It has become increasingly clear to most people that individual health is not separate from the health of the community, nation and world. Just as we take responsibility for our personal health and the welfare of our family, we feel a calling to be responsible citizens. We are part of the body politic and we feel emotional reactions to what is going on in the world.
Transforming our emotional reactions into mature, responsible action is something that more and more people are finding themselves called to learn and practice. I have joined with others in creating the Network of Holistic Activists in order to bring the insights and practices of holistic healing towards our social and political problems. You can see our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/366558880455897/
The following post will be the first in a short series sharing my thoughts on Holistic Activism and inviting you to consider how it may relate to your own life journey.
# 1. What is “Holistic?”
I first encountered the word “holistic” in the 1970’s. It was the term being used to describe many of the alternative healing modalities, ancient and modern, which were springing up and spreading into what are now mainstream phenomena: acupuncture, herbalism, homeopathy, therapeutic bodywork, etc.. Holistic was used in conjunction with the phrase “body, mind, spirit,” and it was understood that integrating all three components was essential for true healing.
At the core of the holistic orientation is the understanding that there is a wholeness (holos means whole) that has self-healing, self-regenerating qualities. These attributes of the whole are not available to us when we focus only on a part, usually the diseased part, which has been the focus of Western allopathic medicine. New understandings of systems theory and ecology helped us recognize how this was operative on both small and large scale organisms, e.g.: the whole mind/body/spirit of a person has the healing potential that repairs any of the parts when brought into balance. Similarly, the Gaia theory suggests that the whole of planet earth, as a complete living system, is always working to bring itself into balance, restoring life, demonstrating a kind of “intelligence” of its own.
When practiced, a holistic healing approach involves cultivating awareness of the whole and it’s healing attributes while also focusing on the particular manifestation(s) of disease or dysfunction. This kind of awareness has a deeply spiritual dimension, calling forth the energies of what is sometimes called the soul, spirit, essential Self, or whatever one calls the aspect of being that is transcendent to the personal sense of self.
Further, the holistic mindstate involves an attitude that approaches problem areas without judgmentalism, aversion or expectation. Holistic healers, therefore, work on themselves to be in an appropriate mindstate or state of consciuosness. They work to clear their perception and also to make their own mind/body a more open vehicle for healing to take place. Practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi, are utilized both for the healers own well being and also to help them in their work.
While there are many different tools, techniques and processes that a practitioner may use, holistic healing can be said to involve at least these five elements: 1) attention to the inter-relatedness of the body with the mind and Spirit, 2) an orientation to the self-healing whole, 3) openness to the spiritual dimensions and sources of healing, 4) a nonjudgemental attitude, and 5) non-attachment to the outcome of the process. As previously stated, it is part of the healer’s task to develop not only the skills for their practice, but also to cultivate the awareness, attitude or state of consciousness required.
In the next segment, I’ll discuss how this relates to activism in the social and political sphere.