For Whom and When: One Person’s Medicine is Another’s Poison
This is such an important principle of real medicine for physical or mental ailments. I emphasize real medicine here, rather than what I normally use to describe our system, natural. It is true, we are “all natural” – but at Energy of Mind: A Sauhu Therapy it is our awareness of what should be common sense – “different strokes for different folks” – that makes us real.
I have been experiencing a prolonged, low-grade fever. Even though I am a tried and true “natural” medicine practitioner, our view is not opposed to allopathic medicine when it is necessary. However, sometimes when I do venture back into the world of Western medicine I am surprised by its immaturity.
Sorry. I know that questioning the conditioned belief that Western modern science and medicine is the best of the best often causes a rucous. But, that Western medicine in its relative youth has not taken guidance from medical systems that are thousands of years old (India’s Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, etc) is a bit unwise.
I digress… back to my fever… the doctor’s take was: there must be a cause, the cause must be the physical presence of an invader and therefore we must KILL the cause! She looked at my tonsils and they were inflamed and red, so she diagnosed “tonsillitis” and sent me on my way with cause-killing antibiotics. Now, I know this wasn’t great doctoring and that there are many excellent Western doctors who would have been more thorough, but I’ll use it for the example’s sake because many of the themes are pertinent to my critique of the Western system at large.
One week later my fever remains. The doctor’s assumption that something was causing my fever led her to the objective conclusion that something must be taken away- namely bacteria. She never even considered the possibility that sickness can be caused by an absence of something and thus its cure comes from adding not taking away.
Within 60 seconds of taking my pulse my friend, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), said, “You have heat in your heart, but it is a false heat. The heat is not actually the root of the problem, but rather, it is a masking symptom for an underlying deficiency in “yin” energy. Are you waking at night and not able to fall back to sleep? I bet your anxious and having night-sweats and that the onset of your fever is every afternoon.”
She was right on on all accounts. She didn’t ask me a single question to acquire this information. It all is available in the pulse. Now, forget the fact that “normal” doctors don’t have this tool of pulse taking where they use their own body as a sensitive instrument of diagnosis, but they also are not trained to specify about questions like: what time of day does your fever start? Nor are they taught to wonder: what time of night do you wake up and are unable to fall back to sleep? It is basic natural medicine to relate this symptom to a problem in a particular organ.
Which brings me to my friend telling me, “You have heat in your heart…” Say what?
To many allopathic doctors a fever is a fever. It is a physical problem and bears little to no relation to emotions or “spirit.” Like I said, even though there are many wonderful allopathic doctors with great sensivity, skill and intution, in the overall system this level of detail just doesn’t exist. Heat in the heart? Spleen? Liver? Kidneys? How would a Western doc know? Do, they even know it is a possibility? All of these situations require totally different treatments.
But, the Western medicine doctor’s treatment plan is too often like America’s foreign policy: aggressively kill all threats and return to the status-quo of comfort and safety. Why ask too many questions when you can drop a scud missile, wipe out the enemy and restore “peace and harmony.” Western medicines are so powerful that they often over-ride individual constituional differences and just kill what is “bad.” But, how did this system get away from considering pesonal body types when even the Greeks, its predessors, assessed people by their predominant element and treated them accordingly?
Even if many of us do have the experience that most of the time our doctors help us when we are sick, have we ever stopped to think about the “innocent bystanders” killed in the unilateral decision to wipe out the enemy? Over time this overt display of strength actually weakens us: body, mind and spirit and we often approach death weak, infirm and afraid.
This arrangement also makes us dependent on the very system that weakens us. This should never happen in natural medicine. Even as our bodies deteriorate, which IS natural, the mind and spirit should become stronger and we should meet death with dignity and grace. And, any natural doc worth her salt should impart upon us enough principled wisdom for us to doctor ourselves and be empowered, rather than dependent.
But in my recent run in with “medicine” the antibiotics, which have a quality of being very hot in the body in order to kill bacteria, contributed to the problem. For me, a Fire element type person who is already hot, they were poison. Heat creates dryness and dryness exacerbates yin deficiency. To put it simply, “yin” energy is related to the “moon” and characterized as soft, cool, nourishing, calming, and “surrendered.” Yang energy is related to the sun and is hot, harsh, aggressive, and active. So often the philosophy of Western medicine, science, politics, culture and psychology is to fight fire with fire. Sometimes it works, but if it doesn’t its likely to cause a disaster.
In my case, my fever is worse and now I have a dry, frustrating cough which I didn’t have before the “medicine.” My insomnia is much worse and my thoughts spin and spin when I should be sleeping. Again, my TCM doctor friend was totally on top of this: saying, “Yin/heart energy is responsible for creating a cohesive sense that ‘gathers’ our energy at night into a ‘center’, which enables us to sleep restfully. When deficient in this way we lack this cohesive energy center and our life-force is ‘thrown out’ often in the form of restless, anxious thoughts.”
There is absolutely no differentiation in real natural medicine systems between the mind, body and spirit. Thus, your qualified TCM doc can probably do a lot more to alleviate your depression than your shrink can. And, to many M.D.’s the the body is merely a hunk of flesh with interchangeable parts that can be substituted when broken. A connection to the mind and spirit? That is considered un-scientific and by some conservative thinkers, even primitive.
“A center?” “A mysterious force that ‘gathers’ our sense of self and enables us to rest?” If it can’t be seen under a microscope it is not real in the scientific world. Now, there ARE many open-minded doctors with experience that have too many examples of seeing the intangible and therefore might agree with what I am saying. But we cannot underestimate that Western medical policy and philosophy, which ultimately drives medical practice, is a material model that has to “See it to believe it.”
These deeper views of reality and accompanying practices are NOWHERE in the repertoire of formal Western medical education and practice, though some doctors via their innate human skill have picked some of it up. Doctors do work very hard in their medical training, but it is mostly about information and intellect. Very little attention is given to cultivating the finer aspects of human sensitivity and intuition. In fact, many might even be surprised that there are actually things you can do do cultivate these skills.
In natural medicine systems the information must also be learned, of course, but it is always in the context of deeper and deeper experiences of the self that enable the doctor to “see” his patients. In the West it is left to chance to see if doctors will display these capacities, but wouldn’t it be better if these intangibles were trained and cultivated as they could be? And, might it not be a good idea that views and practices that have stood the test of thousands of years time be revered and studied by a tradition that is still so young?
What is one man’s medicine, amoxycyllin, was my poison. This is not to say that antibiotics are not sometimes useful and necessary – they are, I’ve benefited from them on many occasions. But, it is amazing to me that people who are so “smart”- doctors and scientists – have refused to incorporate the wisdom accrued by thousands of years of brilliant, revelatory medicine for body, mind and spirit hailing from traditions like TCM, Ayurveda and others.
Unfortunately, some of the doctors that have allowed a wider view into their field are, unfortunately, often capitalizing on a trend in “holistic health” that will help them make an extra buck. Natural medicine is handed down via means of apprenticeship. It is old world in this way. And, to be qualified you must be experienced. In other words you must test the system in the laboratory of your life over a period of years until you become an expression of that system. It is not something that you use, but something that you become.
Am I the only one who thinks it strange that there is nothing that says M.D.’s have to be healthy? It is even more messed up that there is no regulation for shrinks to be sane! In either case I am not talking about some standard of perfection. That’s not real. But, a medical practitioner or a “psychological” clinician should be more actively engaged in the process of self health and understanding than the average person.
There is no “law” like this in natural medicine, either, these days. That’s because the system of teacher-student has broken down. Now, anyone can go to a weekend workshop and call themselves a healer. In the old days, and in authentic lineages like ours today, the teacher simply would not give the student permission to work with others unless they proved undoubtedly that they were a living embodiment of the teaching.
Again, this is to not to say perfection, but that this one is consciously engaged in a constant process of balancing life with the principles of the system. It is this type of real life experience that gives someone the intuition like my friend had to be able to take my pulse and know exactly what was going on for me. “Know yourself and thou shall know the Universe and God.” This way, one can see the uniqueness of each particluar situation’s nuances and offer the correct treatment of medicine, rather than the assumed treatment which is poison.