To the Western way of thinking, theology and medicine have little in common. Although some progress has been made in the past several decades in recognizing the interrelationship of the mind, body, and spirit, there is still the tendency to define a human being merely in terms of concrete, physiological attributes. In Eastern Christian ideology, however, just as in Eastern traditional healing systems of medicine, a human being is viewed as a spiritual, psychic, rational, and physical whole. By addressing the spirit, emotions, intellect, and body, Eastern Christian theology approaches healing from a wholistic, psychosomatic understanding of the individual. This is the approach that I embody in my practice.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originates in Eastern theology and philosophy, primarily Taoism, with aspects of Buddhism and Confucianism. Taoism traditionally had a strong influence on medicine: The idea of humans being part of nature and the need to live in harmony with nature is fundamental to this way of thinking, and is expressed in the saying, “As above, so below.” From the Taoist perspective, health is viewed as both spiritual and physical, and balance can only arise when the physical (jing), subtle energetic (qi), and spiritual essences (shen) are perfectly balanced. In the West, the treatment of the mind, body, and soul are separated into the distinct fields of psychology, medicine, and religion. This viewpoint dominates modern medicine, and is viewed in most Western countries as the only viable approach to healing. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t provide a comprehensive picture of an individual, and as a result, any attempt at healing is fragmented and incomplete. In my practice, I find that taking the time to consider all aspects of an individual allows for the deepest healing to occur.
On the most basic level, we must consider three distinct areas of nourishment that enable us to live and thrive:
- Celestial: Derived from the air that surrounds us, and which we obtain through breathing, which in turn oxygenates all the cells of the body.
- Earthy: The food and water we consume each day, which provides the raw materials to build our physical body (through anabolic processes) and our energy (through catabolic processes).
- Heavenly: Our relationship with God.
To go further, our heavenly nourishment involves three distinct but interrelated relationships:
- Cosmic: Our personal faith in our creator, or our religion. The cosmic relationship is inherently a mystery, and is a relationship of personal faith.
- Nature: The planet and the plant world. In TCM and other traditional healing modalities, the emphasis is upon Nature (God), and closely follows the principles of Nature as a model for the ideal life.
- Human: Our exchange of love with each other (and animals), giving love, receiving love, and having a sense of belonging. To be whole and healthy, one must be connected to God, nature, self, and others.
The illnesses of the human body, which are the primary concern of modern western medicine, cannot be cured independently by addressing the physical body separate from the emotions and spirit. I believe we need to bring our practices of medicine, psychology and religion closer together. The most effective way that I have found to do this is through the practice of prayer. To pray in this way is not dependent upon belief; it simply requires seeing someone where they are in this moment—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and to surround them with heavenly nourishment in the form of compassionate love. To do so, we must be willing to acknowledge that the highest aspect of the human soul, the spirit, connects humanity to God in a way that is both unique and mystical.
My personal experience with faith, prayer, and healing is that healing depends not only on medical treatment and physical medicine, but also on faith in the source of life, and on the cooperation between the physical and the metaphysical. I believe energy and matter are one and the same. The body as a whole is interconnected; each cell contains the whole, in the same way that each grain of sand contains the universe. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that is why we need to take a balanced approach to healing the mind, body, and spirit. Just as peace is not solely the absence of war, health is not only the absence of disease. At the same time, we must expand our view of health to include the entire web of life. We are interconnected with one another, with all living beings, and with all of nature. To enhance our own life force, we must consider the ecology of the universe in which we live. When we destroy nature, a part of us is impoverished.
In summation, a house in not built by beginning at the top and working down. You must first create a strong foundation; only then can you build a house. In the same way, people with health issues must return to their foundation, creating a solid base from which they can rebuild their health. In physical terms, this means supporting the body with optimal nutrition, rest, and appropriate exercise. This is where adaptogenic tonics can provide fundamental support. This special class of botanical and nutritional medicines works on a foundational level to sustain everything else you do to improve your health by nonspecifically enhancing and balancing the ‘whole,’ (the life force). In terms of the mind and emotions, we must learn to calm the mind, to forgive, to love, and to live with integrity in our relationships with others and ourselves. And in terms of spirit, we must nourish our connection to God through prayer and reflection. By attending to all of these aspects of our being, we can find our way back to true health.