With seemingly clear boundaries between our bodies and the world through which we move, it’s easy to feel separated from everything outside our skin. But as physical, chemical, emotional, and energetic beings, this perception belies our true nature.
Our five senses–hearing, touch, smell, taste, and sight–are directed primarily outward. They help us to navigate the material world, to survive so we may pass our DNA on to future generations.
This Darwinian narrative has framed many of our modern ideas about health and healing. We’ve come to see our bodies as biochemical capsules moving through space and time. As a result, modern medicine has developed a reductionistic, physico-chemical model to describe, diagnose, and treat disease.
We now have laser-tipped endoscopic tools that can snip off cancerous colonic lesions, nano-engineered, pharmaceuticals tailored to bond only with diseased cells, and MRIs that allow us to study brain activity during meditation, sleep, and sex.
Yet the deeper we probe, the further away we move from knowing other levels of our being. We simply 're-enforce' the model that has been in place for the past 100 years.
A Parallel Journey
Western medicine, at the end of the 19th century, recognized the role of mind in health and healing. Sigmund Freud, a Viennese medical doctor, systematized psychotherapy while treating the neuroses of his (mostly female) upper class patients. The field grew rapidly. From the collective unconscious of Carl Jung to the somatic psychology of Wilhelm Reich, these early pioneers built upon (and challenged) the foundation Freud established, expanding our understanding of mind.
But compared to other western medical disciplines, psychiatry (and its non-medical offshoot psychology) is considered a junior partner to fields such as cardiology, orthopedics, and nephrology. These latter specialties are deeply rooted in classical mechanics, a physics that has long been viewed as the most accurate way to explain the world. The more snugly stories fit into this Newtonian framework, the more “real” they are. The study of mind has not lent itself to the same sorts of mechanical analyses. Yet the recognition that our minds and bodies are connected and can be treated as one has opened a doorway to understanding other more subtle levels of our beings.
Even if mind emerges from brain biochemistry—still a subject of passionate debate—it expresses itself through our nervous and endocrine systems. Stimulation from the outside world sets off a cascade of electrical impulses and hormonal surges. Muscles contract, blood pressure and respiratory rates rise and fall, serotonin and dopamine are released. Our thoughts trigger chemical releases that give rise to fear, love, anger, and trust. Quickly the line between inside/out and outside/in becomes blurred and confused. Where does mind begin? Where does it end? Where exactly is it located?
As we go deeper into the matter (stuff) of which we are made, we enter the microcosmic world of molecules, atoms, subatomic particles and quantum probability waves. Here we are buzzing fields of energy. The bounded selves we experience through our five senses vanish; the duality of I/it dissolves into one great energetic dance.
And as the understanding of our bodies expands beyond the sensed, our notions of health and healing must also change.
We see that pulling on a single thread in this intricate web–the post traumatic stress of a violent encounter, a moldy basement, the break up of a relationship, a poorly designed work station, an unhealthy diet, the low grade despair of a life lived without meaning—will affect the whole of it. Each experience, each event has its own energetic frequency that reverberates throughout our chemical, emotional, and physical bodies. We may be thrown off balance. But our bodies automatically push back, innately seeking a center, seeking the sympathetic vibration of resonance. Because in resonance energy flows smoothly. Blood flows smoothly. Neurons work in harmony, orchestrated by a brain focused on integration, moving its body agilely through the world.
Whether offered as a chiropractic adjustment to support joint movement, an acupuncture needle to assist the flow of chi, or a Peruvian medicine ceremony to help align ones life with ones purpose, the process of healing is the same. It is the creation of balance—physical, chemical, emotional, and energetic. It is the creation of an “ease” which enables the body to function optimally. It is in this space of ease that we are able to connect what is within us to what is beyond, and to allow the energies of the vast cosmic field through which we move to nourish and sustain us.