What does holism mean to you? You find the word creeping up more and more, into all types of industries, from medicine to marketing, professional services to food preparation.
Nowadays, everyone wants to be seen as holistic.
Holism’s frequent association with healthy eating and alternative medicine has almost made it synonymous with hippie, but that's a bastardization of a timely and increasingly valuable concept.
So, what is holism and why is it more and more common?
Well, first we have to start with a definition of holism. Some prefer to spell it wholism, which reflects the way it's most commonly interpreted; that one must view natural systems as wholes, more than just a sum of their parts.
These natural systems could be physical, biochemical, economic, linguistic or social in nature, and therefore it has a wide range of application in almost every aspect of human endeavor.
One needs look no further than MindBodyGreen for an exhaustive list of holistic doctors and nutritionists. But, what makes a practitioner holistic? Excitingly, the human body provides a perfect learning tool for understanding the practical aspects of holism.
Western medicine as we know it now is reductionist in nature, and as a consequence is full of specialists, focused on one organ or system of the body. However, the human body is so full of biochemical and bioenergetic feedback loops, that this approach is no longer serving us for unwinding more complex problems.
Side effects from "scientific" medical interventions are so ubiquitous now that iatrogenic deaths (meaning, deaths that result from a doctor’s intervention) are the number three killer in America, a hundred-fold over much publicized gun-inflicted deaths.
A holistic approach to medicine honors the interaction between cells, organs and systems in the body and looks for long term, sustainable solutions that target the cause of the disease, rather than merely the outward symptoms. For chronic disease, typified by a complex web of symptoms, dysfunction and causes, this is proving a far more effective approach.
Where else do you see a need for a holistic methodology?
If all of humanity were able to understand this approach in the context of their own body, where it's increasingly obvious, my hope is that this might inspire those same people to find applications in other areas of significant need for our continued civilization, including the environment, poverty and communication.
As a son of South African parents, it makes me proud to know the first person to coin the word holism was actually South African stateman Jan Smuts in his book Holism and Evolution in 1935. His definition is extremely powerful:
“The tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution.”
In the digital age, our potential for synergy and creative evolution has increased exponentially, far more than Jan Smuts or any other visionary could ever have imagined. Just by being a MindBodyGreen reader you're an active participant in one facet of this creative evolution.
Where you take it from here is up to you, and even by reading or sharing this article, you are actually a lot more holistic than you thought!