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Total Well-Being: Starting the Search
James Gordon, MD

Dr. Gordon is a former Professor of Psychiatry and Community and Family Medicine at Georgetown University, and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of Manifesto for a New Medicine. Gail Harris spoke with Dr. Gordon about his unconventional approach to treating chronic illnesses ranging from cancer to seizures. But his approach to medicine also incorporates healthy living and preventative care.

Following are some excerpts from the interview.

Gail Harris: Is there such a thing as a wellness plan that you can formulate with your doctor?

James Gordon: Any kind of wellness plan, in the long run, depends on you. I can get you started, but you are the one who has to keep it going -- and this is very old, this is part of all the world's healing traditions. The way I've learned, and what I think is useful for people, is to pay attention to how you're living, how you're thinking about how you're living, what's happening at home, in the family, at work. Are there things that are distressing, or things that dissatisfy you? So that's the first part, is taking a look at those issues and either changing your attitude or changing your situation.

GH: I think most people now, even in the West, really do understand that there is a mind/body connection. What do you see in your practice, when people come to you and have physical complaints of one kind or another?

JG: I think the first thing I do is ask them why do they think it's happening. Which is very simple, very obvious, but it's not usually done in medicine... I say, 'Okay, well, maybe I have some ideas, but it's your body, and your body and your mind are connected. So maybe if you sit quietly, for a moment or two, you might be able to tell me if you feel there's some connection.' And ninety percent of the time people can.

They'll tell me things like, 'My back is bothering me because I feel I'm carrying around this incredible burden of responsibility.' Or, 'I'm stuffed up and maybe it's because I need to cry.' And people will say these things. And these are not people who are sophisticated about mind/body medicine, these are just ordinary people who have become a little bit reflective about what's happening in their bodies.

This is part of people's understanding. And the problem, sometimes, with modern high technology medicine is that we act like the answers reside in laboratory tests or in the machines, but the whole approach that we're talking about, this new medicine, is really very, very old. It's saying to people that you can become aware, not perhaps, in the technical sense of what's going on, but certainly in the general sense, of why you're becoming ill now, or what some of those connections might be.

GH: What about aging well? How can we, if not be young forever, at least remain in good health for a very long time?

JG: I think the major thing about being in good health late in life, is celebrating and enjoying what you're doing, and that's probably more important than any specific thing that anybody does, whether it's diet, exercise, meditation or anything else. But really, just enjoying what's gong on.

So I think that's the part of aging that we often miss. We think there's a magic bullet, a magic vitamin, a magic exercise program. And certainly those help. But the major thing is to have a vigorous and connected life, and a meaningful life.

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

Program Description
James S. Gordon, M.D.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Gabrielle Roth
Help YourSelf
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