It’s Time to Expand the ‘Western Model’ of Healing

Here is a critical paragraph in the article, in my opinion:

A deep skepticism exists for therapeutic modalities that do yet have a clearly characterized mechanism of action, as defined through conventional biomedical understanding and terminology. Often, in lieu of this, its therapeutic effects are written off as merely “placebo.”

I’ve spoken about this in class before. Currently, the modern western model of healing is a mechanical one. It tries to deny or explain away anything that does not view the human body as a sophisticated ‘biological machine.’ It also seeks to explain everything that does work in these terms. In this view, the human-machine can be successfully treated primarily in two ways; chemically using drugs or manually (surgery). 

We, humans, are intriguing in that once we believe in something, it makes it hard, if not impossible, not to be influenced by that belief. So if I grew up believing in a mechanical model of healing, I am going to be very reluctant accepting acupuncture, prayer, or meditation as healing modalities because I will have difficulty explaining how they work. And yet the evidence is mounting day by day that they do work. Scientists and the scientific community are a community of humans, and this is vital to remember. Because wherever you have humans, you have cognitive bias, fashion, and peer pressure influencing what we can perceive. This fact is as true among scientists and doctors as it is among any other group of humans, even though science at it’s best tries to eliminate and control for this bias. In class, I often try to call out this bias in the Yoga community when relevant. 

That is why it is vital as a human being to realize this is part of our condition and to remain genuinely open-minded. Ultimately this means knowing that we cannot honestly know anything. Gray Cook, – physical therapist, lecturer,  and author – put it this way, “the most objective person in the room is the person who recognizes they can’t be objective.” Socrates, who does not need an introduction, said: “All I know is I know nothing.” Smart dude. One of the things that genuinely make science powerful is at it’s best it assumes that we are biased and that we don’t already have the answers. This assumption was a direct outgrowth of Socrates insight. 

However, as mentioned above, science is an imperfect science, because humans are imperfect. So if we are clear-headed, honest, and unbiased, we can see displays where modern science and medicine are not meeting this ideal. If you would like to dive deeper into me understanding this read Rupert Sheldrake’s book Science Set Free. That is why, in my opinion, we as human beings must realize this is a part of our condition and remain genuinely open-minded and curious about the nature of reality and what is possible. 

What does this have to do with Yoga and Spirituality? A lot. Yoga, when appropriately understood, is part of an energy-based system involving much more than just Yoga poses. The energetic system is the outgrowth of cultures that saw the world as fluid energy rather than as a sold machine. Interestingly, modern quantum physics and the latest scientific findings agree with this model of reality. 

So if quantum science agrees with this view, why the bias? Well, I can think of two explanations for it. One is Newtonian physics is the physics of our senses. Newtonian physics explains what we can see, hear taste, touch, and smell quite well. It fits in with the mechanistic view of the world nicely. 

Quantum physics, on the other hand, does not make sense rationally. In quantum physics, quanta can be both a ‘solid particle’ and an ‘energy wave’ at the same time. Whether they are a particle or a wave is determined by whether someone is observing them or not. And to top it off, they can only be said to have a probability of existing in a given space and time. 

Yup welcome to the wild and wacky world of quantum physics. It was so wild and wacky that the scientists who created it kept thinking that their findings must be mistaken. Einstein also thought they must be mistaken. But in experiment after experiment, the truth of our energy-based reality was exerting itself. 

Now I know what you are thinking, dear reader. You think that all of this quantum physics stuff is fine and good, but it does not impact your day to day life. Think again. The very device you are reading these words on is possible only because of our understanding of quantum physics.  If you would like to learn more about this, read The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. 

Another explanation I can think of is financial. One of the reasons why drugs and surgery are prominent healing modalities in a capitalistic culture is that individuals and institutions can make a lot of money with them. This fact provides a strong incentive for some to want to stay with the status quo and deny, consciously, or unconsciously any alternatives. 

Now I am not talking about some conspiracy theory or saying corporations are evil. I am talking about the same human bias I was speaking about earlier. If my livelihood and happiness seem to be tied up in a system that views the world in one way, and then it appears to be threatened by a different world view, am I not going to try to deny and fight against that world view? It’s just human nature to do so. I will likely have to want truth more than anything to be willing to welcome this expanded world view and few humans do. 

So where does this leave us? Well, I think it is time for the western science and medical community to step up to their ideal of recognizing their own bias and the influence of money and expand the modern medical model for the good of all. I am not saying throw out the old system but grow it. This expansion will mean letting go of the need to be able to explain why something works before using it. Science gives us the ability to prove something works before we can explain why it works. If it works, it works! That is all we need to know. 

Now I have no control or influence in the scientific and medical communities, but maybe, dear reader, I have some on you. So my advice, if you want it, is don’t wait for modern science or medicine to realize their own bias and prove these things work. Actually, many of these things have been tested and proven to work. Instead, don’t wait for your doctor to prescribe them. Be truly open-minded and use what works when it comes to healing and being happy. As several of my teachers say, “You can be right, or you can be happy.” My advice? Choose happy.

-Douglas Johnson E-RYT 500, YACEP

Sounds of Summer - A Yoga Retreat

July 19th-21st