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Pathways to Health

An Integral Guidebook

Pathways to Health
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What does it mean to be healthy? Everyone wants to be healthy. In the United States, only military spending consumes more GNP than health care. Much of this is spent on traditional medical care and much is spent on supplements, pills, diet and fitness fads. Products are marketed to appeal to consumers’ desires to be healthier. If health could only be achieved with the right combination of vitamins, exercise routine, meditation, and natural organic bedding the world would be a much healthier place! But it isn’t that simple. The standard Western conceptualizations about health rely on a disease model. In this model, the presence or absence of disease becomes the measure of an individual’s health. Yet, patients often do not feel well even though they have not been diagnosed with a particular ailment. Furthermore, the experience of illness is not captured in the label of a diagnosis. For the individual who suffers a heart attack, this disease potentially affects their psyche, their relationships, their self-image, and work performance. A prescription for medication may be all that conventional medicine offers to treat this disease, but the medication does little to treat the illness experience for that individual. If you are diagnosed with HIV infection, prescription medication may help to boost your immune system, but will do little to combat how society judges you, your fears about the future or what happens when your health insurance coverage expires. When we focus on treating a disease, we tend to ignore social, cultural, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the disease experience. It’s much easier to treat a diagnosis than it is to treat a unique human being. Notwithstanding the many excellent treatments modern medicine has to offer, as long as the concept of health is rooted in diagnosing or ruling out a particular disease, traditional medicine will not satisfy. Conventional Western or Allopathic medicine relies too heavily on physical signs and symptoms of illness. Fragmentation exists among various medical disciplines and results in a failure to appreciate patients in a holistic way. Although alternative, complementary and integrative approaches to care attempt to be more holistic, they are similarly fragmented and approach treatment based on a narrow focus of expertise or training bias. Efforts to incorporate mind-body approaches and more spirituality to medical care partially succeed in approaching health in a more comprehensive way, but they are still incomplete. Essentially, all of these single or combined approaches do not have the answers to health and frequently aren’t even asking the right set of questions. Pathways to Health--An Integral Guidebook presents a more comprehensive conceptual framework from which to view health and provides readers with tools and techniques to achieve a state of greater wellness. In the model presented, health is conceptualized as balance within a dynamic system. Mind, body, and spirit are all in dynamic equilibrium within an individual. Each individual interacts with the world around them. This world environment includes physical elements such as the air we breathe, but it also includes sociocultural elements such as our beliefs, values, economic status, education, etc. The quality of our relationships, social supports, community involvement, etc. also affect an individual’s health. The interactions among these physical, mental, spiritual, and environmental factors form the basis for the opening section of the book. A limited number of case studies highlight the current shortcomings in how we currently view health and lead into the more comprehensive concept of health as a spectrum of illness to wellness as determined by the level of balance in the mind-body-spirit-environment paradigm. This approach to health aligns well with contemporary American philosopher Ken Wilber’s Integral Model. Integral Theory is at the forefront of shifting cultural understanding of the world. Currently, there are no self-help books which practically apply this theory to health care. The application of this model casts the healer in the role of guide or facilitator. The integral practitioner guides the patient through a comprehensive assessment of the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors which influence their health. The author acts as the reader’s guide leading them to explore these domains. Travel metaphors facilitate understanding of key concepts.
Hillcrest Media Group, Inc.; April 2012
ISBN 9781938297915
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