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Ask the Doctors: What Is Holism?

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Within the expansive menu of approaches to medicine and wellness, what is holism? This question is the topic of this article for two reasons. First, too much confusion and misinformation exist around non-conventional medicine. And second, holism is celebrating 50 years of practice. There is much to clarify…and much to celebrate.

When you think of “health,” what words and images pop into your head?

Going to your PCP for an annual checkup? Jumping through the flaming hoops set in place by health insurance companies? Taking a handful of prescription meds, each of which comes with a small encyclopedia of potential side effects and legal babble?

Do you think of hospitals, emergency squads, and medical professionals who overbook their appointments and therefore don’t have more than a couple minutes for you?

Do you think of packed waiting rooms, endless forms to fill out, assistants who weigh/measure/prick you and ask closed questions about your health?

Do you think of doctors who truly want to know the “complete picture” of your health and habits, or doctors who want the only-what’s-covered-by-insurance version?

Do you have memories of painful, drawn-out treatments for a chronic illness, remembering that the treatments were, in many ways, worse than the illness itself?

If these images are “standard practice” for your experience of the healthcare system, we have one more question for you: How do you define ‘health’?

The expression ‘body, mind, spirit’ gets tossed around loosely in an effort to “cover all the bases” and imply a comprehensive approach to wellness.

In that familiar phrase, in that familiar order, however, is a telling message….

Notice where spirit falls in the ordering. It’s practically an afterthought, especially when it’s tacked on more as a “courtesy acknowledgment” than as a priority. (When was the last time your PCP or urgent care doc pulled up a chair, looked you in the eyes, and discussed the care of your spirit?)

When we approach the question, What is holism? we are actually approaching the question, What is holy?

In holism, we begin with the spirit. We go to the source of life and the director of the body’s mission here on earth.

Sound odd? Unfamiliar? Uncomfortable? “Not medical”?

If so, that’s only because conventional/Western medicine is a contrived norm. The fact that it treats itself to the title of “healthcare” doesn’t actually make it healthcare.

Acknowledging the holiness of the human being isn’t about religion. It’s about what purely, simply is.

We are not physical bodies that just happen to have spirits, minds, feelings, and personalities. We are infinite spiritual beings that travel this life in finite bodies, lent to us to help carry out the spirit’s purpose.

Still think the physical body should come first? Think about the last funeral you attended or the last time you saw a deceased animal. You were in the presence of a body, but the person/animal “wasn’t there.” It had discarded its physical ally. Its work on earth was done.

But its spiritual life continued on.

This is what we honor in holism – the entirety of the person, beginning with the spirit. 

Holism puts the soul back into the person, and therefore back into the care of his or her health.

We are created in the image and likeness of God, the Creator. We are holy, sentient beings, endowed with free will and the ability to co-create – success, joy, wellness, whatever we want (even illness).

How can a person possibly be well – genuinely “healthy” – when this core, essential component is completely ignored?

The essence of holism/holistic medicine is the treatment of the entire person – spirit, mind, and body. It works with the perfect tools that come into this world with the person and nurtures the entirety of the person for the entirety of life.

Holism seeks to provide the body with what it needs to be at its best in the service of the spirit’s purpose. And it doesn’t wait for the body to break down before providing it what it needs.

It also doesn’t serve one area at the expense of another.

Compare that to conventional medicine. 

Listen carefully the next time a Big Pharma drug commercial comes on. 

The part that talks about the benefits – bladder control, cholesterol maintenance, depression, whatever – is presented enthusiastically, boldly, loudly, colorfully. Everyone is smiling and laughing, running with balloons, eating ice cream, playing with children.

The language is intentionally user-friendly, easy to understand, practical, measured in cadence, and loaded with clichés and memorable slogans.

Now pay close attention to the end of the commercial – the segment where the pharmaceutical company is legally bound to reveal all that can go wrong with their drug. 

Suddenly the speaker’s voice becomes low and monotone. And s/he speaks rapidly, cramming loads of scientific lingo and dire side effects and consequences into one loooonnng sentence. The only recognizable, catchable phrase is “including death.”

You are, of course, held responsible for all that garbage they just dumped on you. By dumping it, they have wiped their hands of any culpability for the path of destruction left in the wake of taking their drug. Suicidal ideation, organ destruction, addiction, even death – it’s all on you.

Let that soak in for a minute.

It all happens so fast that most people never pause to think about the brainwashing that has just happened, let alone how it was done.

Now think about one of the leading (and most controversial) issues that drive people to seek medical care: PAIN.

Pain is a multi-faceted, complex, enormously costly public health challenge. And pharmaceutical companies are all too happy to put people out of their misery…even if doing so causes more.

They don’t go to the source of the pain. They treat the symptoms, block neurological pathways, set up addictive pathways, and rake in billions of dollars in profit.

And, while parents are forever changed by having to bury their opioid-addicted children, Big Pharma is laughing all the way to the bank.

Empire of Pain, a book by Patrick Radden Keefe, chronicles the Sackler family dynasty and its corrupt predation on people’s pain by the creation and manipulative selling of Oxycodone/OxyContin.

What this family has done – and how they have done it – has led to millions of deaths and millions more people still addicted to opioids.

Holism treats chronic illness and chronic pain very differently. It never, ever forgets the synergy of the spirit, mind, and body, even when only one element is presenting with illness or pain.

While conventional medicine definitely has its place for diagnostics and acute illness or injury, it doesn’t serve the needs of chronic issues.

So what is holism? In terms of chronic pain, for example, the holistic approach to treatment would condition the mind through Autogenic Training. This simple practice, which is at the heart of the Shealy-Sorin Biogenics® course, utilizes biofeedback to bring the mind back into control of the body instead of the other way around.

It would also closely examine the other lifestyle habits potentially adding to the problem. Inflammatory foods? Lack of exercise? Improper form during exercise? Sleep-deprivation? Depression? Stress?

The bigger picture of holism is the attention to lifestyle. You are a living, sentient being with multiple dimensions to your life. What you eat, how you sleep, how much exercise you get, how you deal with stress – these factors all matter. 

They don’t, however, come in pill form.

The holistic approach to wellness is an interconnected commitment to the entirety of the person and his/her lifestyle:

  1. Nutrition: You need (among other nutrients) 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or a combination of fruits, veggies, and Nature Blessed Tart Cherry Juice. Knowing how to shop in your grocery store and avoiding processed foods are other important aspects of your nutritional lifestyle.
  2. Supplementation: Even the best nutrition programs are at the mercy of our polluted, depleted environment. Quality supplementation of essential vitamins (“vita” – “vital”/“life,” “min” – “minimum”) – vitamin C, vitamin D3, and a good B-complex, at the very minimum.
  3. Exercise: Are you getting at least 30 minutes of moderate/vigorous exercise at least 5 days a week? If not, you might as well be a smoker….
  4. Not Smoking: Smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death. So why do 22% of people still do it?
  5. Sleep: It’s Nature’s nurse, and you need 7-8 hours, at a minimum, nightly. If you’re driving while sleep-deprived, you’re as good as drunk.
  6. Managing stress: Stress is the leading underlying cause of almost all illness. And you are the only one who can decide your response to inevitable life stressors. Again, training your mind is essential. Autogenic training takes just minutes a day, and, when done faithfully, will become a life-transforming habit.

Finally, we can’t talk about holism – especially in comparison to conventional medicine – without talking about the power of your thoughts.

Folks, if you are created in the image and likeness of God, then surely every thought is a prayer lifted up to connect with your Creator.

Live your life as a prayer. Live your holiness.

This…this…is holism.

Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. is the father of holistic medicine. Dr. Sergey Sorin is a holistic physician as well as the CEO and medical director of the Shealy-Sorin Wellness Institute. Both doctors recommend the Biogenics® System as part of your overall commitment to your health and wellness.

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