Mind Medicine Goes Mainstream
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12 February, 2010
Since the second half of the 20th century – beginning in the ’50s with the beat generation and the hippies of the ’60s – we’ve seen the rise of a form of spirituality which is more independent and self–defining than traditional streams. The main difference is that, unlike Sufism, Baul or Zen for instance , it did not arise out of any existing religion and, thus, had no carryover baggage.
At the same time it would be wrong to say it’s a new religion because there’s generally no subscription to a First Cause as something separate from the self. Rather, the idea of divinity is diffused into environmental concerns, individual development, transpersonal psychology and complementary & alternative medicine ( CAM).
CAMs are of special interest as they’ve adopted a similar language and spiritual life of their own alongside conventional medicine from which of course none of them spring. These include herbalism , acupuncture, Ayurveda , biofeedback, meditation, yoga and diet–based therapies.
In developing countries various forms have always been practised but the trend now shows that it’s spreading to developed countries as well. A 2002 survey of US adults 18 years and older, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics indicated that nearly 55% used CAM in conjunction with conventional medicine. Not only that, a 2008 survey by the American Hospital Association found that more than 37% of responding hospitals said they offer one or more alternative medicine therapies.
Even the Harvard Medical School says that a variety of CAMs are being seriously studied in its institutions these days. “Conventional medicine ,” it comments , “has been too slow to study alternative medicine treatments, some of which have won the confidence of healers and patients for thousands of years.” Also, a rising number of medical colleges there have started offering pre– and post–graduate semesters in what they call integrative studies.
Once again, CAM is not a new medical system. It too does not subscribe to an empirically rigorous evidence–based system. Instead , it considers the body to be a diffuse entity which is greater than the sum of its organs, tissues and cells and involves the active participation of at least a mind, if not a psyche or spirit. Its inclusion in mainstream medicine can only indicate, hopefully, a more spiritually healthy paradigm shift.