I have a confession: I used to believe that ‘alternative medicine’ and ‘wellness’ were synonymous. I thought that the more “natural” systems of healing that include homeopathy and other forms of energy medicine, plantbased herbal remedies and tonics, whole foods diets and supplements, as well as chiropractics and the entire spectrum of bodywork and touch therapy were fundamental to maintaining health. For me, ‘alternative’ referred to a superior methodology of mitigating chronic and acute disorders, and I dismissed pharmaceutically driven prescription and over-the-counter drugs, surgery, and all other standard and experimental AMA sanctioned practices as dangerously brutal. I considered myself enlightened.
It all began in the early 1970’s with my reading of Adelle Davis’ Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, a book first published in 1954, the year I was born. Recognized as a nutritional pioneer, she was heralded for bringing to the public’s attention the inevitable nutritional shortfalls that result from large-scale, soil depleting farming practices. Davis argued for the necessity of vitamin and mineral supplementation due to the nutritional losses from the food grown utilizing those practices. Her authoritative perspective was based on both clinical work and practical study at Purdue, UC Berkeley, Columbia, UCLA, and USC, where she earned a Masters of Science in Biochemistry.
At the time, I was an urban dweller and did not grow my own food. I became a vitamin fanatic instead and consumed handfuls of (in hindsight) mostly indigestible pills every day, but I did evolve my system of supplementation well beyond Davis’ recommendations over time. Regardless, the study of her research provided me with a solid basis for understanding nutrition generally and vitamins and minerals specifically – a knowledge base from which I continued to build.
That same year, I also began to explore the world of whole foods including herbs. I was a student in Boston and ‘Beantown’ was a hotbed of nutrition and wellness strategy trailblazers. The Hippocrates Institute (promoting live, raw foods) had located their main offices there, as did an international macrobiotic institute (promoting small amounts of cooked grains and vegetables – heavy on the brown rice.) Erewhon, one of the first organic foods mega-corporations, began as a tiny storefront on Newbury Street, and I shopped there regularly. There was also small specialized shops displaying jars filled with exotic looking dried leaves, barks and berries and I was excited to explore them all. In addition to making my own bread daily and eating home-cooked healthy foods, brewing and steeping creatively combined plant parts to make tonics became a way of life. Soon, friends would begin to ask for remedies and I became empowered with a sense of self-righteous autonomy thinking I would never become co-dependent on the AMA system of medicine.
Another decade passed before I became a mother, and early in my first child’s pregnancy, I was introduced to another “alternative” healing method called Homeopathy. I was fascinated with the knowledge of “energy healing,” and procured an extensive library and pharmacy to satisfy my new passion. During that time, I had also begun to practice yoga and tai chi, and read books like Zukov’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Capra’s The Tao of Physics. As I increased my arsenal of knowledge and alternative remedies, I was thoroughly convinced that the majority of AMA doctors were practitioners of modern day voodoo.
Becoming pregnant offered new challenges I had not previously considered: How and where would I give birth? I called every hospital in the phone book and asked the same question: What alternatives do you have to traditional, invasive “delivery rooms”? During a call to the most prestigious hospital in the region, the maternity ward head nurse replied to my question with: If you want an alternative to our delivery rooms, I can roll you out into the hallway and you can have your baby out there.”
I was horrified by the inflexible attitudes I experienced from maternity ward personnel, so I began to ask parents at my food co-op about the kinds of childbirth choices they had made. My good friend and manager of the store told me that his partner was a midwife and put us in touch. Thus began my foray into the world of women-managed health care and childbirth: I had found an intelligent, kind and compassionate support system and I was in heaven. My daughter was born in the quiet comfort of our home with the help of two confident and experienced lay midwives. I was so elated by the experience that by the time I was pregnant again with my son, my husband and I had decided to birth at home – just the two of us – and all went well.
With two children in diapers and alternative remedies in tow, we moved our family to Washington State to raise them in a healthy, rural environment, and there I met my spiritual teacher, Ramtha The Enlightened One. He taught me advanced knowledge about the body, the brain, the mind, and a sacred technique of healing that was so profound, my alternative medicine chest soon found its way to the back of the closet. I also learned to create my reality – my experience of life – by utilizing many disciplines, including seeing myself healthy every day, all day, all week, all year and into the next decades. I understood the importance of giving my body the picture of wellness so that my brain’s neurological structure and functioning would then direct my little DNA machines in the manufacturing of healthy proteins to replenish my body.
Yet, despite decades of obtaining and integrating knowledge about health and wellness, I only recently recognized that I was holding on to the old pictures of ‘AMA versus alternatives’, thus keeping my body bound to that dichotomy. Intellectually, I accepted that wellness was all about changing one’s thoughts and subsequently changing one’s life, but I had not yet completely surrendered the right/wrong attitudes I had built up over decades of study and experience. It became necessary for me to let go of those long held thoughts so that I could know and experience even greater levels of wellness – one that more fully unites my spiritual practices and experiences with the physical needs of my body. The heretic in me had to be disassembled and transformed into wisdom.
I now have a greater appreciation about wellness that continues to broaden. It is not only about what I do or don’t do to my body, it’s about nurturing the capacity to grow and evolve my life from what it has been into what it will become. Recognizing limited thinking and then changing those thoughts and attitudes is integral to that process.
The field of medicine is slowly catching on, but in the meantime, there are many great scientists and physicians like Dr. Joan Borysenko, Dr. Daniel Siegel, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Dr. Dan Gleeson, Dr. Larry Dossey, and Dr. Bernie Siegel who are rigorously and passionately integrating the knowledge of our innate transformative capacity into their practices and trainings. I deeply appreciate the challenges they face and honor them: Their efforts do help evolve health care and drive the field of integrative medicine into the future – a future well served by their courage and tenacity.
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