Finding the Health
Summer is here in full swing. I have just been to Gold Beach to help teach an osteopathic class on the Health- a cornerstone of traditional osteopathy.
The famous quote, by A.T. Still, who developed Osteopathy in the 1800’s reminds us of this. He says, “The job of the physician is to find health, anyone can find disease.”
What did Still mean? And why is this the job of the physician? It turns out, when we seek health using our hands, we augment existing healing and people’s suffering is diminished. It’s that simple, but also so deeply mysterious and profound.
Periodically, despite our society’s disease-oriented approach to healthcare, people notice health, and ask what allows that health to emerge? I just read an article in the NY times about a woman, Julia Hawkins, who ran a race at 103 years old.
The author asks what she has done in her lifetime, essentially the question of how to live that long and be running at 103 years old. Yet we all know the answer is too complex to come from one person’s experience. It includes psycho-social, genetic, environmental, and many, many other factors.
The scientific model, which we like to think our health care system is founded on, isn’t up to the task of answering the question.
But Julia Hawkins does have some answers about how to live a long life that are worth thinking about. “Keep yourself in good shape if you can. Have many passions. And look for magic moments.”
It’s as good an answer as any I’ve heard. And perhaps it’s what A.T. Still was noticing when he said find the health. The magic moments, she spoke of, things like the sunsets and sunrises, or a child’s smile, allow us access to the experience of health. We can actually see, feel, hear and taste its impact on us. In the osteopathic model we say, in those moments, there is a transparency to the movement of health – we can see it.
And what about having passions?
My goal when I treat someone is to see their gift… another mysterious way of looking for health, and everyone has something. While it might not seem relevant to their back pain or sleep troubles, it is a doorway to how they will heal.
Seeking our passion helps us find our own gifts and it decreases our suffering to engage our passion. Maybe Mrs. Hawkins is on to something.
And so finding the Health — what I’m looking for every time I put my hands on someone – is perhaps that very imprint of health which Julia Hawkins calls “magic moments,” an imprint of what you feel when you engage in something you are passionate about, an imprint of what your body accesses when it repairs your suffering.
And perhaps it’s a little more complex, because I work within a model that includes a complex anatomical, physiological, and biochemical system, and is rounded out by psychological, social and spiritual aspects of our being. But perhaps not.
Each of those aspects of our wholeness is a part of the Health. And in some ways, it’s an illusion that they are separate aspects. Maybe we doctors make it more complex so we can have something to do while we wait for Health to take charge.
So, when I am following the prescription of Still I seek Health. I seek the imprint of a magic moment, of passion, and I observe as the body comes to rest, a place from which it can restore the transparency. Through the transparency the movement of health can be seen flowing unimpeded. Again, it’s both simple and mysterious. It’s called finding Health.