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Posted: August 26, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

A 60-Second Guide to Integral Medicine

Mitchell Krucoff, is not your average cardiologist. He has enough degrees to wallpaper a room, a laundry list of published work, a heavy patient load, grants being written, and research being conducted. He also has great mastery over the very best technology that Duke Medical Center has to offer.

But what makes Krucoff stand out is his recognition that, in treating patients, he is participating as part of a whole system that includes the bodies, minds, and spirits of all the people who enter into the healing relationship. It is a lifelong commitment that can be exemplified in a single minute. Here’s how:

As part of their routine practice, Krucoff’s cardiology team introduces a short meditation called the Physicians Prayer from Mother Teresa. "No matter how busy the day, before we walk into the cath lab, we stop and read through this prayer," he explains. "It isn’t fancy, but it divides the lab space from everything else in the day."

How far a reach, he asks us, "is it to have everyone on the surgery team stop for 60 seconds once the patient’s on the table, simply to remember how much trust that person is putting into our hands? How far a reach is it for each of us in our daily lives to pause for 60 seconds, just to remember our relationship to ourselves, others, our environment, and the divine?"

Krucoff, like many of us, has an investment in a positive future for healthcare in America. He recognizes that a primary focus of modern medicine on the objective, material world has come at a cost, frequently obscuring what is meaningful and valuable in human experience. Indeed, health care today is in a state of crisis. With medical and health insurance costs skyrocketing, millions of people without insurance, and an aging population that places increasing demands on the flailing health care system, there is a growing frustration and despair.

Perhaps what is needed is a full system change, a new framework that can embrace our lifelong experience of health and illness in biological, psychological, social, environmental, and spiritual contexts alike. In other words, we need to begin to put together everything we know about health and healing -- now.

One new approach that seeks such a change is called Integral Medicine. The integral approach builds on insights from the best in standard healthcare, as well as the holistic health movement, complementary and alternative approaches, and integrative medicine.

At the same time, it offers something more: the opportunity to examine our deepest assumptions about reality and our place in it.

In a new book, Consciousness and Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind Body Medicine (Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, 2004), my colleagues and I survey this new perspective as it is emerging not only across the many domains of healthcare, but from the ecological and cosmological perspectives as well.

Leaders in this emerging field, such as Deepak Chopra, Rachel Naomi Remen, Candice Pert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Larry Dossey help answer the question "What is integral medicine?" Their perspectives embrace multiple ways of knowing and being in the world, ways that honor the fullness of our lived experience, while grounding it in a broad and inclusive approach to science. The basic tenets of integral medicine include:

• Health and healing are lifelong processes that provide opportunities for our personal growth and transformation.

• Mind, body, and spirit interact in shaping developmental and evolutionary potentials.

• The well-being of our planet’s ecosystems is required for our well-being as humans.

• The idea of unity in diversity allows for a deep appreciation of the multiple cultural and social perspectives that make up the world’s healing traditions and worldviews.

• Harnessing our will to live is as significant as scientific information and technology.

• Life is our greatest teacher. A full-hearted healing system includes deep humility in the face of wonder and mystery.

So where does this integral impulse lead us? As philosopher Ken Wilber suggests in his forward to Consciousness and Healing: "The impact of this new awareness is the development of healing practices that expand from physically-based interventions to a sacred caring for human beings in all our extraordinary richness." The integral impulse calls upon all of us to serve as midwives for a new model of health and healing — week by week, day by day, and even, 60 seconds at a time.


Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., is vice president for research and education at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and senior scientist at the Complementary Medicine Research Institute of the California Pacific Medical Center.

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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