Just what does “holistic” mean?
Let’s postpone this “what” question, and start out with questioning “why” even explore this topic? Answer: to learn something valuable you can easily apply for Living Well. Whether the value is simply considering a new perspective or whether it’s cultivating a new habit, you will experience direct benefits from applying it. These benefits build and grow and sculpt your being, and consequently your life, for the former inspires the latter.
I use “holistic” as a navigational frame of reference for living. Why? Because it has helped me keep focused on the main thing, which for me is balance. It has helped me to enjoy mindfulness in a moment while working towards a larger plan in some impossible-to-know future; to inventory my resources and evaluate my results; to open dormant nerve pathways for both body and mind to work better; to use traditional five-sensory approaches coupled with methods of a multisensory intuitive nature to achieve more, doing less. What follows is a smorgasbord of ideas and strategies, with a lot of encouragement for you to experiment.
~ Accurate, Clear, Thorough ~
Over decades I’ve created a long glossary (…Acupressure…Aura…Dowsing…Visualization…Yin/Yang…) to foster Accurate, Clear, Thorough communication with clients and students. I coined that acronym, A.C.T., ages ago to highlight its priority here at my retreat sanctuary for all interactions. My bachelor’s degree in journalism set up these habits more than 4 decades ago, and they have served me well to pioneer energy aspects of healing. These communication habits have helped me link quantum physics, medical science and spirituality to inspire a joyful approach to better health. So, I’m ready to begin crafting my definition of “holistic” by reviewing my collection of various scraps and snippets of phrases, sentences, paragraphs and pages in which I’ve waxed poetic or reported scientifically.
The mainstream summation, “body/mind/spirit” is a vast generality with many interrelated aspects. Indeed, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is as good a place as any to start. Each part is unique, yet interrelated to all other parts.
~ Some Material, Some Mystery ~
There is also a mysterious transformational quality functioning as part of a holistic paradigm. This quality is analogous to the phenomena of diverse caterpillar species weaving body fluids into cocoons, then undergoing complete disintegration and reformation to, TAH DAHHH! unfurl magnificent antennae and elegant wings, fully decorated, fully functional. It’s analogous to the interaction of sun, water, soil with an acorn to sprout an oak tree, not a beech, spruce or elm.
“Holistic” encompasses the stuff I’m made from (elements from distant stars that have “died”) as well as the mysterious consciousness through which that stuff is organized and circulated by my DNA, a one-of-a-kind blueprint for my unique personality/ego/body package among billions of equally unique planetary citizens.
Aristotle called this mysterious quality “entelechy” 2500 years ago. Today, many chemical mathematical formulae have been discovered to track portions of this mysterious process, but the mystery always remains. This brings me to discuss my holistic approach to menopause, which involves a motorcycle.
~ Hot Flashes Arrive ~
The hot flashes came on like gangbusters. Right at 50 ~ years, that is, not miles per hour. I’d been eating soy protein powder daily for decades, totaling hundreds of pounds, plus taking all kinds of natural supplements. My mother sailed through her change with a beer in one hand and a Pall Mall in the other, experiencing an occasional slight flush, easily calmed by opening a window nearby for a minute or by grabbing any handy paper to fan away a forehead droplet.
My affinity for hot steamy weather worked great for the summer phase, where I just let cotton undershirts wick up the sweat. But when autumn turned my damp undershirt cold and clammy, I was shivering indoors. My first menopausal winter, getting up to pee meant leaving warm, sweat-soaked sheets and returning to cold, clammy ones. I’d prevent the cold shock with a bath towel over the shadow of sweat, looking like a crime scene outline.
~ Excitement Without Wheelies ~
Drenching hot flashes were not the worst symptom of my menopause, however. Panic attacks, the likes of which I’ve experienced in the midst of some nightmare or awaking from it, beset me without warning as I endeavored to meet my professional obligations. Pounding pulse, dry mouth, thoughts filled with fear that I may drop dead on the spot or that I might get hit by a car as I crossed the street when there were no moving cars in sight. Panic attacks! Momentary fear. False Evidence Appearing Real.
Now, “holistic” also relates to timing, a.k.a. synchronicity ~ another mysterious phenomenon. It so happens that friends owned his and her Harleys, and invited me to ride with them to visit our mutual friend in Jersey. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm autumn day riding to the beach. Delicious aromas (fresh mowed grass, salty sea breezes) wafted and swirled in our wake. Sensual contrasts between shade and sun took their turns cooling and warming us. Being the passenger on “his” Low Rider gave me opportunities to watch her on “her” 883 Soft Tail. She and I were about the same size. She had learned balance was her most effective way to move a third of a ton of motorized metal.
~ Present Moment Mindfulness ~
I also watched the expansive blue, blue sky where a cloud here and there leisurely floated. I saw the surrounding terrain turn sandier and sandier. Present moment mindfulness at 55 mph. Any awareness of fear was with appreciation for vigilant multisensory radar at work to protect my survival. All went well.
Soooo, that February 1992 we spotted a gleaming black 1200 cc. Sportster for sale at the local dealer’s, and I courageously bought my mid-life cycle. I’d never driven a motorcycle in my life, so my friends drove and parked it in my garage. As the nights and days equalized, I would occasionally walk around that machine, sometimes with my owner’s manual open. I began to feel fearful, but this was not a panic attack.
“Hmmmm. Probably a very, very good thing for me to feel fearful right now since I’ve never ridden,” I thought. (Dear Readers, I’ve taken liberties with the fact that s/he who drives a motorcycle is referred to as riding said bike.) The Motorcycle Safety Foundation conducted classes on a college campus only 10 miles away. Calling their toll-free number, I started a chain of uplifting adventures that continues to unfold, according, I think, to some choices on my part.
~ Anger Underneath Fear ~
I’ll proceed to dissect this story to show more holistic elements. What I hadn’t noticed as I wrestled and wrangled with these really inconvenient interruptions caused by wet chills or paranoia, was that I felt angry at my body. It wasn’t until my motorcycle therapy slowly reoriented my mind to use the panic button in real emergencies only, that I began to notice hostile feelings about these severe, erratic symptoms that many women survive with nary a complaint. Hostility had a lot of fear behind it because of the drastic change in my familiar patterns of living well with my body. This was fearfully upsetting.
However, I regard my body as being comprised of intelligent cells (sentient beings, is what Deepak calls them), with an entelechy for survival. I have observed my body, and bodies in general, accomplish the most remarkable natural healings. To continue to trust my body’s decisions and messages was an idea that strongly resonated with me, given my work to build a healthy mind-body relationship.
~ Fear Becomes an Ally ~
So, I once again turned my attention to the concepts and experiences involving fear. The neatest thing happened. I began to think thoughts about fear that weren’t fearful. I considered what a blessing fear can be serving to protect. I reviewed interrelated bodily changes correlating with fear stimuli. I made fear an ally, rather than an enemy. An ally that paradoxically tries to discourage my polar plunges in the icy Brandywine. I’m getting better at discerning frivolous fear from fear that presents itself to protect me. Seems I remember Carlos Castaneda writing about similar lessons under Don Juan’s shamanic tutelage.
Less than $10 for a state issued learner’s permit was all it cost to take the Motor Cycle Safety Foundation course. A couple nights’ classroom instruction was time well spent preceding five hours of range drills. This is not a course in learning to ride; it is a course in riding safely. I brought my new full-face helmet, but helmets were also provided. A dozen of us mounted 250 cc. bikes from two different manufacturers to begin paddle-walking the bike forward then operating the kickstand.
~ Beginner’s Mind ~
I was the rookie. Everyone else had some riding experience. A couple students looked older than me, had long scraggly gray hair, arm length tattoos, and parked their glistening Harleys in the adjoining lot. Riding for umpteen years, they were nice folks, who’d save 10% on motorcycle insurance. A benefit I also appreciate.
Well, another couple classroom sessions. During the second range practice I was being asked to lead out the other eleven riders in various drill configurations. Fear was constantly with me. A couple guys left a little skin and blood on the lot in minor accidents. Fear taunted me that I was likely to crash. I focused on the drill of the moment ~ its path, tasks, rhythm, balance, flow ~ and at times encountered exquisite timing. Fear was ever-present, but I was adding to or enhancing some greater power within myself. I felt like I was actually growing more humble and more confident; another paradox that just feels pretty good and rather easy to accept.
~ Hagalaz Awakens ~
The final range hour, we were tested to qualify for a license by a state trooper. Back at home; I continued to look at Harley. After a couple weeks, I thought of seeking a name, and then blindly selected a Nordic rune stone. Out of 25, the one I drew was “Hagalaz.” The glyph is a capitol H with its bridge slanting slightly downward to connect with the farther staff. The runes were all facing down, so I didn’t see the H.
Ralph Blum’s Book of Runes (St. Martin’s Press, NY © 1982) concludes its discussion of Hagalaz as a great awakening as follows: “The universe and your own soul are demanding that you do, indeed, grow.” And so I have for the past 15 years and 18,347 miles. My holistic route through menopause continues to evolve as an interesting and “seriously” fun way to grow.
Maybe there’s some kind of holistic solution that might benefit one of your life’s challenges.
- Writer's Bio: Karen is a naturopathic physician who has taken holistic healing and education into the realm of quantum physics. She is credited with “the first major breakthrough in Swedish Massage ~ research demonstrating energetic interconnections ~ since Peter Ling systemized it in the early 19th century.” International recognition for her healing and educational work includes an honorary degree, a silver medal, listing in Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, appearances on TV and radio, lecturing in Europe and in the U.S. for professional symposia, colleges, corporations, community groups, and being featured in professional journals, magazines and newspapers. She has published more than 200 articles on holistic health and education. She has facilitated joyful well-being and health for hundreds of students she has personally certified in holistic healing and holistic massage and for hundreds more clients she has personally touched including luminaries in science, medicine and religion. firstname.lastname@example.org