Book Review: Healing Ways – A Doctor’s Guide to Healing
The Author: “I grew up in a medical household. My father was a family doctor in suburban London… I feel comfortable at the thought of being a doctor.” Robin Kelly went to a medical school in the UK. “After my (intern) year, I pursued my interest in paediatrics and oncology.” In 1977, he emigrated to New Zealand and worked in a hospital. In June 1981, “I was content to settle into the life of a general practitioner in the comfortable seaside suburb of Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore”.
Dr. Kelly eventually “was drawn to the holistic Taoist philosophies, the Laws of the Five Elements, the macrocosm expressed in the microcosm of the body, the focus on natural healing.” And he said, “What’s more it seemed to work.”
His focus is on integrating these holistic models into a modern contemporary environment — blending the best of the East with the best of the West.
A past and current co-president of the Medical Acupuncture Society (NZ) and a founding trustee of New Zealand’s MindBody Trust, he studied Acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the 80s running teaching workshops for health professionals and doctors. Since the 90’s his overriding interest has been in researching the roles consciousness and quantum theory play in the deep healing process.
“I feel fortunate to have been able to watch the progress of “chronically ill” patients as a doctor, without the pressure to prescribe. In this setting, I have been free to explore the meaning of symptoms, seeing them in the overall context of healing. I have been able to observe the subtlety of healing, as patients leave behind the controlling chaos of chronic illness and embark on their journeys of self-discovery. It continues to be a privilege to accompany them along the way.”
You can visit Dr. Kelly’s website, http://www.robinkelly.co.nz/About+Us.html
In the foreword of this book, Dr. Steven Aung, Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine of the University of Alberta, Canada wrote:
- Healing is not merely a technical phenomenon, but a holistic process of facilitating peace, happiness and harmony. Physicians are not superior to their patients. Both must work together with an attitude of mutual honour and respect.
- Medicine should not have any divisions, east, west, north or south. It should always be aimed toward the total health and wellbeing of all our dear patients.
- The essence of this sacred quest is to honour and respect our patients as our best friends and honoured teachers.
The following are quotations from the book.
- Healing is re-emerging as a medical term, meaning more than the healthy resolution of a physical wound. It means returning to a state of joy, harmony and health; a state of being where life has meaning and purpose.
- The existing model of disease often sees the body in a state of war, under attack from a foreign invader. But there are many others who remain unwell despite the best efforts of “mainstream” treatments. Some cannot tolerate their medication; some are even made worse by their treatment or develop new conditions as a result. Many more feel awful, tired or pained without a reasonable diagnosis let alone a cure. I have been asked to treat people who have failed to become well despite the best medical care available. The chronically ill, the perpetually stressed and those in constant pain appear at my home.
- In the population of chronically ill people “the most common ingredient missing from their health care … is themselves”. Often the good intentions of medical professionals attempting to manage a condition lead to a lack of participation by the sufferer. By interfering with this personal responsibility, the patient’s confidence and ability to heal are often eroded. These patients feel failures, incurable and despondent.
- Our bodies continually talk to us. If our bodies continue to be ignored, the messages can become more complex and difficult to fix.
- I have had a close connection with cancer sufferers over the years. There are no strict ground rules for someone to follow when diagnosed with cancer. No universally correct way to deal with the uncertainties, the confusion and the distress. Every person, once properly informed, must find their own way, and it is our job as friends and professionals to stand alongside them. We all have the potential to heal even when there is no cure.
- Some of the barriers to healing – repressed feelings, and a lack of loving support, loom large as potential blocks. Blocks, once understood, can be cleared. Ask yourself: How much peace is there in my life? Peace is valued from the cradle to the grave.
- Humans worry. So we must come to terms with the fact that we are born worriers. But health requires balance. Too much worry blocks our quality of life. The pace of modern life and our many responsibilities prevent us from achieving the ultimate mindful state. Meditation – in its broadest context, is a pure state of mindfulness – a time when we can step outside our worries and fears. A place where we ourselves exists, unburdened and free.
- Humour is often cited as a vital ingredient of a healthy, long-term relationship. The medical literature is short on laughs. Try entering “laughter” into any medical internet search engine; you’ll find it a sobering experience. Up comes paper after paper on “pathological laughter” – the inappropriate expression of joy in the psychiatrically unstable!
- Prayer has an important part to play in health – despite the apparent separation of medicine from spiritual issues over the past 300 years.
- Most of us have to relearn how to breathe. It is our most vital subconscious activity, and yet modern living conspires to interfere, conditioning us into bad breathing habits.
- For something so essential to our survival, modern medicine has surprisingly little to say about love. Maybe there are good reasons for not analyzing love too closely. No sooner have we studied and measured something than we start to want to control it. We set up guidelines, protocols and conditions for its use. For the moment then, perhaps it is better for love to remain mysterious and unconditional.
- Doctors and patients can talk at cross-purposes. My experience with terminally ill adult cancer patients in London – junior doctors … were not trained to talk of death. The dying were prescribed cocktails of heroin, major tranquillisers and cocaine in increasing doses; no doubt a compassionate attempt by us to help drown the sorrows of terminal illness. On many occasions since, I have witnessed terminally ill children teaching their parents and families about matters of life and death. Children have shown me how healing can occur through the dying process; and why adults frequently find it so difficult to let go of life. Once the dying person has let go, a peaceful calm follows. I have felt the most relaxed in my life sitting alongside the bed of a dying person – no need to talk or plan, no better place to be.
Chinese Medicine and Holistic Healing
- We are not simply isolated islands of human tissue closed off to the outside world. Healing involves interchange between ourselves, others and our environment; we are part of an open system. I believe that an understanding of these principles is in itself an important healing step. It allows a person seeking healing an opportunity to be involved, and thereby take responsibility for his or her healing. It also opens patients up to receiving the messages from their bodies, thereby gaining perspective and control of their health.
- It is this open model of healing that forms the basis of Chinese medicine. The Chinese have studied the body in this way for thousands of years; it is their insights that have helped me reach a deeper understanding of healing. They have provided us with a working model of healing.
- This (the above) challenges the very basis of the traditional, 20th century healthcare model, which sees our bodies as closed systems manipulated back to health from within. Medical science has progressed by studying each small part in increasing detail, with the assumption that this reductionist approach will provide us with all our answers.
- Healing involves more than just the mechanical repair of the body. Once healed, a world previously denied opens up. Opportunities present themselves, relationships improve, as a new focus develops on the outside world. The healed have an improved “sense of self”, often better than before the illness.
- We must consider other models of health that have withstood the test of time. Models based on centuries of empirical evidence and meticulous recording. Models that are as free as possible from being tarnished by commercial self-interest or political gain. I will use Chinese medicine as an example of this as it has been an area of intense interest to me over the years.
- When I started to study Chinese medicine in the early 1980s, I was in two minds about it. On the one hand I was excited because it seemed to provide a valid and logical reason why acupuncture worked. It also linked physical diseases holistically with emotions and environmental conditions, which made sense to me. However, it was taught as a dogma with poorly constructed “scientific” trials always claiming a 98 percent success rate. This part didn’t ring true to me.
- According to Chinese tradition, in the state of perfect health qi flows evenly through all the meridians, which interconnect and connect the organs (liver, heart, spleen, lungs & kidney) to the outside world. Symptoms such as pain represent a block in the flow of qi somewhere in a meridian.
- “Orthodox” medicine still struggles with the philosophies of Chinese medicine and concepts such as qi. Canadian neuroscientist Professor Bruce Pomeranz … is of the many who advocate a shift away from the narrow thinking that tries to explain the healing arts in solely chemical terms.
- For a therapist and health professional, acupuncture is a marvelous tool with which to facilitate healing. Acupuncture uses needles to conduct a state of harmony and connection in the body.
- To be a healer you have to be involved.
- To be a healer you have to know the person.
- To be a healer you have to listen.
- To listen you have to know yourself.
- Honestly and humility are valued above perfection and pride.
- Quiet confidence is important in all healing arts – a mindful state, away from fear and insecurity. This does not mean over-confidence, an inflated ego, or a gung-ho approach. It is the confidence that comes of knowing one’s self, warts and all. It is the confidence to say, I don’t know but I’ll look it up.
Toxic Reactions from the Sceptics
Despite our more enlightened times, it seems that the path of the modern healers is no easier than their predecessors throughout history. The wise words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta provide comfort and perspective to healers whose intentions and skill are so misunderstood: “If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives; do good anyway.”
- By definition all living creatures are creative. Knowing that creativity is our natural state should free us into pursuing our dreams and passions. And whatever these are is not for others to judge. The most important scientists in history have been passionate and creative people, lateral thinkers who were prone to leaping out of their baths, yelling “Eureka”.
- One would think that medical doctors, with their scientific training, would be more convinced about acupuncture from all the evidence now to be found in the medical journals and textbooks. However, over my years of teaching acupuncture to doctors, it is the experience of the changes they feel themselves in response to a single tiny needle on their foot that really “hooks” them in. I have also noticed that many hanging on to a purely materialistic world view – whose lives are focused mainly on issues of control, power and conflict – remained unconvinced of the existence of a world beyond their senses (living in a “fool’s paradise” where the only reality is the one formed and conditioned by our five senses). No seasoned argument, no scientific advance seems to be able to jolt them out of this fixed mindset.
- I have learned this lesson over the years running teaching courses for doctors and health professionals … I no longer try to convince others, doctors in particular, of the benefits of holistic healing; this is a journey they can only make of their own free will, when they are ready.
- Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult for a doctor to write a book on healing. In those days many health professionals felt the future lay solely in the chemical and surgical correction of deficits detected by increasingly sophisticated and accurate diagnostic machines. Medicine was becoming efficient but somehow less personal, colder. The public started to explore natural and “alternative” health in an attempt to maintain control and understanding of their bodies. They were also seeking true caring and compassion, instinctively knowing that this was a vital ingredient missing from their prescriptions. Quite simply they were seeking ways to heal.
- Most of the people I see in my practice come to me because modern biomedicine has not provided them with relief…. For those it has failed, we, as doctors should ask ourselves whether the “mechanical” model is appropriate. For those who continue to suffer day in day out, there is a wealth of such wisdom that can be applied. It is wrong for us to expect them to wait until “all is proven”.