How long did your last visit to the doctor last? I’m not talking about the time it takes to check in at the desk, sit in the sterile waiting room, and the even longer wait in the chilly examination room; I’m talking about the actual time you spent with your doctor. My guess is that it didn’t last more than 10 to 15 minutes. If that’s the case, your doctor probably didn’t have a great chance to get to know you as a person or even observe you as a whole.
Now, imagine your doctor trying to piece together your symptoms based on the information you provided in that short amount of time, while coupled with his knowledge of allopathic medicine to diagnose your illness. It’s no wonder Western medicine is often left with holes where real answers should be.
Medicine wasn’t always practiced this way’not even in the West. Before the explosion of modern medical technology only 80 to 90 years ago, physicians had to rely on intuition and observation of the patient as well as medical knowledge to treat illness. Perhaps instead of pushing forward with even greater technological advances in medicine, we need to jump back into the past.
A complete 5,000-year-old medical system from India called ayurveda is a consciousness-based system of healing. Even in its infancy, ayurvedic medicine did include such practices as surgery and pharmacology, using herbs as medicine. However, the major difference is that the focus of ayurveda is on prevention and treating the person as a whole rather than on a particular disease or simply treating symptoms.
I was recently listening to a story on National Public Radio about Cuba and its medical doctors. Because the embargo lasted so long and its closed borders kept out many of the medicines we take for granted in the US, Cuban physicians had to rely on getting to know their patients and use herbal medicine as treatment instead of modern prescription drugs. The report emphasized that these physicians were actually worried that the influx of Western medicine was going to make their patients worse, that’s saying a lot about lack of faith in our medical system.
Ayurveda is all-encompassing. It addresses diet, lifestyle, seasonal and daily routines, herbal medicine, massage or touch therapy, detoxification of the body, energy work, spiritual practice through yoga and meditation, and surgery. The philosophy behind ayurveda says that if it works, then you should try it. Even if you apply the principles of ayurveda, you can still follow your physician’s protocol, take prescribed medications, and make use of other methods used in allopathic medicine.
A trained ayurvedic practitioner will take the time to get to know you as a person. He knows that the patient is not simply flesh and bones but a dynamic being with a mind, body, range of emotions, soul, and spirit. There is a beautiful expression in an ancient ayurvedic medical text, the Charaka Samhita, that states, “The physician must enter the heart of the patient with the flame of love. If she does not, she cannot help him.” I believe this statement points to what has been lost in allopathic medicine and to what can be found in ayurvedic medicine.
Understanding Illness and Healing
One thing you must keep in mind is that illness doesn’t just pop up overnight. Illness takes months, years, and even decades to manifest. Ayurveda understands this simple truth and teaches that there are six stages of disease. Your body’s natural state is the state of health, illness is the anomaly. Therefore, when illness does erupt, something has gone seriously wrong. Ayurveda helps you get to the root cause of illness before it has a chance to manifest fully.
In order to shift to an ayurvedic mindset, you must to look at your health as balance vs. imbalance. If a person is balanced, she is healthy, vibrant, energetic, alive, happy, and motivated, and her skin and eyes glow. When a person is out of balance, she is dull, achy, tired, lethargic, worried, nervous, or depressed. Whether or not physical symptoms are present, ayurveda can detect that a person is out of balance, and this imbalance will ultimately lead to a manifestation of symptoms and disease if not corrected.
Discovering this imbalance before the patient becomes ill gives the ayurvedic practitioner a little more wiggle room to help the patient. Patients go to the doctor because they are uncomfortable, and if the doctor doesn’t detect any physical symptoms or abnormalities, then all too often he sends the patient home in exactly the condition as when he arrived. But the ayurvedic practitioner, through observation, palpation, and a series of questions, can easily detect the state of imbalance and help tweak the patient’s health back into balance by recommending alterations in diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, and lifestyle along with emotional clearing or herbs.
You Are More than Just a Physical Body
When we look at our own health and healing, we often only look to the physical body. The body is a good place to start: Our health and well-being is affected by what we do and don’t do. Therefore, diet and exercise (or lack thereof) are important parts of healing. However, you are not limited to this physical package, nor should you stop there. Your health is multifaceted, and in order for healing to occur on all levels, it’s good to take a look at the other aspects of you.
In The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda, I take the concept of a wheel that has eight spokes and apply it to health. Each of the spokes represents an aspect of your health: The center of the wheel is you balanced with all the benefits you can enjoy with optimal health such as peace, joy, wisdom, love, bliss, and manifestation of desires.
The first spoke of the wheel represents physical health, which is balanced through learning your ayurvedic mind-body type, eating an ayurvedic lifestyle diet, and exercising for both your mind-body type and daily and seasonal routine.
Secondly, you can turn to the emotional healing spoke, which is balanced through emotional clearing, managing your emotions, and conscious communication.
Your emotional health is closely linked to healing your past and your relationship health. Healing your past is about renewing your story and letting go of past hurt, and relationship health is living with harmonious relationships and taking the necessary risks to not go at it alone.
Spiritual health and living your dharma (your life’s purpose) means understanding that everything in this universe is connected. Through the practice of meditation, visualization, and living the life of your dreams, you are integrating yourself into the perfect orchestration of the universe.
Finally, it’s good to look at the spokes on occupational health, financial health, and environmental health. Our job consumes much of our time and if we are unhappy in it, we cannot be healthy. Closely linked are our finances and our concept of money. Do you live in poverty consciousness or wealth consciousness? The environments you live in say a lot about you and your health. Is your environment chaotic, cluttered, and crowded? Clearing space and loving where you are allows room to expand, grow, and heal.
You can begin your healing journey at any aspect of the wheel: When you heal one spoke, usually others will follow suit.
Marrying the Two Medical Systems
Allopathic medicine is great for acute illnesses and coinciding symptoms. It’s fantastic when you can use allopathic medicine to get a tumor removed, or to replace an organ with another. For example, I had to have my thyroid removed due to thyroid cancer and I wouldn’t be alive today if I didn’t have thyroid medication.
Ayurvedic medicine works at keeping you healthy day-to-day, and it empowers you to take charge of your own health and life. Through ayurveda, you can get to know yourself from the inside out. You can detect minor imbalances and correct them before they become major, while you learn about kitchen herbs and how they heal. You get to practice ayurvedic routines including self-administered massage, tongue cleaning, and nasal cleansing to help detoxify the body. Even if you don’t have access to an ayurvedic practitioner, you can learn the tools to fill the holes where Western medicine falls short.
Hopefully someday soon, our medical system will have the wisdom to marry the two systems that will allow the physician to have the time and knowledge to enter the heart of his patient so healing (not illness) becomes the norm in our society.
By Michelle S. Fondin