Levels of Healing
Modern allopathic medicine looks for the causes for disease primarily in the visible world among microbes and genes. If you don’t feel well, conventional medicine examines the physical body; if it doesn’t find a “cause” there, it considers the dis-ease “idiopathic” which means “of unknown cause.”
In contrast, traditional Chinese medicine recognizes that physical dis-ease very often originates in the subtle realms of disturbance of the mind and emotions. For example, chronic worry and overthinking can cause weakness of digestion and disorders of phlegm accumulation; chronic anger or frustration can cause stagnation of liver or gallbladder function leading to gallstones; lack of passion and joy for life can cause heart disorders; and chronic fear or insecurity can cause urinary tract problems.
We all know that the thoughts we entertain can stir up emotions and have physiological effects like increasing flow of saliva or anxiety. This occurs because thoughts and images can cause the release of very powerful neuroendocrine chemicals in the body—substances that act both as neurotransmitters and hormones. These chemicals can have either beneficial or harmful effects.
In application, this means that healing sometimes requires attention to releasing the mental and emotional habits that contribute to disease. If someone has gallstones, this suggests habitual thoughts that generate frustration and anger, emotions that impair liver and gallbladder functions, you won’t cure the dis-ease by removing the stones or the gallbladder. The stones are only a symptom of a mental process. To really heal, this person will want to “amputate” the beliefs and thought habits that generate the emotions of anger or frustration.
Thus if we look at types of healing available to us today, we can arrange them according to the level of healing each offers.
Insofar as it focuses on using drugs to correct symptoms or surgery to remove dysfunctional tissue, modern conventional medicine does not address causes of disease, and only corrects or removes symptoms (e.g. a tumor). Although at times this approach may appear necessary, it is the lowest level of “healing” available today because it does not focus on working with or supporting the natural healing abilities of the body.
For example, modern medicine treats depression as if it arises as a result of a deficiency of anti-depressant drugs, which is obviously not the case. For another example, conventional medicine treats hypothyroid conditions by simply supplying the body with a synthetic version of one of the several thyroid hormones. There is little or no attempt to understand why the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, and use of this type of drug actually encourages a decline in the function of the gland.
Nutritional medicine offers a somewhat higher level of healing. Rather than introducing foreign materials (synthetic drugs) in to the body, a nutritional approach focuses on identifying and correcting a nutritional imbalance. However, one can use nutrients (particularly supplements, most of which are synthetic) as crudely as drugs, and without focus on primal nutrition. In such an approach, the focus lies on adding various nutrients to a diet via pills, liquids, powders, etc.
Although this is sometimes necessary, very often the more effective approach (which we advocate at Barefoot Acupuncture) aims primarily at removing from the diet items which have toxic effects or otherwise interfere with the natural healing abilities of the body. This means focusing on maintaining a more primal diet such as consumed by our hunting and gathering ancestors, and only using supplements sparingly when indicated by dietary deficiencies.
Nutritional medicine includes the use of glandular supplements to address malfunction of glands. To continue with the example of hypothyroid discussed above, a nutritional approach involves supplying the involved glands with nutritional support in the form of the dried glands from animals. These glandular supplements supply all known and unknown nutritional factors that the gland requires for healthy functions. This allows the gland to rejuvenate so that it can resume healthy function.
Herbal medicine also falls under the umbrella of nutritional medicine. Before the advent of agriculture, humans ate wild plants and used them as medicines. Since this went on for literally millions of years, the human body developed a requirement for components of plants that are found in greater quantities in herbs than in cultivated foods. Inadequate intake of these so-called phytonutrients can result in malfunction of various tissues of the body. By eating herbs or drinking tea made from herbs, we supply our bodies with primal nutrition.
Acupuncture and Reflexology
Acupuncture and reflexology induce an altered state of the nervous system and often of consciousness. This stimulates the self-regulating (homeostatic) mechanisms of the body, so that the body itself starts correcting imbalances in organs, glands, and tissues, hormones, neurochemicals, and other biochemicals. These therapies heal at a deeper level than conventional medicine because they induce corrections in the actual function of the body. The changes they induce occur first on the level of consciousness, thought, emotion, and the nervous system, which over time translate into actual changes of physiology.
I use the term “energy therapies” to refer to any therapy that focuses on inducing an altered state of consciousness which will result in an alteration of the neuroendocrine system of the body. These include hypnosis, visualization, Reiki, and shamanic journeys induced by drumming or rattling. Various natural items may also be used to assist in the induction of altered consciousness, most notably, stones and crystals. These types of therapies address psychic/spiritual causes of dis-ease.
For most (more than 98%) of human evolutionary time, shamans provided communities with healing. Shamans recognized that illness commonly has a non-physical cause and requires a non-physical solution obtainable only by entering a non-ordinary state of consciousness. This approach to healing obviously stood the test of time and, practically speaking, enabled the human race to survive and thrive through at least 2 million years of evolution without modern technology.
We now have a growing body of evidence that supports the shamanic point of view. This evidence indicates that we can prevent and heal diseases by addressing social and psychic factors or “causes,” using methods of inducing altered states of consciousness such as meditation, prayer, chanting, drumming, fasting, hypnosis, and visualization.
Indeed, it appears that the human body is actually “hard-wired” for experiencing altered states of consciousness.
For example, the brain naturally produces dimethyltriptamine and other “hallucinogenic” chemicals. As noted by anthropologist and shamanic traditions expert Michael Harner, Ph.D., “It seems unlikely that they would be present unless their ability to alter the state of consciousness would confer some advantage for survival. It appears that Nature itself has made a decision that an altered state of consciousness is sometimes superior to an ordinary state.”
Shamanic therapies address the psycho-spiritual causes of disease—blockages or patterns of mental and emotional expression that stimulate changes in body chemistry which in turn produce symptoms that we recognize as physical. This means that they address the deepest level of imbalance which lies in the “invisible” realm of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
At Barefoot Acupuncture we provide a holistic approach that incorporates the primal nutritional, herbal, acupuncture/reflexology, and "energetic" or shamanistic type therapies. This gives you access to the deepest levels of healing available. We hope to see you soon.