Compassionate healing, beyond the band-aid solution


Healing takes place in
Mind-body duality
Spirituality is not religion<


Dr. Gabor Mate specializes in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology.

“We’re dealing with everything with pharmaceuticals because we ignore spirituality, and because we ignore the mind-body connection,” Mate says.

He believes the biggest stress is being who we’re not.
Medicine in the mirror
Give yourself permission to feel

Compassionate healing
Is beyond
A band-aid solution.

Holism heals. He who heals, is whole. The question today is, what does it mean to be whole?

Madeleine Bonnemaion always knew food had power. She suffered with bulimia and anorexia from age 13. Her parents taught her food was fuel, and not to eat too much junk food.

Bonnemaion is now 26 years old, a dietary nutritionist, and works at a holistic wellness shop in East Vancouver.

She is also dedicated to launching her business, a nutrition practice called Ritual Wellness. It’s inspired by body image dysmorphia and eating-disorders, where Bonnemaion’s journey in holistic nutrition started. Ritual Wellness is a lifestyle brand, for creative living and fundamentals of holistic health. More information can be found on her website,

Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and addictions, are deeply affected by stress that people are facing. The polarization of society between conventional and holistic medicine is shifting. Western societies are moving towards a more holistic approach in medicine and overall well-being. Practitioners of alternative medicine interviewed for this story say the mind-body connection is essential to living a healthy life.

“Do we ignore spirituality because we’re treating with pharmaceuticals? No, it’s the other way around. We’re dealing with everything with pharmaceuticals because we ignore spirituality, and because we ignore the mind-body connection,” says Dr. Gabor Mate, author and expert in addiction, stress and childhood development. At the SuperConfrence2017 in Vancouver, Dr. Mate spoke about mental disorders and the complexities of our current state of evolution.

Dr. Mate specializes in neurology, psychiatry and psychology. He focuses on the cause and effects of trauma, stress and addictions. Mate says, “The biggest stress of all is being who we’re not.” He believes trauma is the base of addiction, the addiction is the attempt to solve the problem. In order to conduct healthy brain development we need self-regulation, mind-body connection, and empathy.

• • •

Today, energy healers, naturopaths, psychics, mind-body practices, counsellors, and even psychiatrists are changing the meaning of self-care.

The list of unorthodox healers grows, and the flooding rates of increase in mental illnesses is the body crying out for self-care.

Growing up in modern culture, “the idea of being smaller” triggered Bonnemaion’s eating disorders. Toxic images in the media, and unrealistic standards of perfection, were fuel to the illnesses. “I put on weight easily when I was younger. I didn’t have a strong sense of myself,” says Bonnemaion. Her low self-esteem prolonged her eating disorder for about three years. “It started really innocent, once or twice binging or purging.”

It was all a reaction to a mental state she was in, and all of her friends were doing it. Bonnemaion was torn between how the body was supposed to function and how it looked. She learned this behaviour becomes addictive, and starts with dissatisfaction from our lives. It was an outlet to her emotions and suppressed creative expression.

“I always got really disappointed in adults when they underestimated my intellect,” says Bonnesmasion “By the time I was 16, I was writing 50-page essays. I had a lot to say.”

Her eating disorder led to substance abuse. “The only way I could control my eating disorder was with drinking,” she says. It becomes a “toxic dance.”

Bonnesmasion became very sick. After six years of her eating disorders, she began the healing journey.

• • •

“People traditionally just believe what they’ve been told by their doctors,” says Nadia Geisler. “We’ve completely trusted them historically.” She doesn’t mean doctors are misleading people, but rather that she believes in a realm of alternative health.

Geisler is a general manager for Health Action Network Society (HANS) in Vancouver. She cares about the well-being of people, focusing on natural health, and she is raising awareness to ensure freedom of choice in wellness. HANS is a nonprofit that started in 1984.

“As the name implies, the society was created to network – to put people (individuals, the public and private organizations) in touch with one another in the effort to maintain and enhance health from a holistic perspective,” the organization mission statement says. The organization shares information and organizes events on preventive health, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Geisler describes HANS as a holistic organization. “We like to approach health from the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual point of view,” she says.

Suffering is a widespread cancer in the world, which the main causes of suffering appear to be physical and emotional pain.

“I believe that sadness is a health hazard,” says Geisler. We inherit unconscious suffering from what Geisler calls “chronic low-grade stress,” caused by many external factors like work, family, living expenses and friends. There is a lot people deal with in their everyday lives. Someone’s well-being is a sponge to how they feel, and how others make them feel.

People begin to experience symptoms such as sleep deprivation and digestion, and even heart rate variations as signs the body is not happy.

A study called HeartMath reports, “During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive functions. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason and make effective decisions.” In contrast, “By sustaining positive emotions, not only benefits the entire body, but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, and perform.”

• • •

At age 19, Bonnesmasion met and moved in with her boyfriend, Lucas. One day, Lucas told her he was going to start a cleanse, called “the master cleanse.” It is an ancient recipe that requires 10 days of only liquids. Bonnesmasion was curious, and thought it’d make sense if she did it to for the health benefits, and as a supportive partner.

After the cleanse, they both immediately felt a sudden rush to pursue nutrition. They enrolled at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, where she learned how to treat every person as a biochemically-individual body.

“One thing could work for someone really well, and the next person not so much,” says Bonnesmasion. “Holistic nutrition comes at food from the perspective of it’s not about getting on a diet plan that’ll fix these things, it’s about getting to the root cause of things.” She believes conventional medicine moves more towards addressing symptoms rather than looking at why someone might be feeling anxiety, or why someone might have a skin condition.

“Genetics load the gun, but you shoot the trigger,” says Bonnesmasion, quoting one of her teachers. “Yes, our genetics play a role, but how we breathe, how we eat, how we interact with other human beings, down to the chemicals in our home environment – all of these different things have an impact,” she says.

Bonnesmasion believes toxins affect the expression of our genes. “Sounds super scary, but on the other hand positive changes can also impact the expression of our genes,” she says.

• • •

On Oct. 17, at the Cinematheque in Vancouver, HANS organized a film screening about the controversy around homeopathy, showing a film called “Just One Drop.” After the film, there was a panel discussion with four well-respected homeopathic practitioners.

Dr. Sivester is also a scientist and was one of the four. He grew up in France and traveled back and forth to Africa. “When Western medicine and Eastern medicine fails, homeopathy has a chance, and if you take that chance it’s going to work if one knows what to do,” says Sivester.

He heard about homeopathy when he was 16 years old, after suffering from a severe life threatening condition from age seven. Within a week after seeing a practitioner, his symptoms were healed.

“Within a week no more than that, I could breathe, smell flowers, I couldn’t from 20 feet before. I could touch animals – horses are still difficult for me – but all other animals are touchable by me, when before physically I had to live in a bubble,” says Sivester. “Homeopathy saved my life.”

Homeopathy also gave Sivester his calling to become a physician. His experience allowed him to undergo benefits of homeopathy. Professionally, Sivester protects the integrity of reviews on the study behind the innuendo about homeopathy. “Clinically, when you experience such a challenge, it’s got to be measurable things to get, and I want to understand that blurry zone,” he says.

The “blurry zone” stands for truth. Like objectivity is to journalism, Holistic medicine is subjective to the patient. Truth is indefinite. Today, there are new age discoveries in working with science and traditional understandings of the body, mind, and soul conundrum.

As more people face their internal sufferings and undergo physical trauma, they’re branching out to different, natural, ways of healings. Many of these methods are spiritual practices.

• • •

Spirituality today is a term beyond religious connotations. It identifies inner wisdom and personal growth found by regaining control of subconscious behaviour.

“Spirituality is a very personal thing. It’s your connection with higher conscious, and I think things gets messy when people try to define what that should look like,” says Gloria Latham. She teaches yoga, is the founder of Sempervima Yoga Studios in Vancouver, and she also worked as a licensed pharmacist for almost 10 years.

Pharmaceuticals and conventional treatments are like a toll on the bridge to mankind’s deeper potential to heal. The healing process is often referred to as spiritual growth.

• • 

Abdul Elnagdi is a certified diabetic educator and the owner of PharmaChoice in Maple Ridge. If asked whether holistic treatment “x” reduces fever, he’d say “maybe.”

“I cannot recommend it,” Elnagdi says. “If you have fever and you come to me, there is Tylenol and homeopathic medicine, I give you Tylenol. Because if I give you the (homeoathic) medication, you can sue me.”

People rely on evidence and research in choosing medication. Over years, the public has been conditioned to abide by clinical referrals and prescriptions based on trust.

Skepticism is the key to neutralized health solutions, as is listening to your gut instinct. According to Bonnesmasion, if you’re not a critical thinker in the holistic hemisphere “you’re going to be completely messed up, because you’re going to believe everyone.”

“The problem with this industry (pharmaceutical) is there’s million of drugs that are not quantified,” says Elnagdi. “My job is regulated, and in every country there is different guidelines, rules and bylaws. I cannot just take a small study that is not recognized or published in a big medical journal, because it’s not up to me.”

Everyone has a choice. The film Just One Drop argues that evidence and information about holistic medicine is pushed under the rug by pharmaceuticals. Dr. Patidar is a clinical doctor at PharmaChoice and he says, “In general, medical drugs are studied, so we have a lot of randomized controlled studies.”

As a holistic entrepreneur and dietary practitioner, something Bonnesmasion notices a lot of is people getting way too focused on one element, whether it’s not eating sugar, meat, dairy, or carbs. “We want to believe it’s that simple,” she says. “I know I want to believe it’s that simple sometimes.”

If you go to one doctor and they tell you one thing, and you want to confirm the opposite is true, “you can go online and confirm the opposite is true, easily,” she says. “So, it’s super important. That’s why we have to trust our intuition and find out what’s true for us.”

• • •

The best practitioner in the world can’t help you if you don’t know what’s good for you.

“If you look at the native medicine, it involves immunity of body, interact, social issues, and spirituality. Without any of them we’re incomplete, so spirituality is apart of who we are as human beings. This society either doesn’t have enough spirituality or mistakes religion for spirituality,”  says Mate.

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