistic advantage of ‘viewing man in his totality within a wide ecological spectrum, and of emphasizing …that ill health or disease is brought about by an imbalance…of man in his total ecological system…’ (3) The shaman could work cooperatively alongside conventional physicians in helping to combat AIDs, to promote family planning, child health and mental illness for example, as ‘social workers.’ Unfortunately the genuine holistic healing skills of the true indigenous shaman are too often today confused with the fads and abuses introduced by some of those unscrupulous ‘medicine men’ and ‘faith healers’ in our twenty first century culture, who are driven more by monetary gain than by any altruistic motive. This insults true shamanism and its origins.


1. From Larry Dossey front cover endorsement of Shealy, Norman and Dawson Church, Soul Medicine: Awakening your Inner Blueprint for Abundant Health and Energy, Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press, 2008.

2. Cecil Helman, Suburban Shaman: Tales from Medicine’s Frontline, London: Hammersmith Press, 2006, p. 77

3. World Health Organization, The Promotion and Development of Traditional Medicine (WHO Technical Report Series 622) (Geneva: WHO 1978), cited in Cecil Helman, 2006, p.163.

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


Total Pageviews