23 Aug Key Tenets of Integral Medicine
Adapted from the Preface to Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine
As we prepared this collection of essays, we identified the following as key tenets of the integral impulse currently emerging within modern healthcare.
- Integral medicine does not just refer to the science of diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease and damage of the body or mind, but to a medicine that heals. It is a dynamic, holistic, life-long process that exists in widening and deepening relationships with self, culture, and nature. Integral medicine is about transformation, growth, and the restoration of wholeness. Health is seen not as the absence of disease, but as a process by which individuals maintain their ability to develop meaning systems that allow them to function, heal, and grow in the face of changes in themselves, their relationships, and the world.
- Consciousness is a process that involves our awareness of ourselves and the world, including our thoughts, feelings, sensations, identity, and worldviews. In essence, consciousness involves the fundamental characteristics of human nature and experience and therefore shapes our understanding of disease, illness, health, and well-being. Body, mind, and spirit interact in shaping the individual, developmental, and evolutionary potentials of human beings.
- An integral perspective requires a deep examination of our core assumptions about reality and our place in it. Standard science holds that objective truth is arrived at through discovery of causal laws of the natural world that exists independently for all time, and for all human beings. When it comes to the human condition, an integral perspective suggests that so-called objectivity may need to be fundamentally transformed and that, in fact, no science and no medicine is possible independent of consciousness.
- An integral methodology includes both objective, subjective, and intersubjective approaches to understanding human experience. A conjoining of divergent methods and approaches is needed to map the role of consciousness in health and healing–science has a place just as self-reflection and inner knowing have parts to play. This viewpoint necessarily dismisses dogmatic reduction of reality to only that which can be seen and measured. Indeed, the integral perspective emphasizes that a focus on the material basis of reality may not be the only or even the best way to look at issues inherent in healing.
- Integral medicine involves a deep appreciation for the multiple cultural perspectives and approaches that contribute to the fullness of healing as a complex, dynamic, and multifaceted phenomenon. Therefore, it is crucial to honor and appropriately integrate the world’s wisdom and healing traditions and their diverse and often contradictory epistemologies.
- Harnessing our desire for health and healing as well as their will to live is as significant to an integral medicine as the role of scientific information and technology.
- The key to an integral approach is not the contents of the medical bag, but the holder of the bag–one who has opened herself to the multidimensional nature of healing, including body, mind, soul, spirit, culture, and nature. This includes opening to the experience of suffering as it provides a catalyst for transformation; this is true for patients, health professionals, society and the institutions that serve us, and ultimately–our relationship to our sacred ground of being. An expanded view of the person is called for in which the biological, phenomenological, cultural, and transpersonal come together in meaningful synergy.
- The well-being of the planet’s ecosystems is required for the well-being of the human. Despite medical science and technology, humans cannot be well in a sick society or on a sick planet. Integral medicine is concerned with transforming human consciousness to create life enhancing ways of being in the world. This calls for deep social and ecological healing.
- Life is the greatest teacher. Our ability to see the way to a new approach requires deep humility in the face of wonder and mystery. Gratefulness, love, and compassion are essential tools to an inclusive and full-hearted healing system.
For essays on this topic by Deepak Chopra, Larry Dossyey, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dean Ornish, Candace Pert, Rachel Naomi Remen, Ken Wilber and more, see Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine book and companion DVD.