I recently listened to a podcast episode with Dr Zach Bush, who is one of my favourite doctors who speaks eloquently and beautifully about the bigger picture view of health and sickness, of the spiritual deficiencies in our society and the lack of connection with the natural world, and how these contribute to sickness. I also had some GP teaching earlier in the week on Trauma informed care, and the biological and spiritual effects of trauma (which also lead to sickness). This got me thinking about just how limited and unhelpful our reductionist medicine model can be for most of the chronic illnesses people suffer with. It reminded me how a different approach to patient consultations can help nudge people towards healing, and made me feel even more inspired to help people get to the root cause of their illness.
The teaching session and the podcast overlapped in many ways. At the teaching session, an artist who has suffered with severe mental illness and psychotic breaks talked about how spiritual and embodiment practices helped her immensely. She was talking at one point about what sort of things limit people’s capacity to heal and she said “shoes”, because they are another layer between us and the environment, limiting our feet’s capacity to feel and interact with the world. Our diminishment of our feet’s ability to feel is an extension of the rest of the ways we numb ourselves to the external environment.. She also talked about how shiatsu (a Japanese embodiment practice) helped her more than any talk therapy did; again showing the healing power of touch. Zach Bush also talks a lot about physical connection to the natural world, and particularly how our interaction with soil is so important, via the microbiome and via energy sharing. About how being part of biodiversity, by interacting physically with other humans, animals, grass, soil, bacteria, fungi, and viruses is necessary for health. And yet our reductionist model of the world sees everything as “out there” separate to us, and microbes as all bad, instead of an ecosystem that we are intrinsically part of. He also talks about the epidemic of loneliness, of separation, of ego; the very ideology that got us in this whole mess in the first place.
When you see things from this point of view it seems so OBVIOUS that people who live and work in boxes bathed in artificial light, off-gassing man made petrochemicals, looking at screens, talking to their friends via the internet, walking around in shoes, eating garbage, breathing toxic air, having no sense of meaning and purpose, etc are going to be sick. And throwing prescription medications at them is not going to solve the problem. It may mask some symptoms until the next manifestation of sickness occurs as a constellation of symptoms we label with a particular disease name. And they go to the doctor, whose medical training has taught them how to work out which label these particular symptoms fall under, so they can then (usually) prescribe a medication. This focus on disease and sickness, means doctors never really learn what HEALTH is, and how to help patients get back to health. How many doctors actually look after their own health and strive towards this goal? In my experience, very few.
I don’t believe anybody can be healed unless they connect back to their humanity.. What does it mean to be human? Connection to nature, to each other, to the natural world. Eating and moving and sleeping like how we evolved to. Having a sense of spirituality, of something bigger than yourself.
As someone in the healing profession, it is a constant struggle to help people heal, especially working in the conventional medical model. Society and culture is built around the very antithesis of health, so how on earth can it be done? But I have hope. There are grassroots organisations, forward thinking healers, communities of people focussed on healing, with the aim of making the human experience better. And importantly, educating people who have never thought about things this way. Everyone can start somewhere, to begin connecting to the essence of who they are, even if the first step is by feeling the grass under their bare feet. As healers we can try to embody the philosophy of healing, ask about and be interested in people’s stories, not just their symptoms and shift the focus more to creating health rather than avoiding disease.