|I will never forget an experience I had in the 1990's with a medical student from the University of Vermont. She was spending the morning at my office as part of her obstetrics and gynecology rotation at our medical center. She watched and listened while I examined and spoke with my patients.
One of my patients that day had abnormal uterine bleeding. After performing a uterine biopsy, I placed my hands over her lower abdomen and did a technique called therapeutic touch. This helps restore the patient's energy field after an invasive procedure and also helps decrease the discomfort and fear that are so often a part of medical testing. While the patient was still lying on the exam table, I asked her to breathe regularly and simply pay attention to any thoughts or images that came up. Women often experience old memories following the placing of an instrument in the uterus. Unresolved grief about abortion, or even memories of incest can sometimes surface. Telling my patients about this gives them permission to acknowledge how hurts are often stored in the body.
Several other patients that morning were given natural options for their gynecologic problems such as dietary change, food supplements, and castor oil packs. Some were treated with standard drugs such as estrogen replacement therapy. In every case I spend some time talking with the patient about what was going on in her life.
In my office later that morning, the med student turned to me and said, "I'm confused. Yesterday you did a hysterectomy in the hospital. Now today in your office you're suggesting herbs to some people, surgery to others, and doing therapeutic touch in your exam room after a procedure. What is going on here?"
This student was experiencing a rather common error in thinking. She had the idea that surgery, the hospital, and standard medications wouldn't be used by the same doctor who used so-called "holistic" modalities such as therapeutic touch. I assured her that holistic medicine is really a mind set--a way of thinking about healing. At the heart of medicine what is most important is the consciousness of the doctor and his/her relationship with the patient.
Once this relationship is established, the particular modalities that a holistic doctor uses are highly variable and certainly might include drugs and surgery. Most holistic doctors, operating under the ancient dictum, "First do no harm," will be more likely to use nontoxic methods whenever possible.
Our dualistic culture with its either/or thinking leads us to believe that holistic medicine is contrary to conventional medicine or vice versa. I open have the experience while standing at the scrub sink in surgery of having a colleague say, "What are you doing here? Is this another failure of macrobiotics that you're operating on?" I keep a sense of humor and gently point out that I like to have it all: brown rice...and anesthesia when necessary.
Though I believe more and more people are interested in natural, non-toxic remedies and approaches, I
would hate to see us lose the elegance of modern technological medicine. We need both. Someday we'll
see medical centers in which the best aspects of all of medicine, ancient and modern, are joined
together in systems of healthcare that honor all aspects of our patients: body, mind, spirit, and