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Excerpted from Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil. Copyright 1995 by Andrew Weil. Excerpted by permission of Fawcett Columbine, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  Web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I wanted to understand how the mind interacts with the body. Above all, I hoped to learn practical secrets of helping people to get well."

Andrew Weil, Spontaneous Healing, Part 3

But, now I was lost, and the brilliant Amazon sun was taking on the rich golden tones of the end of afternoon. Night would come quickly here, meaning surprising chilliness along the river and no chance of reaching a habitation. I'm not a smoker, but I lit up three cigarettes at once, Pielrojas ("Redskins"), the local cheap brand, with a picture of a North American Indian on the pack. I puffed on them and blew smoke all around me, hoping for the usual temporary relief tobacco smoke brings from biting sandflies.

When in doubt, eat. I broke into my meager stores and found a packet of cocoa mix and some dried fruit. I set up a little butane stove, boiled some river water, and soon was sipping the hot liquid, which never tasted better--a bit of comfort and familiarity in this, for me, strange environment.

I was in this remote part of South America because I was searching for something I believed to be exotic and extraordinary, something worlds away from my ordinary experience. I was looking for insight into the source of healing power, and the interconnectedness of magic, religion, and medicine. I wanted to understand how the mind interacts with the body. Above all, I hoped to learn practical secrets of helping people to get well. I had spent eight years in a prestigious institution of higher learning, four studying botany and four studying medicine, but I had found no clear answers to my questions. My botanical studies awakened a desire to see the rain forest, meet native practitioners, and help rescue fast-disappearing knowledge of medicinal plants. My medical training made me want to flee from the world of invasive, technological treatment toward a romantic ideal of natural healing.

Three years before, in 1969, when I finished my basic clinical training, I made a conscious decision not to practice the kind of medicine I had just learned. I did so for two reasons, one emotional and one logical. The first was simply a gut feeling that if I were sick, I would not want to be treated the way I had been taught to treat others, unless there were no alternative. That made me uncomfortable about treating others. 

The logical reason was that most of the treatments I had learned in four years at Harvard Medical School and one of internship did not get to the root of disease processes and promote healing but rather suppressed those processes or merely counteracted the visible symptoms of disease.

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