catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 13 :: 2003.06.20 — 2003.07.03


Nearly forgotten ways of healing

Technology is a generous benefactor. To those who have wisely used his gifts he has bestowed freedom from drudgery; freedom to travel; freedom from the discomforts of cold, heat and dirt; and freedom from ignorance, boredom and oppression. But father technology has not brought us freedom from disease. Chronic illness in industrialized nations has reached epic proportions because we have been dazzled by his stepchildren?fast foods, fractionated foods, convenience foods, pachaged foods, fake foods, embalmed foods, ersatz foods?all the bright baubles that fill up the shelves at our grocery stores, convenience markets, vending machines and even health food stores.

Sally Fallon

The greatest contribution of ethno-medicine is reality. No denial of death whitewashes real medicine. The human experience is greater when its full fragile, brutal, and beautiful nature are known and acknowledged.

Healing is not the same as curing, and things are not always what they appear. Patients visit clinics for treatment of some set of symptoms, but there are times when the true diagnosis could just as well be loneliness. They want to be touched, connected to something larger. The complaint may be joint pain, but the need is, for some of these patients, spiritual.

It has been noted by many that the real disease suffered by those of us living in this age, in this place, is separation. We are separated from each other, fenced away from our neighbors to enjoy the American Dream of our own private empire in the suburbs. Prosperity promises comfort and security, but may bring instead a separation from the earth, our nourishment, with rubber tires and gas heat, glass and chrome and shopping malls. People are more likely to learn how to operate a microwave than how to harden off spring plants. Community coalitions who have established inner-city gardens know the power of connection to renew the soul. The healer provides a moment of connection to a thirsty soul which founders.

The spiritual tool of ethno-medicine is connection. The skills needed to wield this tool are love and compassion.

Acute observation is a hallmark of Chinese medicine. Everything is noted; complexion, posture, odor, voice, verbal and physical cues of all kinds which will paint a holographic picture of this person, this place, this time, and enable a treatment to be formulated. This picture held in the mind and intuition of the practitioner can sometimes be ephemeral.

Physicians of all kinds are sometimes called upon to rely on hunches, on their particular muse, or even, if it be known, the spiritual trace of the lineage to which they lay claim. In other words, shamanism is not dead for those healers who are willing to be led by unseen hands to treat unseen wounds.

The tools which ethno-medicine uses are the ones prescribed by tradition, and the ones that work, whatever they may be. The traditions have amalgamated and mingled. Materialistic, existential society has cast doubt on the spiritual tools of the past. In response to this, Ethno-medicine has gone underground, but remains alive and well. The human soul cries out for the medicine it needs. It is spirit medicine. It is not religion or creed. It is intangible, and all-encompassing. This medicine is dispensed in the hospitals and homes, by doctors and nurses and yoga teachers, but also shines from illiterate eyes in the shantytowns and ghettos. It may be present in the MRI studio and absent in the yoga ashram, or vice versa.

Native medicine has not disappeared. It is not unused or unneeded. It is unacknowledged. The blossoming wells of spirit, bringing connection and life to the dark places are even now being hastened and urged by the silent pangs of longing which we witness in our patients and ourselves. Our prayer: speed to the pendulum in its swing back toward middle ground.

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