Hoffman Centre for Integrative & Functional Medicine

Optimal Health – It’s Not What You Think or Do, It’s Who You Become

Optimal Health - It’s Not What You Think or Do, It’s Who You Become

When a patient is considering a return to full health and wellness, I, as an integrated medical practitioner, and you, as an informed, self-actualizing person, can no longer use only the antiquated Newtonian method of diagnosing and treating conditions. Though that is still taught at both medical schools and naturopathic colleges around the world, we are now working in an expanded, systems-based paradigm.

Medical school prepared me for the following linear process: identification of symptoms>identification of the disease>determination of the drugs or surgical procedures required. This process may apply if a patient has symptoms suggestive of acute meningitis requiring immediate intravenous antibiotics, but it will do nothing to address the myriad of antecedents, triggers, and mediators of complex, chronic, multisystem symptom processes. Patients suffering from a multitude of complaints that defy traditional diagnosis—a situation only too common today—require a much more complex method of assessment and treatment.

This new model of integrative medicine must ground itself in the more comprehensive models of environmental and ecological medicine, functional medicine, energy medicine, early developmental trauma, sociology, traditional and depth psychology, family systems, and models of consciousness as proposed by neuroscience and spirituality research. In complex cases of healing, we need to expand the lens of inquiry to help identify the multilayered factors that are hindering our wellness and self-fulfillment and determine what aspects of ourselves are affected. Furthermore, we must listen to our symptoms and our bodies for any clues that will help us to integrate the neglected parts of ourselves that are hidden from our conscious, rational points of view and may be hindering the realization of our full potential.

For integrated practitioners, an education in an array of disciplines is imperative to a successful outcome. A new curriculum must be written for these new healers and a different method of selection employed. I don’t propose training traditional medical personnel to embrace this task. We need them to continue practicing disease-based medicine with the latest technological advances. But for those who wish to embrace the expanded paradigm, a new wellness curriculum is imperative, a curriculum that will be highly dependent on a healer’s personal experience and level of education. This is complicated territory to imagine and traverse. A highly educated healer without the necessary life experience to have developed compassion and empathic understanding cannot embody the knowledge and the compassion represented by the twin snakes entwined around the caduceus, the ancient Asclepian symbol of medicine and medical practice.

Furthermore, if all we do when patients present is to tell them what they could read in a book or on the Internet, there’s probably no reason for them to see us again. It is essential, in the new paradigm, that healers strike a chord that resonates in the core of the patients’ being and creates a shift in energy or information—forms a new image—that will allow them to perceive themselves and their issues very differently. This will usually entail a radical shift in their value systems whereby health issues become their top priority and other values—work, family, recreation—take a temporary back seat. Under the old model, this is seldom the case unless a patient presents with a life-threatening illness.

To assist in the diagnostic and therapeutic processes required in the new paradigm, I’ve developed the 7 Stages to Health and Transformation™ model (for a detailed explanation, click here). Each stage looks at a different aspect of the individual so that diagnostic and healing methods can be focused on the true causes of illness. The stages of healing are as follows:

  1. First Stage – Environmental Body: We must examine the influences of the external environment and the effects of infections, pollutants, heavy metals and dental materials on our physiology. And we must optimize the detoxification mechanisms of the body.
  2. Second Stage – Physical Body: Biochemical and Structural: We must optimize the biochemistry and homeostatic mechanisms of the body’s regulatory systems: diet, gut ecology, hormones, neurotransmitters, the immune system and brain function. Any structural defects and injuries must also be attended to.
  3. Third Stage – Energy Body: Electrophysiological: Any disturbances to the body’s energy systems must be addressed. The effects of man-made electrical fields on the autonomic nervous system and the balance between stress and relaxation responses must be attended to. The status of the brain’s electrical circuits, as determined by QEEG analysis, must also be addressed.
  4. Fourth Stage – Emotional Body: Early developmental trauma and emotional wounds need to be examined, brought to conscious awareness and processed accordingly.
  5. Fifth Stage – Mind/Ego Body: An individual’s sense of an authentic, separate psychological self, his value systems, his internal dialogue, and his general orientation to and defenses against the world at large need to be examined and addressed. Just how balanced and stable are his mental/cognitive processes and how well-equipped is he to handle the slings and arrows of a typical stress-filled life? It has been estimated that our nervous systems are designed to handle one or two challenges every three months. But in modern times, the number is more likely to be six or seven challenges on a daily basis.
  6. Sixth Stage – Soul Body: One has to turn to the personal unconscious, the more hidden aspects of ourselves and the lessons we have learned from Jungian and depth psychology, to ascertain what the deepest part of the individual wishes to express. The question at this stage is not what the ego still strives for but what the soul wants. At this level, we also turn to the influences of the family soul and, through Family Constellation therapy, start to unravel the entanglements and family secrets that lie hidden in the patient’s intergenerational field. These entanglements and secrets often present as symptoms or as an illness in the patient, who is entirely unaware of the connection.Seventh Stage – Spirit Body/Unified Field
  7. Seventh Stage – Spirit Body/Unified Field: About a hundred years ago, there was an infusion of ancient souls into Western science, great beings like Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Albert Einstein who began to wake us up by Mathematically deducing that the objects of our perception are not physical. Beyond the masks of molecules, beyond the façade of material matter, beyond the limits of space and time, there’s a vast mystical domain of energy and information. Human beings are composed of these same networks of energy and information, and we are thus locked in a dynamic exchange with the energy and information of our extended body, which we call the universe; we’re part of the “unified field” proposed by particle physics. At this level, an individual deepens a relationship with a witnessing self, observing the world of phenomenology rise and fall but with little or no attachment to its outcomes or a personal self.

In the seventh stage, all personal agendas are surrendered to intelligence greater than ourselves. This intelligence that causes our hearts to beat and organizes both the migration of birds and the movement of the intergalactic cosmos achieves a greater significance than our own personal, mortal agendas. It is to this intelligence that we can turn for help and guidance. At this level, we are not identified with our physical, emotional or mental bodies but with that which is timeless within us.

When patients present with complex symptoms or well-entrenched disease processes, how well equipped they are to proceed with the healing process varies widely from case to case, and there are many possible combinations of the seven stages that they may seek to address. Some may simply want to cure their irritable bowel symptoms, while others want to heal across all levels. Thus it is important, at the outset, for the practitioner to establish what exactly the patient wants or expects to be healed and to narrow or widen the diagnostic and therapeutic lens accordingly.

The standard Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary defines healing as “a restoration of wounded parts,” but the Oxford English Dictionary definition is “to make whole or sound.” These definitions are profoundly different from each other. The first implies the treatment of a symptom or the setting of a broken bone—i.e., the fixing of that which is broken. The Oxford definition is more congruent with the true etymology of the word health, which is “to make whole or holy.” In truth, healing is an extraordinary miracle about which, despite our 2,000-year effort to understand it, we know very little. It is a profound, courageous, spiritual act of coming to wholeness, where the body is relatively healthy, the emotions are stable, the mind is clear and focused, one’s destiny is clear and yet one remains humbled to a greater intelligence from which one derives daily guidance and sustenance and to which thanks are given. Alternatively, healing can mean that the deepest essence of the individual is in an integrated or individuated, whole place—a place where he knows and inhabits his authentic self—in spite of the body’s experiencing symptoms or a disease process. We identify with that which is timeless within us. We are aware that we are not physical machines that have learned how to think. As Deepak Chopra likes to say, we are not “skin-encapsulated egos squeezed into the volume of a body in the span of a lifetime.” We are not the constricted, isolated individual entities that Western medicine would have us believe. At our core, we identify with that which is defined as an unbounded, infinite, eternal, ever-present witnessing awareness. We are consciously aware of being a network of energy and intelligence inextricably interwoven with the web of life.

But given that definitions vary, healing is dependent on where the individual or the healer places the emphasis or the location of the patient’s concerns: mind, body, soul or spirit. When a patient presents, part of the intake process is to ask what his intention is in seeking out the doctor/healer’s advice and on what stages—environmental, physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual—he wants to address his concerns. Many people are not interested in pursuing higher levels of health, so one of a physician’s first responsibilities is to determine and clarify each patient’s intentions and respond accordingly. Here are the four possible intentions:

First Possible Intention:

In the first instance, many if not most patients will view their symptomatology, whether it is physical or emotional, as a nuisance that has to be removed as soon as possible. They will turn to healers, whether allopathic or alternative, to provide the most powerful external treatment that can be found to treat worrisome symptoms at the level of the physical body (stage two). They subscribe to the consensual reality of our culture, the symptoms>disease>drugs/surgery model. At medical schools and naturopathic colleges today, students are still taught that human beings are collections of molecules encapsulated by skin and bones, physical machines devoid of any influential states of consciousness. If you’re feeling a little depressed, it’s because there’s a problem with your serotonin molecules, the implication being that if you take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Prozac or Effexor or a herb like St. John’s wort, it will prevent reuptake of your serotonin molecules and you’ll no longer be depressed. Likewise, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, it’s not because you’re worrying about your marriage or your kids—it’s because you have a deficiency of gamma-aminobutyric acid molecules, which Ambien, Xanax or a GABA supplement will fix. Increasing your concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid molecules will allow you to sleep soundly and the symptom will be eradicated.

The problem with this model is that it works too well in the short run. Mahatma Gandhi lamented that the problem with Western medicine is that it’s too effective. If a patient mentions to his doctor that he’s regularly woken at 3 a.m. by heartburn, he’s prescribed Tums or Nexium, and the symptom disappears. In the standard six-minute doctor visit, very little inquiry is made into the fact that, before bed, the patient always eats cookies and has a whiskey nightcap. So if you pop a couple of tablets and ten minutes later the symptoms are gone, what you’ve learned at this level of healing is that you should have taken your heartburn medicine before going to bed. Instead of fixing the problem, this mode of treatment perpetuates the ongoing cycle of symptom, diagnosis, and remedy. This is symptom treatment and has nothing to do with healing. At this level, patients see the source and the solution of their problem as being outside of themselves. In turn, their healing becomes dependent on changes in situations and circumstances outside themselves.

It is interesting that the original definition of a “quack” is someone who treats symptoms. This approach has little chance of activating any inner process within the patient or resulting in healing on a deeper level. All too often, patients with significant diseases such as cancer sit in front of me and say, “Cure me.” The prospect of a deeper healing experience is extremely remote in these cases.

Second Possible Intention:

Some patients arrive in the consultation room willing to go a bit further. They look at physical symptoms as entry points into a larger inquiry. They ask much deeper questions and use their symptoms as allies in their quest for meaning, well-being, and integration. They might inquire about what emotional patterns may underlie their disease and recognize the role of unresolved emotional issues, anxiety, stress, and other mental factors in the development, perpetuation, and recurrence of illness. They may learn about their individual Meyers-Briggs typologies, their defense mechanisms and complexes, and their Ayurvedic doshas. This deeper understanding of themselves allows them to respond to the stresses of life in a less reactive manner, one that won’t cripple their growth, individuation or consciousness. They begin to use a more conscious, mind-body approach to healing (making use of stages one through five in the 7 Stages model).

As these factors are explored, it becomes possible to tailor a series of mind-body approaches such as integrated body psychotherapies, relaxation techniques, yoga, neurofeedback, and biofeedback. These patients recognize their personal role in suffering and disease, they link cause and effect and, to an extent, they substitute internal remedies for outer ones. They are beginning to move from the more limited definition of healing—i.e., fixing a broken part—to the more expanded definition—i.e., restoration of wholeness.

As psychologist Alastair Cunningham has said, the qualities that best predict spontaneous remission among cancer survivors are an openness to change, a commitment to daily practices, a deep sense of self-worth and a degree of autonomy and inner authority.

Third Possible Intention:

Others patients will seek a state of health because they aspire to something more than an absence of symptoms—an overall state of well-being. They are fully engaged in a deeper relationship with self-healing and are seeking a sense of wholeness—for themselves, their loved ones and the planet as a whole. They’ve learned about the signs and symptoms of disease, and now they’re learning about the signs and symptoms of health. These include a deep sense of inner vitality, integration and self-knowing, healthy relationships and a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

A new patient I’ll call Jane was primarily interested in eliminating or at least managing her symptoms. This is true for many new patients until I teach them the 7 Stages of Health and Transformation™. Once Jane increased her understanding of optimal health, she said she wanted more than to simply get rid of her symptoms. She wanted to find meaning in her life and enjoy herself and her family. She wanted to achieve overall well-being. Her three-year inquiry into her symptoms had produced a lot of information about the signs and symptoms of a disease, but now she was open to learning about the signs and symptoms of health. With that goal in mind, she became fully engaged in deeper relationships with herself, her loved ones, self-healing and of the planet as a whole.

This desire to be whole is a profound evolutionary urge that prompts many of us to seek out a vast array of healing techniques, from physical to spiritual. In the East, such seekers, upon a certain attainment, are referred to as “enlightened.” Carl Jung called them “individuated,” and Abraham Maslow’s term for them was “self-actualized.” “As far as we can discern,” Jung said, “the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” To me, this means leading a life of inspired, self-actualized creativity rather than an existence of mere tolerance set against a backdrop of the mundane.

For many people, this desire to shine with their true essence emerges around the midpoint of their lives. Until that point, what our deepest self, or soul, wants is often hidden from our conscious view, clouded by the innumerable and overwhelming demands of the first half of life and by vague value systems that we have yet to develop fully. Often, what brings them into the office is a conflict with a midlife transition. Their symptoms often arise as a result of a discrepancy between what their egos want (first-half-of-life endeavors) and what their deepest, unconscious selves desire (the aspirations of the second half of life). What drives us to achieve our life goals in the first half of life is not what serves us in the second half. What drives us in the first half of life are often the wishes and wants of outer authority figures—parents, society, our culture at large—as well as the innate, Darwinian selfish gene that wishes to perpetuate the species by mating with the most suitable partner from whatever gene pool is available. Thus, with the help of a hormone-drenched physiology, we develop a strong sense of an ego-driven self. We strive to achieve the highest standards our gene pool is capable of. We educate ourselves, fall in love, marry, create financial security and buy the most suitable home to provide safety for our offspring. We feel accomplished on achieving some modicum of success in these areas.

It’s usually in the second half of life (which begins between ages 35 and 55) that the first whisperings of our hidden potentials and possibilities emerge. We may be plagued by lingering doubts: “Is this all there is?” “Is this what I really want?” “Am I fulfilling my true potential?” “Is this partner really aligned with my values?” “Does my partner really see who I am?” “Should I be doing something else with my life?” We may also start to develop symptoms or signs of an illness or disease process. It is at this exact interface between what the ego has striven to achieve and what the soul really wants that symptom may appear, as if to draw us into a deeper inquiry with ourselves. It has been my observation that symptoms at this level serve as feedback mechanisms of our core selves, drawing our attention to that which is most neglected within us and which most needs our attention. Perceived in this way, symptoms may be said to have teleological intent, drawing us into a deeper, unimagined, unfolding of our life’s journey, previously hidden from our conscious view.

In such cases, the task of a healer is to help patients identify the factors are preventing them from achieving what their souls are seeking and what their ego-based minds are incapable of determining. When patients are in this position, no amount of “goal setting” or “life-purpose” strategizing will fulfill their deeper drives. Often, the continued pursuit of the goals and life-purpose strategies of the ego-based first half of life is the very reason for a lingering sense of malaise and can even make patients sicker, driving them further from the very aspects of themselves that are calling for attention.

Somewhat problematically, the therapist/healer’s success is highly dependent on his own level of differentiation, autonomy, and stage of life individuation. If any healing is to take place at all, the healer must be highly aware and conscious of his own stage of life preparedness, his own “woundedness” and must refrain from projecting his own agenda too heavily. Similarly but in an opposite direction, the client must become aware of the inner healer/healed part of himself, the part that needs to be activated and made conscious. Tragically, this is rarely the case in most healing exchanges today, where mutual cause and effect inquiry is ignored. This current practice limits the patient’s involvement in their own care and projects the power to heal onto some outer authority. The doctor is seen as all-healthy; the patient is often seen as all-sick. The patient frequently identifies with their diagnosis in order to derive some form of identity and meaning from this one-sided relationship. It is a means of barter and exchange within the allopathic system. The implication is that when this transaction occurs, the patient’s inner physician, the healthy part of themselves, completely shuts down. This atrophy is particularly tragic, because it has been my observation that it is the physician within the patient that needs to be activated to result in a true transformation. The inner physician’s healing action is as great as that of the physical doctor appearing on the external scene. Similarly, if the inner healer is not mobilized by the conscious act of intention by the patient, the possibility of a true healing experience is somewhat dissipated. If nothing shifts in the internal dialogue and the mental field of the patient, if the patient is not fully engaged in cause and effect enquiry and totally committed to changing previous behaviours and decisions that had led to the symptom presentation, then the possibility of something shifting at the level of the physiology is somewhat muted and no true, lasting transformation occurs.

Furthermore, it is at this third possible intentional level of healing, that the answer to the patients’ malaise will surface only after a deep inquiry and a deep surrender are made, a surrender to their own unconscious and to a larger wisdom than their own ego-based minds. At this level of healing, one has to listen to the many ways the psyche expresses itself in its desire to make conscious its hidden intentions.

Actively listening to our bodies, our symptoms and for messages from our unconscious are some of the profound tools we can use to seek information outside our rational ego-based mind-set. Dreams are spontaneous messages from the unconscious, suggesting symbolic ways of seeing issues we cannot see or understand with our conscious minds. Synchronicities—when an event in the outer world coincides meaningfully with a psychological state of mind—may also provide us with clues to the directions our souls may want to take.

Unresolved traumas can affect family members for multiple generations. Family Constellation therapy can cover the unconscious bonds and loyalties that underlie many physical and emotional symptoms. It has been my observation that very often the inner healing process cannot be accessed if the patient is not fully aligned with his birth mother or father. When my patient Jane told me she despised her mother, it was a dead giveaway that she didn’t have access to her full life force and inner healer.

She had symptoms of crippling fatigue, anxiety, depression and body pain that had been present for three years. She said that the symptoms had started when she was 44 and that she had seen many medical doctors and naturopaths, been to the Mayo Clinic and undergone numerous blood tests and special investigations. The diagnosis: atypical depression. This is the catchall of the medical profession when no discernible causative factor or factors can be ascertained.

Although further tests did reveal significant biochemical imbalances, what was most revealing to me was her obvious dissatisfaction with her life, her anger toward her mother and a generalized sense of boredom. “I am my father’s daughter,” she said through clenched teeth. “I despise my mother.” Later she explained, “I’m an engineer like my dad, but I haven’t worked for 12 years, because I wanted to stay home and bring up my daughter.”

After a long dialogue investigating her family dynamics, it was clear that her rejection of her mother and her overidentification with her father had led to an imbalance in her psyche between the masculine and feminine lineages. It has been observed in family-system dynamics that the energy we take from our mothers provides us with our day-to-day relational energy, nurtures us and gives us life; fathers’ energy organizes and provides a context for the unfolding of our life force. It is possibly not ironic, that the mitochondria, the organelles within our cells that transform food into life-giving ATP or energy, our life force for healing and repair of all bodily functions, are obtained entirely from our mothers. For a very long time, Jane had been under the influence of her father’s desires, negated her mother’s character and positive influence and subjugated her own deeper, soul-based desires to the point of total silence. It’s often seen that people experiencing fatigue are living not according to their own inner value systems but according to those of outer authority figures that have been unconsciously adopted as one’s own, in this case those of Jane’s father. Furthermore, she had silenced and rejected her mother’s voice, thus creating a perfect, dual causation scenario for life crippling fatigue to arise.

It took many months of listening intensely to the symptoms of her body, paying attention to her dreams, asking her body for guidance and turning inward to the inner healer within for her to see the path of her true, creative self more clearly. She realized that being only a wife and a mother was not her true vocation; her symptoms had escalated until she could no longer ignore the issue. Although much work was done to optimize her adrenal function, treat her Epstein-Barr virus infection, balance her glutathione levels and tweak her hormones—treatment at the outer, physical level— it wasn’t until she turned inward that the healing occurred. When she saw her symptoms not as some curse to be eradicated but as harbingers, whisperings of the need for a deeper inquiry, she did what it took to begin her healing journey, her return to wholeness.

She saw that what she had proudly worn as a badge of honor—being Daddy’s little girl—was a trap from which she had to escape. She realized that she was not living her own authentic values but those of her father. As she softened her rejecting stance toward her mother, accepting and seeing her through a more compassionate lens for the first time, she felt a certain lightness return to her mood.

As she turned inward, Jane’s inner healer was activated. She learned to trust her body and her instincts for the first time. She had resisted this progress for years and seen countless excellent physicians/healers to get the latest outer remedies, all to no avail. But once she recognized her symptoms as messages from her soul and learned how to pay attention, her healing was dramatic.

If successive generations of a family have struggled with parenting problems, the patient will often be unconsciously entangled in an unresolved, energy depleting, family-system issue, and the only way to resolve it is by uncovering the hidden dynamics of the ancestral family. No amount of personal nutrition, bodywork or herbs could heal Jane. She had to uncover the entanglements in her ancestral lineage that were hidden from her conscious view and she had to learn to listen to the messages of her own soul.

The following exercise will help you to listen to your body for clues to what your soul is seeking and your conscious mind may be obscuring from its view:

  1. Creative Imagery: Listening to Your Cells
  2. Come into contact with yourself and taste your own presence. Welcome and cherish your own presence in this world.
  3. Breathe in, breathe out.
  4. Let the physical tensions go and relax the mental tensions.
  5. Focus your attention on your heart, your soul.
  6. Let your attention go to the place in you that has a lot of pain or symptoms. It can be a mental place or a physical place, a muscle or an organ.
  7. Approach this area with respect, tenderness, and care. Talk to this area. You’re talking to these cells in a time of difficulty. Memories may arise.
  8. Say, “I am here now to listen to you.” Let whatever comes from that place speak to you.
    Allow the messages of the cells to come to you. These cells represent the strength of life trying to talk to you and connect with you. This attitude of listening and respect, without discussion, is already healing you.
  9. Now that your cells or your symptoms finally have your attention, and you have heard their message, say to them, “You don’t need to keep showing up in this way. You now have my attention.”
  10. With the same care and respect, begin to transform. Imagine your stem cells coming from your shoulder blade or hipbone, where your bone marrow is active, and flooding the tissue that’s in need of healing.
  11. Imagine your stem cells flowing through to the place where you’re suffering. Imagine them dancing and producing color and light.
  12. Let this dance take part in all your cells and in your entire psyche, producing an experience of healing. Soon all your body is light and warm. Rejoice in the health that these stem cells bring.
  13. Imagine yourself becoming luminous from this sensation, nourishing yourself and everybody around you.
  14. Imagine what you will do with yourself once your health is restored. Where will you go to nourish your health, and what creative choices will you make?
  15. Imagine yourself doing things you like, things that give you an intensified love of life.
  16. When you’re ready, open your eyes and make a note of what you experienced, what you saw and what new image or images have arisen for you.

Fourth Possible Intention:

Finally, still others aspire to a level of health that is fundamentally and radically different from those described above and can come about only through a leap in consciousness. They don’t seek simply self-regulation or self-improvement—they seek self-transformation.

Such people usually achieve this only after traversing each of the preliminary stages. For them, healing’s center of gravity progressively shifts from the physical to the psychological to the soul to the spiritual. They are defined by their attention to a spiritual inner process rather than an outer remedy or herb or potion. They become witnessing selves rather than active “doers” in an external life. The internal reference point shifts from ego to spirit.

Chopra Center co-founder David Simon said this process occurs when “we stop thinking of ourselves as this skin-encapsulated ego that’s been compressed into this physical body for the span of a lifetime and we remember on a daily moment-to-moment basis that our essential nature is unbounded, infinite, eternal, unlimited, unborn, and undying.” Buddhist M.D. and author Elliott Dacher says it occurs when we are fully engaged in the broadest and deepest vision of health and healing and define what is possible rather than what is customary.

At this level of healing, we suspend our rational left brains and personal agendas and ask for guidance and help from the intelligence greater than ourselves—G.O.D. (grand organized design), or the unified field. We surrender and we listen. We trust that at our deepest core, we are part of and connected to the unified field. We discipline ourselves, through daily practice, to surrender, tune in and trust. As we are no longer identified with the mortal body, our fear of death disappears.

This is the deepest possibility for a transformed, healed individual. In achieving this, we have moved from the relative purpose of medicine to the absolute purpose and possibilities of a healing experience.

The Quest: From Relative to Absolute Health

To relieve symptoms and cure disease, to fix people, to eradicate tumors, normalize blood tests, alleviate pain, create clear CT scans and prolong life—these are the culturally sanctioned notions of what physicians are supposed to do. This is the quest for relative health. And relative health should be realized with the least amount of effort, expense and sense of personal responsibility. This mind-set also dictates that all illness is negative, to be eradicated—illness is not used as information for self-transformation.

But some people choose to seek a level of health that is even beyond wholeness, a level that might be called absolute health. They want to heal their physical bodies so they can live out their lives in a state of maximum potential and in the fulfillment of love and purpose and feel the joy, wisdom and compassion in their lives more fully.

We achieve this not by medicating symptoms but by using them as feedback mechanisms to show us where we need to become more conscious. We learn to “lean into the sharp points of our lives,” as Pema Chodron has said. With this knowledge, we don’t retreat from the world—we consciously engage with the world as we start to wake up to the wonder of our existence.

We start to address the questions raised by the poet Mary Oliver. Questions such as “What are you going to do with this one wild precious life?” This is indeed a precious life, a fragile treasure. Recognizing this is the second-most essential step on the path to integrated health and life. The first is to recognize that our true nature is more than our bodies, our emotions, our minds and our possessions and that there is an intelligence guiding us that we can turn to and trust. When we do this, we start to celebrate the miracle and sacredness of our human existence.

Einstein said there are only two ways to live your life: “as if nothing is a miracle” or “as if everything is a miracle.” The word miracle comes from the Spanish mirari, which means “to wonder,” “to smile,” “to break into joy” and “to release.” If you have feet to walk with, that’s a miracle. And isn’t the fact that our bodies are subatomic particles of frozen light also a miracle? Isn’t water a miracle? Isn’t breath a miracle? Isn’t the human brain a miracle? Isn’t the eye a miracle?

We make a mistake if we wait till we’re on our deathbed to say “thank you,” to show our gratitude for having been given this one precious life. Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that will suffice.” If we don’t recognize the preciousness of life, we will neither care enough about it nor feel the urgency to let go of the thoughts, idea, values and concepts that no longer serve our expanding sense of self and the world we live in.

Once we hold the preciousness of life near and dear, its importance no longer fades with the busyness of daily life. And when we die of physical diseases, it is not a tragedy. We die fully healed, with an open heart and the realization that our true self is nonlocal, outside of space and time and incapable of death.


  1. Alastair J. Cunningham. Can the Mind Heal Cancer? (2005)
  2. Elliott Dacher. Integral Health. (Basic Health Publications, 2006)
  3. Carl Jung. Memories, Dreams and Reflections, revised edition. (New York: Vintage, 1989)
  4. Ken Wilber. The Integral Vision of Healing. (Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone, 2005)
  5. David Simon. Keynote address at Ayurvedic conference, University of California, Berkeley, 2002.
  6. Pema Chodron. When Things Fall Apart. (Boston: Shambhala, 2002)
  7. Guy Corneau. Lecture at Jung Society, Calgary, Alberta, 2012.
  8. James Hollis. The Middle Passage. (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1993)
  9. Dietrich Klinghardt. Five Levels of Healing Model. www.klinghardtacademy.com
  10. John Demartini. The Breakthrough Experience. (Hay House, Inc. 2002)