We live in an era in which individualism is rewarded, and collectivism is seen as weak. We raise our children to be independent and self-reliant. It’s so hard for us to ask for help. Interestingly, we also practice medicine this way. We teach our future medical leaders to separate the body into individual disconnected parts. We allow patients to believe that their distinct symptoms are totally isolated and unrelated. If this kind of medical system supported better outcomes, creating healthier and happier communities, then it would be acceptable, and we wouldn’t even need to discuss this. But the simple fact is it isn’t working, and we are now at the brink of a health revolution through which medical visionaries are now working together to bring in a new era of living well and feeling great.
In my work as a functional medicine doctor, I see the patient as a whole person instead of merely as an assortment of disconnected parts. The body is an extraordinary system; every part is connected via an intricate web of body, mind, and spirit. In functional medicine, we seek the root causes of illness so that we can address the underlying triggers that have thrown the patient off balance. In order to heal properly, the whole patient requires attention; that includes the emotions, thoughts, and spirit of a human being—not just the physical body.
Throughout the many years I’ve worked with my patients using this model of medicine, I’ve been astounded by the resilience of the human body. It’s humbling to realize that, even though I was taught in medical school to believe that a patient’s recovery is completely in my hands, in fact, it is the patient who has the most power. My job is to be a facilitator who gently assists the body back to its natural state of health. I do this by encouraging a paradigm shift in the hearts and minds of patients. We discuss the role of whole foods, water, air, light, rest, movement, sleep, rhythm, connection, love, meaning, and purpose. (For more information on the seven fundamental systems in your body that can bring back balance, see my book The Blood Sugar Solution).
We need doctors who understand how well the body reacts when the whole system is treated, not just the symptoms. One doctor in particular, Lissa Rankin, has made a career out of a calling she felt to serve her patients on the most authentic level possible. She inspires me along with the thousands following her online health and wellness community, Owning Pink. She began this site as her own way of revolutionizing healthcare, encouraging people in need of healing to own all the many facets that make them whole: their relationships, their professional lives, their creative lives, their spiritual lives, their sex lives, their environment, their physical and mental health, and more.
Lissa’s work is functional medicine at its best, addressing the truth that we all need each other to lean on, to help heal, to connect, and to flourish. Lissa and I share the belief that there is nothing more productive and exciting than a collective of people united together to combat feelings of loneliness and powerlessness in the face of illness. Because she and I feel a special calling to do this work, I wanted to invite her to share with us some insight into her unique approach to healing. Here are some questions I asked her followed by her comments.
Dr. Mark: On your blog site LissaRankin.com and on your community site, Owning Pink, I see a lot of importance placed on finding one’s truth and authentic nature. I, too, encourage my patients to reflect on how to live with more purpose. How can synchronizing this authentic energy with another person help heal a broken mind, body, and spirit?
Dr. Lissa: In my first TEDx talk, I introduced a radical new wellness model, which I also discuss in my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself . The wellness model is based on a “cairn,” those stacks of balanced stones you tend to see marking trails and sacred landmarks. In the “Whole Health Cairn” wellness model, the foundation is not the body, as it is in so many wellness models that suggest that a healthy body is a prerequisite for a healthy life. Instead, I think the foundation is the part of you I call your “Inner Pilot Light.” Call it your intuition, your inner doctor, or your highest self, this part of you always knows what’s true for you, even if the rest of you may not want to face your personal truth because it often commands change, and change scares us.
Your Inner Pilot Light is always radiant, never extinguished, 100% authentic, and will never lead you astray. I help people tap in to their Inner Pilot Light here, but as healers, I believe that’s one of the most essential parts of our jobs, not to dictate what our patients should do or prescribe the one and only way to optimal health, but to help our patients tap in to their own unique Inner Pilot Light, so they can make treatment and life decisions that are in alignment with the core of who they are. When you make decisions from this place of truth, the body tends to naturally come back in to alignment with its natural state of health.