I believe that medicine’s potential is much more than the version we see in the world today. A doctor should be an educator with the goal of bringing patients to a place of deeper understanding of who they are in the world. To me, medicine is ultimately about self-empowerment through self-knowledge and growth.
Under last night’s full moon I took a few moments to ponder wholeness in medicine, our goal at Berkshire Whole Health.
When I think about what whole health is, I come to three initial points:
1. Everything belongs!
It all fits. Our successes and our traumas are equally relevant. Both our talents and our disabilities are important. We are all of it. There is nothing that can’t be integrated. That’s the first point: All of it is lovable, and acceptance and self-love are freeing.
This Thich Naht Hahn poem comes to mind:
I have arrived I am home In the here In the now I am solid I am free In the ultimate I do dwell
2. We matter!
It’s easy to wonder if the opposite is true. At first pass, one person out of billions on a huge planet makes you feel as insignificant as a tiny speck of a planet in a corner of a corner of the universe. Dust in the wind, they say. Well, consider the quiet whisper of what the sages have said: the Earth is the actual seed for a new universe, and the human being is the one with the creative powers on the earth. You matter!
Don’t sell yourself short, yes there are strong powers (technology, big business, etc) taking the earth in a certain direction and we can seem powerless, but in our everyday life what we contribute to humanity through our kindness and care for each other is a bigger deal than we could ever imagine.
A seed looks pretty underwhelming at first glance! But it provides the perfect setting for miraculous things to unfold.
3. Less Medicine
I’ve always agreed that the right amount of medicine is the least amount you need to have the desired effect.
I came across a recent quote from the late Bernard Lown, an internationally renowned Brigham cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient who said, “Do as much as possible for the patient, and as little as possible to the patient.”
“One of the hardest things to do in medicine is to have the confidence to do nothing,” another medical thinker (Ridker) said.
There is a heated discussion right now about being overzealous with the vaccine program in developed countries. A lack of individualization is certainly not a principle in doctoring on a smaller scale but it appears to be so on a global scale.
The mounting evidence of robust natural immunity after infection is given no consideration, even when there are more breakthrough cases after immunization than second cases after actual COVID cases. Worldwide resources are limited and indiscriminate vaccination in rich countries seems to be derived from a program that is not fully deliberated.
From NPR this week:
“I believe it is a cause of deep moral concern that rich countries are giving priority to vaccinating low-risk populations in their own countries, such as teenagers, rather than sharing the excess supply with countries battling the infection surge. It’s simply not fair.
For example, Africa is home to more than a billion people, and yet is one of the regions where fewer than 1% have been fully vaccinated. High-risk groups, including front-line health-care workers, often do not have an option to get vaccinated. And several nations in the continent have not received any supplies at all.”
From The WHO website this week:
“Children should not be vaccinated for the moment.
There is not yet enough evidence on the use of vaccines against COVID-19 in children to make recommendations for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults.“
The right dose of medicine is a key, as is always looking for the best type of medicine. I’m impressed with the amazing advances in new technology including genetic approaches, and I still also see the great value with viewing nature in its wholeness and deriving medicines from that effort.
The whole health approach has an awe inspired respect for nature’s intelligence and appreciates medicine that keeps their relationship to the natural world. This includes food as medicine, of course. Go organic when you can. Ever heard of biodynamic? It makes organic look like a Yugo.
Birch and BCWH
Speaking of natural medicine, I’d like to end today’s bulletin with an honoring of a special plant. Many of you have appreciated the river birch that lives at the front of the office’s parking lot.
We moved to the office in 2019, long after designing our logo in 2017 which gives a nod to the birch:
It makes me think I am in the right place over here at 8 Pine in Stockbridge.
So what is it about the Birch? (which is quite a healing plant, used for detox and helps sore muscles and other rheumatologist complaints).
The natural practitioner will study the big picture of the plant to learn the ways it can heal the human being. Ulrich Meyer shows how deep study of the world can lead to satisfying insights into what the natural world provides. An excerpt of his essay on the Birch (and the oak):
The birch, an aristocrat among trees: its slender form wrapped in a silver-white bark, it is tall and graceful and its branches hang elegantly in gently drooping arches. The wind plays softly among the branches and moves the flexible twigs like waving hair. Epitomising the spring, with the soft green of its small diamond-shaped leaves, it is reminiscent of the traditional maypole.
The birch hardly dares to connect with the soil. It produces a “plate” root that only takes hold of the soil superficially. It will grow in poor soils but depletes them even further. This is why other plants find life hard growing near birches, though there would certainly be no lack of light.
Birch is an out-and-out pioneer plant. When people abandon a house, birches soon grow from roof and windows. The tree also appears early on newly graveled areas and waste land. It became a colonizer when the glaciers receded after the last ice age in Europe.
Birch was considered feminine (“lady of the woods”), belonging to Venus, and stood for fresh, light-hearted love, for wooing a bride (May tree).
It is the bark of the birch that stands out from other trees. It is exfoliative and fragile and has long been seen as a substitute for paper. This is a clue to the Birch’s detox benefits.
The differences in a plant species, where they stand out and are like no other, are where they are most potent, just as with each of us. Let your light shine just as it is!
I’ll conclude with a word from Herman Hesse who clearly had love for the Birch:
The arabesque of a poet’s dreams would not show finer branches, give itself more easily to the wind, nor rise into the blue with greater glory. Tender, young and over slender you let your light, long branches droop, a little timid, letting them move with every breath of air. Moving gently as you sway, the shimmering, shivering movements may bring to mind the tenderness and purity of love’s young days.