I love to separate this from that, as Vasalisa
did during her stay with Baba Yaga in the chicken-footed house.
Separating this from that -- making piles of similar things
-- helps me make sense of the complicated world I inhabit.
Separating this from that especially helps me
make sense of medicine. What to do with all the modalities,
methods, and manners of healing? I sort them into seven medicines,
based on their safety. This helps me maintain and regain health
simply and safely.
The first four medicines -- serenity medicine,
story medicine, energy medicine, and lifestyle medicine --
build health. The more we actively engage in them throughout
our lives, the healthier we will be. The last three medicines
-- herbal medicine, pharmaceutical medicine, and hi-tech medicine
-- are life-saving in emergencies, but undermine overall health.
The safest way to heal is to let Nature do the
work. This requires nothing from us. And the more nothing
we can provide, the more effective serenity medicine is. Unplug
the phone, leave the computer turned off, enter the silence,
cultivate acceptance, abandon the mind's ceaseless control,
and be here now.
The stories we tell ourselves, according to
my mentor Jean Houston, create our lives and thus our health.
What are the stories you tell yourself about your life and
your health? This is story medicine.
When we seek diagnosis we are looking for story
medicine. Different healers offer very different kinds of
story medicine. Receiving information from people telling
different stories can be very confusing, until we see the
sameness in their stories.
I sort story medicine into Scientific, Heroic,
and Wise Woman types: Something is broken and needs to be
fixed (Scientific). Something is toxic and needs to be cleansed
(Heroic). Something lacks nourishment and wants to be whole
Story medicine is information medicine. Information
alone may be heartless, however. So we open ourselves to wisdom
and intuition, to our unreasonable fears and longings, even
as we search the internet and seek second opinions in story
Hands-off diagnosis is much less likely harm
the questioner than -- and in skilled hands as good as --
x-rays, CAT scans, radioactive tracers, and exploratory surgery.
Chi, ki, veriditas, kundalini, life force, orgone,
wankan tanka . . . even if we can't measure it or see it,
we know there is an energy that animates and heals. Ways to
use this energy are as myriad as our ability to imagine.
Hands-off healing, laying on of hands, Reiki,
Muriel, comfort touch . . . we sense this energy in our hands
and in the hands of healers. We know we can use the power
of our intention to help direct this energy.
flower essences, gem stone elixirs, mojo bags, rituals and
ceremonies . . . energy medicine gives us physical things
to focus our intention on, to help us envision our health,
our healing, our reality.
Sound healing, color healing, art therapy, drumming
. . . energy is vibration and vibration can heal. Resonance
gathers our wholeness. Prayer, chanting, kirtan, focused meditation,
visualizations . . . energy medicine attunes us to health.
Chakras, and auras, shamanic journeys, trances
and hypnosis . . . energy medicine gives detail to our story
and helps us change from the inside out.
Did someone say placebo? I'm fine with that.
Instead of energy medicine I could call it placebo medicine.
It still works, as science as shown us. And since placebo
medicine does so little harm, I'm all for it.
Nourishment and activity are the core physical
components of health.
We nourish ourselves with all our senses. Nourishment
occurs in single instances. The specifics of nourishment have
been argued by Americans for hundreds of years, with no particular
winners. My simple rules for superb nourishment: Eat foods
without ingredients. Eat locally. Eat widely. Avoid high-fructose
corn syrup, enriched flour, all soy foods except miso and
tamari, and all oils pressed from seeds.
Tonification builds functioning, unlike stimulus,
which erodes it. Tonification is rhythmic and, for best results,
occurs regularly and repeatedly. Daily is usually too much
for most people. Muscles are strengthened by being torn; they
need several days rest to recover and gain tone.
Herbalists are especially likely to confuse
stimulation and tonification.
Herbal medicine does not stand alone here, nor is all of herbal
medicine encompassed in this section. Nourishing herbal infusions
and most herbal vinegars, for instance, are part of lifestyle
The medicines here stimulate and sedate. They
include hydrotherapy, many massage therapies, and acupuncture,
as well as herbal medicine.
I break this section into ten smaller sections
so my sorting can give me more information on safety and make
my choices easier. (1) Motherwort tincture sedates and tones,
(2) skullcap tincture sedates and nourishes, (3) chamomile
tea mildly sedates, (4) catnip tea sedates, (5) passion flower
tincture can sedate strongly, (6) hops tea very strongly sedates
and may be mildly addictive, (7) valerian root tincture sedates
strongly and can be very addictive, (8) poppy head tea is
a strong, addictive sedative, but it is not a narcotic, neither
is the potent sedative (9) wild lettuce sap, but (10) poppy
sap/opium is a narcotic.
Morphine and heroin are drugs made from poppies;
they are part of pharmaceutical medicine. I define a drug
as something that does not grow out of the ground (thus opium
is not a drug) and cannot be made in your kitchen. I include
vitamin and mineral supplements and essential oils in pharmaceutical
So useful. So enticing. So dangerous.
Here we break boundaries: We stick our finger
down our throats, we break our child's will, we run fluids
up into our intestines (enemas and colonics), we control our
feelings with psychoactive drugs, we open our bodies with
surgery, injections pierce our skin.
So useful. So enticing. So dangerous.
Set a Time Limit
I have arranged the medicines according to the harms they
are likely to cause, how likely those harms is, and how severe
those harms may be. But all bets are off unless you set a
time limit for working with each medicine. Neither rushing
into hi-tech medicine, nor procrastinating about acting, will
support optimum health.
For best results, when I have a problem, I start
with serenity medicine. If I am not "well" in the
appointed time, I go on to story medicine and again set a
time limit. Without time limits it is easy to get pulled into
frustrating repetitions of non-diagnosis and clashing opinions.
Become your own expert; write your own story. And use the
tools of energy medicine to make it real, within your time
limit, of course. Change your diet if you need do; exercise
more. But don't be afraid to use herbal medicine when your
time limit there is through. And do go on to drugs if herbs
don't do what you need in the time you set.
Sometimes surgery and hi-tech saves the day,
but set a time limit on this, for sure.
In emergencies, I use all the medicines at once. Sorting them
this way helps me cover all my bases instead of say, doing
ten different energy medicines. All the medicines at once
is integrative medicine, and it can work wonders in my experience.
Just remember to set a time limit for leaving daily use of
herbal, pharmaceutical, and hi-tech medicines behind and relying
on health building with serenity, story, energy, and lifestyle
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