Collective consciousness is always shifting, changing and evolving.
Personally and professionally, I have been heartened to witness a change in consciousness regarding health, healing and wellbeing in the last 30 years. The shift has been towards a more integrative and holistic approach to medicine and healing.
An integrative approach to medicine and healing can include: mainstream medicine, complementary medicine and lifestyle medicine. The significant difference between these approaches is that lifestyle interventions (medicine) are not administered by a specialist, doctor or therapist but by the person/patient themselves.
Lifestyle medicine may include healthy changes in terms of: stress management, meditation, exercise, nutrition, detoxification, healthy relationships, power of the mind and spirituality. More and more current research is proving the validity and importance of lifestyle medicine. It has been a long time coming, but many people are shifting their mindset from being a passive consumer of health goods and services (provided by external authorities) – to becoming creators (or, at least, co-creators) of their health and wellbeing.
The old mindset was one of dependency on external authorities: “Doctor, please fix me!”
The hope was to resolve the symptoms of illness as quickly as possible, with as little disturbance as possible, so that the patient could continue their life as usual…no insight, no changes, no growth. Through this mindset, illness is seen as a nuisance, a disruption that must be overcome as quickly as possible to get back to business as usual. The old mindset looks for quick fixes and magic bullets.
The new emerging mindset is that people are beginning to take back their power and look for ways to become co-creators of their prognosis – rather than victims of illness. Lifestyle medicine gives power to the people. From this perspective, illness or poor health can be seen as a feedback mechanism and a wake-up call – something has to change.
The first good prognostic sign in dealing with illness or poor health is that the person takes ‘agency’, i.e, they want to feel empowered and involved in their health and healing outcomes. This shift in consciousness has supported the growth of the domain of health services called ‘coaching’. Coaches show you how to do it yourself; they correct you when you get off track and they inspire you to keep going. The challenge of lifestyle medicine is significant – it requires sustained personal commitment and perseverance. When the old lifestyle bad habits begin to sabotage your best intentions, your coach is there to encourage you to keep going. The coach can’t do the healing for you, but they can show you how and remind you why change is important for you.
I have also witnessed this shift of consciousness in the field of counselling. The old school of paternalistic counselling was about telling the client what they could do by giving advice and ‘rescuing’ the client. The new paradigm in counselling sees the counsellor as ‘holding the space’ for the client to connect with their own feelings, needs, values and instincts. Rather than ‘rescuing’ the client, this approach to psychotherapy encourages the client to stay present and to turn towards difficult feelings – with the supportive therapeutic presence of the counsellor. In this way, the client can develop their inner resources like courage, mindfulness, self-compassion, healthy boundaries and resilience.
This shift in consciousness is the growth from a dependency relationship on an external authority (who offers to fix or eradicate the problem) to a more empowered relationship with oneself, which fosters the growth of inner resources in the client. These two approaches don’t need to be antagonistic or exclusive but, together, they give people more choices, and create healthier relationships between specialists, doctors, therapists, coaches and their clients.
So, whether it be walking, jogging, cycling, juicing, fasting, cooking, qigong, yoga, laughing, resting, meditating, chanting, praying, breathing or hugging… power to the people!
Paul Bedson, senior therapist and retreat facilitator at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, Victoria.
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