Who knows your body better than you? When thoughts arise in the mind are you aware of experiencing feelings and sensations within your body? What if the body is naturally wired to heal itself and the mind operates a self-healing system?
If we introduce the notion that ‘Well-being is a skill’ (Dr. Richard J. Davidson, Founder & Director Of The Center For Healthy Minds At The University Of Wisconsin–Madison), which can therefore be learned through knowledge and direct experience of healing practices, we awaken to the awareness that the mind impacts an extraordinary power on the body.
This is an open-minded approach to optimal health. One where we acknowledge that thoughts, beliefs and emotions affect our health and we open up to a whole-system approach to integrative well-being. The catalyst in this process is you.
The World Health Organisation defines health as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” (Acheson, 1988; WHO). Let us examine the definition of health as both an art and science, and the different meaning of cure and heal.
Let’s head a little further back for some history…
The science of health is objective, the Western scientific ‘evidence-based’ medical model that is dominant today, based on cure. Hippocrates, the Greek physician born around 460 BCE, and founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine, established the investigation of scientific and rational based medicine, concentrating on the disease, its common symptoms and patterns and not the uniqueness or individuality of the patient.
The art of health is founded on Asclepian traditions which is rooted in the subjective experiences of healing and an acceptance of our mortality. Asclepius is known as the Greek god of healing and art. Healing was based on spacious temples in beautiful natural settings with an atmosphere of peace, tranquillity, rest, replenishing diet, kindness, dream interpretation, rejuvenating practices and the healing gaze of the serpent. Today the Rod of Asclepius remains the dominant symbol for professional health care associations across the globe.
Cure — the science of health
As we experience disease at some time in our lives, there is a tendency to think specifically within the duality of curable or incurable. This is driven by society’s dualistic nature and by our current healthcare model. Whilst the terms cure and heal are often used interchangeably and sometimes confused in certain scenarios, their true meanings are very different. In the Western healthcare model, language about energy and the interconnected intelligence of the mind body is typically missing from medical training and from mainstream health beliefs in society. When we are unwell, for the most part we are taught to seek ‘wise counsel’ from Doctors and GP’s. A cure will take away the symptoms, but it may well fail to deal with the underlying cause of the disease and this means that an imbalance will still remain in the body.
Cure is synonymous with pharmaceuticals or surgery, and is used to eliminate physical symptoms. Modern medicine is powerful, we need only to look back over the past 70 years since the formation of the NHS in July 1948, to bear witness to the huge leaps in life expectancy and the management of diseases which were previously fatal.
There is an intimation that cure is an absolute solution and that cure means that we are ‘fixed’ from whatever issues we may be facing. This may be true of a broken joint where treatment is a cure. For deeper rooted diseases however, cure only goes so far. The existing Western medical model stops at curing when healing is necessary to address the root cause of many ailments. High stress levels, emotional overload, lack of sleep, non-nutritious diets and a sedentary lifestyle along with an overstimulated and overactive mind, which over time contribute to physical and mental disharmony, creates compromises in our immune system that eventually lead to various diseases when neglected.
‘For health and well-being and to treat illness, of course we need drugs of course we need surgeries but we also need the power of the mind. Now we have the evidence-based proof that the mind can heal and it should be added appropriately to drugs and surgeries.’
The Connection: Mind your Body – Herbert Benson.
Many of us would love a magic elixir that truly cures and heals debilitating diseases that affect millions of us today, but despite the blistering pace of innovation in medicine and technology, many of these conditions remain incurable.
Heal — the art of health
Our bodies are more than simply a collection of connected joints, bones, limbs and organs. True healing comes when we look at ourselves as a complete and whole person, mind, body and spirit, in order to return to true wellbeing. Whilst healing requires us to expend real effort, it is a natural process and within our own power and can lead to greater physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resilience, and onwards to a healthier and balanced life. We prefer the term ‘art of living’, now being referenced as ‘lifestyle medicine’.
Healing is when we are in a place to bring balance to our mind, body and spirit health.
Healing is addressing our imbalances, and addressing the root of an issue.
Healing is to dispense of the dissonance within ourselves and our bodies that leads to illness or disease itself.
“The best cure for the body is a quiet mind.”
Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769 — 1821
Once the root cause has been identified, acknowledged and accepted, it becomes possible to truly heal a condition. Cure, for the most part we know to be a temporary relief. Evoking heal can unleash the real power of inner transformation and self care. Healing is a very personal campaign, and whilst it may evoke difficult emotions and feelings along the way, the end game will be a finely tuned, modified, balanced framework for life.
Whilst I have described the science and art of health, I prefer the term ‘science of health and art of living’ which is positively impacting health care providers towards holistic and Integrative well-being. It is early days and conversations and collaborations are springing up through a new paradigm of self care and lifestyle medicine which combines objective knowledge with subjective experiential practices. Practices towards balance and coherence which energise and rejuvenate the mind and body. Meditation, mindfulness, contemplative practices for calming the nervous system and activating the body’s own natural healing system, our ‘inner pharmacy’ and healthy behaviours of nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and sleep.
Bridging the gap between cure and care starts with the responsibility to seek a broader path to well-being. The cure model is available and certainly needed in acute situations. Self care is at the heart of healing. Through self awareness of our healing potential and knowledge of the range of options available to us, we can each optimise ourselves and find our own individual formula to well-being. Care is an active partnership and the bridging of a powerful combination of cure and heal.
The first step starts with you.
Sue Cooper is a Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher, Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Registered Nurse and is qualified from The Chopra Centre for Well-being as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Instructor.
References and relevant reading
World Health Organisation — Public health
Benson, Herbert MD
The Connection: Mind your body
Davidson, Richard 2014 Well-being is a skill
The Healing Self, 2018 Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E Tanzi
Partners in Care: Medicine and Ministry Together, 2010 Frederick Reklau
Roots and Traditions and philosophy Chapter 2
The Philosophy of Palliative Care: Critique and Reconstruction
Mind over Matter: Scientific proof that you can heal yourself. Dr Lissa Rankin 2013
Medicine: Science or Art? S C Panda MD 2006
Originally published at medium.com