The Medium is the Message Pt 2: Holistic Health

August 22nd, 2016




“No medicine can compensate for un-healthy living.”

 – Renu Chaudhary




Last week we looked at how we create our view of health or disease based upon what factors we choose to include or exclude. We discussed the reductionist view of scientific medicine that focused on treating symptoms and isolating active ingredients to create patent medicines.


This week we will take an holistic view of health. That is, we will endeavour to cover a broad range of factors that can contribute to our state of health both in body and mind.




Why do we focus on disease instead of health?


One of the side effects of having the health debate constantly shifted back to symptoms, diseases and ‘cures’ is that our concept of health remains undeveloped. At present it languishes in a vague, grey zone as being ‘symptom free’ – so even here we are back to referencing disease again. This negative, entropic focus subliminally encourages a fatalistic, powerless view of our own life.


Its biggest disservice is the cause-effect connection between our personal choices and our health. It makes us shrug our shoulders and see any health issue that occurs to us as simply ‘bad luck’ or the result of pre-ordained, genetic inheritance. Worse still we give all our power away to ‘miracle’ cures and never look within ourselves to change or improve anything.


A skeptic might say another reason for the focus on disease instead of health is that there is more money in it. Medicines (that are often subsidised through government medical programs – i.e., tax dollars) are prohibitively expensive. How much money would the pharmaceutical corporations make if the doctor’s advice was “We need to get you on a regular exercise program and have a dietician look at what you are eating. We recommend regular maintenance sessions of bodywork to reduce stagnation and encourage you to learn meditation and relaxation techniques.”?




For pensioners or the economically disadvantaged we could use some of those drug company subsidies to support health programs instead. While our focus remains on a disease-cure paradigm however the idea that we could help ourselves to health is ignored in the stampede for the next drug that will save us and make our life better but never quite delivers.



Elements of health


In traditional Chinese medicine all of our body systems (digestion, circulation, elimination and so on) come under the control of particular elemental qualities. These are not the elements of the periodic table but form a descriptive model to illustrate the interplay between the ‘software’ of energy and its effect on the body.


Perhaps more importantly, it shows correlations between what we do, think and feel and its effect on those systems. Let us now look at a few of those.


The Earth element  –  digestion, anxiety and self esteem 1


guilty eating


The Earth element rules over our oral nature. This is the part that takes the riches of the earth around us (food) and helps it become us – or at least our physical body. From this perspective we are literally what we eat. It is our first bonding with our mother (the the stomach meridian passing through the nipple) via breastfeeding.


At a more subtle level it supplies our sense of self – that we exist and are worthy of continued existence. When this is damaged we can become orally self destructive:


Binging and purging
  • Starving and anorexic states
  • Food addictions
  • impossibly strict dietary practices where food is divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and given enormous power to save or destroy us.
  • Other oral addictions like alcohol, cigarettes, medical and recreational drugs


All of these reflect an imbalanced, negative self image and a sense of personal powerlessness that leads to states of dependency and chronic anxiety over not being or getting enough. From an holistic standpoint then, to focus upon oral medications would only play upon and encourage continued abuse.


What is more appropriate is to create a state of calm and centredness in the body that allows the person to be inside themselves. Practices like massage, shiatsu, aromatherapy, acupuncture and so on can help here. Counselling that enables and empowers them to breakdown their problems into manageable pieces is also useful.  



The Fire element – emotional expression and inner connection 2


heart fire



The Fire element rules over the heart and circulation. It also governs our inner communication – that is, our responses to the world. In this model, the heart is both our emotional and intuitive centre, our inner voice constantly trying to make what is unconscious in us conscious.


When we split or repress this inner connection we can hurt ourselves. The usual reason is pain. Sometime, somewhere we have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) not to feel. All the medical painkillers in the world cannot fix that. What they usually create instead is an addiction to painkillers and its side effects while the  original pain remains unresolved.


The only way around something is through it. In our heart of hearts we know this. The unknown is always more terrifying than the reality. By gently directing someone back to their heart and supporting them in their vulnerability we encourage them to feel empowered once more. Feeling is not dying. It is a confirmation that we are alive.


Fortunately, the heart centre also contains riches far above our contact with our ‘shadow side’. In fact we could not even see our shadow if it were not for the light in us. Our true secret is not our pain. It is our joy and light, the fire that burns beyond and through our ego-based dramas, tragedies and comedies. Contact with it does not only put us in touch with our emotions – it helps us transcend them.




A positive focus for this element is creativity. This is not something just to be squeezed in between endless to-do lists but a vital part of life. It may include more traditional outlets like the arts, music, writing and so on but also less obvious ones like redecorating a living space, making something that we would normally buy, customising our possessions to make them more alive and personal, writing down our dreams and investigating their inner meaning and so on. Such activities are very empowering and give rise to our innate sense of playfulness, curiosity and joy.


Therapies like counselling, trauma release techniques, the Rosen Method of touch and emotional release, healing and intuitive touch, aromatic oils and spa therapies, creative classes in art, music, dance and creative writing all help unburden ourselves of emotional baggage and reset our focus on the positive parts of our lives.



Expanding our horizons


head expanded


As we can see, the subject of health is considerably broader than we think and a lot more fun and creative than a morbid focus on disease. In the third and final part of this short series on holistic health we will continue looking at the many factors contributing to health and happiness. We will also check out some of the initiatives being taken already to help change our focus from disease and disempowerment to health and happiness. 


Till another Monday makes us wonder why we ever gave Mondays so much power over us in the first place,


1 For a more detailed look at the Earth element click here

2 For more details about the fire element, click here




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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