Patient: "Doctor, I don't feel well, and I'm not sure why."
Doctor: "I want you to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day, exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, avoid processed foods, eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, spend more time in nature and less indoors, stop worrying about things you can't control, and ditch your TV. Come back in three weeks."
I love this conversation I saw on Facebook
the other day. As someone who hasn't popped a pill in over 10 years (save for an Advil once or twice), I'm solidly in the "Western medicines are way overused" camp. After all, if we need them, why are they constantly being advertised?
Not only are many drugs overprescribed (with side effects that often do as much harm than good), the medical model increasingly insists that external treatments are necessary to fix, cure, and heal ailments that "happen to us"– diseases and problems that are dissociated from ourselves and our lifestyles.
That's not to say western medicine is bad. Innovation of every kind has its benefits, and certainly drugs and surgery can be effective and even necessary.
Yet too often they're used before common sense, holistic treatments are even considered.
I've worked with performers over the past 20 years and have seen this on an all too regular basis. Even singers in their early teens are often on four to five types of medications for allergies, acid reflux, anxiety, muscle tension, sleep issues, acne, depression, and the like.
They go to doctors, who treat the symptoms.
But what are the causes of these issues? Or at the very least, what might be exacerbating them?
Back in my early 20s, I had terrible acid reflux. I'd been on three kinds of medicines for a number of years, which eventually stopped working as my body learned to work around them. In the middle of a tour, I went to see a top voice specialist who recommended surgery to tighten the sphincter between my stomach and esophagus so that the acid couldn't make its way up through my vocal tract. He felt it was the only way to stop the reflux and protect my voice from permanent damage.
Before agreeing, I asked whether the problem could be how I was eating... I'd been on a low-carb, high-fat diet for a number of months with few vegetables and no fruit. No, he said, that wouldn't have anything to do with it. I also asked whether it might be stress. Nope... this was a physical issue, resolved only by surgery. Could it have been caused by any of the other medications I was taking at the time? No. (Note, particularly to singers: Birth control pills do indeed lead to the relaxing of the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing acid reflux.)
The surgery did work... at least for the first four months while I was home recuperating. But then the reflux came back the moment I got another gig and was preparing to get back out on the road.
Why? Because even the best Western medicine can't solve problems if all of who we are– mind, body, and spirit– are not in alignment with that healing. Stress, fear, anger, isolation, and a sense of purposelessness can all weaken the immune system as much as toxic chemicals, fast food, and faulty genes.
And these issues are only increasing as a result of our hyper fast-paced, technology-driven, concrete jungle of a world. Many of us are no longer in touch and in synch with nature and the natural rhythms of the earth. We're no longer as connected with one another, no longer eating living, local foods and drinking clean water.
The next time you don't feel well, consider taking the advice of the doctor mentioned above. Turn off the TV and watch a sunset. Walk in the grass and deeply and meaningfully connect with your friends, family, and community. Nourish yourself– in every sense of the word– with fresh, pure, wonderful things. Be grateful instead of bitter. Stay in the present moment instead of the past or the future. Generate compassion, for yourself and others. Cultivate perspective.
Do these things, and you'll be blown away by how much healthier you'll become... no pill or surgery required.