Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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This is a new section of the magazine. It’s about Chapel Hill, our hometown. It’s hard to speak lovingly of your hometown without sounding like the Chamber of Commerce. But Chapel Hill is, undeniably, special. Bumper-stickers shout: “I’d rather be in Chapel Hill.” The fervor is real and tangible, and saleable. But what’s special isn’t for sale; it’s the diversity of lifestyles and ideas. A liberal haven in a politically conservative state, Chapel Hill is, to some, the “Berkeley of the South.” For others, it represents more traditional values: it’s 200-year-old trees on the UNC campus, and it’s old-fashioned Fourth of July celebrations. No longer a village, not quite a city, it’s a community where life, despite everything new and cheap and ugly — burger joints and shoddy apartments and shopping malls — can still be graceful and easy.
This month we report on the Healing Arts Festival held last month in Chapel Hill. If there’s something you’d like us to write about, drop us a line.
Last month’s Healing Arts Festival gave hope that one day Chapel Hill might have its own Wholistic Health Center — with a building, a staff, and a steady flow of patients interested in alternative healing techniques.
More than 600 people turned out for the smorgasbord of workshops on massage, dreams, yoga, acupuncture, nutrition, color therapy, plants, meditation, dance, stress, women’s health, and so on.
A basic tenet of the wholistic health movement is that traditional Western medicine fails to treat the whole person, focusing on symptoms rather than prevention, disease rather than health. Some wholistic healers reject traditional methods entirely; others value Western science, and want to use it, along with less orthodox approaches.
“If we use Western medicine cautiously and appropriately, it’s an incredible system,” said Val Staples, a physicians assistant and a member of the Health Center’s board. “But logic can be carried to an extreme. On the other hand, some New Age healers are not responsible or careful in their teachings. I have respect for applying reason to healing.”
Ironically, for a healing festival, there were few old or obviously ill people. “It’s a reflection of where we are,” Staples continued, “that we approach those with whom we feel most comfortable, those who share our beliefs.” To reach those for whom the vocabularies of wholistic healing are foreign and intimidating, “an assertive, educational outreach program” will be tried, according to Leaf Diamant, board chairman.
Diamant, a psychotherapist and herbalist, says another problem the center faces is standards.
“We haven’t worked that out. It’s a very challenging process. The criteria will have to be skill, a caring attitude, ethics and, of course, credentials.”
But how do you judge the credentials of someone practicing so esoteric a technique that no one knows how competent he is? “We’ll use our rational judgement and our intuitive wisdom,” Diamant said.
In all likelihood, the center will develop gradually, perhaps starting with a library or referral service, or offering weekend workshops, classes, and lectures. [It is set-up as a non-profit health care organization and is awaiting tax-exempt status. The address is Community Wholistic Health Center, Box 1348, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514.]
This is an edited version of an open letter to the Community Wholistic Health Center written by Jeffery Beame, a Chapel Hill poet:
I believe before life gets better in this new world we are creating, it will first get much worse. It will be most important for networks and communities such as the center to prepare and aid us in the pursuit of our dream. Such communities are, of course, our-selves, and the power of Love is our most valuable ally.
The only negative comment I wish to make is actually a call for positive awareness. In talking with friends and in my own personal reflections on the festival, I came to realize the importance of maintaining an open attitude toward the “modern” world, medicine in particular. It is very easy for us to develop an “open” attitude only toward those ideas which the “New Age” is bringing to the fore. The danger lies in self-righteous deification of alternative methods at the expense of modern approaches to health care. To clarify my position, I am certainly not an advocate of most modern medicinal practices! But I feel sure there is much modern medicine can give to our new dream.
It is also easy to place those espousing alternative methods in positions of heroes without qualification. This a dangerous possibility. Americans love to be told what to do and know. The ancients always required their shamans, priests, rulers, goddesses and gods to survive strenuous and near impossible challenges to meet the requirements of their positions.
Many religious and political movements (modern medicine included), whose basis were in openness and freedom in the past, have become caught in the trap of solidification of beliefs. How else could the religion of Peace, Christianity, have become a war-mongering money-hungry tyrannical institution at the expense of millions of lives? Freedom holds, not only the capability of believing what one wishes, but also the necessity to be open to the universal law of change and the acceptance of those things outside of one’s world that are “different.”
Ultimately the answer seems to lie in the realization that everything carries the seed of its own destruction and that new forms are created from the transformation of the old. And “old” and “new” take on different meanings in the light of the “eternal present which is all time and all places.”
What I am asking is that we undertake this “new” development of our consciousness by embracing not our psyches alone, but our technes also. In a balanced living condition an organism is a working and beautiful inter-weaving (enter-weaving) of conscious and unconscious elements. Dualities are ways of looking at things that are ultimately one great unified existence. Faddism, self-righteousness and unconditional expansiveness can be as dangerous as hierarchical, technological suppression. The ancient world embraced a complex working technological cosmology and social structure along with a beautifully transforming religious view of creative life. We must demand the utmost of ourselves also.
Wholistic health, I believe, not only should embrace ancient traditional methods of healing but also modern technological methods which exhibit the potential for openness. This creates a system of medicine which Dr. Rudolph Ballentine calls “expressive” in contrast to “suppressive,” (East West Journal, October 1978).
Freedom and growth demand constant and vigilant questioning. The vigilant questioning that America’s founders hoped for and which subsequent generations have failed to practice. Robert Bly, the poet, stated in a reading here in March (quoted in The Sun, July 1978) that the negative energy in the United States “is transforming into some kind of resistance energy. These days, if you make a vow, you forget it in three days. . . . The resistance energy gets in between you and your will.” Flow and Will are powerless without the dynamic tension released through their interaction.
The Hopi Indians believe the time is not far off when the new cycle will come and that the land of the Americas is the prophesied land for the resurrecting of the new cycle. Their unique outlook towards the future can be frightening, for they are convinced America as we know it will be destroyed. “It is only materialistic people who seek to make shelters. Those who are at peace in their hearts already are in the great shelter of life. There is no shelter for evil. Those who take no part in the making of world division by ideology are ready to resume life in another world, be they of the Black, White, Red, or Yellow race.”
This center can be a marvelous instrument of Divine flowering. I believe, in general, the folks I met Saturday and the organizers of the center are equal to the task. I know there is more than enough Love!
The rainbow is an archetypal symbol of a cosmic covenant made with humanity at the time of the Great Flood. We could receive no more fitting or powerful omen Saturday than a double rainbow at dusk. Perhaps symbolizing the dusk of one world and the entry into another, a world where dualities have lost separate and antagonistic meaning and become symbols of magical interplay. The double rainbow, a symbol of a Divine Covenant between the inner and outer worlds.
We asked some people at the Festival what being healthy meant to them:
Being healthy has come to mean paying attention to my body and doing what it says. I’ve been blessed with a healthy body. Even though I abuse it horribly, with too much beer and everything, I’m doing OK. I’ve come to believe our minds cause our illnesses. The best way to be healthy is to work hard to know yourself and to try to consciously siphon your poisons off.
— Aden Field, bookstore owner
Being healthy means the freedom to take responsibility for my own person. My body is one facet of that. I’m totally against the one-way-to-do-anything approach. No group should co-opt individual choice that way. So, I guess I’m saying freedom has a lot to do with being healthy.
— John Henry Pfifferling, medical anthropologist
Being healthy means to be functioning properly. I think of the body and the mind as a whole process. If I’m healthy they’re working together. But no one is ever perfectly healthy or whole; it wouldn’t be the human condition. Imperfection and striving is inherent in being human. So, I may never be able to achieve that perfect state, but being aware of it is 50 percent of the game.
— Stephen Martin, building contractor
Being healthy is a state of mind. It means to me, being relatively at ease with myself, whatever my relative state of physical well-being.
— Richard Davis, bookstore owner