The Concept of Holistic

“Health is the proper relationship between microcosm, which is man, and the macrocosm, which is the universe. Disease is a disruption of this relationship.” ~Dr. Yeshe Donden


I actually went to see Dr. Yeshe Donden when I was in McLeodganj, North India several times, which is where the Dalai Lama’s main residence is located. It was an awe inspiring experience to have a consultation from him, as through taking your pulse and looking into the iris of your eyes he can tell everything that is wrong with your physical body, as well as every disease or accident you have ever had. I mention this in light of the fact that he never asked me any questions, yet knew exactly what was imbalanced within my body. Dr. Yeshe Donden is a master of Tibetan Medicine, he has lived as a Tibetan monk his entire life, and all of his consultations are free. He is someone who truly embodies the holistic paradigm of treating his patients, as his understanding of the patient goes far beyond merely the physical body.

In light of using such a revered person as Dr. Yeshe Donden as an example of what constitutes holistic medicine, I am interested in defining my own conceptual understanding of what the word “Holistic” actually means.

In my opinion, ‘Holistic’ is a far more complex and abstract term than many people perceive it to be. For example, many people think that if you eat healthy organic food, do some yoga, and attempt to live a positive life you are living holistically. This is a poor understanding of what ‘holistic’ truly means. If you look at healing systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, prior to the British colonization of India and the Cultural Revolution in China, you will see a truly holistic system of living.

The ancient form of both TCM and Ayurveda were not to function as a medical system alone, but as a whole system for living the best life possible where your microcosmic self was in alignment with the macrocosmic universe. Both holistic systems exemplified ancient knowledge passed down generationally to allow humans to live in greater harmony with themselves and their environment, thus propelling their life towards a unity with the larger universal forces, known as the Tao (Universal Intelligence), or the Divine. Within this ancient paradigm there was no separation between our inner world and our outer world, it was perceived as being interconnected as unified within a large circular flowing whole.

The ancient understanding of uniting and harmonizing your own microcosmic self with the universal macrocosmic is a profound and very abstract concept for most people to truly understand. It is difficult to comprehend mainly because all industrialized nations exemplify a highly linear paradigm of thought that functions through intellect, categorization, and purely dissecting everything through the philosophy of Cartesian dualism, the founding father of Western sciences and allopathic medicines theoretical background.

Few of us live in an experiential paradigm of life that is truly holistic, where the understanding of life is in a circular whole that supports, reinforces, and returns to the source as a single unit of wholeness. Although, today both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda are taught in a highly Westernized dynamic, no longer resembling their original power, strength, and wholeness. Thus, its noteworthy to mention that the idea of a medical system that is a circular whole, seems a concept most people have difficulty grasping, since our minds are conditioned to dissect everything down to smaller components of rationale, to fit into our perceived paradigm of conceptual understanding.

However, to understand the ‘whole’ you can not fragment it into smaller components to truly understand the overall concept, you must fully embrace the entirety of it all. Having stated the latter, to really understand the ‘whole’ as a concept it takes tremendous time and a deeper inner reflection of how one perceives the dynamic capacity and flow of life. Hence, it takes a certain amount of inner reflexivity to slowly absorb the concept of holism into our fragmented intellectually conditioned minds. In addition, the concept of ‘holistic’ can be seen in the lives of a few groups of people living in less industrialized nations or groups of people who still function as a community of individuals that are consciously interdependent with the earth’s precious resources, knowing that the effects of nature will in turn affect their own wellbeing and livelihood.

In addition, historically throughout the world there used to be a universal understanding that the natural world had its own energy and power that must be respected and kept in a harmonious and balanced state. Today, there are still a few groups of people in the world who maintain and preserved this understanding, where there are individuals within the society who perform ceremonies to maintain the harmony of the natural world, within the human, and spiritual reals of existence.

In this day and age, few of us are connected to our natural environment, nor to our larger community of individuals; rather we are highly segregated and cut off from the natural world, from our cultural dynamics of our society (especially in the West), and even from our own families. When we are living such highly fragmented lives, disconnected even from ourselves let alone a larger community it becomes problematic to embody a holistic lifestyle.

It is only when we can embody a greater sense of equilibrium and harmony on an inner level, that we can have a much greater sense of awareness to perceive our interconnection with the world we are living in and all of the other beings who are also living within this world. In essence, this is holistic living, to have the capacity to continuously embody enough awareness that we begin to understand that our actions and lifestyle choices not only affect us, but other people, animals, and essentially all of nature that also share this world with us.

It has been my experience, mainly from my childhood of living in a rural environment that I experientially feel inextricably interconnected to the natural world. The experience of feeling this connection is not something that can always be intellectually analyzed, its a sensation, a knowing, and a feeling of when in nature that it exists as a unified capacity with all of us. Therefore, it is this understanding that forms the foundation to my understanding of what the word ‘holistic’ constitutes, through feeling interconnected to something greater than our own sense of selves that is not just physical, like nature, but also spiritual in essence. Hence, the unification of our microcosmic self to the macrocosmic universe is the striving goal that we all carry within our human capacity to embody a holistic life of living as a unified whole.

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