Concepts of health and disease are intimately interwoven into the myths and beliefs a society holds about the natural and supernatural worlds. In most cultures, individuals were viewed as part of a cosmic web with illness representing a misalignment between personal and universal intent. The doctor's role was to identify the point of departure from balance and guide the patient back into the healthy stream of life. With an unshakable trust in the recuperative power of nature, the shaman's role was to teachthrough ritual, word, and deedthe process of harmonizing the individual's body with the body of nature, the individual's mind with the mind of nature, the individual's spirit with the spirit of nature.
I learned that health and illness were the consequence of the thoughts and choices people made.
Western medicine, which views human beings as physical entities, knowable through an understanding of biochemistry and physiology. Awareness, thoughts, memories, desires, emotions, passion, creativity, ecstasy, and vitality are explained as byproducts of molecular and electrical interactions. In short, I learned that people are essentially physical machines that think. Peace, harmony, happiness, and love . . . grief, loneliness, alienation, and despair . . . these human experiences did not play a role in medicine, because they were not reducible to measurable elements.
This physical model of contemporary medicine is not wrong; it is merely incomplete. It has led to the phenomenal medical advances that we take for grantedcoronary artery bypass surgery, cancer chemotherapy, H-2 gastric acid blockers, fourth generation antibiotics, and psychoactive medications. And yet, despite these remarkable breakthroughs in the understanding of the mechanisms of illness, modern medicine has had little impact on the expansion of well being, happiness, or vitality. We have replaced epidemics of smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, and the plague with epidemics of AIDS, heart disease, drug addiction, and cancer. We have learned a lot about how to treat illness but not much about how to create health.
The first evidence of a decline in health is often a diminishing sense of vitality. Lack of energy, reduced enthusiasm for life, and nagging fatigue are signs that the integration between body, mind, and spirit is precarious. These days, if you go to your doctor with these complaints, you may have a series of blood tests to rule out the diseases that can sometimes cause them. Chances are very high that the tests will return normal and your physician will not be able to diagnose your problem......
It was not until I began fully exploring the role of body, mind, and spirit in the pursuit of optimal health that I realized the most powerful healing pharmacy on earth is the human body, and there are many subtle and profound ways to enliven this inner healing system. A core message of this book is that every degradation in well being is an opportunity to identify what is missing from life so we can begin making the choices to recover the health and vitality we all deserve.