Mindfulness, in its simplest form, is the human ability of paying attention.
The best operational definition of mindfulness I have come across is by Jon Kabat-Zinn who introduced it in the west in 1979 as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR):
“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through: paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is a state of being and as such has to be experienced rather than just talked about.
Oftentimes we are actually human “doings” rather than human “beings”. We run on automatic pilot, sleepwalking through life, only to discover that we have lived the same day countless times.
The well-developed doing-mode, also called the problem solving mode, benefits us in so many areas of our lives but can serve to increase our suffering when we bring it to bear on the experience of our thoughts and emotions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
In the past, the emphasis has been largely on treating diseases with little emphasis on wellbeing.
In the context of health and wellbeing, it is important to distinguish between treatment and healing, disease and illness and, pain and suffering.
Treatment is usually external and physical, with defined end points and death seen as a failure and avoided at all costs. Healing is internal, addresses the physical, spiritual, emotional and spiritual dimensions, a way of being/becoming whole with death seen as part of the process of life.
Disease is what happens to organs while illness is the meaning given to disease. Pain is a distressing sensation in a particular part of the body while suffering is the meaning given to pain. Illness and suffering is what happens to people. (more…)
Alternative Medicine refers to an approach where instead of conventional therapies (western, allopathic, mainstream), non-conventional therapies are used alone.
Complementary Medicine is an approach where both conventional and non-conventional medicines are used.
Integrative Medicine combines mainstream and CAM (complementary and alternative) therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.
The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine lists the following Defining Principles of Integrative Medicine (http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/about/definition.html):
- Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
- All factors that influence health, wellness, and disease are taken into consideration, including mind, spirit, and community, as well as the body.
- Appropriate use of both conventional and alternative methods facilitates the body’s innate healing response.
- Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
- Integrative medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically.
- Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
- Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
- Practitioners of integrative medicine should exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.
Holistic is an expanded perspective which considers the whole person and situation and as an adjective this can be applied to anything (e.g. anthropology, design, education, management, medicine, etc.)
At the core of the holistic approach is the concept that the whole is made up of interdependent parts.
Holistic medicine is when the holistic approach is applied by a health practitioner of any tradition. You are more likely to hear these parts referred to as mind body connection, physical/mental/emotional/spiritual aspects and mindbodyspirit.
The following are the Principles of Holistic Medicine of the American Holistic Medical Association
- Optimal Health is the primary goal of holistic medical practice. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest level of functioning and balance of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of human experience, resulting in a dynamic state of being fully alive. This creates a condition of well-being regardless of the presence or absence of disease.
- The Healing Power of Love. Holistic health care practitioners strive to meet the patient with grace, kindness, acceptance, and spirit without condition, as love is life’s most powerful healer.
- Whole Person. Holistic health care practitioners view people as the unity of body, mind, spirit and the systems in which they live.
- Prevention and Treatment. Holistic health care practitioners promote health, prevent illness and help raise awareness of dis-ease in our lives rather than merely managing symptoms. A holistic approach relieves symptoms, modifies contributing factors, and enhances the patient’s life system to optimize future well-being.
- Innate Healing Power. All people have innate powers of healing in their bodies, minds and spirits. Holistic health care practitioners evoke and help patients utilize these powers to affect the healing process.
- Integration of Healing Systems. Holistic health care practitioners embrace a lifetime of learning about all safe and effective options in diagnosis and treatment. These options come from a variety of traditions, and are selected in order to best meet the unique needs of the patient. The realm of choices may include lifestyle modification and complementary approaches as well as conventional drugs and surgery.
- Relationship-centered Care. The ideal practitioner-patient relationship is a partnership which encourages patient autonomy, and values the needs and insights of both parties. The quality of this relationship is an essential contributor to the healing process.
- Individuality. Holistic health care practitioners focus patient care on the unique needs and nature of the person who has an illness rather than the illness that has the person.
- Teaching by Example. Holistic health care practitioners continually work toward the personal incorporation of the principles of holistic health, which then profoundly influence the quality of the healing relationship.
- Learning Opportunities. All life experiences including birth, joy, suffering and the dying process are profound learning opportunities for both patients and health care practitioners.
When Dr. Eugene Ramos was working for Biomedis as the Chairperson of the Joy for Caring Advocacy, he asked physicians to contribute stories of healing which they wished to share with other physicians. This was published in the rough in 1985 in a book entitled “Stories That Heal”.
Here is the one of the three stories I shared…
A forty year old nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had not followed up for two years after surgery, decided to undergo chemotherapy. On re-evaluation, she had Stage 4 disease with liver, lung, pleural and bone metastasis. Chemotherapy was tried but failed and she was admitted for dyspnea due to moderate pleural effusion.
Her dyspnea improved with closed tube thoracostomy followed by pleurodesis. Thereafter, she was noted to be getting weaker and would soon need to be intubated and attached to a mechanical ventilator.
The option to withhold life support measures was discussed with the patient and her relatives. The husband agreed with the suggestion but the patient and her mother decided to proceed with whatever means possible to sustain life. While we were hoping that the patient and her mother would change their stand, the patient was fast deteriorating.