Ways of Knowing™ Symposium: Exploring Cultural Based Healing Traditions & Practices

Culture and Healing: An Integral Approach

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097Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., VP of Research & Education, The Institute of Noetic Sciences

This is an amazing time to be bridge makers—never before have we had the scientific understanding, the technology to expand our known boundaries, and unprecedented access to the world’s wisdom and spiritual traditions. The convergence of all these factors has created a unique opportunity for true collaboration between different ways of knowing and different systems of truth. When we meet with differences between worldviews, we have three options: to (1) diverge and stay separate and unique; (2) allow the dominant view to co-opt the other; (3) use the powers of creativity to generate new forms. We support the latter path. While the U.S. has always been pluralistic in many aspects, for the last century allopathic medicine has dominated healthcare. However, economic incentives and allopathic medicine’s inability to deliver relief for certain forms of illnesses have driven the development of new health care forms.

One of the new forms is this model of Integral Health, presented by Ken Wilbur in Consciousness and Healing:

First person
Subjective, experiential
Third person

Evidence-based medicine is a powerful and important focus in conventional healthcare at this time. But the definition of evidence must be expanded as we consider innovative models. Different methodologies are called for based upon different dimensions of healing. We must include the subjective, the intersubjective, and the objective, and recognize the interconnected nature of all things. The evidence base for the efficacy of cultural healing practices comes from many sources, although most treatments lack controlled data—however that is also true for up to two-thirds of conventional medicine. So the question facing each of us, as professionals and as individuals, “What is it you need to decide what is true?”

We are seeing increasing evidence for the link between belief or intention and physical changes in the body. Yet, Dr. Schlitz agrees with Harris Dienstfrey in his observation “The mind as a source of medicine is waiting to be explored.” Marilyn examined the link between body manipulation and herbs with expectancy in her Explore article about ethnobotany in Colombia. There is a current NIH trial combining prayer and intention with the objective measurement of collagen deposition.

All aspects of health and healing need to be examined and researched—the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, social, environmental and transpersonal. She shared some of the work going on with these expanded perspectives. James O’Dea’s work in the tools of social healing—truth, gratitude…Michael Lerner’s work in environmental healing, “Human, animal, and ecosystem health are inextricably connected.” Sara Warber at UMI has correlated nurses taking breaks in nature with increased efficiency, emotional balance, and job satisfaction. Dean Radin has done studies on the training of partner’s of ill patients in compassionate intention and their ability to have a physiologically measurable impact on their partner’s through non-local means. As of 3/07, out of 19 major randomized controlled clinical trials on distance healing or intercessory prayer in humans, 11 showed statistically significant positive results. 8 meta-analyses showed positive effects. Further details can be found at www.noetic.org. Much of this work will help to bridge the separation between healing and spirit in contemporary society, which never existed in indigenous cultures.

It was critical to acknowledge that having evidence of efficacy does not lead directly or quickly to clinical practice change. John Astin, in 2006, published an article examining some of the barriers to clinical integration.

Marilyn left us not with all of the answers, but with some evocative take home questions:

  • What is the cosmology that drives the questions we ask?
  • What would science look like if it were grounded in biology rather than physics?
  • What is healing? Jeremy Geffen, MD, offers this poetic answer: “Focused intention wrapped in the arms of surrender.”

“We each act as a hospice worker for a dying paradigm.
We love the ‘patient into dying.’ We are also mid-wifing
the birth of a new paradigm into being.” –Marilyn Schlitz—

Cultural and Healing: An Integral Approach Chart 

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  • Ways of Knowing™: Cultural-Based Healing Traditions and Practices