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The Holistic Approach: Body/Mind/Spirit

The Holistic Approach: Body/Mind/Spirit

by Grace Ganel

A central teaching to Chinese medicine (indeed, this is what makes it “holistic” medicine, relative to Western medicine), is that the Body, Mind, and Spirit are not actually separate. Rather, the three are one in the same, and the separation of them is a construct of our society that endangers our health.

That being said, once the individual has separated these out (it is only human that they do), the practitioner must determine which of these is truly floundering, since the Body/Mind/Spirit share disharmonies indiscriminately. Typically, when a disharmony is occurring primarily at the body level, it is relatively recent and acute, and the person lacks emotional entanglement with the symptoms. Given time, however, we often experience the Body symptoms in a deeper way, and the impact may be seen in patterns of emotions and thoughts (Mind) or in the underlying Spirit of the Channel/Organ system impacted.

For example, consider a fictional patient named Dave. Dave hurts his lower back while gardening. At first, this is Body level. Over time, Dave thinks himself a victim of chronic pain, he believes himself to be “an invalid” and often jokingly refers to himself as such. Now, even though the condition started as a Body condition, and even though the manifestation is primarily still in the body (Dave would come to me and ask for help with back pain, not with his thinking), the new source of disharmony is in his Mind. Given enough time with this same sort of thought pattern, Dave could negatively impact his Zhi - Will, an aspect of the spirit associated with the Kidneys (which relate to the low back), and Dave’s emotional symptoms would appear even more severe. He may feel completely defeated by his pain. The key to me in this Spirit level case would be a statement like, “I just cannot take this anymore. I’m ready to give up…”

Understanding how the Body, Mind, and Spirit means that acupuncture uniquely approaches the whole person, not just the physical level. It is also this principle that allows us to influence such complex concerns as mental health and sleep concerns by interacting with the physical plane - the Body it connected to the Mind and Spirit, and influencing one will influence the others.

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