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Homeopathy and Self-fulfillment Using Systemic Therapy, Coherent Breathing and Qigong

Homeopath Dr. Kenneth Silvestri discusses his use of coherent breathing and Qigong in treating his patients. He writes that Qigong movement allows the parasympathetic and sympathetic parts of their nervous system to be more in harmony.

During the past several years I have incorporated two profoundly effective resources, Coherent Breathing and Qigong, into my practice of Systemic Psychotherapy and Homeopathy This has made a dramatic positive difference in closing the gap between a patient’s expressed presenting problem and desired wellness outcomes. These resources have also made my process of determining more effective therapeutic plans that allow for profound, quicker, and longer-lasting change.

When a patient is seeking to improve their health, they need to recognize how they interact with the world from a systemic perspective. I use the metaphor of widening one’s lens. This encourages them to see things in context, not merely look at content, which seems prevalent in the medical and mental health world.

This part-to-whole viewing supports a process that can create changes from many different perspectives. Like in Quantum Physics, there may be two or more solutions to a problem that can all be correct. This ecological framework provides a better understanding of what needs to be altered for improved well-being. This is holistic healing as contrasted to allopathic medicine: Seeing beyond fragmentation enhances the homeopathic process, and even more so when it is integrated with Coherent Breathing and Qigong.

Samuel Hahnemann supported the use of ecological psychology in treatment. In all the so-called somatic diseases as well, the mental and emotional frame of mind is altered. (§210, 6th edition, Organon) In §211 he comments that, ”This preeminent importance of the emotional state holds good to such an extent that the patient’s emotional state often tips the scale in the selection of the homeopathic remedy.”

This is a decidedly peculiar sign which, among all the signs of disease, can least remain hidden from the exact observing physician. Homeopathy is meant to address psychological and physical states which have been proven and cured by its remedies.

What follows is the framework that I use with patients, as well as a case study that utilizes this process to support an integrative approach. It focuses on emotional well-being and can provide a solid foundation for addressing physical ailments. It can also be adapted by a trained homeopath or used in conjunction with mental health practitioners

Being in the Present

“Isn’t it wonderful the way the world holds both the deeply serious and the unexpectedly mirthful?” –  Mary Oliver

By way of a starting point, let me share with you what I ask those seeking help in my practice. My initial question, is simply: “What is it that you are not getting in life that causes concern and stops your life from working the way you would like it to work?” I ask them to think about this for a minute or so. When they have defined this concern or grievance, I ask them to focus on the consequences of what they are not getting.

Next, I ask them to describe how it looks and feels to not get what they want and how this concern influences their life. At this juncture I introduce Coherent Breathing with the instructions: Breathe through the nose, fill up your stomach, and then gradually bring your breath up to your chest to the count of six seconds as you slowly raise your arms above your head. Exhale through your mouth, lips slightly pursed, to the count of six seconds as you slowly bring your arms down to your sides, think of something positive and compassionate as you exhale. Repeat this a few times.

Coherent Breathing consists of five breaths per minute as compared to the average 15 breaths per minute that we usually take, with a simple added Qigong movement that allows the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic parts of their nervous system to be more in harmony.

Then I request that they relax their body from head to toe while creating a peripheral view by widening their lens; trying to see beyond the confines of their surroundings. Next, I ask them to pause and think about what is happening in their community, nation, and world.

After a few moments, I have them bring their lens back to the original concern and ask themselves how their core concern or grievance affects them and is connected to all aspects of their life. What insights, sensations, modalities, and strengths arise in them as they consider their grievance from a wider perspective? I request that they view these insights as unique, positive, and profound and record them or enter them in a journal.

Widening one’s lens gives us perspective and allows for ecological thinking. It also encourages us to see how we are all connected by an “energetic charge”, as Lynn McTaggart suggests, or how we are made up of molecules traceable to high-mass stars that “exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy,” as physicist Neil De Grasse Tyson believes.

We can feel it when we focus on our Qi, our life energy, and how we are all connected. Recognizing this is “love” but understanding how we are connected is “wisdom,” also it helps to have a “Beginners Mind” as expressed by Thinc Nat Hann and the ultimate mantra that I have found through Aikido, a martial art dedicated to producing harmony in the world is “expect nothing and be ready for anything.” During this process, unique expressions are brought up from the patient’s subconscious leading to avenues to make a difference by utilizing relevant resources.

Case Study:

Joanna, a twenty-two-year-old woman came to me complaining of pain coming from an ovarian cyst.  Her physicians recommended psychotherapy, pain medication, and management. During the above exercise, she narrated feelings of guilt and a sense that she was being condemned because of her relationship with a man whom her family did not approve.

After widening her lens, I gently probed by creating a Genogram, a psychological family tree, where she described a family background consisting of being at odds with her parents since childhood. She always felt like she was doing something wrong.

Her narrative was passionate and intense. The pain, both emotionally and physically, that she was experiencing was “a feeling of being swollen with shooting sensations.” Her articulated grievance to the question of what she was not getting in life was “I am not getting vindicated from all the negative accusations about my behavior.”

The consequence of this feeling produced guilt, resentment, and unhealthy decision-making consequences. She said that she now recognized the connection of her feelings when the pain became intense. She agreed to do the Coherent Breathing and qigong movements twenty minutes a day and return in a week.

Creating a Supportive Environment

“I realized that our major social issues – health, education, human rights, social justice, political power, protection of the environment, the management of business enterprises, the economy, and so on – all have to do with living systems; with individual human beings, social systems, and ecosystems”. Fritjif Capra

When a grievance is embedded and shows no resolution, the “fight or flight” part of our Autonomic Nervous System becomes revved up and habitually overused. This part of our nervous system is great for reacting to a life-threatening situation, but injurious to our mental and physical health if overused.

It is not healthy to be saving your life 24 hours a day. However, we have a choice to alter our framework and utilize our Parasympathetic Nervous System (the “calm down” part). This can be accomplished by mindfully focusing on and being grateful for the good in the world. It is not about minimizing hurt: it is about changing one’s grievance story.

Gratitude and compassion stimulate the Vagus Nerve, which gets its name from its Latin origin, “wandering.” This nerve covers much of the upper body and regulates our metabolism, heart rate, and general well-being. It responds to positive thoughts and is the nerve of “compassion.”

The consequence of a revved up Sympathetic Nervous System as mentioned above, is that it undermines the Vagus Nerve, putting us in the “protector mode” which overrides our “nurturing mode.” It is difficult to be compassionate or for that matter empathic, when we are locked into our Sympathetic Nervous System, which kicks us into “fight or flight.”

We are dumber when frightened. The nervous system is made up of specialized cells that are responsive to the environment. We now know that cell membranes read information from our environment. Stress hormones shrink the portion of our brain that is the center of higher reasoning. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had it right when he referred to fear as our biggest enemy.

Coherent Breathing is one of only a very few techniques we can use to alter injurious patterns of our nervous system. It helps to assist the healing and calm the Parasympathetic part of the Nervous System. The level of activity associated with this process can be measured using the natural fluctuations in heart rate that are linked to breathing; these fluctuations are used to calculate heart rate variability or HRV.

Changing the rate and pattern of breathing alters HRV, reflecting shifts in Nervous System activity. The Vagus Nerve is also activated by vibrational sensations throughout the body such as the sound of “Ohm.” Using breathing patterns, it is possible to move the epicenter of the vibrations to different locations in the body.

During my second meeting with Joanna, she mentioned that her self-esteem was low when becoming anxious. She initially had trouble relaxing and doing the breathing exercises, complained of being thirsty, and explained that being cold made her feel better.

When she was able to get into a rhythm, her tone and description of her pain were more focused and with less anger and sarcasm. She exhibited an ‘extroverted feeling’ temperament with much rigidity, preoccupation with fear, jealousy of those who were married, and guilt regarding her family. Her reasoning was somewhat egocentric; however, with the breathing and Qigong movements, she was expressing it with less anger. She was not confident that she could maintain it. The remedy was now confirmed and she agreed to try Lachesis in an LM1 potency to be taken once every three days as a test dose frequency.

Given her high intake of sugar and her recent assessment by her physician, it was suggested that she alter her eating habits by using a low carbohydrate diet and do some aerobic exercises in conjunction with her homeopathic remedy that related to the totality of her emotional and physical symptoms. She also started some supplements that supported her expressed needs that were narrated in our psychotherapy sessions.

Research supports that Coherent Breathing improves anxiety, PTSD, IBD, Inflammatory markers, and heart issues. It also alleviates mental health patterns of Schizophrenia, ADD, Depression, Trauma, Abuse, and stress better than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Coherent Breathing alters thalamic inputs to the cortex, and enhances Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, while improving the Vagus Nerve function and space awareness. Most beneficially it works with all temperaments (Elliott, 2006; Brown and Gerberg, 2012).

Qigong which has evolved over centuries consists of very gentle movements that when combined with Coherent Breathing offer an effective, nontoxic process to improve one’s Autonomic Nervous System and brain functioning (Cohen, 1997)

Celebrating Possibilities

“Discovery … is in its essence a matter of rearranging or transforming evidence in such a way that one is enabled to go beyond the evidence so reassembled to new insights. It may well be that an additional fact or shred of evidence makes this larger transformation possible. But it is often not even dependent on new information.”  Jerome Brunner

Here is an exercise that demonstrates the power of poetic expression. Ask your patient to revisit their grievance from the “widening your lens” exercise and to think about what it is that they may need to sustain themselves (list words that describe their needs). Next, ask them to do five minutes of coherent breathing with the simple Qigong movement listed above extending their arms to the sides with palms up, then lifting them up during the six-second inhalation toward and above your head, then bring them down slowly on their six-second exhalation.

This should be done for five minutes, 25 breaths. Ask them to allow words of compassion to come to their mind that nourish them as they exhale. After they finish this exercise, have them jot down ways they can connect the nourishing words with the needs that they listed.

They can next write down how feelings about connecting their needs with ways that will make them feel more whole and healthier. All these possible insights can evoke positive energy from their background as well as the collective reservoir of how others made these connections.

Joanna came for a follow-up session three weeks after starting the remedy. It had been decided after the first week of using the remedy that it would be best to continue the remedy every other day. She said that while her pain was still occurring, it was not as severe as before.

After doing some Coherent Breathing at the beginning of her session with some Qigong movements, I asked her to do the above exercise which allowed her to take an inventory of her strengths, and needs, set goals, feel less persecuted, and be more expressive toward her parents in an assertive manner. She felt less addictive and, although still very talkative, her train of thought was very focused.

Joanna began to feel that her physical issues were diminishing. They were less severe than before. After doing some Coherent Breathing at the beginning of her session with some Qigong movements and doing the above exercise. She articulated that she was able to keep an inventory of her strengths, and needed to set goals, to feel less persecuted, and to be more expressive toward her parents in an assertive manner. She felt less addictive and although still very talkative, her trend of thought was very focused. A few family sessions were set up that allowed her to be more assertive and resolve long-term conflicts.

Be Able to Adjust and Respect Your Fallibility

Mahatma Gandhi referred to the positive power of truth that comes out of seeing things in perspective when he said:

Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words

Your words become your actions; your actions become your habits

Your habits become your values; your values become your destiny

The final step in this process of self-fulfillment is to amend the original grievance identified at the beginning of this article. (e.g. from “I cannot find happiness” to “I will be happy”). Invite them to spell it out through poetic expression such as works of art, photography, a short story, or a poem.

Patients should be encouraged to practice the above skills from the four parts of this self-fulfillment process each day as if they are “thousand-year techniques.” The use of positive affirmations describing goals and accomplishments will make it clear what one wants to see happening in their life.

Part of the process is to have patients take notes at the end of each day, regarding how they are doing and make any needed adjustments to close the gap between where they are and want to be. There needs to be respect for fallibility and intent to achieve goals, by adjusting to maintain a new paradigm of being truly healthy.

During Joanna’s consequent sessions, she became proactive in attaining her goal of being healthier. She had continued the breathing and Qigong exercises, expanding them by taking a Qigong class at the local adult school. She shared an amendment to her original grievance by using what she called a “new mantra,” one that not only accepted her connections to her family but also one that understood the subtle nuances that caused conflict. Her amended grievance was a positive statement of “I will have my actions and behavior acknowledged and affirmed.” She also reported that her ovarian cyst pain ceased.

In most cases, a systemic framework encourages a true integration of mind/body resources. It offers an opportunity to use various complementary means to address the pattern of suffering and consequently help determine the therapeutic goals to strengthen and maintain the immune system’s ability to create balance. Coherent breathing and qigong have proven to be a complementary resource when integrated within the framework of systemic psychotherapy.

Conclusion

I believe that homeopathy, although having a long history of clinical successes, has been plagued with the difficult process of determining the ‘Simmillimum’ and supporting it with lifestyle changes, something that Hahnemann himself strongly advocated.

A true integration of mind/body resources offers complementary means to recognize the pattern of suffering and consequently help determine the needed remedy and therapeutic goals to strengthen and maintain the immune system’s ability to create balance.

The use of Coherent Breathing and Qigong that I described above is one of many approaches that can enhance the homeopathic process. Other modalities such as yoga, meditation, music, art therapy, forgiveness, Aikido, Tai Chi, nutrition, sports, and poetic expression, to mention a few, all have a mindfulness or systemic basis and can provide opportunities to create personal clarity.

This provides a segue for the discerning practitioner to access the subconscious reservoir of insights that represent the totality of one’s makeup, all of which can lead to a better understanding of the unique, extraordinary, and peculiar patterns for healing and optimal health.

For further information regarding the integration of Systemic Psychotherapy with other modalities, please go to my website for relevant articles.

References:

Brown, Richard and Patricia Gerberg, (2012) The Healing Power of the Breath, Boston Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications.

Elliott, Stephen, (2006) The New Science of Breath, Allen Texas: Coherent Press.

Schutt, Katja (2015) “Interview of Dr. Kenneth Silvestri,” Homeopathy for Everyone, October

Silvestri, Kenneth (2015) “The Use of Temperaments in the Healing Process,” Homeopathic Links, 28(3):150-158

Silvestri, Kenneth (2014), “Be Systemic and Mindful: An Integrative Process of Homeopathy and Psychotherapy for Self-Fulfillment,” California Homeopath.

Silvestri, Kenneth (2010) “Integrating Psychotherapy and Homeopathy: A means to determining the needs of the vital force,” Chapter in “Mental Health and Homeopathy,” published by Homeolinks, Stuttgart, Germany; edited by Harry van der Zee and Christopher Johannes.

Silvestri, Kenneth (2007) “The Joy and Wisdom of Systemic Thinking: Teaching and Understanding Aesthetic,” The Journal of Systemic Therapies, Spring, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 11-22.

*This article was originally published in Homeopathy in Practice, The Journal of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths, Winter/Spring 2017, revised and updated for Homeopathy for Everyone, April,2024

About the author

Kenneth Silvestri

About Dr. Kenneth Silvestri:
Dr. Kenneth Silvestri has been in private practice as a psychotherapist and Homeopath since 1980. He holds a doctoral degree from Columbia University in anthropology and psychology. In addition, he has been the recipient of national fellowships in the social sciences at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Silvestri has participated in post-doctoral training at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy in New York City and the Multi-Cultural Family Institute in New Jersey. He is also a Certified Homeopath, having completed intensive certification programs with renowned homeopaths Dr. Luc De Schepper and David Little. He has published more than 100 professional articles and monographs, as well as several chapters for books on mental health/homeopathy and selected poems. Dr. Silvestri’s book entitled “Widening Your Lens: How to See Your Life Differently,” is available on Amazon. He has conducted numerous workshops on family therapy, alternative education, communication skills, forgiveness, and homeopathy and is an active black belt student of Aikido, a martial art dedicated to peace and harmony.
WWW.Drkennethsilvestri.com
[email protected]

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