Centuries ago, adventurers exploring the frontiers of our planet discovered, again and again, that they lived in a wider world than previously assumed. During this period, the art of mapmaking made tremendous strides. Fictitious lines of latitude and longitude became as important to navigators as the force of currents and the direction of winds. Perceptions of the world changed as new tools were discovered and new ideas unfolded.
More recently, the quest to understand the universe and our place in it follows a similar pushing of boundaries with its own inventive mapmaking. New maps are being made to reflect new discoveries. The universe now appears, if not infinite, at least infinitely complex. Astonishing scientific advances have been made in our mastery of the outer world – we have astronauts living in an orbiting space station, powerful telescopes collecting information about the atmosphere of Mars and the nature of black holes, a chess champion named Komodo, and a cloned cat named Carbon Copy. Such advances are displays of humankind’s generative ability to master the physical world.
In the realm of health care, science and technology have also made remarkable strides. New forms of imaging allow health professionals to view the inner realms of the body. Technological interventions, including implants and transplants, have led many people to enjoy longer lives with less pain and suffering. For many people, becoming bionic is no longer science fiction.
While these developments are awesome, they lead many to place their hope on technology to define our future. While this is happening, the state of medicine is shaking at its very foundations. Healthcare is in a time of crisis – of care, confidence and cost. The enduring focus on the physical and material aspects of reality limits our ability to create maps to guide us to our experience of the whole person. It fails to offer a system for understanding the fullness of lived experience – minimizing or negating completely the possibility for human transcendence in the face of illness, disease, and death.
By sidestepping the importance of consciousness, personal relationships, emotions, meaning and belief systems, and alternative healing modalities, mainstream medicine is missing the full story. This leads many of us to a sense of hopelessness when our shared humanity is left outside the scope of our healthcare system.
Fortunately, increasing numbers of health care consumers and professionals alike are crafting new maps to guide health care in the 21st century. These maps seek to bridge the power of material science with the insights of the world’s wisdom and spiritual traditions. New technologies are emerging from ancient healing practices. New pathways are emerging that reveal the connections between our inner and outer worlds.
Through dedication, compassion, and open-mindedness, a group of innovators and bellwethers are leading us into a new model that is more humane, effective, and empowering of the patient. With the launching of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI), we have a new watering hole to sustain us as we gather to share ideas, data, and insights that can help us craft new maps that will guide modern medicine. Such maps place the whole person at the heart of our shared endeavors.
While there is no universal consensus on just what these new maps look like, it is clear that they must include the mapmaker as both a product and a participant in a new model. Providing much needed leadership and inspiration, participants in CHI are calling for deep change within both ourselves as practitioners and as patients. Together we are embarking on a fundamental transformation in our worldview about health and healing. By linking the discernment of science with the revelations of spiritual insight, we can speak to the fullness of our shared humanity.
A fresh breeze is blowing that can bring forth new possibilities for growth and evolution of our individual and collective future. As we engage in this endeavor to bring a new life into the world, offering ourselves up as midwives to a new paradigm, we are not alone. Together we can change the future.
Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D.
CHI advisor; Author Consciousness and Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind Body Medicine, Elsevier