Cover Art: ©Himalayan Institute
Radical Healing by Rudolph Ballentine
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
The debate about whether the United States ends up with a “single payer” (government funded) or “private” (insurance-industry-mediated) system is a straw man and, from where I sit, looks like an elaborate effort to deny the reality of an approach to medical care that is bankrupt in all senses of the word.
Not only has medical care become impossibly expensive in monetary terms, it routinely fails to deliver genuine healing or to address the root causes of illness. Until we undertake a major revamping of how we think about health and illness, and what we expect treatment to accomplish, the results we get will very likely continue to deteriorate. We are moving further down a dead end road.
Meanwhile, it will be incumbent upon those of us who wish to be healthy to take much of our health into our own hands.
Rudolph Ballentine, a Duke University School of Medicine-trained physician and psychiatrist, has released an updated, second edition of his classic handbook for integrated health and self-care. In Radical Healing, Ballentine addresses the major practical and conceptual obstacles to success with holistic medicine.
First, these so-called “traditional” healing frameworks are highly culturally specific, and must be to varying degrees adapted for our own beneficial use. Second, that our own deep beliefs and customary behaviors must change in order to realize the invaluable, available benefit.
Some of the beliefs and assumptions about our reality that sustain and promote our suffering are the deepest and most resistant to change. It is those assumptions that can make diseases seem untreatable or “incurable.”
The modus operandi of radical healing is to penetrate the strongholds of human limitation and rend them asunder, opening the possibility of a transformation and evolution that conventional medicine has not ventured to approach.
WIthout that probing thoroughness, that radical intensity, we will not be able to heal the profound disorders that are now plaguing us, individually and collectively.
How to become actively responsible for your own health
Radical Healing bases its appeal to our willingness to experiment in our common sense, that is, our constantly confirmed suspicion that somehow healing and medicine are not really the same thing.
Many of us have been given the sort of routine clinical care that apparently resolves one condition or another without actually leaving us feeling any better.
Only too often we are left to blame ourselves for not trying hard enough, and we labor on with a vague sense of being under a stress we cannot name, one that leads to relapses or subsequent illness. In fits and starts we try to do better, but we are met with the constant message that deteriorating health is a reality of getting older, a fact of life.
Ballentine wonders about this lapse with an appealing and pensive resoluteness. Surely there is a better way, and maybe, in fact, it isn’t any one single way, but a powerful and skillful admixture of several constructs that can bridge the evolving needs of our 21st century lives.
Each of the great healing traditions has arisen in its own culture to help resolve problems peculiar to that setting – so each has its weaknesses as well as its strengths. By integrating them, superimposing them one upon anther in layer after layer of complementary perspectives and techniques, we can arrive at an amalgam that is far more potent and thorough than any one of them taken alone.
A focus on individuals, not diseases
One of the strengths of Ballentine’s book is his personal voice. The anecdotes he tells illustrate his concepts in a conversational and accessible style. We travel with him to various doctor’s offices and labs, or listen to the accounts patients give of their experiences and health conditions.
This focus on people rather than disease definitions prevents Radical Healing from falling into a cookie cutter version of alternative medicine, “methods” and dietary regimes. Instead, Radical Healing points up the necessity for understanding individual variation as the the place where diagnosis and treatment – perhaps especially in self care – must begin.
Natural medicinals and other holistic remedies and techniques are highly individualized – as they have to be, because they are intended to provide for the reorganization and evolution of a certain person who is attempting to move through a specific crisis at a particular moment.
Each crisis involves a specific pattern of resistance to change and flow into the future. To make effective use of the holistic tools at your disposal, you must somehow grasp the essence of that resistance or “illness” so you can choose the remedy or technique that fits.
The human endeavor to know ourselves
What I found most compelling about Radical Healing was its suggestion that in all of human civilization, we have not yet arrived at a real understanding our bodies; Ballentine counsels the thread of healing through the ages and across cultures offers many far from exhausted ideas about the architecture of health and the exact nature of our interactions as bodies in an environment in flux.
In addition to the near-exclusive focus on pharmacotherapy, the other towering tragedy of the recent decade is the continuing failure of the health-care system to acknowledge the unabated increase environmental pollution and its devastating effects.
Biologists write about birth defects in frogs and waterfowl, but medical researchers turn a blind eye to the grave effects of toxic pollutants in human development and health (no funds available for that).
In response to this silence in Western medicine, Ballentine supplies this new edition of Radical Healing with a focus on cleansing in an expanded chapter on detoxification.
Radical Healing is written with a conviction that we don’t benefit from our faith in pharmaceutical and clinical medicine, and that our own lives and the bodies that result of them ought to concern us more closely, intimately enough that we notice the effect of the foods we eat, the sleep we don’t get, and the exercise we put off.
Rudolph Ballentine advises us to pay more finely tuned attention to the subtle day-to-day shifts in our moods and energy levels, to the obvious signs of our skin and eyes. Radical Healing advocates the use of the powerful balancing capacities of healing and nurturing ourselves on a continual basis rather than waiting for catastrophe to render us into the need for acute care.
The tools used for holistic healing are different from those used tin the old kind of medicine, The more frequently used holistic tools, such as simple homeopathic remedies, diet, cleansing techniques, and energetic breathing, foster awareness rather than blur it; they reorganize rather than disrupt your mental and physical processes, bringing out emotions or concerns that are submerged, rather than covering them over and hiding them.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.