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The Fourfold Path to Healing

Posted by Ryan Wade on 17th Feb 2011

house surrounded by trees

The Fourfold Path to Healing

I'm excited to observe how a deeper thinking has begun to permeate discussions about health and herbalism. Much of the herbalism I encounter, and many of the discussion I observe about health, are regurgitations of the allopathic medical tradition and system we were raised in and are now trying to elevate ourselves out of. We talk about herbs like MDs talk about the newest prescription drug they were just sold on by a slick drug rep, "hey have you heard about xyz? it’s so great for treating abc?" Then we rush to the health food store and buy a capsule or a tincture of something, convinced we have the disease or the condition that this new thing is purported to be so good at healing. We get caught in a rat race of health, and herbs look like drugs, as does the care we're receiving and giving ourselves.

What we need is a deeper intelligence and a deeper understanding. Much of this is going to come in the form of diagnostics, and then from there it is going to come from a truly holistic understanding of ourselves and of others.

Getting to this understanding, yesterday I was introduced to the book the Fourfold Path to Healing , and it is blowing me away and changing everything. Written by a practicing MD, it is the first book from the Western perspective which I've seen then integrates our whole experience as humans into an understanding of health. For Doctor Thomas Cowan, any discussion about health must be a discussion of:

  • The Physical
  • The Life-Force
  • The Emotional
  • The Mental

The fourfold Paths are coupled with the Four Healing Laws:

  • Movement
  • Therapeutics
  • Nutrition
  • Meditation

We know that these are not new ideas, and in fact these are old, old ideas. Ideas that are embodied in the oldest medical traditions which history accounts for, and are basic tenets in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (Five Element), and Ayurvedic Medicine. But these are new concepts in the Western tradition, and even people with a deep, thorough understanding of these systems can benefit from this book.