Medicine is not limited to doctors and drugs, to the medico-industrial complex, to licensed and regulated professions, or even to the plants we call herbs. Medicine, if we are referring to “that which heals”, is not limited at all. It exists everywhere. In fact, there is no one thing that can heal alone. Medicine, if it is to heal, must be multiple. Perhaps the most powerful medicine is always available but often overlooked or suppressed. The way one moves, interacts, and becomes with the world is the way of one’s health. There is a rhythm to this becoming that we can join as a participant and move with it, moving it as it moves us, or we can continue trying to overcome it and impose our own way, refusing to acknowledge the value and wisdom that surrounds us. There is a rhythm to health, a flow of change. Health is a continuous inflection, the leading bleeding edge of becoming other. ecoHolos refers to an ecological medicine that is YOURS, it belongs to no one else but you even as it includes everyone, everything. ecoHolos puts life back in medicine, and brings medicine back to life.
What is ecoHolos?
Holos is the Greek root of the modern English words one, health, whole, healing, and holy. Here it refers to a truly holistic and scale-free health which includes but transcends any one individual or organism. ecoHolos refers to the process of pursuing this truly holistic health through the perspective of ecology. By utilizing an integrative and ecological approach to achieving positive health optimization (and thus disease prevention) we can progressively move (individually and culturally) toward holos. The health of the person is the health of the planet and vice versa.
See “The Principles of ecoHolos” (also below).
What is Integrative Preventive Medicine and Health Oriented Medicine?
Integrative medicine simply refers to a philosophy and practice of medicine in which all effective and safe modalities or paradigms are applicable to healing. These modalities or paradigms are integrated and used together as one system or simultaneously as complementary approaches to healing. Conventional medicine uses the biomedical paradigm and emphasizes drugs and surgery to treat disease. Conventional medicine is part of integrative medicine, but is not considered more important or valuable than other systems such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, bodywork, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, exercise medicine, lifestyle medicine, mind-body medicine, and so forth. Integrative medicine can be considered a holistic medicine as it emphasizes the holism (typically in the form of mind-body-spirit) and complexity of each person. However, ecological medicine is more truly holistic since it transcends the whole person to also include the person’s ecology and the whole planet (see below).
Preventive medicine simply refers to the application of medical science to prevent disease. The term is familiar to many, but the clinical manifestation of this specialty is rarely encountered. This is unfortunate as most degenerative disease is completely preventable. Further, just about everyone on the planet lives in a dysfunctional yet subclinical condition with a trajectory toward disease and away from optimal health. Disease-oriented medicine fails to prevent disease because these preclinical or subclinical forms of the disease process are not recognized. Worse yet, because these dysfunctional conditions are present throughout the population, they are termed “normal” and erroneously assumed to be acceptable or healthy. Therefore, true preventive medicine (primary prevention) requires a health oriented approach rather than a disease oriented approach. Positive health is the ultimate disease prevention. More importantly, health is the primary source of happiness, vitality, and peace in life. To practice a truly health oriented medicine, “health” requires a functional and universal definition. Such a definition of health has been proposed on this website. Health shares it’s etymological roots with wholeness and holism and is, itself, a holistic entity without clear boundaries. This makes the pairing of integrative medicine and preventive medicine a natural and inevitable advance in medicine. Yet, as of 2011, there exist only two physicians, worldwide, formally trained in both preventive medicine and integrative medicine. This needs to change for the sake of health, healthcare, and humanity. However, we will still need to go further. To truly pursue health, we need to transcend the individual whole person and perceive the interdependence of personal health, public health, ecosystem health, global health, and biospheric or planetary health. The connectivity of these scales of health is the focus of systems or process ecology, and the application of this ecology to health and healing is the practice of ecological medicine or ecological healing.
What is Ecological Medicine or Ecological Healing?
Various perspectives on ecological medicine exist, but few actually utilize an ecological approach (i.e. address ecology). Ecology is the study of an organism’s interactions with the environment. It is critical to point out that an organism’s ecology is not its environment, but how it interacts with, lives within, and co-creates this environment. It is the reciprocal flow of information and energy between an organism and an environment. Further, an organism’s environment includes other organisms. Therefore, ecology is a complex and multi-directional relationship. Human ecology, then would include the totality of an individual’s interaction or relationship with its environment. This includes common lifestyle components such as diet, physical activity, and sleep, but also includes interactions with air, water, electromagnetic, social, psychological, and institutionalized aspects of the surrounding world. In fact, components of an ecology become difficult to categorize and itemize since the boundaries are arbitrary. An organism and an environment are organized but also open and interdependent systems. Identifying component parts of an ecology is a map, not the terrain. Why is ecology important to medicine, health, and disease? Reductionist science and medicine has been focusing on genes and the human genome with the hope that genes related to disease will be identified and manipulated. However, it is now apparent that disease does not come from genes or even simple combinations of genes. So the focus is now “epigenetics” or the levels above the genes at which genes are turned on and off. What turns genes on and off? The answer is information from the environment. This information requires an organism to interact with the environment. Therefore, the health of an organism-person is generated through the cumulative interaction between that organism-person and environment, or ecology. The ecology needs to be considered in totality as much as possible in order to optimize the person’s health holistically. Further, the characteristics of an organism’s environment are heavily determined by the organism’s within that environment. Therefore, an organism’s interaction with the environment changes the environment and the characteristics of future interactions. Because organisms and the environment have co-evolved or holistically evolved for 4.5 billion years, a healthy ecology improves the health of both organism and environment. A healthy environment is a resilient and efficacious (productive) ecosystem, locally, regionally, and globally. The health of the person is the health of the planet! Ecological medicine and healing based on process ecology is the direct pursuit of holos, and is referred to here as ecoHolos.
Principles of ecoHolos
1. To achieve health, action and interaction must be directly oriented toward health, not preventing and treating disease or dysfunction. A perspective toward true and positive health is required.
2. Positive health as an entity can be qualitatively and quantitatively understood through assessing the interdependent concepts of efficacy and resilience.
2. Health is scale-free and is a process of the whole continuously becoming, developing, or self-making. The health of the cell, human organism, non-human organism, ecosystem, and biosphere is singular. This singular process is distinguished from the common usage of the word “health” by the word “holos.” “Health” is used here in reference to levels of subsystems or nested organisms, not the level of the whole. “Health” is relative to “holos.”
3. Ecology is the fluid activity that manifests the whole. For any human individual, the only access to health is as a participant in holos (scale-free health, person to planet) which depends upon the individual’s total ecology or total person-environment interactions. One does not need to save the planet or save other species, only save (and actualize) oneself and let the rest follow. Do not change the world, simply change oneself within the world.
4. Optimal ecology is dynamic, dependent upon perceptual action, and is relative to the perceived whole. A way of life based upon inhabitation rather than occupation epitomizes this relativity to the perceived whole. Congruence can be found with other holistic perspectives (Daoism, indigenous ways, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, etc.).
5. Health encompasses individual happiness, quality of life, and other forms of subjectivity. Health transcends the subjective, objective, intersubjective, and interobjective because ecology is the generative nexus of these perspectives. Ecology runs between them as their generative process or movement of becoming.
6. An ecological approach to healing involves considering an individual’s total ecology and optimizing that ecology by providing a general framework and, then, facilitating a more sensitive perceptual way of life. The later typically cultivates a deep connection to the environment and living earth system.
7. An ecological approach to coherent living provides a practical and empowering approach to self-actualizing health and holos. Individual ecology co-creates person and planet.