My personal view of integral life

Body-Mind-Spirit and healing: Integral approach with Integral Methodological Pluralism


Integral Theory and Integral Methodological Pluralism offers a complete model for exploring the many faces of healing. In this paper I will go through six of the eight primordial perspectives or hori-zones, which are based on Ken Wilber’s AQAL model. I will discuss how body-mind-spirit can be seen as individual realms functioning however in conjunction as an integrated self. The process of healing is much more complex than the conventional medicine sees it and this is an attempt to put together pieces from various traditions, wisdoms and sciences.

Keywords: integral, healing, AQAL, body, mind, spirit


In my previous paper on Integral Theory, General Practitioner as an Integral Coach? An AQAL Analysis of the Practitioner-Patient Interaction, I wrote about the interaction of the physician and the patient within the framework of AQAL. I also discussed Alternative and Complementary Medicine as well as Integral Medicine. Ken Wilber wrote in his foreword of Integral Medicine: A Noetic Reader that “the aim of integral medicine can be stated simply as the desire to lessen the harm done by both of those sins, and therefore much more effectively set the stage for the extraordinary miracle that, 2000 years later, none of us yet understand: healing”. Wilber continues with a little more optimistic approach:

The aim of integral medicine is to utilize as complete and as comprehensive an approach as possible in treating any illness—while, of course, remaining fully cognizant of the pragmatic realities of time constraints, insurance limitations, and office practicalities. The integral medicine that is rapidly developing today has moved significantly beyond early attempts in this area, variously known as “holistic,” ” allopathic,” “alternative,” and “complementary”. (p.2)

In this paper I will dig a little deeper and explore what is an integrated body-mind-spirit healing process and how it can be viewed and analyzed with the eight primordial perspectives (the eight zones and in this paper six of them) or Integral Methodological Pluralism presented by Ken Wilber (2003). In the preface of the book Consciousness & healing: Integral approaches to body-mind medicine, Schiltz (2005) discusses the Integral vision:

A significant barrier to the integration of inner and outer approaches to reality is the seeming incongruity between, on the one hand, the ontology and epistemology of physical science and, on the other hand, those of the spiritual traditions…. But if properly understood and properly enlarged, these two realms may be incorporated within a framework that is at once true to their distinctions and yet comprehensive of both. (p.xxxviii)

One of the most intriguing questions is: how do we heal? “Unlike the nervous system, immune system, or endocrine systems, the healing system may act as a “meta-system” between the realms of mind and matter, responsive to symbolic processes as well as physical stimuli, perhaps acting in coordination with previously known systems…. While the healing system represents a hypothetical construct, several lines of evidence provide clues to its existence or to an understanding of its operation” (Schlitz, p.44). Many traditional Eastern approaches to healing and consciousness should be considered significantly important when discussing of the healing process.


Post-metaphysical Integral approach is highly supportive for reconstructive and deep science. Both of these forms of sciences are based upon empirical scientific methods and not on metaphysical speculations. Past reconstructive science can predict general features of some future forms:

Once a level of consciousness emerges in enough people, then that level becomes a Kosmic pattern for future development, and thus it becomes something of a fixed level…. This approach overcomes and rejects a metaphysical viewpoint and replaces it with an empirical, phenomenological, experiential and evidential approach” (Wilber, 2000, p.2).

None of this is predetermined though, but it is rather a possibility for involution to emerge in all four quadrants (intentional, behavioral, social, and cultural) to become a Kosmic habit. I think that Integral Post-Metaphysics can offer the most generalized map possible, as wide perspective as possible at the time, to investigate phenomena, which are not metaphysical. As Wilber puts it: “what system of thought can honor, acknowledge, and integrate the most number of truths from the most number of traditions?” (p.5) refers to of course Integral Theory. Especially at premodern times and in metaphysics too, the myth of the given, that there are predetermined “given” paths of consciousness which everybody follow, is being rejected in Integral post-metaphysics on the basis of reconstructive science: “the levels of consciousness that are now available to human beings are given as potential forms and patterns”, which take their forms in all four quadrants. These universal aspects or potentials come, according to Wilber, from two sources: Spirit as a capacity for creativity or self-transcendence and the deep patterns of Kosmic habits that has already been laid down by past development. These deep patterns of “experiences” are similar in every culture; the surface features, then again vary from culture to culture, which give a specific meaning for the experienced phenomenon.  The surface features vary because the four quadrants (and the eight zones) are different in different cultures and even in different human beings in the same culture.

                      The main point of Integral approach to post-metaphysics is to recognize sort of quasi-universals, cross-cultural commonalities emerging that are based in empirical and phenomenological evidence via rational reconstructive science and deep science, for example as a direct spiritual practice (there is injunction as the practice of meditation, the experience of it and confirmation of the “outcome” or “result” of a particular practice, which is then compared with a teacher or other practitioners). What differentiates deep science from narrow science is that narrow science refers to only sensorimotor occasions (e.g. biology, chemistry).  Deep sciences are social or geist, which function with symbolic occasions (mathematics, logic etc.). There are three levels of science: gross, subtle and causal or sensory, mental and spiritual, respectively. Narrow sciences refers to level one (gross), deep science investigates second and third levels of phenomenological experiences: mental or hermeneutic (subtle) and spiritual or transrational (causal).


 Four Quadrants of Integral Medicine. Retrieved from Integral Vision (Wilber, 2007).

The eight hori-zones or primordial perspectives of IMP.

Analysis & Discussion

Zone #1 (Phenomenology)

The study of the occasions that arise in an I-space is called phenomenology (1p x 1-p x 1p). Thoughts have a great impact on our bodily feelings and negativity affects our bodies on a level we might not even understand: “approaching well-being on a physical level can ground positivity in reality. Consciously feel the parts of yourself that are saying ‘yes’ to life” (Aposhyan, 1999, p. 171). Practices that can generate well-being in the body are for example conscious breathing, moving and listening carefully to the messages of the body. This way it is possible to practice and exercise how to turn negativity into positivity with integrating the body and mind. Susan Aposhyan continues in her book that “often, repetitive, subliminal negative messages block a sense of well-being” (p.172) and this particular notion is something that everyone should recognize, because negative thoughts that “are being broadcasted” direct our metabolic toward death, literally on a cellular level (Zone #5, autopoiesis).

Spirituality and healing.

“Among the great traditions, there’s unanimity that one emotion is to be valued above others, and that emotion is love” (Walsh, 2005, p.296). Here with the word or feeling “love” I am talking about a deeper and more profound realization than the romantic love. Walsh (p.298-299) recognizes four strategies for “cultivating” love, which are: 1) Reducing barriers to love, such as fear and greed and anger and jealousy and pride; 2) Cultivating supporting attitudes and emotions such as gratitude and generosity; 3) Cultivating love directly through prayer, contemplation, or meditation; 4) Looking deeply into reality (with the understanding that the deeper we see into reality, the more we recognize that, at its heart, wisdom merges or unites with love). These practices are being cultivated in various lineages and traditions around Earth, but what seems to be internal to every one of these is the nature of channeling the healing energy from its spiritual source. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) a universal healing energy is called Qi, a “vital energy of life”. In TCM all diseases are believed to be caused by deficits and imbalances of Qi in the body and that is why there are different treatment modalities for restoring the balance. Meditation therapy is based on the belief that a person’s mind is capable of regulating Qi (Yount, Qian, and Zhang, 2005) In Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, healing is achieved through transformation via skillful means such as: visualization, mental imagery, sound, mantra, movement, and yoga. A number of these methods have been used to great effect to help combat illnesses such as cancer and AIDS (Rinpoche, S., 2005, p.419).

Psychodynamic phenomenology.

This particular phenomenological approach can be described as an entire lineage of what kind of experiential I-occasions can become you, he, she, they, it, or its within my own I-space (Wilber, 2006, p.124). This means that certain I-impulses can be sort of disowned and there is a felt resistance to reowning these feelings. Wilber also acknowledges that “the discovery of this specific type of resistance to certain present feelings of my I-sense – a resistance to my own shadow in zone #1 – is indeed one of the great discoveries of the modern West” (p.124). Around these phenomena, various theoretical scaffoldings can be built (Zone #2). In the process of the healing of the self the view from within is indeed as important as without and the realization of the developmental hierarchy of defenses (e.g. Vaillant) is of greatest importance. Here we can discuss the “shadow” which means unconscious structures of the damaged-I and its phenomenological history. In the early stages of development, parts of the self can be dissociated, whereupon parts of the self appear as shadow and symptoms. Wilber recognizes here the importance of what he calls “a healthy transcending: I into me” (p.126). This means simply that self of one stage becomes the tool of the next, or as Robert Kegan (1993) has put it: the subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next stage. Here we are talking about healthy transformation and development from one stage to the higher, integrating the “previous self”. Meditation only won’t do the trick: besides recognizing your feelings while meditating it is important to get into the source of the disowned feeling.

Zone #2 (Structuralism)

Structuralism investigates the outsides of the individual interiors that is to say that the first person takes an objective approach to first person realities (1p x 3-p x 1p). The interiors and feelings, prehensions, emotions, thoughts that are integrated to the body-mind can be seen and researched from the outside of an individual. For example meditation and its effects on individual perceptions is a good example of such structuralism investigation method. From this perspective it is possible to see how different thought patterns and emotional stance affect our bodies: “thoughts powerfully affect our bodies right down to a cellular level” (Aposhyan, p. 172). An important researcher in this topic is Bruce Lipton (2005), whose book “The Biology of Belief” explains exhaustively how our feelings actually affect our bodies on a cellular level and how embodying positive thoughts affect our inner healing capacity.

Mind, mindfulness and meditation.

The research in mind-body studies shows conclusively that nonbiological factors can have statistically significant, clinically important effects on physical health (Dienstfrey H., 1999). In addition to this, “the predominant type of mind-body research has begun to show that biological ills, possibly even serious biological ills, can be positively affected by entirely nonbiological treatments…. techniques to manage stress and anger to induce relaxation” (Dienstfrey, 1999, p. 53), which includes various meditation practices. For decades or even centuries, “The Body” has been mindless. The fact is, however, that the mind and its awarenesses and its powers make things happen in the body (p.54). Think about the placebo effect for a while. What arises into your awareness? In the testing of every drug on average 30 percent of the participants in the placebo-treated group produce the same results that the drug under investigation is designed to produce. So no matter what they are being given, those who believe that the drug work, are more likely to get positive results out of it. I would like to change the term “placebo effect” to mind effect, just to make us realize that our minds have incredible capacities for self healing.

There are interesting studies of people with skin diseases who got under hypnosis and psychotherapy and focused on the diseased area of skin and imagining the area to become normal, actually cleared the skin. Dienstfrey (1999) recognizes that “after the mind did what it could, it could not do more” and the evidence for this is supported by the notion, that those who received the hypnosis and psychotherapy as additional treatment, made no further difference. The question here lies that “…can we lead to use the mind as an aid in treatment whatever the state of our own collective knowledge about a particular disease?” (p.58). Mindfulness meditation (MM) and transcendental meditation (TM) are two of the most studied forms of meditation. Charles “Skip” Alexander was the pioneering researcher on this area conducting over 100 original papers on the topic. Herein I will mention two important studies on meditation, healing and emotional awareness. The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored before a study by Davidson et. al (2003). They measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in MM. Twenty-five subjects were tested in meditation group (n=16 for control group). At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine. The researchers reported significant increases in left-side anterior activation and found significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared those in the control group. These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function.

In a recent Harvard study (and first one of its kind) Metta McGarvey (2010) establishes a comprehensive developmental framework for research and teaching on mindfulness and adult emotional development, and reports the results of a pilot study of mindfulness and emotional characteristics in a sample of 138 leaders from 16 countries:

Results of an empirical pilot study using the framework of trait change documented higher Mindfulness scores associated with lower Neuroticism, especially Angry Hostility, from the Five Factor Model; and higher Emotional Intelligence, especially Emotional Self-Awareness and Stress Tolerance, from the Bar-On model. Type of practice comparisons documented higher Mindfulness scores only in association with an Integral meditation practice. Qualitative data from profiles of three leaders representing the strongest associations were analyzed to identify themes for future follow-up interviews exploring how mindfulness may have helped them with negative emotions in their professional and personal lives. (p.1)

Emotions, neuropeptides, and the healing system.

Our nervous, endocrine and immune systems are interlaced in a unified healing system and the biochemical substrates of emotions are also intimately involved in immune regulations. An important question is: how does it work? Repression or the non-expression of emotions can make us ill:

James et al conducted psychological evaluations of 312 patients seen at their medical clinic and found that those who exhibited repressive or ‘defensive high anxious’ coping styles…. had significantly decreased monocyte counts, a sign of relative immunological weakness. These individuals also had elevated serum glucose levels, which coincides with research showing -endorphin to be a portent hyperglycemic stimulus when delivered intracerebrally and demonstrating the reduction of stress- induced hyperglycemia by centrally active opiate antagonists” (Pert, Dreher & Ruff, 2005, p.68).

This theory means that repression of strong emotions results in chronically high levels of endogenous opioids, which is turn cause immune deficits that reduce resistance to infectious and neoplastic disease. Primary emotions, such as anger, fear, joy, are essential elements of human experience, and each emotion serves adaptive psychobiological and evolutionary functions. Long-term states of distress often result from “…inescapable or overwhelming stress, rigidly repressive psychic defenses, anger turned against the self, unresolved grief and ineffective coping styles” (p.70). These chronic states affect our healing system. From here we could deduce that emotional expression, disinhibition, and self-actualization would strengthen the healing system. “Psychospiritual states of ‘hopelessness’ or ‘joy’ have specific energetic and molecular correlates (UR); the organismic experience of such states cannot be reduced to either level but appears to be translated on both levels, simultaneously and indivisibly” (p.78).

Zone #3 (Hermeneutics)

Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself. Without relationship you are not; to be is to be related; to be related is existence.” – J. Krishnamurti

This is the view from the inside of the “we” (1p x 1-p*pl x 1p) or a first person perspective of the collective interiors viewed from the inside. Here the realization of interpersonal communications in all aspects is crucial to healing. Even the loneliest people are not alone. They are always in contact with other human beings and the interactions and created we-spaces are what form meaningful life experiences. We are having shared meanings, cultural beliefs, shared worldviews and value subcultures. Any deficiency and lack of shared interiors can lead to illness.

Goleman’s and Thompson’s theories of social intelligence in the light of healing.

Evan Thompson (2001), who has been studying empathy and consciousness, states that empathy is the precondition for the science of consciousness, which is to say that without people having the phenomenological awareness (Zone#1) and adequate structural (Zone#2) views on the interactions between people, there cannot be empathy or any science for it. Important points are embodiment (whole body being aware of the emotions), how does it emerge and how we do define ourselves as “Self-Other Co-Determination”, which has been linked to the “discovery of the importance of affect and emotion in cognition” (Thompson, p.4). People are not that often aware of their levels of empathy or intersubjectivity, which can be thought as a lack of certain cognitive capacities. Thompson states that “cognitive empathy emerges as a further step, in which there is recognition of the other’s experience as belonging to the other, without losing the distinction between self and other in emotional contagion” (p.6). From developmental point of view empathy is being evolved from the day we are born (and possibly even before in the womb): “the basic idea is that the infant, faced with novel gestures, uses her proprioceptive awareness of the own unseen facial movements to copy what she sees in the face of the other person” (Thompson, p.7). This is clearly in line with Goleman’s (2006) findings on the brain-brain linkage or proto-emotions that “travel” through the low road. Thompson and Goleman both talk about mirror neurons and their critical importance in forming empathy and intersubjective space and citing Goldman (1995), Thompson states that “empathy consists of a sort of mimicking of one person’s affective state by that of another” (p.11).

Thompson differentiates three phases of forming empathy that are: 1) the emergence of the experience, 2) the fulfilling explication and 3) the comprehensive objectification of the explained experience and four possible kinds of empathy (I would say four evolving stages): 1) passive, 2) imaginative, 3) interpretation, 4) ethical responsibility. Practicing empathy educates me (and other people too) to see myself from your perspective: reading this might sound a bit boring and technical, but then again if you put yourself into the position of me writing this, you could feel my resonance of empathy for others reading this. The message here is: how can you put this stuff into words with an embodied feeling? How could a reading experience facilitate one’s healing process with the connection to the writer and at the same time experienced feelings and emotions (UL) that affect your body in a gross physical level (UR)?

How we build up our empathy to a large part depends on our ability to handle the feelings we are having cognitively and especially from the value sphere of ours: “the crux is that emotions are our value feelings… we experience emotion only in regard to that which matters” (Thompson, p.23). Developing our value structures and addressing our emotions with them is a way to better understanding of the Self and others. Empathy can turn into true compassion, which again can act as a true healer as Goleman (2006) describes in his book Social Intelligence. Empathy can be expanded from presence and talking to touching, which according to Goleman and many others works ways that are far more outreaching than just a simple touch would feel at the moment.  With the explanation of mirror neurons Goleman launches a term “empathic resonance, a brain-to-brain linkage that forms a two-person circuitry via the low road” (p. 43) (UR, LL) and continues that mirror neurons ensure that the moment someone sees an emotion expressed on your face, they will at once sense that same feeling within themselves” (p.43).

I think this fits perfectly on Wilber’s (2003) description of the “miracle of we”, a shared mutual resonance of not two I’s, but rather you and I, a we. Even though those two persons looking at each other might not know each other, or might even speak different language, there is a we, that I call a proto-we. There are two persons forming a “we” and that first encounter might lead to a further enforcement of deeper we-ness. Of course, with two (or more) people who have known each other for a long time, this exchange of shared emotions is deeper in the we, probably sharing strong horizontal solidarity and perhaps (or most likely) also vertical solidarity. Goleman writes vividly of altruism, compassion and empathy, which are basically slight nuances of the same thing: experienced we-ness on different levels of horizontal solidarity (Wilber, 2003). Goleman also presents that by re-wiring the high road it is possible to affect the low road by altering the rethinking in various moods. This means that when a feeling of emotion triggered by the low road happens, its interpretation with the high road could change the emotion totally e.g. from negative to positive. This, of course, requires practice.

It is actually the basis also of a Buddhist loving kindness meditation or compassion exchange. “When the high road speaks up, it takes away the low road’s microphone” (Goleman, p.76).  So by doing this intentionally, we gain conscious control of our emotions. This is what being aware of our every emotions, motions and interactions means. Goleman, I think, avoids reductionism clearly: “you can’t separate the cause of an emotion (UL and with UR neural function) from the world of relationships (LL) – our social interactions (LR) are what drive our emotions” (p.83). Here we have all the four quadrants tetra-arising together although now looked from Zone#3 perspective.

Zone #5 (Autopoiesis)

“Autopoiesis is a brilliant attempt to take into account the first-person nature, activity, and agency of a biological sentient being, but only insofar as it can be viewed and approached in third-person terms” (Wilber, 2003, p.63). Zone #5 is 3p x 1-p x 3p, which means a third person takes a first person or inside view of third person realities (exterior phenomena like behavior, movement, actions and talking). “Autopoiesis in its biological form, proposed by Maturana and Varela, considers organisms as systems that are closed in their internal organization, but open on the level of their structural composition and metabolism” (Wilber, p.10).

Gross body healing from the inside.

“Where health is no more than the absence of disease, strength is the presence of abundant energy – a capacity to be a force in your world” (Phillips, 2008). For me personally, the goal is not just to be healthy, but to be strong and have enough energy for extra efforts when needed, whether being mental, physical or emotional. Shawn Phillips discusses in his book, Strength for life, what it means to be strong and healthy and how that can be achieved by combining body-mind-spirit. Anthropological studies of our ancestors show that humans have not been obese and out of shape, but rather fit with a balanced physique capable of most anything. “Powerful muscles mixed with cardiovascular fitness was the norm for most of humanities existence. By emulating the amounts and types of activities of our Paleolithic ancestors, we can affect remarkable changes in our physique, mental outlook, hormonal state, and overall health” (Wolf, 2010).

Robb Wolf, the author of a tremendous book, The paleo solution: Original human diet, discusses of the diet that humans are genetically programmed to eat as well as the components of how people are designed to move their bodies. Literally hundreds of studies and experiments have been performed comparing interval training vs. steady state training. What is consistently found is intervals provide as good or better cardiovascular fitness as steady-state training, but with a fraction of time. Intervals are also life: usually we need to run somewhere fast, dig something or pull and press objects into places (Cordain, Gotshall & Eaton, 1997). The activity level of humans have fallen into fractions of time what it has been in the Paleolithic era. This has also lead to a considerable problems in our overall health. Consistent, functional and constantly varying forms and ways of moving our bodies not only keep us healthy but make us recover easily from various diseases (Booth & Lees, 2007).

Food and eating are probably one of the most important aspects of human life. There must be at least as many thoughts of how to eat right than there are eaters – well, maybe not as many but the emotional response (UL) food and eating (UR) evokes among people is enormous. Of course that is fairly understandable since without food we cannot live (not withstanding maybe the few enlightened yogis in India who under controlled circumstances are being able to live without food and water; they say the energy is coming from the elixir of life, a spiritual energy). I suggest to the reader to try this next time you eat: do not think how hungry you are or how good the food you have picked up will taste, but rather concentrate on the feeling and emotions you have AFTER you have eaten: 5mins, half an hour, a day after. This really tells you a lot more than the craving you had before you ate. It takes 20 minutes for the body to realize that there is food in your body. After four mouthfuls all your taste bunds are saturated with the food you are eating. How do you feel after eating? By bringing consciousness to eating the quality of food it affects the processing of the food and its effects on our bodies and healing.

Zone #6 (Empiricism)

This particular approach to the organism (or mind and body in this case) is the most common and that is why it is often called “naïve empiricism”. Data from this particular perspective is controlling the scientific field of “medical healing or disease treating” research and no wonder because this one is the easiest to measure. Here we have physiology, exercise physiology, neurophysiology, anatomy, nutrition, brain biochemistry, brainwave and brain-state research (EEG, fMRI, PET) genetic research and evolutionary biology among many others; these are the ones that can be considered particularly important when investigating the physiological and gross realm aspects of the body(-mind) healing (Spirit is of course connected into the body-mind and has it’s reference for this particular zone in Structuralism, or Zone#2, as the exterior look of a feeling or experienced state of spiritual spaces).

Strength training.

According to the latest researches strength or resistance training (weightlifting) is the most important method for longevity. In their book Biomarkers, Evans and Rosenberg (1992) covered 10 “bio-markers”, key physiological measures of the aging process. These biomarkers are: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate, body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, blood sugar tolerance, cholesterol, blood pressure, bone density, and the ability to regulate body temperature. All ten could be favorably altered through strength training alone. The authors believe that muscle mass and strength are the two most significant variables determining the quality of your life. Strength training stimulates endorphins, neurotransmitters, and neurotropic growth factors your brain thrives on, making you feel good during and immediately following the training. Recent studies on long-term effects of regular strength training show also the appearance of new neurons, neural pathways and growth of the grey matter in the pre-motor and motor cortexes as well as in prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia (Ratey, 2008). “Regular training improves your mood, decreases anxiety, improves sleep and resilience in the face of tress and raises self-esteem” (Phillips, 2008, p. 26). Muscle regulates and stabilizes blood sugar levels and can also prevent for example to onset of diabetes. In a recent very interesting study of exercise as a mean to control low-grade systemic inflammation (Mathur & Pedersen, 2008) the researchers suggest that skeletal muscle is an endocrine organ and that myokines (especially IL-6) may be involved in mediating the beneficial effects against chronic diseases associated with low-grade inflammation (e.g. diabetes, obesity, some cancers and cardiovascular disease).

Yoga and other “mind-body” forms of exercise.

Various forms of yoga have known over thousand of years, especially in the Eastern traditions, to prevent diseases and in many circumstances cure them too. I will discuss here a few recent studies on yoga and gross body health. In a recent study a sample of 53 female fibromyalgia (FM) patients were randomized to the 8-week Yoga of Awareness program (gentle poses, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga-based coping instructions, group discussions) or to wait-listed standard care. Data were analyzed by intention to treat. At post-treatment, women assigned to the yoga program showed significantly greater improvements on standardized measures of FM symptoms and functioning, including pain, fatigue, and mood, and in pain catastrophizing, acceptance, and other coping strategies. This pilot study provides promising support for the potential benefits of a yoga program for women with FM (Carson et. al, 2010).

“The studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures. Additional studies using rigorous methodologies are needed to examine the health benefits of the various types of yoga “(Ross & Thomas, 2010).

To address the mechanisms underlying hatha yoga’s potential stress-reduction benefits, in another study, the researchers compared inflammatory and endocrine responses of novice and expert yoga practitioners before, during, and after a restorative hatha yoga session, as well as in two control conditions. Stressors before each of the three conditions provided data on the extent to which yoga speeded an individual’s physiological recovery. The yoga session boosted participants’ positive affect compared with the control conditions, but no overall differences in inflammatory or endocrine responses were unique to the yoga session. The ability to minimize inflammatory responses to stressful encounters influences the burden that stressors place on an individual. If yoga dampens or limits stress-related changes, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits (Kiecolt-Glaser et. al., 2010). Various forms of yoga have become so popular that scientific clinical studies are popping up more and more often. What I would guess is that the Eastern wisdom is soon going to have wide varieties of Western scientific “proof” on health and longevity.

Nutrition and diet.

This is a topic that could be discussed in a whole book or two, but I will here draw a conclusion that according to my research past 15 years or so has become a consensus for me personally. Earlier I discussed of the ways people used to move and “exercise” and here the anthropological as well as the view from “30000ft.” is a combination of genetics (our inheritance from the past) and epigenetics (how our actions and behavior affect our genes and metabolic regulation). Around 10000 years ago, when the emergence of agriculture saw its daylight, something went terribly wrong in our diets. The shift from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalist feature various changes in the diet: “we moved from a nutrient-dense, protein-rich diet that was varied and changed with location and seasons to a diet dependent upon a few starchy crops” (Wolf, 2010, p.41). These so called “starchy crops” provide a fraction of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

What has been recently understood is the huge importance of systemic inflammation and its correlation on the food we eat. Professor Cordain has published well over 50 studies where he investigates the reasons why people get sick with the wrong food. In a study from 2005, “Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century”, Cordain discusses the following: “food staples and food-processing procedures introduced during the Neolithic and Industrial Periods have fundamentally altered 7 crucial nutritional characteristics of ancestral hominine diets: 1) glycemic load, 2) fatty acid composition, 3) macronutrient composition, 4) micronutrient density, 5) acid-base balance, 6) sodium-potassium ratio, and 7) fiber content. The evolutionary collision of our ancient genome with the nutritional qualities of recently introduced foods may underlie many of the chronic diseases of Western civilization.” Nutrition and diet is one of the most important factors of our healing systems in the form of shutting down the “silent inflammation”, which is the underlying cause of most of the chronic metabolic diseases as well as numerous autoimmune diseases.

Medication and physical treatment.

This is of course in great importance on the aspects of physical healing, but because due to the nature of this paper and the domination of Western medicine in our culture, I will not discuss about it here exhaustively. Conventional medicine and its treatment modalities are to be recognized still as an essential part of our healing processes. Various forms of medication and pharmaceutics, physiotherapy and other somatic therapies, physical interventions, surgery, diagnostics (e.g. x-ray, MRI, CT), emergency medicine (which is still one of the greatest “inventions” of conventional medicine), laboratory tests, dietary supplements among many others are strongly and righteously present in the investigation and treatment of our bodies (and minds).

Zone #7 (Social Autopoiesis)

This particular Zone explores the exterior collective from the inside (3p x 1-p*pl x 3p), which means a third person takes a first person or inside view of third person realities.

“Social systems are composed not of organism, but of communications between organisms” (Wilber, 2006, p.172) and “…individual components are autopoietically brought together into single organisms, which are autopoietically brought together into societies of organisms: cells, organisms, societies” (p.172), which of course means that everything is inter-connected all the way up and all the way down via the developmental holarchy.

Understanding this lets us see that social impacts on health and healing are enormous. Our biological systems whether individual or collective are constantly being tested by environmental toxins, radiation, hostility between people, world wide crisis, wars etc. The ecosystem we are living in has a tremendous effect on our healing: with pure air, clean water and organic food our bodies are given the necessary ingredients for physical healing (P-field); with the realization of oneness and interconnectedness between every single living organism (L-field) there is a realm that is optimal for our spiritual healing as well. The collective thought patterns, fears, dogmas and delusions have even bigger effects on our minds than we might understand: this can be described with collective morphic resonance of T-fields (for more information of subtle energies and energy-fields, please consult Ken Wilber – Excerpt G: Toward a comprehensive theory of subtle energies).

In a recently published article on Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology magazine of Electromagnetic cellular interactions, the researchers found that “there is a rather large number of theories on how cells can generate and detect electromagnetic fields and experimental evidence on electromagnetic cellular inter- actions in the modern scientific literature. Although small, it is continuously accumulating” (Cifra et. al, 2010, p.1). The researchers discuss of these findings in the conclusions:

The prime question is “Why we should care if cells interact via EMF?”. If the existence of distant cell communication proves to be true, there would be a substantial impact on our understanding of biology and biological research. Mastering and influencing the distant signaling system in bio-systems can open a whole new horizon in our approach to biology. Then, the applications in biology and medicine could be astonishing. (p.10)

I personally find this particular study to be groundbreaking and really astonishing and as the researchers themselves realize too, the applications of this for medicine and healing will possibly turn out to be limitless.

Social integral health.  “Integral health begins at home” (Khanna, 2005).

On a chapter of Sociopolitical challenges of Integral medicine, she writes the importance of home, family and childhood. There must be role models (parents) for children paying attention to diet, nutrition, environment and daily health-creating practices. Khanna also notices that the majority of primary care physicians are organized and equipped to provide only conventional medicine. Luckily, recently some hospitals and comprehensive health clinics have begun to offer also complementary therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, biofeedback and relaxation techniques, which then again are selected by the referrant, in this case the primary care physician. The future medical students, in my opinion, should be educated exhaustively of overall health – “what creates it, what destroys it, and what protects it” (Khanna, p.508). This should include environmental health and the importance of ecosystems on collective health.

Social healing.

“Social healing is an emerging field that seeks to deal with wounds created by conflict, collective trauma, and large-scale oppression. It seeks to identify areas of collective experience, which remain unsolved, neglected, and repressed within the psyche of groups and even nations” (O’Dea, James, 2005, p. 569). O’Dea interestingly discusses of social healing, which is only lately beginning to be recognized among the field of medicine too. What makes it really interesting is that it certainly is an attempt to focus on Kosmic Karma and inheritance by enviting us to “…dialogue with history – and history in the making – not simply experience it as a series of externalized events or enactments that are beyond our reach “(O’Dea, p.569).

Social healing as a form of an effective curative means must really get inside the roots of oppression, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability. It must feel its emotional texture and psychological structure; it requires us “to go more deeply into what it means to be human” (p.570). At the moment there is an ongoing shift and transformation in collective consciousness which is racing up its head as conflicts, revolutions, natural catastrophes (possibly Earth’s reactions to human “unconsciousness”) and as well the unifying emotional resonance between people, the new wave of universal love and care. O’Dea recognizes also Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the stimulation of a movement toward a healing paradigm in the social domain during the last century.

Now it is the time to offer each other a healing presence: “The most striking finding on relationships and physical health is that socially integrated people – those who are married, have close family and friends, belong to social and religious groups, and participate widely in these networks – recover more quickly from disease and live longer” (Goleman, p.247). Roughly eighteen studies show a strong connection between social connectivity and mortality. Here, love is our language.


In the pioneering book of Integral Medicine, Consciousness & Healing, the authors differentiate 9 key tenets of Integral Medicine, which I see worth mentioning in this section of the paper. As we have seen so far, with the Integral Methodological Pluralism, it is possible to differentiate all aspects of healing as a holon, by a four-quadrant approach or even further, with the eight primordial perspectives or hori-zones (of which six were discussed here).

1) Integral medicine does not just refer to the science of diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease and damage of the body or mind, but to a medicine that heals; 2) Consciousness as a process; 3) Integral perspective; 4) Integral methodology including both objective, subjective, and intersubjective approaches to understanding human experience; 5) Appreciation for multiple cultural perspectives and approaches; 6) Harnessing our desire for health and healing; 7) Multidimensional nature of healing, including body, mind, soul, spirit, culture and nature; 8) Well-being of planet’s ecosystems; 9) Life is the greatest teacher (deep humility in the face of wonder and mystery) (Seitz, 2005).

Integral Life Practice (ILP) was first described exhaustively in the book “Integral Life Practice” (Wilber, Pattern, Leonard, & Morelli, 2008). Why I am discussing about it here briefly is mainly because of its amazing usability in life generally: practicing ILP can help every single human being in a comprehensive way. Doctor’s prescribing ILP to a patient don’t need to describe of the method in detail unless the patient is cognitively able to handle it, but it is enough for the practitioner to know how to use ILP in his own life and prescribe what best suits for the patient. Shortly, ILP is Integral in its purest sense: it follows the AQAL-framework practicing body, mind, spirit and shadow in self, culture and nature. Body, mind, spirit and shadow are the core modules of the ILP matrix. Additional modules are ethics, work, relationships, creativity and soul. Practices from each module are diverse and very applicable for patients. Here are a few examples from each modules: Body -> Weightlifting, 3-Body Workout, Yoga; Mind -> Reading & Study, Writing & Journaling, Mental Training; Spirit -> Zen, Transcendental Meditation, 1-2-3 of God; Shadow -> Cognitive Therapy, Psychoanalysis, 3-2-1 Shadow Process (Wilber, Pattern, Leonard, & Morelli, 2008, p. 20).

Epstein (1995) suggests that meditation can prepare the ground for therapy by making individuals more accepting and less defensive about their anxieties and concerns, and that therapy can then help them to move forward in a more insightful and mindful way. Integral awareness of the general practitioner on these practices is essential, and I see that applying ILP to those patients who are willing to take responsibility of their own treatment is of greatest importance. Especially conventional medicine seems to totally ignore the Spirit module, which is an essential element on wellbeing of a person (UL). Ken Wilber (2005) writes in his foreword for Consciousness & Healing of the crucial importance of the medical practice taking up an integral approach:

An integrally informed medical practice changes the practitioner first; he or she can t hendecide which of the treatments—conventional, alternative, complementary, and/or holistic—thathe or she wishes to utilize when practicing medicine with integrity. It may include adding newtreatments, conventional and alternative; or more conscientiously referring patients to other quadrantpractitioners when an integral diagnosis so indicates; or becoming part of a medicalgroup or center that specializes in integral treatments (by having staff specialists in the variousquadrants, states, and levels of health and illness). The only item that is constant in all of those isthe transformed practitioner. It is the physician who is healed and wholed first, not merely by learning new and complementary techniques, but by inhabiting a new consciousness that make room for new techniques; and how that integrity then expresses itself in an integrally informed medical practice might vary considerably. (p.xxxi)

My wish for conventional drug oriented medicine is to acknowledge the dominance of large pharmaceutical companies (so called “big pharma”) and their effects on the consciousness of physicians: the urge to prescribe the latest drug is too often not based on any consensus of effective treatment. What I would like to see is the shift from drug-oriented medicine towards a more holistic and even integral understanding of the healing process (here becomes the transformation of the healer also very important). “Providers of health care must work on their own spiritual evolution to actually experience what the model presents” (George, 2005, p.477). George continues on the conclusion of his article of the transformation of the healer that “…for the practitioner of medicine to become integrally informed and take up an integral practice can transform the practitioner in such a way as to bring back the enjoyment of the doctor-patient relationship” (p.477). As a general practitioner (and a healer) myself, I can totally resonate with this notion.

In this paper I have discussed the skillful means, theory, application and practice of Integral Methodological Pluralism on integrated healing of a human being and its various aspects and perspectives. As you can probably deduce from all of this, Integral Medicine and the integrated understanding of healing is just beginning to emerge. I hope this can function as a wake-up call for seeing the various and precious features embedded deep in all of our bodies, psyches and spirits. 



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Categorised in: Development, Integral, Meditation, Nutrition, Philosophy, Physiology, Psychology, Science

3 Responses »

  1. Hi Olli. Great stuff! Let’s connect in Facebook and elsewhere. I visit Finland from time to time. Are you in Helsinki?


  1. Body-Mind-Spirit and healing: Integral approach with Integral … |
  2. Spiritual Approaches to Healing | Silence Aloud

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