As mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, modern medicine is adapting and beginning to reincorporate some of the ancient wisdoms we have explored into its practices. In part due to the influence of holistic practices. These practices are quite different from modern medicine. They promote health prevention instead of intervention and try to understand all the factors operating on a person’s life. As such it is a highly personalized and pluralistic approach to health, which takes into account diversity of life experiences.
According to Pip Waller, author of the book “Holistic Anatomy. An integrated guide to the human body”:
“At heart, holism says that a person is a whole, and also is a part of the greater Whole. Because we are deeply connected both within ourselves and with everyone and everything else in the universe, all these influences, within and without, affect us. “(Waller, 2010, p. 318)[i]
Holistic practices do not define health as the absence of disease:
“ Mostly, a model of fully healthy human is someone who is:
Full of energy and zest
Feeling connected and happy, or more accurately, deeply contented with life and a well-functioning body
Interested and involved in many things, with a deep sense of the rightness of existence and the goodness of the universe
Enjoying work and play in a balance manner, with healthy relationships and healthful diet and exercise
Taking care of our planet, knowing our deep connection with each other and life
Working to restore, and then to cherish and wonder at the awesome splendor of nature “ (Waller, 2010, p. 326)[ii]
In other words, these practices consider well-being as the pinnacle of health. An approach that is infiltrating many cultural institutions, the University of Minessota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows, being a good example of that transformation. In this context:
“Wellbeing is not just another word for physical health—it is about finding balance in body, mind, and spirit. In this state, we feel content, connected, energized, resilient, and safe.” [iii]
Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, Director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing, at the University of Minnesota, identified six dimensions that contribute to wellbeing. These take into account our interconnectedness and interdependence with our friends, families, and communities, as well as the personal and global environment we live in. They also address the importance of security and purpose in our lives, which often associated with a connection to spirituality. The influence of ancient traditions is clear, but the wheel of medicine has been transformed into a wheel of well-being that integrates many of the elements we discussed in this chapter, as seen in the figure below.
Holistic practitioners attempt to understand many aspects of people’s needs: nutritional, emotional, physical, social and spiritual. Holistic practices acknowledge that all these aspects operate as one inter-penetrating and co-operative system. What affects one area affects the others, and being aware of how this happens will help a great deal in achieving a wholesome balance.
In holistic practices, it is understood that change and movement is central to our ways of being:
“The body exists in a state of constant change and movement. There is an internal balance, known as homeostasis, which is constantly monitored and maintained. This is the Western way of explaining what the Chinese call ‘yin and yang’: the complementary opposites which in life are always moving and dancing together in and out of balance (although in Western physiology, homeostasis relates to physical functions only).
In life there is no stasis – all is continually moving and changing. The chemicals in the body are kept at optimum levels. They move up and down these levels, and by so doing keep our bodies functioning well.”(Waller, 2010, p.1)[iv]
One of the necessary functions for life defined by holistic health practitioners is that of responsiveness:
” Responsiveness is the ability to sense changes and react to them. All cells are responsive, but the nerve cells are particularly so and this is what allows them to carry out their functions of communication and control of body activities, Responsiveness is also call irritability.”(Waller, 2010, p.8)
This acknowledgement of the centrality of the senses to our health is important to highly sensitive children. Responsiveness is the mechanism affected by sensorial toxicity. Could this irritability be the cause of highly sensitive children’s overreactions? This seems possible particularly given that this responsiveness is not solely limited to functions within our physical body; it involves the movement and change of energy as another necessary functions of life:
“energy cannot be destroyed, only move or change from one form to another. The movements and changes in energy are produced by forces – such as by the push and pull of electrical force, and the pull of gravity, which is produced by all the local matter being attracted to all the other local matter (we experience this by being attracted to, or pulled, to the earth).” (Waller, 2010, p.16)
Here is an important clue to stabilizing the symptoms of sensory overload; working to understand the nature of the energy that highly sensitive children sense may help them learn to work with it as a communication tool instead of a disruptive sensory input. This means being able to discern the characteristics of the energies that they sense.
Holistic health modalities acknowledge the complexity of health and are much more suited to understand highly sensitive people health than the western systems of thought. But one element these modalities do not yet address is the impact of communication technologies on us. While this can be challenging, it is essential to a highly sensitive person as the quality of space and the energy it carries have changed by our use of communication technologies.
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[i] Waller, Pip (2010). Holistic Anatomy. An integrated guide to the human body. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, California.
[ii] Waller, Pip (2010). Holistic Anatomy. An integrated guide to the human body. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, California.
[iv] Waller, Pip (2010). Holistic Anatomy. An integrated guide to the human body. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, California.