I was pleasantly surprised when this following excerpt was sent to me by a previous colleague and soon to be psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Siragusa, M.D. I was so moved by this piece because it is exactly how I feel about the work that I do so I decided to make this a guest blog. Thank you Dr. Siragusa!
Recent evidence is accumulating to suggest that the type of lifestyle which Dr. Nikki promotes is the kind that will be necessary for a progressive move in human culture. If we examine her emphasis on wellness and her appreciation of the mind-body connection, there are certain questions that come to mind. Why doesn’t everyone live this way? Why hasn’t this unique kind of health promotion been introduced earlier? It is overwhelmingly apparent that satisfied, meaningful lives take into account factors within and around individuals. Things critical to biological survival such as nutrition, self-care, and fitness are equally important to how one approaches relationships and self-actualization.
The answer is that a sizable portion of the world’s population does live this way. But we don’t really know about it. The spiritual heritage of the East and Southeast Asia has mostly been about wellness, mindfulness, and self-awareness. The root of its continued success throughout history lies in the essence of its values. You see, in the Western world, we mostly think of religion as an individual kind of thing – between God and the person. But Eastern philosophies focus the connection between mind and body and their relation to others and the environment as a whole. These kinds of ideas have only began to make their way to the West and influence our culture in the way that Dr. Nikki is doing.
Modern science and medicine in America has been marked by research on specific diseases. You go to the doctor because he or she “fixes” parts of your body just like a mechanic fixes your car. We don’t go to the doctor when we feel okay or if nothing is bothering us. There would be no reason. But in Buddhist cultures there are sages or healers that people see on a frequent basis for things like advice and contentment. In fact, everyone within the culture is concerned with the well-being of one another in the context of the well-being of the entire population. Concepts like exploitation or profiteering are de-emphasized if not frowned upon. It’s not about the stuff you have or want, but rather about how you can create a meaningful life and contribute your skills and interests for the betterment of everyone. Their value system is progressive and self-improvement is aligned with societal improvement.
Neuroscience has essentially answered the question of mind vs. body. The truth is that the brain is the mind and the mind is the brain. Who we are is the result of electrical and electrochemical signals that occur in the billions of synapses that constitute our brains. This is a very powerful concept, for it means that the way we think about ourselves profoundly affects the brain itself! The brain we had yesterday is different from the brain we will have tomorrow. That doesn’t really happen with the heart, lungs, muscles, etc. So what should we do with this revolutionary information? Well we need leaders such as Dr. Nikki to emerge in the West and educate us about spirituality and health promotion. We need events, activities, and efforts that revolve around wellness. We need re-conceptualize the role of doctors to reflect our new understandings of health. This is what Dr. Nikki is doing.