“Changing is not just changing the things outside of us. First of all, we need the right view that transcends all notions of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
This piece was inspired by the following books:
– A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
– Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra
In my years of medical training, I had the unique privilege of learning about the human body and disease processes. I came across patients with a wide spectrum of medical conditions and learnt about the strengths and limitations of modern medicine in treating these conditions. In most instances, modern medicine is unable to offer a complete cure – it merely promises symptom relief or palliative care.
As I delved deeper into the field of medicine, I came to the realisation that I had lost my faith in modern medicine though I was a medical practitioner. The limitations of medicine became more and more evident to me with each passing day. In the majority of cases, medicine is a zero sum game – the treatment may help with symptom relief but there ultimately no cure; it also comes with numerous side effects and is extremely costly. This is especially apparent in treatments such as anti-rheumatic drugs and chemotherapy drugs. It became clear to me that the average medical practitioner believes that in most instances, medicine can at best offer comfort. The motto of medicine is often stated as this: to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always.
I began to ask myself – are relief and comfort sufficient outcomes for treatment? While I accept that medicine is ultimately unable to prevent death, I believe routine treatment should be directed towards targeting the root cause of disease rather than symptom relief. I later learnt that healing is a concept that is different from curing and healing can occur with or without curing. Curing only refers to eliminating evidence of the disease. Healing refers to becoming whole and requires a deep level of understanding of the self and the disease including the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects. Upon reflection, I realised that one of the fundamental problems of medicine is that disease is only understood as a physical condition. In medical school, we learn about anatomy, biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology etc … the conventional understanding is that disease is a physical process that can be attributed to dysregulation at some level of the human body. In truth, physical illness is merely the outer manifestation of problems that may have occurred on many other levels. As with all problems that manifest in the external world, there is often a deeper internal cause that needs to be addressed. The conventional practice of treating illness purely at a physical level overlooks the root cause of many medical conditions and is often unable to offer a deep level of healing.
In the book Quantum Healing, Deepak Chopra wrote that most people consider there to be 2 types of healing – one that is considered normal (e.g. a healing wound) and one that is considered exceptional (e.g. complete recovery from terminal stage cancer). In truth, there may not be any fundamental difference in the two types of healing. All healing is ultimately the result of a mind-body connection. He further argues that it is ultimately consciousness, the substance of reality, which allows for the healing process to occur. In essence, healing is an inward journey which then leads to an external change.
As Deepak Chopra wrote, “every doctor must make an inner journey, taking his understanding beyond the limits of the physical body and into the heart of a deeper reality. His responsibility is to solve the riddle of life and death.” Throughout my medical training, I felt compelled to take this inner journey and question the fundamental building blocks of life. It was the challenges I witnessed in my medical training that truly opened me up to spiritual practice. I believe that before we attempt to understand what disease is, we first have to answer the question of who are we and what is the nature of reality. Without first looking inwards and understanding ourselves, we can never have the capacity to solve problems in the external realm.
In his book, Eckhart Tolle refers to A New Earth as collective awakened consciousness. He also teaches about conscious creation, which refers to creating out of presence for collective benefits and not out of self-interest. I was truly inspired by his teachings. This is my vision for A New Earth in medicine – a collective shift in consciousness in both medical practitioners and patients and an inward journey to understand the fundamental nature of reality and disease. We have to embrace disease as a symptom of deep problems in the human condition, which may be personal or transpersonal problems. Often, these deep problems remain in the collective unconsciousness within our families, our communities and our cultures. We can only understand and treat disease completely if we understand the larger context in which it occurs. True healing requires a deep level of self-understanding and inner work. Only with this insightful approach can there be greater hope of healing instead of symptom relief.
p.s. Leave a comment if this resonated with you. I love to hear your stories!
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Thanks for this post, it concisely expressed the thoughts that seem quite akin to mine
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Wow I love this ! How funny is that these last few days the craziest things been happening to me…
This reflection gave me so much peace. I too find myself drawn into the old but excited for the new.…
I love this post! I also grew up in a culture that praises the outcome of suffering. Agree with your…
What an excellent article–insightful and rich! Thank you for sharing with us! Namaste
Everything may be a path but some paths should be avoided.
Nice post. Bob
You write like a true Buddhist. Hope you find enlightment without suffering. Namaste.