Why Cultural Misappropriation in the Healing World Impacts Efficacy

Holistic health care originates in the Eastern world, mostly India, Africa and China where the ancient paradigms of well-being and the corresponding healthcare offerings were deeply integrated into communities and ways of life and were inherently related to ancestral and spiritual ritual and connection. I.e they were grounded in the sacredness of death as rebirth and soul immortality. . The west, in an attempt to cure the disease of the white man as Einstein put it, has codified these deeper paradigms into systems that are effectively deconstructive and decontextualising to suit the cognitive orientation of modern western man in an inherently dysfunctional and disembodied system which is centralised not on death but on life and longevity and physical expiration. . What this effectively leads to is lack of relation with being, the current of existential crisis, a need to fill space and a sort of disconnection or meaninglessness of form because people are “doing” all the “right things” to heal but the spiritual and contextual and community depth is not there to support a deeper reintegration.


This is why I come across clients who are struggling more than ever after countless plant medicines ceremonies, even after being shown time and time again that they are the entire universe itself and the mystery of existence, they remain in their prison and nothing in their life significantly changes or expands. Perhaps it is because the medicine is taken out of context. Perhaps it is because the medicine is itself, much more than a brew or a dose. . It seems to me that we as human beings have taken the healing medicine out of context. People banging drums and thinking they’re shaman but don’t even know who their neighbours are. A shaman is a mirror for the community. They reflect the whole, when one is diseased all are diseased. Like fruit in a bowl. We don't work with the whole as therapists, we work with individuals and individual peoples' problems, relating it to the whole, which is a subtle but vital difference. . Why have we got here? Personally I wonder if it’s because to embody the context requires responsibility. Instead of just paying to show up and be fed plant medicine to make all our problems go away, ancestral ways would mean we would be taught the intelligence of not just the healing plants, but all supporting plants, from a young age and they would be part of life. We would be taken with our families to grow, pick, cook, pray with the medicine. We would initiate into higher healing realms and frequencies and be supported by our tribe and inner knowledge, not pay for a transmission or pay for a course from someone who has no connection to the roots of that system. . We would not turn up with our USD to sit in circle in a righteousness that we should get everything we need healing wise because we threw some dollars at it. I remember being in ceremonies where people would complain they can’t feel anything and blame the shaman or the brew. I have been around people who practice deep presence in meditation going on free vipassana retreats who two months later are coked up in a club trying to numb their emotions. Humans are going to do that, it’s part of the dance. But maybe as therapists, those holding space, we have a responsibility to offer more context in our services. More community coherence. More depth. . There is a need to honour right now, everything that we have benefitted from which we have not paid true homage to. The true origin of these practices we love so much: yoga, meditation, breathwork, Craniosacral therapy, Osteopathy etc, all of which medical anthropology traces back to the lands of Indians and Native American Indians, all of which have been used without recognising the context or the culture or the spiritual lineages. . Yes we have to move to the times. Yes perhaps offering a yoga class to fifty people in a swanky studio without any spiritual rooting or personal connection to the students is all we have to offer right now, but my question is, to what extent Is healing without depth of culture and community just as traumatising? . How do we support our clients to integrate when the system they are meeting every day does not support their expansion? . Do we factor this in to our treatment plans and speak openly with our clients about this? . How do we support a client to re-root into their ancestral energies if it is alien to them and if their community and family would not be supportive? . There is much to think about when it comes to authenticity and how we present our services and our work. In how we offer our knowledge and training. In doing justice to the knowledge we use, borrow and steal, to benefit ourselves, at the expense of the brown black and yellow ancestors who we have long been forgotten. . It’s time to remember. If you close your eyes you’ll feel them. They do not judge youthful all pervasive ignorance. But they do wait silently and patiently for change. . . Photo: Chief Wolf Robe, Cheyenne by Frank A. Rinehart