Mindfulness & the turning of the year
This piece was inspired by a recent webinar from the ladies at The Chrysalis Effect (TCE) who specialise in long term care and recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and who have been quoted before on modules of the CISN Post grad course.
Due warning, I am going to explore some quite deep philosophical arguments which the hard-bitten scientists among you may find a bit left field but for those who get off on this kinda stuff, draw up the comfy chair, pour a glass of good red and we’ll jump in!!
The webinar was a discussion on healing protocols used by TCE and how they integrate with nature, the changing of the seasons and traditional remedies. It was presented by Heidi Bamford, a Natural Physician, Doctor of Chiropractic and Kinesiology practitioner who herself suffered years of CFS before using TCE to effect a cure. She is now a practitioner at the centre.
There were a number of things contained in the presentation that resonated with me and I thought worthy of a little debate.
Firstly, the mere fact that the presenter had herself succumbed to this all-embracing malaise is a reminder to us all that even though we may have a certain knowledge of nutrition, exercise, therapies etc we are not immune from falling sick. Indeed, I would argue that those at the front line of caring for others and regularly taking other people’s problems on to their shoulders may well be more at risk. The more empathic you may become (which Pete Williams argues is the corner stone of a good practitioner) the greater the possible risk of ignoring your own health. The classic irony!!
Turning now to the main thrust of this piece, the use of nature in healing protocols.
First question, why do I and many others place such faith in the power of nature, its rhythms and its energies to not only heal us but more importantly to prevent us from becoming sick in the first place?
For years I have considered myself something of a Pagan, I feel more alive in green or blue spaces even though I was bought up every part the “City kid”. Although necessary, I find grey concrete “sucks your soul” after a while and that a recharge in the woods or by the coast is very much part of my life. This is not purely an intuitive thing as the more I learn of integrative medicine and nutrition it sets to confirm my thoughts that natural seasons and rhythms underpin so much of what we do.
A quote that I have used many times before goes to show it was ever thus:
2500 years old and possibly the greatest 100 words ever spoken on the integrative nature of Nutritional Therapy, Strength and Conditioning, Sports Nutrition and Functional medicine. Relevant to this article “……when proper attention is given to the season of the year, the changes of the wind, the age of the individual and the situation of his home…….”
Notwithstanding ancient Greek thought, this view of nature would have been completely alien to my parents and for many generations who proceeded them. Now, why might this be? Here’s my own theory for better or worse and this is where we start to get really deep.
Friedrich Nietzsche famously stated “Gott ist tot” - “GOD IS DEAD” - in both “The Gay Science” (1882) and further expanded upon the theme in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (1883 – 85)
“God is dead, god remains dead and we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? The holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
One interpretation of this, and one I tend to agree with, is that after the Scientific revolution of the 16th century, the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century and the Industrial revolution of the 19th century many learned minds where far less able to accept scripture, tradition or other incomprehensible divine forces as a basis of beliefs in favour of reason and evidence.
This itself can take us in 2 directions, either we can see hard science as the answer to all questions and that everything can be explained in a laboratory experiment or by way of some mathematical algorithm or we can look towards the natural world and attempt to harmonise our place within it. The answer, as ever, I believe falls somewhere in between.
The Chrysalis Effect use a 6-step program in their natural healing protocol:
Consider the season and what nature is doing at the time. Acknowledge you are part of the rhythm.
Spend more time engaged in nature.
Consider a more seasonal based diet.
Integrate ancient wisdoms into your life and how better to understand and use the seasons.
Use Zen Yoga to better prepare for transition through seasonal change.
Get involved with us at traditional wisdoms.
I have absolutely no argument with the first 3, the 5th I would personally say is too restrictive, there are many forms of mindfulness we could use to achieve the same goal. The 6th is merely a plug for their services. Its number 4 that I have some issues with.
Heidi expands at some length on traditional wisdoms from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, China, Thailand/Myanmar, Bali, North America, The Amazon and Japan, and how she has used these to promote her own healing process and what she now recommends for others. Far be it from me to discourage something that has appeared to be successful but let me throw out a theory of my own.
Going back some years now when I first heard Ian Craig lecture, he started the presentation with a basic principle of Functional Medicine/Nutrition that we all incorporate within our practices. The fact that we are all bio chemically/genetically unique and that the world is full of shades of grey rather than black and white.
To illustrate the point Ian used 2 images of extremely different cultures which I have shamelessly stolen for my own presentations:
Ian posed the question can we expect these two individuals, given their heritage and backgrounds, to respond to the same diets, supplements or healing protocols?
I am simply taking this argument one stage further, can we expect the traditional wisdoms of the Aboriginals, Maori’s, Amazon Shamans, or Far East philosophies to resonate with the soul of somebody who’s roots are firmly in Western Europe? We can of course argue about common ancestry going back hundreds of thousands of years but to my mind we have enough of this green and pleasant land engrained in our being to respond better to our own ancient wisdoms rather than having to search for somebody else’s.
Eastern philosophy in particular requires a completely different way of thinking about the world and our place in it.
I am however a great believer in using whatever may bring you comfort whether that may be Zen Buddhism, Jesus Christ or the animal spirit beliefs of a Witch Doctor from the rain forest. It just seems counter intuitive to search the world for a wisdom that you can find some resonance with when we have our own both within us and surrounding us. Your local wood, country park or beach may not at first view appear as esoteric as some far-flung exotic part of the world but this I think is missing the point. Nirvana is within and you can tap into this as the sun rises and mist spreads over an English forest enveloping a scene that our fore fathers have experienced for millennium.
Paul K Ehren - November 2020
NB: None of this article is intended to be any form of criticism of The Chrysalis Effect or its practitioners. They carry out immense work and have my full support and respect.
Using their webinar as a springboard however as a generator of my own thought processes opens up some fascinating lines of discussion.