Tag: medicine

Health: Dependence or Independence?*

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Dependence is certainly not what a toddler wants after learning to walk, or a teen after getting a driver’s license. They don’t seek to return to dependence on that which they have outgrown. They are overjoyed at the progress they have made in taking charge of their life and asserting their independence.

But is regression from independence a risk in regard to our health? Are there aspects of typical, modern health care that foster dependence? Can our attitude and thoughtfulness help avoid this dependence.

A young adult friend was in a serious automobile accident and consequently immobilized because of broken bones. A skilled and attentive surgeon set the bones and prescribed rest and low level activity that would aid recovery. Medications were included to control pain and address other precautions. This was normal protocol. The young adult adhered to the regimen initially, but unwelcome side effects accompanied procedures, and he wanted to diminish or cease the usage of the medications. He respected medical opinion, but he did not hesitate rethinking the nature, duration and intensity of these prescriptions as an independent thinker.

Expecting healing, rather than perpetuation of chemical assistance, helped him diminish the dosages until half way through the expected program there was no need for pain medication because there was no pain. Why? Because, in part, this young man was not perpetuating the thought of the accident. He held no ill will toward the drunk driver who T-boned him. He felt and showed much gratitude toward the emergency room personnel, asking on departure to go back to thank one of the nurses for the special care he had received when he was first brought in. He turned the physical challenges into a lesson of patience. In short, he had refused to depend upon the stereotypical victim conduct of anger, pity, or self-absorption. The result was a quicker recovery, both emotionally and physically, and freedom from continuing chemical dependence.

Good outcomes from maintaining an independent and open thought on the path to health have been evident for centuries. One finds Biblical precedent in the woman who, having spent her wealth on seeking medical help for her chronic bleeding without relief, reached out to the spiritual representative of health at that time, Christ Jesus, and was healed through reclaiming her own spiritual independence from the matter-based norm that had not helped her.

Like this woman and the young man mentioned above, we can be grateful for the caring received from skilled and well-motivated professionals without slipping into dependence. We can search out the spiritual qualities like graciousness, gratitude, humility and forgiveness, which bring confidence in the inevitability of good health and strengthen one’s conscious independence toward life-affirming decisions.

*Published December 10, 2014 in  the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper in Globe, Arizona.

iOS 8.0* Iconic Health

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Major change. For those who use iPhones* and iPads*, Apple just launched a thorough update of their operating system for its customers. Without requesting it, a new icon appears when this software is downloaded. It is the “Health” icon. I didn’t ask for it. It just appeared.

The “Health” icon provides the user with a dashboard of health data about themselves. It also allows one to source other medical applications and to list critical personal medical information for emergencies.

When this appeared on my iPhone desktop, I looked for ways that I could incorporate my health data and its sources — files of spiritual inspiration and evidences of God’s love for man — under that desktop icon along with exercise regimen. For me the important sources are passages of inspired Scripture and learnings of a spiritual nature, many of which are from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by an early researcher in health, Mary Baker Eddy.  The iPhone program appears to assume that “health” and “medicine” coupled with exercise, are synonymous. But is that a sufficiently inclusive view of one’s health?

To many people, health, or wholeness, is far more than medical data and the tracking of cardio routines reported to the user. Those could be helpful but do not constitute a complete system for health. Others have found an effective operating system detailed in the book mentioned above, Science and Health: “Divine metaphysics is now reduced to a system, to a form comprehensible by and adapted to the thought of the age in which we live. This system enables the learner to demonstrate the divine Principle, upon which Jesus’ healing was based, and the sacred rules for its present application to the cure of disease.”

A system is a set of related parts that form a whole. So, wouldn’t we want our “Health” icon to cover all of the related parts that constitute our wholeness. Prevention of ill health is certainly part of that, which could include proper exercise. But prevention that includes a prayerful and meditative attitude maintains a peaceful and calm consciousness and can result in healing.

Healing, therefore, should also be part of the upgrade for the operating system of life. Over time, one could learn that a universal and divine sense of love, God as Love, according to the book of I John in the Bible, heals. It reaches what medicine can’t in relationships, life direction, motives for our actions, and, yes, physical restoration.

While doing a normal exercise on the floor of my room, I felt a great pain in my hip and couldn’t move from the position on my back. The Old Testament healing of Jacob and his dislocated hip came to my thought and I knew at once that there would be a solution. Instead of fear, expectation of freedom from this pain and immobility calmed my thought. In a few days, I was moving normally by adhering to this idea and others like it.

The new icon on my iPhone is a wonderful reminder to broaden my sense of health to include more than medical data, maintaining a more holy view of health and wholeness. That’s a real operating system upgrade.

*Names are intellectual property of Apple, Inc.

Grandmothers’ Wisdom and Integrative Medicine

I was listening to a brief video  chat with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. who is Director of the Fellowship program at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She is also the author of the book,  Life is Your Best Medicine.   While targeted at women’s health, both her video chat and her book have some useful insights for all (http://www.drlowdog.com/omm-medicine-road.html).

The one that caught my attention was the statement made by her grandmother, that when we are born “we’re set upon a path and that path is our medicine, and that everything we do in our life, from the food that we eat to the thoughts that we think, it affects us”.  She calls this our “medicine road”.  Dr. Low Dog goes on to say in part that “so much of the diseases that we see…really have their roots in the way we live our lives.”

That encounter caused me to ask, “What is my medicine road?”  Well, it has been and is a spiritual one.  Why?  Because it is the path exemplified by Christ Jesus, whose “medicine road” many seek to follow and whose “food” was the “bread of heaven” and whose thoughts were always in touch with God, with the divine sense of existence.  The evidence-based outcomes of his medicine were healing, redemption, and unending life.

There are sensible, practical suggestions of care for oneself given by Dr. Low Dog.  These include meditation, conscious breathing, wholesome foods, herbs, etc.  But a path must lead somewhere.  Should it be a path that ends in plants or physique?  Or, might our path be more enlightened if it leads to grace, to love of man and the universe in which we find ourselves?

One of the thoughts that I feed myself fairly regularly in the path of life is this statement from Mary Baker Eddy, a theologian who traveled a unique “medicine road” to found Christian Science.  Her statement in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is this, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds”.  That is the most practical and healthiest “medicine road” I know…one my grandmothers left to me.

What’s In A Name?

Names are powerful.  Lincoln, Mount Everest, the Yankees, bring forth strong associations for each of us, depending upon what we have learned and accepted from the opinions of others and from our own experiences.

On July 29th, in The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope reported on a rather courageous research report by medical scientists recommending changes in the approach to detection and treatment of cancer, including “eliminating the word cancer entirely from some common diagnoses”.  A significant point in the report was that too often the “cancer” label led the patient to an assumptive conclusion: if the word cancer was mentioned in the patient’s diagnosis, then the probability of death was assumed.  As a result, often more drastic procedures were undergone than were necessary.

A telling statement in the article was, “The advent of highly sensitive screening technology in recent years has increased the likelihood of…findings detected during medical scans that most likely would never cause a problem”.  However, once doctors and patients find an early symptom they feel compelled to conduct a biopsy, and treat and remove it, “often at great physical and psychological pain and risk to the patient…The issue is often referred to as overdiagnosis, and the resulting unnecessary procedures to which patients are subjected are called overtreatment.”

While much of humanity would find there are useful medical interventions that save the health of patients or, at least, forestall more severe consequences, this report explains how a name of a disease, fraught with terminal overtones, can create exaggerated fear and lead to wrong actions and, perhaps, actually foster more severe illness and harmful procedures.

This doesn’t surprise me.  After college I served in the US Peace Corps in a rural part of the southwestern Philippines. We volunteers had been told about the possibility of malaria in ways that made that “name” fairly alarming. It was as if someone had planted a terminal seed.  Within a few months I became ill and was extremely dizzy and incoherent at times.

I had always relied on prayer for my well-being, prayer that is the conscious affirmation of man’s, my, divinely natural health, as Christ Jesus taught and proved.  Healing in this way soon came about and I was free of this condition in a couple of weeks.

The Peace Corps physician was required to conduct a physical examination of me and the diagnosis was blackwater fever, an acute and often fatal form of malaria, which had regressed and become non-threatening.  I don’t think knowing those names beforehand would have been helpful to my healing, as they would have implanted greater fear and more obstacles to overcome.  Patterns of consequences would have been predicted by my physician friend out of concern for my survival, inadvertently germinating and watering the seed of fear.  Instead, without the labeling, I was less burdened in my spiritual work and able to return to my normal life and move on.  There has never been a recurrence of any symptoms.  For me, that name holds no power.

The lesson here is that the name of a disease is not the truth about anyone.  It is a point of view, the accuracy and consequences of which can vary considerably.  It is bold for this report to break from historical labeling patterns.  The direction of the report is encouraging in the elimination of unnecessary fear and treatment and in its acknowledgement that perhaps mitigation of disease starts by avoiding names that alarm, for what we hold in consciousness about disease may play a large role in outcomes.

“Whole-body Healing”…Good Step

The Arizona Republic recently ran an article (Friday, January 5, 2013) in its “your health” section entitled, “Whole-body Healing” written by Ken Alltucker.  The article focused on patient centered, integrative medicine.  Good news…the founder of the term “integrative medicine” is in our backyard.  While the field is growing, the term and concept have been developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who heads the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM).  As the article indicates, integrative medicine, while viewed in various ways, can be defined as “the practice of combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medical techniques that are supported by medical literature or evidence”.  This is a breakthrough article for this column.

The article further described that the CIM has opened an office in Phoenix, the Arizona Integrative Health Center, which approaches health with the patient at the focus of the practice, rather than the disease.  Then, there are several examples given of work being performed at the Mayo Clinic and by an individual psychiatrist in their respective practices using integrative medicine techniques successfully.  I find all of this encouraging, as it begins to recognize healing as involving a more complete understanding of the whole person as patient.  The examples given demonstrate that solutions emerged when either habits of thinking or acting were corrected, demonstrating the importance of thought on the body and its connection to healing.

One has to appreciate the courage, candor, and clarity shared by Drs. Bergstrom (Mayo), Hernandez (independent psychiatrist), and Rula (medical director of the CIM), as they push the frontiers of their professions into a more holistic frame.  In the article, among the varied healing strategies of patient centered, integrative medicine, there was a brief mention of spiritual well-being as part of the “whole”.  Given that among the stated purposes of the CIM are evidence-based and lower cost methods, spiritual well-being may be key to achieving those goals.

The spiritual basis of healing is perhaps the longest running method in the spectrum of integrative healing, actively utilized well before that term existed.  Not only can we find numerous accounts in Biblical history, especially after the establishment of Christianity, but there is ample evidence today of its efficacy.  My own experience includes healing of pain, viruses, malaria, and many other disorders all through spiritual prayer…prayer that is not wishful thinking or a function of the human brain, but a recognition of divine, loving consciousness, divine Mind, if you will, reflected in our individual thought and lives.  More than a remedy, the advantage of spiritual well-being, is that it includes a fulfilling sense of identity and health for all, without economic barriers.

I like the direction of The Arizona Republic article and hope that the “whole-body” concept continues to expand the role of spiritual well-being.  Perhaps we will learn that it is at the center of our health.  It certainly is for me.

Health is More Than You Think

Health is not simply about medications.  For some, it may not be about that at all.  Health is about health.

Modern medicine proffers cures to disease, where health seems absent, deficient, or awry.  It primarily involves physical intervention, either by chemistry (drugs) or surgery.  It implies that without such interventions, health will be lost relative to the pathology in question.  The public expect that the goal of medicine is the regaining of health for the individual affected.  That’s good.  I have certainly known and worked with very well-motivated MD’s.  This is the world of health recovery that is generally accepted and presumed as authority.

But there is so much more to health.  Integrative medicine understands this by organizing healthy outcomes around multiple modes of healing.  The Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM) at the University of Arizona, under the leadership of Dr. Andrew Weil, is at the forefront of this work.  In a conversation I had with the director of research at the CIM, I learned that their courses for MD’s included many modalities, including prayer and metaphysical healing.  Putting into practice their commitment to the integrative approach, they have joined with Maricopa County (Arizona’s most populous county, including Phoenix metro) to provide this broader approach to healthcare in the insurance coverage for its employees. (See Arizona Republic, November 28, 2011, “Study to Use County-Worker Data”, by Michelle Ye Hee Lee.)  It is a study that will be completed June 30, 2015.

In the Friday section of The Arizona Republic, entitled “Healthy Living”, there are articles that deal with more than conventional medical remedies, often pertaining to lifestyle choices and diet.  One column refers to “mind, body and soul”.   The topics are not as far-reaching as CIM’s scope, but it is a beginning.

An Arizona friend, who is a naturopathic physician, in fact he is the current President of the  American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, among other contributions to his field, joined with me in a discussion of the spectrum of approaches to health.  The axis of the spectrum was defined by degree of physical involvement. Traditional modern western medicine, spoken of in the second paragraph of this article, was the mode he placed at the “wholly physical” end of the spectrum and he placed prayer and metaphysical healing at the other, “wholly spiritual”.  Along the spectrum were such modes as osteopathy, chiropractic,  naturopathy, homeopathy, message, yoga, reiki, mental therapies/counseling (of course, psychotropic drugs would push this toward the more physical end of the spectrum), shamanism, prayer, and provable spiritual healing.  There are many, but this is illustrative of the spectrum.  All modes would probably assert that they are both prophylactic and therapeutic.

Why should anyone care about this spectrum of modalities?  Efficacy.  If someone is not finding their health either established or maintained by the mode they have tried, then it is good to know that the possibilities are not limited by the modes that dominate public thought and have the appearance of authority.

I have found my health and its maintenance at the least invasive end of the spectrum, that of prayer and spiritual healing.  It has been effective and the proof has been a life primarily without medical intervention.  More importantly, the spiritual end of the spectrum works with ontology, the metaphysical nature of being, and learning to live with less focus on physique per se.  The physical becomes subordinate and conforming to spiritual insight and a sense of divine reality.  This mode of health is not new.  For several thousand years humanity has recorded events of healing by spiritual means alone; and we still do so today.  These healings lead to a love for God and man and break from the fear-generating limitations of an abject material existence.

Health is what we think it is, and more than that.

“Healthy Living” Plus

There is a section of The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com, published on Fridays, entitled “Healthy Living”, edited by Connie Midey.  It’s a good, practical read.  I appreciate the balance and variety of articles.  Today, many people do their own research for making healthy decisions, as a complement to or independent of the medical advice they may receive from a physician.  We know that 80% of those who use the internet, use it in part for seeking information regarding health, according to a Pew research study in 2011.  So, it makes sense for the newspapers to feed that interest, as well.

One aspect of the weekly section is that, in addition to the usual doctors’ column, it has a section on “mind, body + soul”.   That’s a wonderful broadening of solutions when thinking about one’s health.  Recently, it provided tips on adequate sleep, exercise and the avoidance of inactivity.  Those are helpful tips from which we can all benefit.  It also spoke of the happiness that can come from pursuing learning throughout one’s life.

My own life-long learning, beyond my college and graduate degrees and everything my children taught me while raising them, has come from working to gain a more spiritual sense of consciousness and not think that the world begins and ends with me, or my body.  Instead of thinking of my body as just a collection of organs and functions, I like to think of my body as identity, in its broadest term.   Not a physical depict, but the actual qualities and attributes that I have learned to express throughout my life.  My hands don’t mean much as hands per se, but they are invaluable when taking hold of a child’s to help them cross the street safely.  The same is true for my arms’ when they embrace someone who is afraid.   In such moments, I have allowed my consciousness to be infused with the sense of love for others, which involves what some might call mind and soul, or I would consider as an individual expression of universal love.

I look forward to this “Healthy Living” section to expand the dialogue around health in its broadest reach and to incorporate the fullness of soul, and mind, and body beyond the physique alone.  Glad the discussion is on the table and grateful to our state’s main newspaper for undertaking such a far-reaching topic.