Sun Tzu and Holistic Healthcare

As a society, we’ve come to rely on our medical system.  The advancements in western medicine have helped us recover from devastating diseases and injuries.  We are encouraged to lean on authority figures in the area of health for a good reason.  One drawback of such a system is that it can leave us feeling powerless when it comes to our well being.  Perhaps, there is a way for us to feel empowered once again.






Let’s start with a short story from Sun Tzu about three healers:


A lord of ancient China once asked his physician, a member of a family of healers, which of them was the most skilled in the art.

The well-known healer replied, “I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords.”

“My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute, so his name gets around only in his own neighborhood.

“My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so his name does not get out of the house.”

For the sake of our argument, the well-known healer represents Western medicine. The healer cures disease when it is threatening to do major harm to a person. He is trained to remove the symptoms of illnesses with advanced methods and medication.


His two elder brothers represent the way that Eastern medicine works.  They are in touch with dietary, lifestyle and exercise choices.  They employ other “alternative” methods of healing such as acupuncture and meditation.


In an ideal setting, we would use all three brothers and what they represent to care for ourselves holistically.


Some believe that medicine, as practiced in the West, is inefficient to a degree.  They think doctors are quick to prescribe medications and often seem to be concerned with symptom relief as opposed to fixing causes for things like chronic pain.


This view of Western medicine might be partially correct; the United States is one of only two countries that allow direct-to-consumer drug advertisements. But, there is no denying the use of advanced western techniques to cure dangerous and deadly diseases. Our technology also affords us the ability to replace severed limbs and heal significant injuries.


Many of the methods found under the umbrella of Eastern medicine lack the scientific backing that has advanced Western medicine. So, it would behoove us not to rely entirely on Eastern methods when an illness is severe and acute.


However, when it comes to things like minor stresses and chronic fatigue or injury, the two elder brothers can help us.


We can begin to understand how our work, life, and exercise balance plays a part in our health. We can start to pay attention to how our relationships affect our well being. These can be sources of illness and pain that Western medicine might not be designed to pinpoint.


Methods such as deep breathing and meditation are some of the ways we can empower ourselves again. We can take control of large parts of our health. Deep breaths affect the way our nervous system works and helps our bodies recover on a macro level. As a means to maintain an overall healthy state, deep breathing and meditation can provide a solid foundation.


Like I stated earlier, such methods shouldn’t be depended upon once serious, and life-threatening illnesses take hold.  It is for this reason that Eastern practices don’t get as much credit.  Similar to the way that the elder brothers in the story aren’t as famous as their well-known brother, Eastern methods promote general wellness as opposed to being cures to serious diseases.


As we move through this holiday weekend, take some time to reflect on the most vital parts of your life. Do you have balance?  Are there ways you are imbalanced that you may not have thought of before?  How are you tending to your relationships? Can you see any of them as hurting your health?


These are great questions to ask for the New Year coming up and when you’re looking for resolutions.


For now, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll talk next week.





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