Years ago, when I was practicing medicine in an unusual way and trying to find language to describe what I was doing, I struggled through words that didn’t quite fit my definition. Although words like “integrative medicine” and “holistic health” got close, the way those words are understood in our culture wasn’t the same thing I envisioned. To me, “integrative medicine” meant you play nice in the medical sandbox with acupuncturists and homeopaths. “Holistic health” meant you recommend green juice cleanses and prescribe a lot of supplements. “Functional medicine” means you order a lot of unusual laboratory tests not usually covered by insurance, and you treat often neglected biochemical imbalances naturally. While I very much appreciate the value of natural medicines, green juice cleanses, non-mainstream lab tests, and alternative healers, and while I fully endorse the benefit of all of these interventions, I was more journeying down another rabbit hole, where patients were having “spontaneous remissions” without drugs, supplements, raw vegan diets, or acupuncture needles.
For example, I was hiking on a Marin County trail when I suddenly got a vision of a strange sort of ritual I felt like I was being guided to do with my patient, who suffered from a rare hematologic condition her physicians had been unable to diagnose. She was being kept alive with weekly infusions that required sitting in the chemo unit all day while she was transfused with iron. But after guiding her through the process of reclaiming her “whole health” and then trusting my intuition and performing this bizarre ritual I had been shown in a vision, she had a “spontaneous” remission. It has now been almost five years since her last infusion.
Another young woman was dying from an incurable heart condition—severe pulmonary hypertension caused by an autoimmune condition, which led to intractable heart failure. She didn’t qualify for a heart or lung transplant because of the nature and severity of her condition, and her condition was worsening under medical treatment. She was told she would die within five years, so she committed to finding and fulfilling her calling as quickly as possible, since she felt she had no time to waste. As a health care provider herself, she enrolled in the Whole Health Medicine Institute and began implanting the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself that we teach in the program, and lo and behold—a year later, she came to the live retreat where WHMI students gather and announced that she had just returned from her cardiologist—and her echocardiogram, a way to measure heart function, showed resolution of her supposedly lethal condition. Not only that, but her heart was pumping blood functionally enough that she was able to climb a mountain with me when we went hiking a few weeks later.
These are the kinds of miracles that take my breath away and leave me wildly curious about what is possible when patients embark upon a “whole health” journey, which may include green juice, supplements, and alternative healing treatments, but which is really an inner personal and spiritual journey that activates the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms and helps the body heal itself.
The Definition of Whole Health
Since I couldn’t find language for what these patients were embracing, I coined what I thought was an original phrase “whole health”—but a Google search revealed that others were using this term synonymously with integrative medicine and holistic health. Nonetheless, I decided to use it anyway, since I couldn’t land on something that better described what I was exploring. So what is “whole health” in my use of the term?
Whole Health = The scientifically validated, vitality-enhancing effects on the body of alignment with the soul in nine aspects of human life—relationships, work/life purpose, creativity, spirituality, sexuality, finances, environment, mental health, and physical health. When your life choices align with the soul’s truth and integrity, your body exits the “fight or flight” state that results from betraying the soul’s truth, and the nervous system reverts to the homeostatic parasympathetic state, or the “relaxation response,” and the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms are optimized, facilitating self-repair.
In other words, whole health encompasses not only holistic health and integrative medicine (which might lie under the “physical health” realm) but also the mental, emotional and spiritual health typified by alignment with the soul in all areas of life, which is a prerequisite for optimal health. When you are living your life in alignment with your truth, rather than compromising your truth in exchange for comfort, security, the illusion of certainty, or a set of social norms that may not align with your soul, you make the body ripe for miracles.
A Wellness Model for Whole Health: The Whole Health Cairn
The wellness model I call the “Whole Health Cairn,” which I introduced in my first TEDx talk and then in my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, demonstrates that, like stones balancing one on top of the other, the nine facets of whole health all interdepend upon one another, and the foundation stone of this balancing act requires getting in touch with the part of you I call your “Inner Pilot Light,” which you might also call your soul or your unique spark of divinity. When all nine of these “stones” of what makes up whole health are balanced in alignment with the soul, the state of the nervous system is optimized to allow the body to self-repair in ways that might look miraculous but may be simple biology (of course, simple biology is an everyday miracle!).
The Whole Health Medicine Institute
In 2012, I founded the Whole Health Medicine Institute, which is a partly live/partly virtual certification training program for health care providers. For the 2016 class, which is enrolling now, faculty members that co-teach with me include the pioneers of mind-body medicine—Deepak Chopra, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Joan Borysenko, Bruce Lipton—as well as spiritual leaders and healers like Tosha Silver, Steve Sisgold, and Brandy Gillmore. This program trains doctors, chiropractors, midwives, nurses, alternative healers, psychologists, and health/life coaches to use the Whole Health Cairn as a foundation for a sort of psycho-spiritual counseling process that leads patients through the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself, while also leaving plenty of spaciousness, support, and expertise to include conventional medicine or other healing modalities.
Not only have students of the program experienced seemingly miraculous cures; they are also reporting surprising and delighting results with clients and patients who are doing this deep inner work and noticing the physical effects that accompany realigning your life with your soul’s core truths. If it feels like part of your calling to include this kind of whole health approach in your healing practice, you can save $400 on tuition by registering now. If you’re on the fence, we’ll be hosting the first ever Whole Health Summit in October 2016, so plan to unite with your whole health peers there.
Who Needs Whole Health?
Once upon a time, none of us knew we needed a life coach. There was a bit of a stigma attached to people undergoing psychoanalysis, as if they were neurotic and somehow damaged (not that I think this is true at all, says someone who sees a transpersonal psychologist regularly!). But then Oprah came along and told everyone she had a life coach, and voila—the whole life coaching industry sprang up, and now millions of people have life coaches and hundreds of thousands are practicing life coaches.
But what about whole health? Do you have to be sick to get whole health counseling? No! This can be very helpful if you’re simply not feeling 100%. Or even if you’re feeling awesome, consider this process preventive medicine. This is how to optimize your chance of living to be 100 with a high quality of life. (If you want to try Whole Health counseling for yourself, choose a practitioner from our Whole Health Medicine Institute database here.)
Does this mean that balancing your Whole Health Cairn and practicing the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself will guarantee a cure? No. Unfortunately, life is never that straight forward. But I can guarantee you that if you put your whole heart and soul into this process—it’s a journey—you will be healed, even if you’re not cured. You can read my thoughts about the difference between healing and curing here.
Embarking upon a journey of whole health requires a commitment, but you don’t have to know where each step will lead you. As Martin Luther King, Jr. says, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” I once was taking seven medications for a whole litany of health conditions my doctors assured me were chronic, and I’m now down to half the dose of one of my seven drugs. I tell the story about my own journey to whole health—and well as how I am saying YES to my calling to promote whole health—in my new book The Anatomy of a Calling.
Are you ready to practice whole health? Will you take the first step?
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