By Lisa Bland —
Fall is but a memory now, and with it the spectacular display of colour and beauty around us. As the cool breath of winter creeps across the countryside, mist rises from lakes and forests and morning frost covers the ground for longer each day. It’s time to get used to the idea of dressing warm, taking extra care on the roads, stoking the fire, and thinking about indoor activities like gathering with friends, cooking warming foods, reading books, and preparing for the transition into the long winter.
Historically, the Anglo-Saxons called November ‘Wind monath,’ because it was the time when the cold winds began to blow.
With the transition from fall’s bounty into a barren landscape as the last leaves fall to the ground and vegetation rots, there is once again the reminder that everything in the cycle of life must return to the earth. As death and decay fertilizes the new growth once again in spring, it seems timely that November is the month where the dead are remembered and celebrated in many cultures around the world.
The Western holiday of Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is the first of three days originating from the Christian holy days of Hallowmas, believed to have been influenced by Celtic harvest festivals. All Saints’ Day, or the day of honouring the saints, follows on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2—the day of honouring the dead. In many cultures people visit the graves of their deceased relatives, offering prayers and food, lighting candles, or holding celebrations. In ancient Mexico and many North, Central and South American countries, November 1 is the first day of the Day of the Dead where deceased children are remembered and on November 2, dead adults are honoured.
Rather than fear or suppress ideas of death and dying or focus on mourning the dead, Day of the Dead festivities are playful celebrations honouring the memory of departed ancestors. On All Souls’ night it was believed that the dead revisited their homes, so candles were lit to guide them and meals left for them to eat.
With the changing of seasonally vibrant colours to subdued grays and muted tones on the landscape, the transition to November also feels like a natural time to look within and get connected to our inner world. In many cultures, traditions exploring the workings of the mind and body are emphasized over outward expression, and believed to be the doorway to ‘right relationship’ with the world. Nowhere is this concept so filled with debate than in the arena of health and healing. Regardless of background, demographic, culture, or worldview, the impacts of health and healing touch us all in very real ways and bring with them highly personalized sets of beliefs and perceptions.
In our culture, Western medicine, biomedicine, or allopathy emphasizes consistency and scientific method as the universally applicable system of diagnosis and healing and has established its dominance worldwide through institutions as the most accurate and effective form of treatment. Biomedicine presumes that physical symptoms hold more weight than psychological, and that illness is addressed at a cellular level, with diagnosis and treatment mainly through pharmaceutical drugs.
However, many of the intricacies of the human body remain, in part, a mystery, and there is no denying that what a society considers to be normal or abnormal is influenced by culture. A medical anthropologist, for example, would look at the interaction of social, environmental, and biological factors which influence health and illness in the individual and in the community. Biomedicine is viewed as yet another one of many medical systems that arises out of a cultural perspective. Alternative healing systems that have lasted for centuries such as Tibetan, traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Indigenous practices are equally considered in the study of ethnomedicine, or cultural systems of medicine.
Nothing hits closer to home than a struggle with one’s health. The desire to be well and overcome illness often puts us in extraordinary circumstances and opens us to exploring other systems of healing, especially if we aren’t getting positive results from traditional treatments. While some warn that alternative treatments are unregulated, expensive, and offered by individuals without extensive training, if the rising number of choices for healing in our society is any indication, one system does not encompass the needs of everyone. In her article, “What is Integrative Medicine?” Ciel Patenaude explores a type of alternative healing where various modalities are combined for greater effectiveness. A look through the advertisements in TheGreenGazette shows just how diverse the community of alternative practitioners has become in the Cariboo Region.
When we consider that the body is amazingly well-designed for healing, treatments that may enhance and not block the body’s natural abilities to heal may be the most effective. In addition, the feeling or belief that something is working regardless of the approach may go furthest in assisting us to heal. The idea that healing is not just a physical process but one with emotional, environmental, social, and spiritual components may be supported by physicians within the system and many notable doctors have found a way to bridge the two realities.
Subtle effects, as opposed to fast and powerful results with concentrated pharmaceuticals, are much harder to define, but over time, just as real and powerful. Simple empathy and caring, trust and respect between practitioner and client, loving touch, being heard, taking quiet time for the self, community connectedness, healthy food, fresh air, unpolluted surroundings, and exercise can go a long way to support the healthy functioning of the body. In some Canadian hospitals, nurses offer Therapeutic Touch and Reiki, energy therapies based on the recognition of and sensitivity to the human energy field around the body and believed to promote healing and reduce pain and anxiety.
Research into the quantum nature of energy and reality has begun to delve into explanations of how it might be possible to experience energetic healing and thus physical healing through Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, distance healing, or one’s own thoughts and intention. Depending on where you look, as with many things, the science is refutable and proposes that the existence of a ‘bio-energetic field’ contradicts basic principles of chemistry, physics, and biology.
However, the sheer number of people turning to health alternatives probably reflects their efficacy. In some cases, years later, science finally comes to explain mechanisms behind culturally held beliefs and traditions. Those who remain flexible, open, and discerning in making health choices probably stand to gain more than they would adhering to one perspective or modality. Practitioners embracing other approaches stand to gain as well, by showing flexibility to the needs of their patients, and by being willing to engage at a level that respectfully connects with their clients’ set of beliefs and experience, empowering them towards healing rather than emphasizing a power dynamic of expert and novice.
The desire to heal, transform, and survive is the impulse of life itself—and many succeed at rolling the dice again and again.
Throughout time, stories of sudden spontaneous healings or remarkably gifted healers have drawn people to seek beyond the known and into the realms of the mysterious in their desire to heal. This curiosity is no less today, and while there is a lot of scepticism around ‘snake oil’ salesmen and fake healers, most of us probably know someone or has tried what might seem like strange or unconventional approaches to wellness. In my view, trust is more likely to develop when a healer or spiritual leader emphasizes taking control of your own health rather than creating dependency.
One such healer has been gaining international recognition on the world stage, and has been featured in numerous Globe and Mail articles, Rolling Stone, and CBC’s, “The Hour,” with George Stroumboulopoulos to name a few. Ten years ago, Adam MacLeod, then a 16-year-old student in Vancouver, and apparently gifted distance energy healer, was reported in The Globe and Mail to have cured rock and roll artist, Ronnie Hawkins from terminal pancreatic cancer. Ten years later, after writing numerous books about intention and visualization for healing, conducting sold out energy healing workshops all over the world, graduating with an honours degree in molecular biology, and completing four years training as a Naturopathic Doctor, Adam is set to open a naturopathic health clinic next year. I had the opportunity to meet with him for an interview and will cover the remarkable path of Adam Dreamhealer in the next issue.
Until then, stay warm and enjoy the mystery as we transition into winter.