Photo credit: Mark Sennet
In this time of collectively riding waves of concern, one variant at a time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of medicine. We say laughter might be the best kind (if so, two doctors are pictured above), though Westerners more typically associate it with curative pills and tonics sold at CVS. But that’s only one perspective.
Edgar Villanueva, author of the excellent and very readable book Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance offers a different viewpoint. This denotation sees it taking multiple shapes and showing up in myriad ways:
“In the Indigenous worldview, many kinds of things can be medicine: a place, a word, a stone, an animal, a natural phenomenon, a dream, or a life event like a coffee date with a friend, or even something that seems bad in the moment like the loss of a job. Anyone can find and use medicine, just by allowing your intuition and feelings to determine whether something can serve as medicine.”
If that speaks to you (as it did me), I invite you to explore this idea in the pages of your journal by doing what I call a Medicine Scan. No MRI’s here, it’s painless and you don’t need a copay or an appointment.
Start with a Personal Scan: With Villanueva’s definition in mind, scan your life for a moment of medicine. Where has it shown up lately for you? Maybe it was a specific conversation, moon-gazing or listening to a piece of music with the windows down on your morning drive? Maybe it’s a particular wave during a surf session, or watching a bird only to realize it’s watching you. As Edgar reminds us “Listen for its sacred power; don’t force it.” Be with that experience - How did it affect you, what “curative” power did this medicine have in your life?
Next up, build on that with an External Scan: Take a moment and consider where you have shown up as medicine for someone else. Maybe it was an instance they might not even know about because you did it quietly. Or perhaps it’s more than a single individual - it’s a group, an organization or your whole family. Maybe it was an act of pure friendship or kindness to a complete stranger. Where have you presented as medicine in the world?
If this feels like hubris, I ask you to park that critical voice for now and give yourself over to the exercise. Keep going. What are the elements of “medicine” when you embody it? Is it selfless? Is it kindness? Is it wisdom? Is it generosity? Perhaps it’s when you are your best self. How did it feel?
Medicine certainly seems seasonally appropriate - not in the flu shot sense, because the holidays have arrived. This year my goal is to pay attention in order to appreciate the moments of medicine in my life and to recognize when and how I can possibly show up as medicine for someone else.
Check out some other inspiring things I’ve been reading lately below, including floating saunas and more reasons to do less. It’s always a pleasure to share good stuff I come across with you. Happy holidays, my friend. Here’s to good medicine....
Photo credit: Noé Cotter
I am a big fan of the healing power of water in all its forms. BIG. Similarly, when design student Trolle Rudebeck Haar spent a year in an exchange program in Helsinki, Finland, he was able to experience the country's sauna culture firsthand. It made such an impact on him that the Lausanne University of Art and Design graduate got a bright idea for his final school project: a prefab sauna that floats on water - in this case Lake Geneva. Just so you know, I am RSVP’ing “yes” to any floating sauna invitations.
Screenshot from: "Hospital of the Future"
Creative inspiration can come from unlikely and even difficult sources. It’s not all walks on country lanes and sunsets. If you’ve ever spent any time at all in a hospital (either yourself or visiting a loved one) you know that it has to be one of the least relaxing places one could possibly heal up. The amount of light and sound 24/7 makes it incredibly difficult to get any proper rest. When sound engineer Yoko Sen fell ill, she was hospitalized for several days. Given her highly attuned ear she quickly realized how the sounds of the hospital and its machines were not serving her healing. It drove her to reimagine the entire auditory experience in hospitals, creating a new aural model for these spaces.
Photo Credit: realfunwow
“Society has progressively increased its demands on us, and with that, therefore, our expectations of what we can or should do,” says Maurizio Fava, the chief of the department of psychiatry at Mass General. “This has led to a quest for greater ‘energy.’ ‘How can I do more? Doctor, what can you give me?’ Want more mojo? Look to the mitochondria. This article sheds light on the fundamental source of our get-up-and go. Note to biohackers: the answer is not more bullet coffee.
Photo Credit: wearenotereallystrangers
Speaking of ramped up societal demands, I really enjoyed this interview with author Brian Stulberg about the hedonic treadmill: wanting, striving, achieving, and then, ultimately, finding ourselves falling right back into wanting. He coins this process “heroic individualism” and says its most notable symptoms are a sense of restlessness, a feeling of frenetic energy, and exhaustion. Sound familiar? He makes the case that the cause of this never ending chase—and the burnout it often leads to—is a sense of not-enough-ness. The cure? Do less. Read on to learn more...