Three Types of Health Care

The good news about life is that our bodies are made to HEAL. The bad news is that sometimes they get overwhelmed, confused, or just distracted from doing so. Indeed, one of the nearly universal features of all diseases and injuries is that they SLOW US DOWN. If we can’t project nearly as much intention and energy out toward the world, our resources are left to focus on resolving challenges to the internal mechanisms of life. Individuals embody impressive potential to heal, yet they are rarely successful when one gets a “serious” condition. Why is this?

First, the premise is not entirely accurate. It has become our experience, because modern western medicine has changed our relationship with microbes. Indeed, so broad and powerful is our ability to control the acuteness of microbial infections, that we are appalled and frightened by the rare drug-resistant ones. Consider, for instance, MRSA, drug resistant TB, and AIDS. These diseases are remarkable, because we no longer suffer with many of the infections that have plagued humankind throughout history. When people got pneumonia, smallpox, Bubonic plague, or many other infections, some died and others lived. While pre-modern doctors didn’t accurately understand the mechanism of those infections, because they didn’t have microscopes to see the microbes, they did recognize clinical patterns of expression. They knew these conditions as disease processes, and realized directly in their experience that health is not a binary state: healthy or diseased.

Some patients healed from the wide variety of recognized disease processes, and others did not. Indeed, in the case of plagues, while they didn’t understand their mechanisms, ancient healers clearly understood that a local population was exposed to some uniform disease process. Yet, many died and others lived. What was the difference? Well, for whatever reason, the individuals who lived were able to accommodate (and eventually resolve) the substantial challenges of those diseases, while maintaining life. They had been ‘more healthy’ when originally exposed to the disease that swept through their region. And, this was no less true of MANY other challenges of life. Consider life in a poorly insulated hovel without a chimney to allow fire inside. Cold was a substantial challenge in the lives of most people, even up to a couple hundred years ago. Little wonder it was considered an important etiology of disease in ancient China.

The most common “serious” conditions these days are progressive degenerative ones like cancers, vascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many others. While an individual’s awareness of the life threatening expression of these diseases may be acute, their processes certainly are not! All these conditions accumulate over time, and most people believe the best that can be done is to control their pathologies after they express themselves. That is the first type of health care. The other alternatives include nourishing and supporting the body to do its best to heal, and the most hopeful (though also generally the most challenging) is to specifically target and stimulate specific physiological processes to resolve the disease in question. So, these are the three type of health care:

  1. Manage or Control (the Expression of) Pathology
  2. Nourish and/or (generically) Facilitate the Intrinsic Healing Process
  3. Stimulate to Unblock the Individual’s Specific Impediments to Healing

One of the great challenges we face in considering these three types of health care is that they are not entirely well-defined. There is no fixed way to determine which type is being engage in any particular therapy, by any particular therapist, or even by a given therapist in a particular session. Yet, I’d say if a therapist is honest he or she knows. This is truly disconcerting, and in many instances differentiating between the last two of these categories a matter of degree, rather than being even potentially clear and discrete. However, while there may be some disagreement on specifics, these categories highlight very important characteristics of health care, which effects both patient outcomes and the economics of care.

Everyone is familiar with good examples of at least the first two categories. Virtually all pharmaceutical medications for chronic, degenerative, and progressive diseases fall neatly into the first category. Frankly, this is the BEST that most people have learned to expect, if surgery isn’t practical (which then requires separate analysis). Society is pleased and even impressed, when some substantial progress is made in managing and controlling the wide variety of “serious” pathologies people encounter. New drugs become ‘blockbusters,’ even when they offer only modest improvements over old ones, and the most disturbing feature of this type of medicine is that passive care breeds dependence.

Many people even grossly confuse the term “cure,” whenever they associate it with therapies of this first category. People want to believe that they, together with their health care providers, are doing the best that can be done, especially when they have “serious” diseases. Ah well…there is propaganda everywhere, including in our VERY large and lucrative health care industry. I’m sure all the ‘stake-holders’ involved in western medicine want to maintain their strong position in guiding the hearts, minds, and wallets of people with “serious” diseases. They’ve learned to give up a ‘piece of the pie’ to the second type of health care, but they certainly don’t want to hear about the third!

What is this ‘acceptable’ second type of health care? We are very familiar with several versions:

  • Most ‘supplements’ ranging from multivitamins to ones designed with vitamins, other ortho-moleculars, and/or herbs for specific disease conditions — these products are commodities with their formulations based on information from research, most of which is scientific and analytical
  • Improving one’s diet by eating more vegetables and fruits, drinking more water and less of most other drinks
  • Many ‘generic’ herbal products are ‘supplements’ designed for general well-being or specific disease conditions — products are commodities, though formulations may be based on either ‘scientific’ or historical/experiential research from various health care traditions
  • Most deep tissue massages and some other types of bodywork — these are services, and therapists have widely varying levels of training; while some are quite personalized, others are rather generic
  • One could even include regular moderate exercise as a component of this category

Individuals can freely make wiser choices around diet and exercise, though many need to focus considerable attention on them. Many people consider moderate amounts of the others components of this category ‘affordable,’ and indeed, it has grown into an impressive industry. Many people directly feel better after partaking in them, and virtually everyone trusts that participating as they do in this ‘second’ type of health care improves their well being, or even helps them avoid the first type — passive care to control pathology. There is considerable evidence they are right, at least to some extent. Yet, most people who subscribe to the value and import of this second type of health care eventually become patients of the first. Yet, they may also try out the third — with widely varying degrees of success.

So, what is this third type of health care, and is it really a pariah? Well, it’s not really that bad, though we’ve only begun to reap the HUGE potential benefits of this category. While there is a growing awareness and acceptance of SOME of those benefits, how many people believe we could eliminate most applications of the first type of health care, and provide the participating ‘patients’ with results they consider superior? Now that’s just crazy! Isn’t it? But, what if it IS true? I’ll bet THAT might put a dent in our society’s substantial health care financing challenges!

Well, isn’t it crazy to think that ‘healing work’ can replace a large portion of our current health care? I don’t think so, at least considering the pure potential of healing work. I’ve seen hundreds of ‘patients’ reach this conclusion, when confronting ALL manner of afflictions or diseases. Yet, interesting as that may be, it is still a VERY SMALL sample of the population. Is it generalizable? Who knows? Might those people simply be self-selected ‘nut cases,’ who just didn’t want to participate with modern western medicine, and fail to face the facts about their conditions? I don’t see them that way, though they have been universally willing to focus on and participate in their healing processes in various ways. In short, they’ve been willing to take somatic responsibility for their lives, and consequently their disease conditions.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is that several key ideas of this third category are not clearly understood. People don’t have a clear conceptual model, and by definition these are not ‘generic’ remedies. Services and products are individual; and practices require considerable diligence and cultivation, which relies on effective teaching that can require a lot of attention. There is substantial individual variability among practitioners or teachers involved in this category, based on a combination of talent, training, and cultivation. So, what are some of these third type of health care?

  • Some practitioners of ‘healing work,’ such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, though also osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation, and a wide variety of bodywork and various types of ‘healing work’ — talent, training, and cultivation…and it’s not just about the practitioner; his or her ‘fit’ with a particular client/patient can be very important
  • Specialized exercise practices, such as yoga, qigong, taijiquan (T’ai Chi Ch’uan), and others
  • Instances of psychotherapy, where the participant experiences some cathartic (somatic) release
  • Almost any experience can stimulate a person to release or otherwise resolve some long held and central block

This third category faces another challenge due to being so poorly understood. People who haven’t experienced it, don’t believe it. Further, people generally believe it for what they’ve experienced, though generally not for other afflictions or conditions. This ‘localization’ of benefits may or may not be accurate. There are so many individual differences — in practitioners, teachers, and participants/patients. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about healing is that it is not the responsibility of the practitioner; the embodied spirit can ‘heal’ almost anything, and it is up to the individual to follow through with any changes any healing session stimulates. Healing work can be pivotal, and it cannot do the entire job. The person must heal, and that process is not facilitated by their “healer’s” potentially bloated ego.

Now for the Bad News!

  • Healing is individual, so it cannot be standardized into protocols.
  • Thus, healing work will always be a service rather than a product.
  • While there are several ways to cultivate advancement within Chinese medicine, they all require considerable time and attention — I can think of three immediately, cultivating:
    • presence — especially through meditation to grow more like the great spiritual leaders of any era
    • technique — the skills of acupuncture, including ‘regular’ ones like needling techniques and ‘extraordinary’ ones like projecting qi through one hands or needles
    • understanding — penetrating into the mysteries of Dao in the microcosm of individual life
    • any combination of those three, and quite likely other, paths ‘up the mountain’
  • Healing depends on the ‘patient’ far more than on the practitioner — Healing is NOT a Spectator Sport!
  • Almost all individuals exhibit substantial ‘internal pathogenic factors,’ which are that person’s unresolved emotional struggles with experience; these become even more significant for the growth of somatic diseases when they are suppressed or repressed.

Oh well, tough luck for the capitalists, though so far that has been REALLY bad luck for healing work. Now that I have some experience with this process, I can’t say I’m surprised. For many people, especially with chronic, degenerative, or progressive conditions, healing is hard work. At the very least, these ‘patients’ generally need to make some fundamental changes in their lives. Well, that runs a little contrary to our “consumer culture,” but imagine how healing might penetrate through our culture, if there were substantial financial returns to be made, and of course if individuals didn’t have to take responsibility for their own progress (because healing was being done to them). Well, there won’t be returns for investors, but there would be for individuals and may well be for the society.

What might our society be able to do with a healthy chunk of the resources we are currently devoting to the hopeless goal of controlling pathology? How much richer might individual lives be, if people used their diseases as feedback about how they’ve been living, and consequently an invitation to change, rather than just taking a pill and acting as before? Healing may not be the best type of health care to support capitalism, because it often doesn’t return workers with ‘serious’ diseases to their full productivity as quickly as western medicine might. However, what is the personal cost to the humanity of those people with serious diseases? On the other hand, I’ve seen MANY people avoid various surgeries, especially for musculoskeletal pains, and eliminate the ill effects of their pharmaceuticals, which had been aimed at maintaining their pathologies in a relatively inert state. When it comes to surgery, even western medicine is growing more circumspect about the need for many surgeries, and surgical technology has made such astounding progress that those procedures aren’t nearly as traumatic as they were twenty years ago. Yet, healing work could still have an important role.

It turns out ‘a picture ISN’T worth a thousand words,’ when it comes to human health. There are just too many mysteries. Human life isn’t simply a very complex biochemical mechanism. The human body is inspirited, and consequently has access to the ‘magic’ of profound healing. It is far more interesting than is dreamed of by modern science!

Yet, these key questions remain:

  • How and why do people choose to devote time, energy, and especially willingness to the ‘messy’ work of healing?
  • How might healing become a more common choice, at least as long as the society can make believe it can afford to support the disease maintenance industry?


IVAS Rocks!

Thank you all for a wonderful 37th annual conference!

A special thank you to Vikki Weber, executive director of IVAS (International Veterinary Acupuncture Society). It appears that I’ve finally been discovered for my unique contributions to the field of Chinese medicine. Is it strange that these enthusiastic doctors are Veterinarians, and that I’ve never treated a non-human animal? I thought so, and so did my sister-in-law! What do I know about treating canines, felines, equine, or other non-human patients? Very little, yet I was asked to give two four-hour Keynote presentations at the IVAS annual conference in San Diego in September. Why, you may ask?

Well… the local reason is that Vikki read an essay published by Golden Flower Chinese Herbs, who have sponsored my CEU classes for several years. That particular essay introduced the five systems of channels and vessels, and was re-published on this site. It discusses what I used to refer to as “the five systems of channels and  vessels,” and now call “channel complexes,” technically 經 絡 (jingluo). These jingluo provide a conceptual framework that differs from the much simpler modern clinical doctrine of zangfu (viscera and bowels) and primary channels. These channel complexes provide both theoretical and practical advantages, compared to the “standard” doctrine, and Vikki was willing to invite me as an honored guest to the IVAS conference, so her members could learn more about my thinking on Chinese medicine. Filled with enthusiasm about her invitation, I proposed another idea in addition to reworking that essay into a presentation. When I received the contract to officially secure this opportunity, I learned that I’d have to submit essays of at least 6,000 words for each topic. GULP! Well, of course, I ‘bit the bullet’ and committed to writing those essays. It was a great process, and a lot of work!

The larger reason may be that many Veterinary acupuncturist are very cool people, who have “gone to the mountain, scaled it, and seen it’s limitations.”  They’ve all been trained in (western) medicine, yet they also recognize certain systematic weaknesses of that worldview and thinking process for health care. I knew I was among “my people” after I mentioned as back ground my education before I went to acupuncture school. I told them that I’d been in a PhD program at UC Berkeley for two years, where I studied how (western) science prejudices its understanding of the world based on how it asks questions and what it takes as evidence; there was a smattering of applause and a couple hoots. Imagine! They wanted to learn about the ‘weird’ worldview I’ve cultivated during nearly two decades of learning and practicing the Neijing-style of medicine as taught by Jeffrey Yuen.

So, find an acupuncturist for your pets, and you’ll find a doctor who is working to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both western and Chinese medicine. Actually, IVAS is even somewhat broader than that, as many of its members have interests in other approaches, such as osteopathy, Ayurveda, etc. What could be better?

Yeh, so why the delay in posting this blog piece?

It’s a funny thing about the internet — once we publish something, it’s PUBLISHED. I admit, I really don’t know how to think about this opportunity. Will people download a big essay, and engage me about the ideas discussed? Will they respect my attempt to discuss challenging ideas, or simply pick at my choice of language to my target my ideas as “not Chinese,” because they’re not discussed in the TCM they learned. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of flack for “embodied spirit,” though it’s my translation for 精 神 (jingshen), which is used extensively in Neijing. So, my ideas differ from the currently dominant doctrine. Are we going to be slaves to the historical forces that created the contemporary doctrine, assuming that newer must be better, or seek theory that is more coherent and incisive?

I’ve devoted many hundreds of hours to writing those papers, during seven months of very hard work — on top of my practice and teaching schedule early this year. They represent one attempt to discuss what I’ve learned over many years.  Am I likely to benefit by giving away that work, or am I simply forsaking the opportunity to publish those essay in some “better” venue? What is a better venue? How democratic has information become? How willing are individuals to evaluate information for themselves? For some odd reason, it didn’t make a lot of sense (to me) to post an announcement of that great event, without posting links to the papers I presented. Perhaps that’s really stupid, but it led me to on it. Instead, I focused my attention toward my primary interest, seeking  to articulate the wondrous world of classical Chinese medicine. I still don’t know the right answer to the question of how best to use this opportunity to publish my work, but I’ve decided to try something different. I’d REALLY like to hear thoughtful comments or questions from people who read these essays. Anyone interested in an Introduction to this approach to acupuncture?

Keynote Papers for the IVAS Conference (2011):

Living Systems of Acupuncture Channels

The World of Dao: Movement in Chinese Medicine

Will We Get True Health Care Reform?

After more than a year of discussions and widespread contention, we appear on the cusp of health insurance reform. Our society may benefit from such reforms, or as others fear, they may undermine the virtues of our current health care system and damage our economy. Interesting and compelling as that debate may appear, it is really a side-show. The changes introduced by pending legislation remain a long way from actual health care reform. Health care relies on actual caring, yet for all the resources our society devotes to maintaining our diseases, we show remarkably little caring for our embodied spirits in the process. The symptoms and signs of disease are the embodied spirit’s attempt to communicate its distress.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

While individuals don’t like experiencing the symptoms of disease, they are useful for helping us understand what the embodied spirit needs, and sometimes they specifically express the embodied spirit’s attempt to correct its dysfunction. We honor the needs of our embodied spirits in sustaining life when we listen to those symptoms and signs, and use what we learn to make needed changes. Our contemporary ethos seeks control of the uncomfortable expressions of disease, rather than sorting out and disentangling its individual causes.

Each individually embodied spirit has intrinsic capabilities to maintain his or her life. We promote healing when we facilitate and support those intrinsic capabilities, rather than when we seek to control and minimize the embodied spirit’s expression of distress. Yet, when we can begin to stimulate (substantive) changes in the patient’s qi (vital process) that had been “stuck,” the symptoms generally go away because the embodied spirit doesn’t need to keep screaming for help when it’s key struggles are being addressed. Are we willing to listen to our embodied spirits and make choices based on what it needs? When we’re tired, are we willing to rest? And if we can’t rest well, do we sort out why not, or do we simply attempt to impose sleep through the use of drugs? Can we accurately:

  • perceive thirst and do we drink water to quench it?

We all need water — anything more is a delivery system for other nutrients; for many “beverages” that people drink, one needs to use substantial portions of their water content to process the nutrients within them alone, so where is the water needed to process fully the other things one eats?

  • distinguish between physical and emotional hunger, and nurture each appropriately?

What food choices do people make when they engage “emotional eating,” and what becomes of the “foods and drink” that one ingests at that time?

  • differentiate what foods actually nourish our lives, and eat those rather than products that may be easier or more convenient (in the short term)?

Where are the freshly cooked foods in many people’s diets? Where are the vegetables?

These are some of the embodied spirit’s most fundamental needs for promoting (preserving or restoring) good health. Are we willing to honor them, or are we slaves to the sometimes unreasonable desires of our personalities? In the end, we have the health care system that we have tacitly requested over the years, because as a society we’ve allowed both our food and health industries to fulfill their economic “needs,” rather than the physiological and spiritual needs of the individuals in our society.

Sometimes individuals need interventions beyond simply reforming their lifestyle habits. Yet, when we seek care for our diseases, do we recognize the need for changes in our lifestyle choices, or do we simply want therapies that allow us to continue living as we did in developing those diseases? I believe we can only conquer our health care challenges, when we are willing to take responsibility for supporting our lives, rather than using our lives to support our personalities.

Health is an opportunity that each individual can choose, when they’re willing to honor its demands, rather than a consumer good that can be purchased — regardless of the price one is willing to pay.

The Cost of Scientific Medicine

Many patients faced with serious illnesses seek the assurance that their practitioners are using proven healing methods. Many practitioners also seek the security that the therapies they use have been proven by scientific research. Yet, few ask the question:

What is this proof that so many seek, and what are its limitations?

In modern “scientific” medicine, the nearly ubiquitous standard of proof uses the methodology of “randomized, controlled and double-blind” experiments. While each of these features of medical research serves a clear and understandable role, they also limit researchers to studying substances and procedures that act on the mechanisms of life, rather than those that work with the individual blocks of the embodied spirit. Such remedies can’t cure disease; they can only manage and control it. Yet, in our modern society’s urgency for the security of proof, we’ve played this semantic game with our lives and convinced ourselves only experiments that conform to that methodology are “scientific.”

Classical Chinese medicine is actually MORE scientific than modern so-called “scientific” medicine. I make that bold assertion based on its willingness to investigate the true nature of life, rather than reducing it to a mechanistic model of the individual as a very complicated biochemical machine. Yet, few seem to recognize the severe limitations of the physical model of modern western medicine, perhaps because they’re distracted by its empirical form and the impressive technologies that serve it. Though medical researchers have developed:

  • sophisticated knowledge of the physical expression of disease, modern science frequently over-simplifies the issue of causation.
  • many pharmaceutical therapies that control the expression of disease, there are few that promote resolution.

The simple fact is that medical research seeks to serve the personality rather than the embodied spirit.

The efficacy of most therapies is measured by their ability to temporarily control symptoms and clinical signs. Little progress can be made by modern medical science toward reversing conditions that are considered progressive and degenerative, because that would require practitioners to discriminate  individual challenges and process. Helping patients reverse most chronic diseases requires that one treat the individual rather than the disease. In addition to the massive financial toll of modern scientific medicine, it has another greater cost. The true cost of scientific medicine is that it limits our efforts to:

controlling the expression of pathology, rather than individually probing its resolution.

Focus Health & Wellness Educational Symposium

While my domicile remains in Sonora, I haven’t been focused on the local community since closing the Healing Center of the Sierra several years ago. I’ve cut back my practice quite dramatically, so I could focus more intensively on my researches into classical Chinese medicine, and work on various writing projects. Some of those writings are archived on this site, others provide the foundation for seminars I’ve taught and am preparing. I’m working toward drafting a series of monographs; my current focus is the five systems of acupuncture channels, which provide the conceptual foundation for Neijing (Inner Classic) style acupuncture. Of course, it’s convenient that I’m also in the process of writing the handouts that I’ll provide for a four weekend seminar series that I’ll be teaching on the clinical application of those systems.

During the past couple years, a few friends suggested I join another in a long line of local groups aimed at gathering “like-minded people” to provide mutual support and focus attempts toward social change, either local and global. Often the groups I’ve gravitated toward have gathered around healing work or sustainability and green politics; in this case it seems to focus equally on both. Yet, I’m generally much more interested in my own philosophical and clinical investigations of Chinese medicine than I am in group process, so I continued in blissful ignorance of the progress of:

FoCuS — Foothill Collaborative for Sustainability

Yet, about a month ago Sheila Gradison asked me to participate in an Educational Symposium on March 19, 2010. I went to my first meeting about that event on Wed. (12/2), and found engaged and interesting people involved in various aspects of the “holistic health” field. We had a discussion about the topics each of us would like to address during that brief symposium, which touched on the topic of quantum physics (of all things!). I’m reminded that group process has its virtues, including stimulating clarification. After many years of reflecting on my work, that meeting stimulated me to write a few pages of comments on the foundations of Chinese medicine, which even leads many enthusiasts to invoke the results of experiments in quantum physics! My interest in this topic dates back to the beginning of my interest in Chinese medicine; I’m curious to see how others will connect with those ideas.

While quantum physics can be a valuable topic for holistic health practitioners who are attempting to engage (particularly “scientific”) members of the public, I believe it is ultimately a distraction. It can help pry open the minds of people set in their allegiance to mechanistic conceptual models of reality, but it also tends to invite people to enroll in it as the “right” conceptual model that explains how things work. People want so badly to feel in control of their world…

I believe the key point that most holistic health practitioners are trying to make in referring to quantum physics is that mechanistic “scientific” models do not provide the ultimate explanation of the world — that the world, especially the human world,  is much more complex and magical than most imagine. Some people believe quantum physics suggests that there is a consciousness expressed through the “physical” universe. Indeed, they’ve given one type of quark (subatomic particles) a suggestive name like “charm.” While such speculations may amuse us, why do we seek support for the idea that consciousness be included in our descriptions of individual human life from the outset?

Each individual is an embodied spirit. The first task of that embodied spirit is to survive in this world of constant polar interactions. The highest healing work facilitates that process, rather than controlling the expression of distress when there is something awry. We need to study that, and how to support it in disentangling from its blockages and stagnation. Natural medicine is far more (and less!) than the use of naturally occurring products. It is the process of facilitating an individual’s return to his or her own nature — to optimize it’s ability to live.

Is Health Care Against Society?

I ran into an old friend at the grocery store a couple days ago. We greeted each other warmly, after not seeing each other for several years. Matt is a medical doctor, specifically a radiologist, who was one of few medical professionals in our small rural California town to accept my efforts practicing Chinese medicine fifteen years ago. At that time, we bonded over our deep concern for the well-being of patients and our scornful opinions concerning the practice of medicine.

Yet, Matt and I were going in different directions. He was pretty cynical about many of his local colleagues, and how they used (and mis-used!) the very expensive technology at the core of his specialty. I learned a lot from him about both the strengths and limitations of medical imaging as part of my specialized training in “acupuncture orthopedics,” and I was searching for an entirely different conceptual framework for practicing health care. We drifted apart as the stresses of our respective lives consumed our attention, even though our souls knew we were “brothers” in our quest to improve American health care.

The focus of Matt’s rapier wit has shifted from local to global. He now believes there are severe systemic flaws in American health care, and declares that only a complete transformation of financial incentives can repair the system. Matt shared his perception that:

The current fee-for-service health care system renders patients into fodder to generate fees (and hence INCOME) for providers

Matt strongly expressed his conviction that our health care system can only be repaired by adopting a national program like the one in Great Britain. His twenty-five years practicing medicine has convinced him that the health care system must be designed with patient welfare at its center! I heartily agree with that perception.

While I may identify different specifics and remedies, Matt and I agree on many aspects of our societal challenges with health. I concur that our health care system suffers because of some very warped incentives, and believe lasting effective remedies must address them. Twenty years ago the “money people” devised “managed care,” which was supposed to squeeze the inefficiencies out of our health care system. Yet, that industry now soaks up more than 17% of GNP, and our health outcomes are poor relative to other industrialized nations, especially when measuring health span. Maybe we can start with several principles:

  1. We must find ways to put patients back at the center of health care, especially identifying specific life changes they can cultivate to promote healing
  2. We must line up incentives throughout the entire economy to support health
  3. Modern (western) medicine doesn’t have a monopoly on wisdom about health — a free marketplace of ideas will optimize our solutions

We can find solutions for our health care crisis!

I told Matt about my blogging concerning health care policy; he shared his small website to spread his philosophy. I suppose he got disheartened or busy with other things, because he hasn’t continued writing new pieces for that site. Matt seemed inspired by the idea of blogging, and I hope he gets invigorated to share his experience and insights about our profound societal health care challenges. While our voices and messages are rather different, I believe that a mélange of caring and concerned health care practitioners will identify the important principles for resolving our health care challenges.

Sometimes, the darnedest things happen at the supermarket!

Practicing Health Care

A few weeks ago, I taught a weekend continuing education seminar for acupuncturists on the channel divergences, which have central importance for both understanding and reversing progressive and degenerative disease. Early in that seminar, I posed the following question, which I believe lay deep in the soul of many health care practitioners:

Do you want to participate in the disease management industry or the art of healing?

Has the idealism to help others, which continues to inspire many young people to enter the health care fields, been overwhelmed by the “scientific” doctrines students must learn and later the practical challenges of making a living? While that idealism appears well beaten-down in most, I believe it continues to smolder in the hearts of many. Can we gently fan those embers with the knowledge that the healing potential of the embodied spirit dwarfs the efforts of scientific medicine to control the expression of pathology?

Modern medicine relies on fear.

Allopathic medicine portrays patients’ bodies as “broken” — in need of permanent physical repair through surgery or ongoing physiological control with pharmaceuticals. Yet, embodied spirits that exhibit various diseases aren’t broken; they’re simply congested with stagnation, which blocks the natural flow of vital function. The symptoms and signs of disease are a cry for help; they are the embodied spirit’s gesture to express the nature and extent of its distress.

While western medicine sets the tone for our health care system, most proponents of “natural” medicine conform to its passive care model. And why not? — it makes SO MUCH SENSE economically. What could be better than selling people on the need to take a certain supplement for the rest of their lives, or come for three treatments per week for the next six months? Excuse me while I price a new BMW.

Practicing Health Care is a Sacred Trust.

People come to health care practitioners with their pains and their fears. I believe our work challenges us to discern the sources of each individual’s suffering, and find ways to stimulate the transformations of healing. Often that takes more time initially than simply controlling the manifestations of distress, but careful work to discriminate an individual’s blocks to healing can pay substantial dividends. The financial value for both individuals and our society of empowering patients to resolve their ailments is enormous. The non-financial value is even greater!

Health Care: NOT Just a Funding Challenge

The Problem with Health Care is the Pervasive Fantasy that We Can Treat It as a Consumer Good!

Health and healing are not consumer goods. Why would one think we could treat health care as one? If consuming health care actually made people healthier, there could never be enough. Our society would have to ration it explicitly.

When policy makers consider the issue of how to distribute health care, they get carried away with economic models, and forget about the underlying issue. In economic terms, individuals pay for goods and services to achieve a desired result, yet healing doesn’t work that way. We might buy short-term control of the manifestation of distress, but that purchase undermines our ability to use that expression of distress to sort out the factors that create it.

Health and healing are a matter of cultivation. We might even consider them a life-style, but try as we might we cannot make them into consumer goods. Health comes from the inside, and suppressing the signs of physiological distress doesn’t bring it back.

We can’t buy health any more than we can buy love.

For either health or love, it may appear for a short time that one can buy it, but doing so only introduces the unquenchable thirst for more purchases. Trying to turn them into consumer goods subverts their very nature.

Health (like love) flourishes when individuals invest in it!

Health flourishes when an embodied spirit invests in its individuality, and suffers when the individual’s alignment with life wavers. Pay attention to facilitating vital function, rather than simply the desire to enjoy your experience. Make decisions based on what your embodied spirit expresses, and you will tend to grow healthier. Yet, simple as it sounds, following that injunction isn’t always easy. Sometimes people need to experience the discomfort of the healing process.

The challenge of health care is NOT financial, it’s technical. We will start conquering it when we explore how to resolve disease, rather than maintaining it by managing expression.

Passive Health Care Breeds Dependence

Passive care is ANY form of health care where the patient is a passive consumer of a good or service. That might be a pharmaceutical medicine, surgery, joint or other physical manipulation, dietary supplement, or any other consumption-based attempt to improve your health. Let me be very clear: I don’t consider this a problem with any particular therapy, but a failure in how many use the technologies that humankind has developed.

Modern clinical theory teaches acupuncturists to practice according to the passive care model. It match the commonly held standards of modern medicine, and treat their patients to manage the intensity of symptoms. While this allows patients to maintain their diseases without having to expose themselves to the potentially toxic “side-effects” of pharmaceuticals, it’s not the highest use of acupuncture. That’s why many acupuncturists seek other training — to increase the long-term value of their work.

Within the current health care arena, many patients comply with the passive care agenda, and grow dependent on their therapies. However, when you buy into that:

You’re not a Patient, You’re an Annuity!

While passive care (regardless of the specific modality) is a great economic model for the people and especially the corporations that provide it, it has much less value for patients. Passive health care reinforces the idea that the patient’s body is “broken” and needs to be fixed. Yet, the human body is made to heal! That is its NATURAL tendency. When the embodied spirit fails to restore health, we can conclude that SOMETHING is blocking its natural and intrinsic movement.

When used incisively, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine stimulate the embodied spirit to release its blocks to facilitate healing. When an individual’s entire being is focused on the healing process, when both the personality’s conscious choices and the embodied spirit’s automatic function are aligned, the possibilities are limitless. We’ve all heard of people that have healed themselves of cancer; those aren’t random events, but the natural result of the embodied spirit unblocking its natural potential.

Take the initiative; find ways to heal your life. Don’t just be a passive consumer of health care!