A colleague whose opinion I respect read my previous two articles on healing and the environment. His response was very favorable, but he made a comment that really struck me. He said it didn't go far enough.
I've always considered less to be more and subtlety an art form, so I admit, his casual comment stuck in my craw. But, it left me wondering, how far am I willing to go?
This started out as a questioning of my writing, specifically to this column, but it slowly seeped into every aspect of my life. How far can I go in my career, my writing, my health and my spiritual life? How far am I willing to go to practice what I preach? How can I help myself, my friends, my patients and the family of Earth to the fullest? I extrapolate this now to ask: How far can Oriental medicine go? Can it help a world so desperately in need?
Once I started asking this question, it took on a life force of its own. How far are we willing to go to protect endangered animals, such as the rhinos and gorillas that are illegally hunted for an Asian black market? There are natural herbal options for every drug out there. How far are we willing to go to protect their environment and position them as the first, safest and best option for health care? How far are we willing to go to support natural, preventative healing as the premier paradigm of health in the world?
One of my patients recently told me she was on the verge of "being there." She was referring to being in an emotional and spiritual plane about which she previously had only dreamed, and she attributed acupuncture and my care as the catalysts. If Oriental medicine can help to transform one person, a mere microcosm, can we not help everyone and the macrocosm? I was happy for my patient, but I did have a question for her. I asked, "Now what? What do you do once you are there in a place of which you've always dreamed?" She had no answer and looked at me blankly.
Likewise, acupuncture is on the verge of "being there" in the West. Not only is it utilized more and more every year, but more doctors also are beginning to refer to and practice acupuncture. It's only a matter of time before more insurance companies provide coverage. Then what? Do we really want to hand over one of the jewels of the world to MDs and insurance companies? Do we want pharmaceutical companies to take control of the use of herbs in the same way they are doing with the world's agriculture?
I see no unity of thought among our peers. How is Oriental medicine being shaped? Is integrating into Western medicine best for the profession or easiest for our pocketbooks? Everyone has an opinion, but those who are at the leading edge of thought must lead us into the future. Will that future be self-serving or magnanimous? Are we after the best interests of ourselves and our profession, or are we looking to do the most good?
Think about the late Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. He took his dad's small roadside reptile stand and turned it into one of the biggest zoos in the world. But he didn't stop there. He became a host of his own show on Animal Planet, starred in a movie, and was one of the most widely recognized and beloved animal advocates in the world, with an international organization to protect wildlife and the environment. He even died doing what he loved. Truly, he went the whole way.
One person can do a lot. Think of Jane Goodall, John Muir, Erin Brokovich, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Gandhi. If we utilized one of the most powerful healing modalities in the world and banded together, what could we accomplish? What are our goals? Helping people? More Oriental medicine education? Making a living? Insurance coverage? Acceptance by Western medicine? All are potentially worthwhile pursuits, but is that as far as we can go?
The world and humanity are at a crossroads. Decisions must be made about the future and the health of the planet that can't be put off. The biggest decisions affecting people involve energy use and the health of the environment. The old tribal mentality - us against them - no longer works. We are going through a transformation of consciousness regarding the unity of life. Humans are the only animals with choices. All other creatures follow their instincts, but we have free will, with the power (zhi) to choose. We are creating our own future. I, for one, don't want to leave it up to a bunch of politicians, doctors and left-brained scientists. Oriental medicine is important, but there is a bigger picture. If all we are serving is our best interests, then we are no better than the doctors who want to take control of natural medicines and herbs. It's called a survival instinct and it's one of the lowest levels of developement.
So, I ask again: How far can we go? How far can you go as a role model to your patients? How far can you take them on their personal journeys? How far can Oriental medicine go as a vehicle for social change? How can Oriental medicine help mend the world? How can we do the greatest good? Somehow, halfway doesn't seem far enough.
Click here for more information about Gregg St. Clair, BA, MSTOM, LAc.