Health is not just the absence of disease, but the flourishing of human possibility. It's a spark between hearts, tears of forgiveness, fires of love, good bones, strong muscles, belly laughs, a blush in the nerve endings of the soul.---A Beautiful Medicine by David Mercier, Chapter One, page one.
Recently, my sister Sheila started seeing a "life coach" whose tenets and philosophy appear to be derived from an intense Buddhist faith and practice. Sheila was referred to David Mercier by her Western-medicine physician. David's guidance combined with traditional acupuncture treatment continues to be a life-changer for her, greatly ameliorating a medical condition from which she has suffered for too many years.
David is a healer with a master's degree in acupuncture from the Tai Sophia Institute. He presently has an active practice in a small town in Maryland. As a young man David was a hippie rock star wannabe. When he reached the age of twenty-three he sold all his worldly possessions and sought a monastic life in a Buddhist retreat in Sri Lanka. After almost dying there from malnutrition caused by two kinds of intestinal parasite -- no doubt his personal severe rite of passage into the Middle Way -- he was forced to leave and return first to Japan and then to the United States.
David has a revolutionary perspective on health, disease and healing. He knows, as most enlightened philosophers, religious leaders and medical professionals know that our symptoms serve as bright neon lights shining on the parts of our lives that we need to change. Serious painful symptoms are always distressing but their function is benevolent. Symptoms are priceless instructions to change our lives. For example, if we are addicted to alcohol and drugs, this addiction is really a signpost to change our lives by trying to eliminate work stress and bad relationships and by eating whole foods etc. If we suffer from relentless, continual and unbearable pain in our back there may be reasons therefor other than, e.g. a herniated disc.
Throughout the book David gives us case studies of his own patients -- he has had over 30,000 office visits so far -- who have received his guidance, acupuncture treatments, and nutritional insights. Many of the case studies presented are of elderly people who had become resigned to a "gray future" of less mobility in both body and mind. David therefore spends a good deal of time encouraging them to remember the "bulldog tenacity of the healing potential that still resides in their flesh and bones."
Our potential as human beings is virtually unlimited. Many of us as we age are certain that it is all downhill from here physically and mentally. David disabuses us of this misconception. He illustrates this myth by recounting the life of Jack LaLanne -- an exercise guru who died in 2011 at the age of 96. When LaLanne became a septuagenarian he performed an awesome feat of strength. After being handcuffed and shackled, LaLanne swam while towing 70 people in seven boats for well over a mile. No doubt he had to "dig deep" into his personal wellspring of strength and tenacity.
I am a sexagenarian who has practiced Nichiren Buddhism for three decades. I also recently became a competitive powerlifter. After reading A Beautiful Medicine, and utilizing its spiritual encouragement, my own lifts increased by forty pounds in two months over two powerlifting meets. David's Buddhist insights helped me practice my form of Buddhism with greater depth and understanding and really dig deep into my own reservoir of strength and vitality.
David opens our eyes to -- or at least reminds us of -- the sacred power of the natural world. Indeed, what is more worthy of worship than the miracles of sunrise and the morphing of seeds into trees. There's "science" behind these phenomena, but that doesn't preclude mystery.
David writes "We've lost faith in the pure and simple ways of the Earth and the sky," Mercier writes. "Because the ethos of nature is under our noses at all times, we don't notice it, just as we forget the comfortable old shirt we wore all day... We don't notice that our bodies are true alchemists."
Faith, trust, sanctity. David approaches these religious basics in an across-the-board fundamental way that we can label spirituality. If the natural world is holy, then we, as part of it, are too.
This book's exquisite writing brilliantly articulates that each of us as human beings are interconnected with each other and further that we are all part of the great life force of the planet. We all have the ability to tap into the great wellspring of healing. Awesome resilience and endurance are available to every single person who is willing to draw upon that reservoir. That macrocosmic life force has always been there waiting, waiting, for us to finally arrive and comprehend.
A Beautiful Medicine helps show us the way.