Recently, a scholar and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (a medical system that originated 5,000 years ago in China) showed me a plant with a withering, yellow leaf. He is trained as a conventional orthopedic surgeon with additional certification in acupuncture and herbal medicine. After many years of practice, teaching and research, he has thought a great deal about how we heal, and he was trying to explain his views to me.
He pointed to the leaf and said, “What shall we do about this? We can perform surgery and cut it off, but if the plant is having a problem growing, this will not help. We can spray the surface of the plant with chemicals to kill any pests that may be attacking it, but that will not stop pests from returning. Or, we can nourish the soil in which the plant is growing, strengthening its roots and increasing the flow of water and nutrients throughout the stem, branches and leaves. This will help the plant become more resistant to pests and disease.”
If you have a broken bone, uncontrolled bleeding, a heart attack, a concussion or some other acute problem, you want an ambulance, a hospital and all of the sophisticated technology of modern medicine and surgery. But what if you are living with chronic pain, a degenerative disease such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, or ongoing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis or Marfan syndrome?
Modern medicine cannot yet cure such conditions. At best, your doctor can offer you medication — along with the attendant risk of side effects — advice about lifestyle modifications, and physical or occupational therapy.
But what if we asked our doctors to see us as more than a collection of symptoms? What if we also tried to strengthen and nourish our own potential to heal? How can we become more resilient to disease and pain? These are the kinds of questions I have explored in my books and will be hoping to discuss with others through this blog.