In a world where consumers of health care expect to be rescued by magical drugs from the labs of Big Pharma, it’s extremely uncommon to find a client who is conscious of the origin of their maladies. To recognize that not just disease and illness, but all of experience itself, is the precise effect of causes we’ve previously set in motion is rare in human life. Yet it’s true, regardless of recognition. All of our pain — and all of our joy — is the direct effect of thoughts, feelings, viewpoints, and actions we have chosen to give expression. Our state of health is a great example of this truth. If we have health issues (and who doesn’t?), they are usually things we have nursed to reality through much of our current life — through poor habits, misunderstandings, and frank addictions.
Neither do we grasp what is required to resolve a health problem once we’ve created it. The concepts are actually quite simple. But they don’t appease that part of us looking for the silver bullet.
First, of course, we must find someone who is actually capable of leading us back out of the labyrinth of our problem. Many of you are beginning to recognize the enormity of this prerequisite. If you are fortunate enough to accomplish this first step, your new found friend is likely to be aware of the stages of the journey.
Then, with the physician’s assistance and guidance, we ourselves, must do the work of un-doing this dilemma, as it is revealed to us. Sorry, no silver bullets. We create it, we get to out-create it. No other path leads to true resolution.
The following stages of the process must guide both client and physician. Without this understanding, expect frustration, at best.
Don’t Stop Now!
Relief from symptoms is the point at which we feel as if our complaints are resolved or brought to an acceptable level of tolerance. If treatment is discontinued at this stage, problems will usually return. Most often, people stop here. Remember, pain (and love) are the great motivators. Remove the pain, and most clients are gone. “Thanks! I’m outta here.” And they’re off to create more of the same.
When the old problem comes back, or when its twin brother knocks at the door, a number of responses are typical.
- The treatment didn’t really work (possible).
- This doctor doesn’t know what he’s doing (possible).
- Life sucks (cynicism is a truth from a given perspective).
- Anger (whoa, here we go).
- Despair (the slide’s getting steeper).
- Depression (bottom of the pit).
- Or did we simply bail prematurely? This is the 99% reality.
Regardless of our response, the return of some problems turns out to be more of a conclusion than others. I recall a dear friend whose cancer went into remission following many months of treatment and dietary corrections. But the call of ‘the good life’ was too strong. She discontinued treatment and resisted admonitions about the consequences of resuming her old diet. The cancer returned, and she translated within a couple of years. What she misread as strength of spirit was only dominance of desire.
Are We There Yet?
Stabilization is the level at which the causes of our health issues are typically resolved and are unlikely to come back. A physician experienced in genuine health care is required to determine when this stage has been reached — or what is required to maintain it. Ironically, it is here, my friends, that the journey to optimal health can actually begin.
The First Step, and the Last
It is beyond stabilization that Oriental medicine’s true purpose may begin to manifest. Oriental medicine excels at precisely and profoundly developing an individual’s fullest health potential. Tonification, one of the medicine’s primary functions, is a vital concept, unheard of in Western medicine. The very word is often unrecognized by Western spell-checking applets.
To tonify means to add or replace something that is insufficient or lacking in one’s constitution, such as qi, blood, yin, yang, jing — concepts and realities far deeper than something like B12, CoQ10, or methylfolate.
But Oriental medicine’s principles spring from a maturity which also recognizes that such optimization cannot succeed in an environment cluttered with pathological imbalances brought on by poor choices. To the contrary, tonification administered in such an environment will cause additional problems. No, those imbalances must be resolved first. Most of the individuals I see stalking the web for the latest and greatest to engender ‘optimal health’ have yet to address the clutter.
Just as a true master informs us that the path to the higher states doesn’t really begin until fate karma has been resolved, so too, optimal health is the journey awaiting those who have already attained a prerequisite level of purification. Then and only then begins the acquisition of vitality, resilience, and understanding required to enjoy the highest quality of physical life in a given moment. By highest quality of life, I don’t mean the car you drive, the house you own, the clothes you wear. I mean the strength, comfort, centeredness, and clarity you experience every moment of the day — with your friends and loved ones, with your challenges and adversaries, and, most importantly, with your self.
These are principles upon which Oriental medicine is founded, its raison d’être, its initial intent as well as its ultimate goal. Certainly, there are more elevated goals in life than optimal health. But if it’s high on your list, their understanding is essential to its pursuit.
[Bob Doane and I share many of the same experiences and some important perspectives on the world of medicine. While it didn’t take many years of practice for me to recognize the phenomena described here, the clean distinction between ‘symptom relief’ and ‘stabilization’ was made by Bob. From there, it was a short hop, skip, and a jump to this elaboration. Thanks, Bob!]