This article first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Lifelines, the Life West student magazine.
Within our chiropractic community, there is a great deal of talk about tapping into the abundance of the universe. We refer to the law of abundance as it relates to bringing our ideal patients into our offices and manifesting the practices of our dreams. But what if we extend the concept of abundance to the broader chiropractic frameworks that we work within? Doing so would diminish the need to pit ourselves against each other by claiming the superiority of our analysis framework, whether vitalistic or mechanistic.
The widely-held perception is that Western medicine is mechanistic, meaning that it breaks the human body down into its constituent parts and sees them acting together as a machine, whereas Eastern medicine is vitalistic, meaning that it sees the different body systems as working together synergistically as acted upon by an organizing force. The philosophy of chiropractic fits best into the vitalistic framework; however, with the advent of the insurance model, there has been a recent movement toward a mechanistic approach to chiropractic. When the mechanistic movement hit the chiropractic scene, it took off in popularity and is now held by a growing proportion of the profession. Still, a small number of schools, including Life West, ensure that they keep the profession’s vitalistic roots alive by teaching philosophy.
What I’ve noticed in my clinical experience, working with the body systems of my patients as they learn to express more life, is that spirituality naturally comes up as part of this learning process. It comes up because it’s part of the Earth-body experience – just one of the layers of reality, albeit a less tangible one. I know that using a word like “spirituality” may be polarizing, but to me, our philosophy of vitalism has the same basis that my Kundalini yoga practice has, which is based upon Sikhism, or the same as my friend’s Buddhist practice. This unnameable life force ironically goes by many names, Innate Intelligence being one. And being as this vitalism is ever-pervasive, it encompasses and includes mechanism. The two are not separable, because they are from the One, Universal Intelligence.
A common theme I’ve noticed among many of my patients in the health center is a feeling of unsettledness into one’s beingness. To understand this on a physical level, we can likely all relate to an experience of trying to find a comfortable seated position on a hardwood floor, and whatever you do, it evades you. If you cross your legs, your ankles are digging into the floor, and if you extend your legs, your tight hamstrings cause you discomfort. Whatever you do, you’re uncomfortable because there’s a dissonance between you and your environment. Many people feel this way in their whole lives, as though they just can’t find their place because they don’t know what they have to give. Their spirit lacks a feeling of being settled into their authenticity and aware of their inherent gifts. The physical symptoms these patients present with are as diverse as they are, but the root is common. This is just one example of a disconnection on a higher plane of reality which still manifests with symptoms physically. And re-connection may be established from either place.
Just as the understanding of quantum physics does not negate Newtonian physics or the understanding of the mind does not negate the body, the understanding of vitalism does not negate mechanism. Quantum physics, the mind, and vitalism all broaden our understanding to create enough space for an alternative understanding. As my yoga teacher, Meisha, always says, “opposites co-arise.” In defining light, we create darkness because there could not be one without the other. So, what is the purpose of this opposition/co-creation? To give rise to understanding through the process of reunification. From subluxation emerges clarity.
I’ve had the good fortune of attending a number of “philosophy talks” with some of the greats of our profession, and often a debate is sparked between the merits of Innate Intelligence vs. Educated Intelligence (or Ego). By positioning these two versions of the mind in opposition, it is natural for us to demonize one. We demonize the Educated mind for its inability to recognize great complexity while touting Innate as supreme, as though one would be able to exist without the other. Usually, these conversations end in an understanding of the unity that these seemingly separate entities emerged from. This is generally where the conversation ends because there’s no more use debating once we understand that both are truly saying the same thing because they’re both expressions of the same thing, taking on different forms.
For this reason, for me, the existence of vitalism does not negate mechanism, it encompasses it. When we are able to expand our awareness to hold more and more Truth, the ultimate abundance, we discover the presence of truth in the very opposition itself, characteristic of the perfect counterbalancing dualistic world we’re part of, and which is part of us.