As a musician, I’m attuned to the transformative power of music. My father was a musician, and I grew up listening to classical and jazz compositions. I was intrigued by the complex rhythms and melodies of jazz, and was inspired to begin playing the bass guitar in my early teens. In my early twenties, I added another dimension of music to my life when I entered a Franciscan monastery and experienced the meditative chants of the monks. I always felt that I both lost and found myself in music, whether it was classical, jazz, or Gregorian chants.
As a researcher, I’m interested in understanding exactly how music affects the body. From the beginning of recorded history, sound and music have played a significant role in healing. Whether through the hypnotic drum rhythms of an African tribe or the sonorous chants of Tibetan monks, music pierces the soul and accesses the power of healing in a way unlike any other.
In the West, there’s a growing interest in music therapy. Studies show that music helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression; eases pain and muscle tension; lowers blood pressure; and improves immune function. People with cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, anxiety, and depression have all been shown to benefit from music therapy. For example, researchers at the November 2008 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions meeting in New Orleans presented a study showing that emotions aroused by joyful music have a beneficial effect on blood vessel function. Laughter and relaxation are also helpful, but music seems to be the strongest of “medicines” for the heart.
Continue reading “How Music Heals”
When people ask me to name the most powerful medicine I know, many are surprised when I respond, “Love.” In my two-and-a-half decades as a healer, I have observed that love is the greatest of all medicines and is the true essence of all healing.
My work brings me into close relationship with people facing life-threatening illness. It’s not uncommon that upon diagnosis of a serious illness, such as cancer, that people are often struck, as for the first time, with a deep understanding of the preciousness of life. It’s as though the thought of life being taken away is what sparks renewed life. Suddenly, our goals in life change—often radically—and we reevaluate who we are and where we are going. With great clarity, we become certain about who and what is important in our lives, and we know how we want to live out the rest of our days.
Continue reading “Love As Medicine”
I’m intrigued by research on the Blue Zones, which are essentially hot spots of longevity. In these areas of the world, it’s not uncommon for people to still be living active, healthy lives beyond the age of one hundred. So far, researchers have identified five Blue Zones:
These areas are diverse geographically, culturally, and spiritually. But what they have in common is a lifestyle that naturally supports all of the facets of good health: physical, emotional, and spiritual. People fortunate enough to be born in Blue Zones eat healthfully (a plant based diet, accented with small amounts of animal protein). Continue reading “Secrets of the Blue Zones: The World’s Hot Spots of Longevity”
I’m intent on helping people to live fully, and I untiringly seek ways to optimize health, vitality, and wellbeing in every aspect of existence. My life’s work as an herbalist and healer, supported by decades of scientific research and infused by my spiritual practices, have culminated in the creation of the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System, a unique healing approach that draws from both the Western and the Eastern traditions of medicine.
These philosophies are at opposite ends of the medical spectrum. But instead of choosing one over the other, I’ve found that it is the synthesis of these two approaches that facilitates the greatest healing, by providing me with a wide spectrum of tools from which to draw. There’s no question that Western medical technology can be extremely useful, and even life saving. But there is much more than technology involved in true healing, and this is where I find great value in the Eastern approach to medicine.
Continue reading “Western and Eastern Medicine: Finding Union”
Simple and pithy, this adage pretty much sums up a healthful approach to nutrition. Our bodies are designed to thrive on a varied diet of whole, unprocessed foods—fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs; proteins from sea and land animals; naturally grown and processed grains and beans; and fermented foods. Despite regional and cultural differences, traditional diets throughout the world are all based on some combination of these basic healthy foods. These are the foods that humans have evolved eating and that have kept us healthy for eons.
Every calorie we ingest either fuels the inward energy that creates, nourishes, and heals every cell in our bodies, or is used to generate the outward energy that helps us act in the world. In the process of transforming food into inward or outward energy, toxic byproducts are formed that are oxidative and pro-inflammatory. Nutrient dense, healthful foods can efficiently make healthy cells, produce balanced energy, and at the same time reduce the creation of waste byproducts.
Continue reading “You Are What You Eat…”
Both Eastern and Western healing traditions have long known that strengthening vitality is the basis for improving health and recovering from illness or injury. Early American herbal systems such as the Eclectic tradition understood this concept as central to healing. In my 25 years of clinical practice, I’ve found that enhancing vitality, although often ignored in modern medicine, is essential for health. As such, the Eclectic model has provided me with a wealth of information that informs my healing practice today.
As their name implies, the Eclectics encouraged exploration of every system of medicine, regardless of its origins, to discover and apply the most useful principles for the wellbeing of humanity. The basic principles of Eclectic medicine can be distilled to these simple precepts:
- Nature is the great physician who, if permitted and not interfered with, provides for our physical requirements.
- Disease (dis-ease) of whatever nature is caused by a lack of equilibrium (an imbalance), the result of an abnormal condition in the body, or the result of congestion due to poor elimination.
- These conditions of dis-ease can be truly cured only by the use of plants or other agents that conform to the laws of life and assist the powers of nature.
- A physician is spiritually inclined; he or she loves and lives for their profession. Their feelings are always for those who suffer and their intention is to bring as much relief to the ill as may be in their power.