Monday, August 8, 2011

The concept of healing

If one browse the web, one will find teachers of different disciplines considered themselves as healers.  These disciplines include chi-kung, tai-chi, meditation, OBE, previous-life (and future life), religion, urine drinking(!), popular psychologists (analytical and otherwise), non-touch chi transfer, yoga, pilates, feng shui, over-the-internet chi-transfer, over-the-internet healing, Taoist, Buddhist, esoteric, sexual chi-kung, massage of whatever kind, Eastern medicine, alternative medicines, acupuncturists, western mystics, new age meditators, inner world mappers, etc. and etc.) .  The question is why are there people who consider themselves (or can be convinced to consider themselves) to be in need of some healing services?  Do our mainstream western medical practitioners and our University trained clinical psychologists fail to heal these people? 

As a passionate practitioner of zhang zhunag, tai-chi and meditation, I also have to question myself what kind of benefits can I derive from my practice?  And shall I consider myself a healer, after teaching many folks on the stuff over the years with good results?  What exactly have I been doing?

First, let us consider our mainstream medical practices.  As in every discipline, our medical professionals in clinics and hospitals will ask you, their patient, questions, look at you, do some initial checking, do more tests, and decide whether or not you fall into their definition of being ill.  As one can imagine, a medical professional is scientific.  What you feel is only one of the many inputs for him to make the diagnosis and recommend any treatment if needed.  A mosquito bite may be more annoying than an early stage cancer which is not painful.  And our medical professionals got their points.

But we are suspicious. Perhaps he had made a mistake. Perhaps I have a situation that doesn't fall into his well-defined category of illness. Perhaps my case is caused by some bad spiritual elements. And therefore some turned to their respective healers.

In this regards, the healers serve more of a psychological function. They give their clients good-feel, and they earn their fee with a good conscience.  Don't misunderstand me, this psychological function is very important for the well-being of people seeking such help.

One caveat though is that, I believe, people should not totally rely on these healers. The popular advice of check for physical ailment first is still a piece of good advice for anyone interested to try other forms of alternative healing.  A possible negative side-effect of some of these healing methods will be the likelihood to breed superstition. I shall write about the issue between legitimate psychological healing and superstition in a future post, now I shall contend myself with analyzing the general concept of healing.

My contention is that, to worth its salt, in addition to its psychological benefits, good alternative healing should embrace areas in which western medical professionals are weak at. I am specifically referring to the concept of maintenance.

During recent years, Chinese medicine gets its Renaissance in the Chinese speaking countries. And I was told is starting to be more popular in western industrialized countries. The new focus of Chinese medical practitioners is now Maintenance (调理). The concept is firstly to keep the same level of well-being plus a gradual improvement to a higher level of well-being.

Unlike western medical practices, Maintenance put more emphasis on the subjective feeling of the client (no patient here!). In order to convince a client that he is being well-maintained, a healer must be able to deliver a feeling of well-being to his clients (we shall for the moment assume that the healer can create physical changes rather than only psychological changes). Certainly it is more customer-feeling focused than our medical profession. So the popular wisdom is go to see a western doctor when you're sick and go to see a Chinese doctor when you're NOT sick!

It is my contention that, as form of healing, chi-practices like zhan zhuang, tai-chi and meditation should be viewed similarly as modern Chinese medical practice: Healing as maintenance. And for both psychological and physical benefits, together with a practitioner's subjective feeling always in mind.  And I rest my case here.

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