Hope arises–in the flowers of springtime, in the mind of possibility, in the journey of a first step. Hope lives whenever we say “what if?” Thirty years ago when a colleague traveled by air and told the passenger in the next seat she was an acupuncturist, the conversation ended. Now acupuncture is on the horizon of every day medicine and just the beginning of a conversation.
The need to transform the way we deliver health care is urgent. Quality is slipping away and costs are overwhelming us. A study released by the Milken Institute in early October 2007 concluded that re-orienting our health system toward preventing rather than treating disease could stave off 40 million cases of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses during the next fifteen years. (US News and World Report, Nov 5, 2007). To meet the mounting economic challenges our country faces in health care, we are all going to have to take greater responsibility and better care of ourselves and each other.
So “what if” prevention and self care make up the medicine cabinet of our future? What if we focus more on well care and less on disease care?
First, we could learn to pay closer attention to our body/mind and respond earlier with more common sense cost-effective remedies. Imagine your body as a guide encoded with messages you’ve never learned to decipher. For instance, the ancient wisdom of Chinese Medicine teaches that if you are consistently tired or ill at ease every day from 11am-1pm your heart is sending a signal of distress; or if you are waking every night from 1-3am your liver is overworking. Or, if you struggle from chronic back pain, more water and sleep may help you cope. Imagine that you could learn these cues and make use of a simple holistic first-aid kit.
Second, we could learn about the effect of the seasonal cycle on our health and discover that living in sync is one of the best forms of preventive medicine we have. Maximum sleep in winter and sunlight in summer may be the best medicine for our aging bones. (Western science confirms that waking up in the dark morning of winter is harder than in the light of late Spring, and that the sun on our skin feeds our bones with Vitamin D.)
Finally, we could learn to be present to each other in ways that promote healing. Imagine that you can learn to be less reactive to everyday stress just by sitting still and breathing; or soothe a child and loved one with a hand that has learned how to touch.
Imagine that your words can be medicine too. When you say “I love you” a heart is strengthened. When you ask, “How can I help?” a stomach is soothed. When you learn the art of communication, health is strengthened.
The healing arts are the original green medicine—hands, hearts, insight, wisdom. In this new dawn of health care, what if the best of us is yet to come?