On a recent road trip with my kids I had lots of driving time to unwind, contemplate, feel the wind in my hair and let a lot of overly-structured life go. It’s here that I find the most creativity and time to: think, enjoy my thoughts, breathe, not worry about emails or bills or the dog, and just be.
It was during the ride I was reminded of a time over 20 years ago when a teacher said to me, “What do you believe in?”
I was quite stumped when she asked me this as I was a porous person that sort of let life happen to me rather than directed it. I didn’t have a handle on what I believed in, not in a conscious way. Sure, I had opinions, things that bothered me, injustices untold and dreams, as well as spiritual inclinations…but beliefs? With all the time, space and freedom of my road trip I thought again, what do I believe in now?
As an acupuncturist I have had the honor to work with people facing all kinds of health challenges and this experience has helped me hone in on my beliefs as they relate to true wellness. I feel it is very important to understand our belief system when it comes to medicine, healing, and our thoughts and feelings around what is best for us. Sometimes this makes for a difficult or time-consuming inquiry as what we are perhaps told to do to get well can go against what we know, what we have experienced and even touch on what we are most afraid of. Whether a situation is urgent or chronic we have to come to terms with our life on a deeper level to make important decisions and then we must trust those decisions fully.
We are at an interesting crossroads in the health field. A time when research science and alternatives are starting to merge, more often than not. A time when there are dozens of articles about questioning the authority of our medical system and taking into account more unorthodox systems ranging from the Placebo effect on down to meditation and prayer as valid healing sources. I find this very exciting.
For me, health is personal. Health struggles are part of coming to terms with life. Our body, mind and spirit are all part of managing this. We are not our high cholesterol, depression or broken bone. We are multiple things at once.
Our relationship to our bodies takes interesting twists and turns and if our belief systems are clear we can help steer a course of healing in a way which helps tell our body “yes, you can heal,” rather than “no”. When we understand what our core beliefs are, we can understand how to influence and direct our health that in a way is part of the healing process.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe we have control over many things in life, including more serious health issues. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we bring negative things on ourselves by thinking them. But health is generally not linear. It has ups and downs, requires different things at different times or multiple things at one time. To navigate this well, I believe we have to know what works for us and expand our horizons to look beyond the normal whenever we can.
Many doctors are trained to tell the story they learned, a largely exclusive story which mostly suppresses other possibilities for wellness and healing, and often excludes the patient’s complex belief systems. One story and one belief system is not enough.
As we learn more and more that belief is arguably the most powerful determinant of medical outcomes whether it’s during an acupuncture treatment or open heart surgery, I believe it’s critical for each and every one of us to investigate our deeper beliefs around our bodies and step out of the many centuries of conditioning that separated medicine from the patient.
I believe your health needs are personal and meaningful and that there are no rules, only your deepest sensibility and freedom to choose what works for you. I believe in curiosity. As the days shorten and the contemplative, inward seasons of autumn and winter approach, I invite you to think about what you believe in, and then take the steps to honor that fully.
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