But when we think of integrative medicine, what else can that mean? In Western medicine, we are taught to look at things as pieces – heart trouble, joint pain, headaches… we look at each of these separately and treat the organ, the symptom the pain rather than treating the whole person.
In Chinese medicine, a symptom is meaningless outside of context. What is context? The entirety of the person in which the symptom has appeared. When I treat you in the paradigm of Chinese medicine, I am treating you as a complete being, inclusive of your mind, your body, and your spirit. When I look to understand imbalances that are causing symptoms, I understand that any given imbalance may cause symptoms across the whole of you. In Chinese medicine you are my context. All of you. And so I come to understand my context by understanding what hurts, what is thriving, how are you eating and sleeping, what troubles you and what brings you joy. I understand my context by understanding how many hours you’re working or that you’re caring for elderly parents as well as children. I understand how to best identify and help you resolve symptoms by looking at you and your life as a whole. Because in your life, your headache doesn’t exist alone.
When we are well, we are integrated beings. We live well in our bodies, we know how to use our minds rather than letting them run roughshod over us. When we are well, that which is sacred to us is part of who we are just as much as our bones and organs. When we are well, we are a context at peace. When symptoms arrive, they show us that something within us needs some attention. When we live well within the context of all that we are, we can not only hear the symptom, we can begin to hear the need before the symptom arises.
Chinese medicine is integrative in its nature, and when we begin to look at our health from this perspective, we are reminded that there is no medicine that is not addressing the wholeness of a person. The question becomes whether or not it is addressing that wholeness well.