The spurt in holistic therapies, not to speak of their growing influence, has brought to the fore a vital component: the rehumanising of medicine. Though there’s still a long way to go before this primaeval idea becomes reality, the blueprint is, in its entirety, totally contemporary, thanks to the sound, the image, the spiritual and the emotional impact of our own respectful sensitivity to the most hidden virtue of our humanness.
Put in context, it, quite simply, means this: most of us want to emerge… into the light of the day, in spite of our tendency to live in our heads more than in the fullness of our entire being.
First things, first. The fullness of our being, in its essence, relates itself to mind and body, head and heart, body and soul — elements we can all hear, and see, if only we learn to dwell in silence, or in the expansive ‘stillness’ inside the incessant activity of our mind and the body. It is a method that is sure to take us a long way into the vast precincts of our expanding understanding of what is truly meant and promised by ‘integrative,’ or holistic, medicine to be good medicine.
Heal Thy Self, is Saki Santorelli’s classy book. It was published twenty years ago, yes, yet it revolutionises mind-body-soul dynamics, including the relationship between the patient and the physician in today’s perspective. In so proposing, it shows us how to introduce mindfulness into the nucleus of the healing alliance. In realistic terms too, Santorelli’s book is a major contribution to the furthering and deepening of turning things from inside out and vice versa. It is sure to become standard reading for all medical students and healthcare professionals. This is not all. It will also provide them the opportunity to participate in healthcare and healing in extraordinary and unimagined ways.
Yes, in Heal Thy Self, Santorelli, a pioneer in stress management and medical education, delves into the realms of several interwoven themes that form that one seamless whole too. The outcome: a clear and compelling tableau of human dignity, suffering, and uplift. In addition, Santorelli takes an in-depth look at meditation when life is breathed into it — and, life when meditation is breathed into it. His overall view is also about healing relationships between people brought together for a purpose, including the virtuosity of mindfulness and wakefulness.
The book, placed on an absolute terra firma, is grounded in several years of Santorelli’s clinical experience. So, it explores the physics of mindfulness as a ‘Way’ — a full-fledged inner discipline for learning to meet and enter with awareness the challenges inherent to taking care of ourselves and serving others. What’s more, the narrative runs at an even clip, sans monotony, and has a sprinkling of true parables, and mind exercises, culled not only from the fascinating world of medicine, but also Sufi and Zen philosophy. It thinks of mindfulness as an open inquiry — an inner discipline in the basic, or advanced, fabric of our life.
Santorelli extols the virtues of mindfulness in health and illness. Mindfulness, according to Santorelli, has the potential to turn healing relationships within our being into an international sphere of lively collaboration and mutual transformation — a way of exploring the universal and independent nature of our own well-being, and of others. He says: “For both patients and practitioners, participating in such an odyssey involves a willingness to travel like Dante or Persephone into and through the dark unknown, and only then to emerge into a previously unsuspected fullness.”
Santorelli does not miss the mast for the sails, all right. He says that meditation is the source of our blossoming. In like manner, he admits, that it is no snake oil, panacea, or some feel-good exercise. He explains: “It is a method, a means of beginning to contact and cultivate latent, already existent qualities. In the context of medicine, mindfulness practice, much like the sextant, offers a tool for navigating uncharted seas… the surface turbulence, and the deep grain of our being.”
Not surprisingly, the converging activities of meditative practice and the calling to taking good care, contends Santorelli, are the foundations for a harmonious shift in our views of self, healing, and healing relationships. He adds: “Taking up such a quest holds the possibility of transforming each one of us from cold metal, or solid stone, to vibrant life.”
“The vibrancy of such life,” Santorelli concludes, “is healing itself — the unfolding dance of an incalculable, ever-abundant Universe.”