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What is Wholistic?

By Laurence Layne, LMT, Herbalist

The word wholistic, sometimes spelled holistic, has been around in its present usage for less than a hundred years. Wholistic healing, however, has been with us for thousands of years and be traced back to ancient civilizations like India, Egypt and China. Wholistic healing is our natural and historic heritage.Wholistic describes what encompasses "the whole," that is everything that comes as part of the human experience.

This would include our thoughts, our feelings, our bodies; what we eat, what we watch on television, whether we exercise or not; whether we are kind or just, whether we are good citizens; our relationship to the animals of the world, our natural environment, the people in our world and potentially the stars, suns and planets that we observe in the sky above us; it also includes whether we have a sense of wonder about life in the midst of the challenges of daily living. We could sum this up by saying that how we look at the world and how we interact with it affects our health, our well-being, our resistance to disease, our thoughts, our emotions and our sense of purpose.

When we look at the wide variety of therapies, activities, services and techniques that make up the wholistic scene, we can find a number of common denominators:

  1. The Life Force Philosophy: Most practitioners, healers and wholistic services hold that there is a life force that animates the physical form. When this force is blocked or reduced then disease and dysfunction results. The life force is known by different names in different cultures: chi, prana, orgone, shakti, ki, innate, pneuma, spirit are some of the words used to describe the life force. The life force concept is the cornerstone for Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Western wholistic medicine and most other approaches.

  2. Human beings are part of nature and nature is part of human beings. There is a oneness or connectedness to all things whether human, animal, vegetable or mineral. Most people these days recognize that how we treat the earth affects our health and well-being. This is called ecology.

  3. Illness can originate at the mental, emotional and spiritual levels of experience. Sickness or illness in modern medicine is looked at primarily as something that happens in the physical body without connection to person's mental, emotional and spiritual life. Wholistic healing would say that disease involves all levels of the person.

  4. Structure affects function and function affects structure; both are affected by and in turn affect the mind/emotions.The structure of the body, what we call the anatomy, and the function of the body, what we call physiology, are interconnected and affect each other. Having a spasm in our neck muscles that affects how we hear or speak could be a good example. This spasm might also affect how we feel mentally, since most of us probably feel down when we have a neck pain and can't talk. Another example might be someone who has stress that leads to indigestion which then manifests as a back or hip pain.

  5. Toxins or metabolic wastes act as impediments to the life force or normal physiological processes. The word toxin is often used to indicate the by-products of body metabolism that cannot be broken down and are stored in the tissues of the body. This leads to a break down of normal metabolism by strain on the entire system and ultimately leads to the degeneration of the body. Wholistic healing often leads to detoxification of the body.

  6. Diet and nutrition can help cure the body. Healthy foods that are full of vitamins and minerals can actually help heal the body. If the food is organic, even better. Here we have an idea that was resisted by modern medicine for a long time but is now being accepted at all levels. The American Cancer Society, for instance, has endorsed orange juice (among other fruits and vegetables) as a possible preventative for cancer since it contains vitamin C.

  7. Simple cures are the best. Since ancient times mankind has used simple and natural remedies for healing. Fresh air, fasting, healthy food, water cure, rest, sleep, massage, herbs, incense, counseling, prayer, meditation, positive attitude, folk remedies and other means are simple, inexpensive ways that people have cured themselves for eons.

  8. Transformation of the person and their character so that there are appropriate mental, emotional and spiritual changes that lead to healing. This could be called "activating the healer within." The person's way of seeing the world becomes enlarged or evolved to see a bigger picture of life. This engenders "self healing" since the person is better able to understand the roots of their discomfort and what they may be doing to perpetuate it. It also stimulates immune system activity and gives the person a positive attitude towards adapting to stress.

  9. Wholistic healers believe in fairness and in helping people. They generally are motivated by high ideals and strong ethics, and hold that they are facilitators for their clients health. They place importance on the individual, believing that quality is better than quantity. They believe in harmony with nature. In general wholistic practitioners want to do right by the client and observe the motto "first do no harm."

This list is by no means complete. There are many other factors that make up wholism and wholistic healing. Most practitioners would subscribe to and do abide by most of these ideas.

In conclusion, wholistic healing is a revolution in health care and how we live our lives. It introduces us to new ideas, which keep us fresh and growing, like the plants of mother earth. Health and healing have been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. It is only recently that healing and medicine have been restricted to only looking at the body and leaving out the mind, emotions and spirit. We are now returning to the wisdom that our ancestors knew and enjoying the possibilities of a new level of health through common sense living that honors the Whole.



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