October 11, 2006
The reason I needed to be extra productive last week is because I went to Kentucky this past weekend for the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association conference in Louisville. Three days of lectures given by some of the country's most knowledgable holistic practitioners. I spent the most time between 3 different doctors who really ran the gamut of extremes from simple, practical to extremely spiritual, complex holistic medicine. The first doc, my favorite, Dr. Karreman is a bovine (dairy) practitioner from PA where many of his clients are Amish and/or organic farmers. Because organic labeling is so strict, and allopathic treatments like antibiotics (etcetera) can not be used, veterinarians who care for organically-raised animals have to use 'old school' treatments like garlic cloves and lime (powder, not citrus). Dr. Karreman is so down to earth and practical that anyone who is likely to dismiss holistic medicine immediately recognizes the appropriate applications of his methods of treatment and accepts them.
The second lecturer spoke about Chinese Herbal Medicine which is more eclectic, and uses words like "qi", "liver stagnation", "wood disturbances", and "shen". With words like that, which are very abstract and don't refer to anything literal, it is very easy to be put off immediately and be doubtful. But after 5 hours of lecture of case studies, I realized that these words serve as metaphors for things/situations that actually exist. The terminology has been in place for thousands of years, so rather than changing the vocab, people just spend their time learning the medicine. The take home message was that rather than treating the symptoms, we treat the individual animal--that is, you and I might have the same diagnosis of "seizures" or "topical dermatitis" but the underlying cause of these is variable from one animal to the next. That makes a lot of sense to me, and seeing the cases really gave me new openness to this form of treatment.
The last lecturer was a woman who dabbles in just about everything--acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathics, shamanic journeying, Celtic tree lore, tongue/pulse reading, and so on. She was speaking specifically about "shen disturbances" where "shen" refers to your spirit, both mind spirit and soul spirit. She spoke about the cases that no matter what is tried--allopathic medicine, holistic medicine....nothing works, and usually this can be attributed to a "shen disturbance" or "soul loss". She gave the opposite example of the herds of cattle in Africa that are parasitized to heck and starving, and very unhealthy in many ways--but they never die! And her reasoning is because they are appreciated by the people who care for them so much--therefore their shen/soul is complete, and that gives them much health/strength. Okay, I can see that--certainly stress is a great factor in immune response. She gave 2 hours worth of varied combinations of treatments. Each treatment was different, and each was geared to treat a different type of soul-loss or stress (ie; ADD type stress; poor learning, fearful, restless at night stress; treatments for calming; treatments for clearing phlegm (mental and physical phlegm) to increase intellect; stress caused by torn responsibilities; stress from exhaustion/overwork; treatments for tension around neck and shoulders, defensiveness; warming treatments that invigorate depressed, broken down patients; treatments for animals that constantly have accidents; etc). Then the final hour was devoted to teaching Shamanic journeying, for the purpose of finding your "power animal," a part of yourself that acts as a sort of guide or guardian angel or whatever you want to call it. Soul loss, she said, can sometimes occur because your power animal has been lost, and if you invite it back, you will be on your way to being whole again. These ideas are at once esoteric and fundamental. With my stepmother being a Shaman, I am somewhat familiar with the rhetoric of shamanism, and it seems so basic, in so many ways, that there is nothing offensive or weird about it. It feels strange at times, to be comfortable with it because of my present cultural heritage--but when you break it down, cultures around the world regardless of creed or religion have similar beliefs and practices, and in that way, Shamanism is universal. Anyway, the shamanic journeying for ourselves was meant as an introduction into journeying, so that we can journey for our patients and find their 'power animals' for them if need be. With lights off, and a simple drum beat going, we were allowed 10-15 minutes to try journeying and see what came of it. She was impressed, but not surprised, that at least half of us were successful--she attributed our success to our innate intuition with animals as veterinarians.
So that was the conference, in a nutshell. Of course I came home with beaucoups amounts of free samples from the exhibitors.