I am not a physician. I am what might be called a medical philosopher and counselor. My interest in holistic medicine began less as a rejection of allopathic medicine than a deep yearning for harmlessness, wholesomeness, and harmony. As time went on, I did become concerned that material medicine tends to ignore the issues faced by the person who is sick and suffering—and I did, in fact, reach the point in my own personal life that I was no longer interested in the technical prowess that operates at the expense of the larger picture. I have often asked myself what I would do if I were the patient rather than the person patients consult when they are ill. My first answer has usually been, "I would sit under a tree."Over the years, there have been those who understood me perfectly and those who did not. Many patients said, "You'd do nothing!" My response is that sitting under a tree is not doing nothing. It is an admission that when we are lost, there is no point in going forward.
When faced with a critical illness, there is a red flag on the game of life. We know that if we continue as if all were fine, the patterns that led to our crisis will go unchecked. The outcome, in such instances, is probably death. So, I would sit under a tree until I came to know what my life is all about. A few patients have immediately understood that this is the study undertaken while sitting.
Trees are wonderful companions. They tend to encourage us to look up into the Sky and down into the Earth, to appreciate the wind and the rain and to forge a feeling of being connected, of being one with life. While we have much to learn from trees, life is really about living our Creator's Plan, and since this is something we probably did not learn in school, we often have to set aside time for the lesson later in life—when the stakes are high.
I have some academic credentials, but to me they are not very meaningful. I majored in Asian Studies at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii. At that time, I was, as now, interested in philosophy and in cultures different from my own; but the most important experience of my entire undergraduate days was a brief acquaintance with the famous Suzuki-sensei who taught me to recognize my own mind, where it was focused, and how that affected my concentration and awareness.
I went on to graduate school at Yale University, left with a master's degree before my right brain was permanently damaged by studies that to me seemed deeply separated from reality. The obsession with this schism became, over the decades since Yale, a major source of disquiet for me as I could see how the heart and soul are often as not left out of the major activities of our lives. How we make our livings, how we prioritize our spare time, and even how we relate to the important others in our lives are often viewed as separate from what feels good and even relevant.
Knowledge versus Knowing
In my book, I refer to this as the tyranny of "mind over matter," and I suspect it operates against genuine healing. We are led to believe that we ought to appreciate treatments that are painful, that cause us to vomit, and that make our hair fall out because they are destroying a life threatening growth. Numbed into submission by fear and arguments—and coerced into treatments that torture the body more than the illness itself—we ignore our deeper and truer selves. The loss of personal integrity that attends such denial of one half of our being is important and, in my opinion, often more life threatening than cancer.
I have sometimes remarked to patients that we do not really know anything about life and death. The soul creates life, and the soul takes it away. I therefore try, in my consultations, to awaken a sense of who this soul is. My idea is that if I can facilitate an awareness similar to that reported by people who have had near death experiences, the patient will heal naturally without dependency on modalities that hurt and maim. If I were wrong about this, there would be no cases of spontaneous remission to challenge skeptics. The question is simply: Can such experiences be safely generated on a large scale or are they always highly individualistic? They are, of course, as unique as the persons who have them, but they touch the hearts and lives of people in all nations and of all walks of life. They are therefore as universal as the sun and stars.
I went on to create an entire system of healing, based in part on astrology but also on the more esoteric components of our psyche. In 1987, I was awarded a doctorate of medicine in Copenhagen (from Medicina Alternativa). Grateful for the acknowledgment, I accepted the degree but am quick to point out that I did not attend medical school. The award was based on my contributions to the broader field of healing, not mastery of a conventional curriculum. In 1995, I was awarded a second doctorate for my work on escharotic treatments of cancer. This award was given by the Open International University in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Again, I felt honored by the recognition, a doctorate of science, despite the fact that I consider myself to be more of a mystic than a scientist. For me, the book has been more of an ethnobotanical study than a medical study. I was intrigued by the history of medicine, by the suppression of botanical medicine, first by the Inquisition and later by people whose minds are closed because of their "science." I was heartened by the fact that an isolated individual, such as Constantine Rafinesque, spent years with medicine men of the Bayou when fashion would have dictated that he spend his time otherwise.
I was even more deeply touched that a people so persecuted and mistreated by invaders from the other side of the Atlantic gave to those same colonists the keys to survival. I have never seen such an injustice repaid with such generosity, and it is for such reasons that I have been unable to be silent about a treatment that offers so much for so many.
Books by Ingrid Naiman
Cancer Salves: A Botanical Approach to Treatment (Hardcover)
by Ingrid Naiman
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