It is fortunate that mainstream culture is beginning, at last, to accept some of the wonderful ideas found in traditional methods of healing. This change of heart is hopeful for many reasons. Paramount is the fact that traditional healing offers us something we lack-specifically, a sane perspective on caring for our health. This situation is filled with irony since health care is what we in the West do best. We do it so well that it has become more than just a harmless preoccupation: unfortunately, it has become an unhealthy obsession.
Each new day bring an announcement of yet another "major medical breakthrough," another "miracle drug," another "surgical procedure." This seemingly endless tide of medical discoveries is supported by a zealous health-care industry seeking to capitalize on each advance. As a result, health care monopolizes much of our attention and consumes ever more of our resources. Many reasonable people feel that the time has come to take countermeasures and adopt a new health-care model. If we use care and discretion, we may find elements of a more balanced model in the traditional healing systems, which are still relatively intact in the world's traditional cultures.
Some of these ancient systems are geared largely towards healing accidents or sudden illnesses. Others, much like our own system, prepare medications in anticipation of future difficulties. But despite great differences, most ancient traditions have a vital element in common-the willingness to rely on spirit to aid the healing process.
The notion of spirit as a health transforming agent is conspicuously absent from modern medical practice. While a few courageous doctors have sought to reinstate prayer, meditation, visualization, and other spiritual practices as aids to healing, the majority, it seems, have neither the training nor the inclination to pursue practices that go beyond the accepted medical paradigm.
Conversely, in traditional cultures, spirit has always been a part of healing. In ancient and indigenous traditions and, until very recently, even in our own, there has never been any question that the health of the human body is intimately interconnected with the same spiritual forces responsible for our existence. In one way or another, this belief has enabled us to survive for millennia in the face of all challenges.
As we have lost the belief that our personal well-being is connected with the greater forces of the universe, so too we have lost the understanding that we are intimately linked with the natural world around us. Wherever it is found, this sense of connection translates into a concern, even a reverence for animate and inanimate nature. Today, however, we find ourselves so isolated from such ideas that it is even difficult to imagine how such a reverence might be expressed.
Gradually, we have let fundamental aspects of traditional human understanding slip away. We can no longer recall the songs or teaching stories of our ancestors. We know little or nothing of the actual practices that sustained us in times of need. We have difficulty distinguishing between the wide variety of healing herbs and plants often growing within our reach. We no longer know how to make or apply a simple poultice or gather herbs for a healing tea. Simply put, we have lost our healing heritage.
As a result, we have become increasingly reluctant to assume responsibility for the state of our own health. Instead, we have learned to rely almost exclusively on advice from professionals-advice that we purchase. Healing knowledge is now largely the property of specialists purchase. Healing knowledge is now largely the property of specialists and even of corporations, who regard health care as a business and not as a service to humanity. Perhaps we are just too busy, too harried by the demands of modern living to assume an added responsibility. Perhaps we have lost confidence in our ability to make wise health care choices. Whatever the reason, acceptance of responsibility for our own well-being would bring with it a special power. We would see ourselves and our environment with a deeper and refreshed insight. Reclaiming our healing wisdom might yet prove to be the salvation of humanity.
Back of the Book
Peter Fenton traveled to India and Nepal, seeking the few places left where Tibetan refugees still practice Tibetan medicine in entirety-one of the most powerful healing tradition in the world, perfected over centuries and now in danger of being lost with the dispersal of its people. His passion was to preserve their ancient art and explore its secrets for our well-being today.
He hiked with herbalists in Himalayan foothills; toured monasteries, shrines, and healing centers; and interviewed lamas, Tantric healers, and Tibetan doctors.
With fascinating stories, photographs, and botanical drawings, he explains the Tibetans' use of medicinal herbs and the living spiritual principles that give their medical practice its power. The result is a practical guide to help each of us rebalance body, mind, and spirit-the essence of good health.
"We cannot have enough information on this deeply profound subject. Dr. Fenton has written a masterpiece and many will heal as a result of his effort.
"Brings Tibetan wisdom to our dinner tables, our offices, and our bodies in a deeply meaningful and usable manner.
"Dr Fenton's firsthand experiences with Himalayan medical practitioners
make the book a reading adventure into exceptional yet hardly researched medical traditions of great contemporary relevance".
Peter Fenton, Ph. D., educator, journalist, and naturalist, is author of Shaolin Nei Jin Qi Gong: Ancient Healing in the Modern World and The Wisdom of Tai Chi: Ancient Secrets to Health and Harmony.
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