DR: So your definition of healing goes far deeper than the elimination or minimizing of symptoms.
RB: Sometimes it goes in exactly the opposite direction.
DR: The healing crisis.
RB: And not to overdo that point, because it's certainly not the purpose of the healer to engender pain or suffering. But sometimes the awareness has to be increased, we have to become more aware of the pain we're in, before we can find the resources to move beyond the condition that's causing us pain. So what we usually see in the healing crisis is not that people get worse, but they may become more aware of what a bad state they're in.
DR: What first led you to explore beyond your medical school training?
RB: I was always a malcontent. I was never satisfied. [Laughter]. So I always had to look further and deeper, question everything, and cause professors to pull their hair out. [More laughter].
DR: How have yoga and meditation affected your life and your practice?
RB: Profoundly. The experience of working with yoga, and the self-awareness that it brings, have been central to the whole process of my own healing and my own experience with healing. I'm convinced that you can't help someone else heal unless you're involved in your own healing. And that the healing encounter, if it works, it works for both parties. It never works for only one. Yoga continues to bring me to a level of self-awareness, and this self-awareness is a fundamental ingredient in the healing process. If you're not aware of what's going on inside yourself, it's hard to participate in this process that we call healing.
DR: In Radical Healing, I found your discussion of the various herbal traditions of the world to be the best I've ever seen. You described how the world's great herbal healing traditions (Indian, Chinese, European, and Native American) each have their own unique qualities and strengths. Could you share your view of how we are now seeing, for the first time, the development of a truly planetary herbal medicine?
RB: It's inevitable, I think, and greatly to be desired if it can be brought about properly. It brings to my mind what I see when I go to downtown Manhattan to eat, or I go to San Francisco to a nice, creative restaurant. We're seeing what they call "fusion cuisine." It used to be that there was an Indonesian restaurant, or a French restaurant, or a Chinese restaurant, or a Cuban or a Mexican restaurant. But now, what we see is this blending of ingredients and techniques from all the different cuisines of the world to create things that are really wonderful and exquisite and, I think, begin to express something about a planetary community. It's like "cuisine for a planetary community." And I don't know why we wouldn't expect the same things to happen in a parallel fashion in the field of medicine. We're now beginning to experiment with pulling together these different ingredients to create a medicine that is the medicine of the planetary community.
DR: You've practiced homeopathy for many years. For many people, homeopathy consists of self-prescribed combination remedies from the health food store. Is homeopathy misunderstood today?
RB: I would say that we have hardly begun to plumb the depths of homeopathy. This is a most astounding system of healing. It is, as far as I can see, going to be one of the major players in this drama of planetary medicine unfolding. There are several reasons. One is that homeopathy has the capacity to operate on different levels, depending on the potency you use. If you use a very high potency, it goes deeper into the fabric of life, deeper into the subtler levels of human functioning. If you use the lower potencies, it works on a more superficial level. So you have this incredible range of effects that homeopathy can bring to bear. Secondly, homeopathy becomes almost mandatory if we want to harness the informational content of the plants. I sort of make a big deal of this, that we in the information age need to understand how powerfully communicative plant substances are in terms of bringing the complex information from nature that we need for healing. If we're going to tap that in any successful way and maintain the integrity of the environment, we can't be going around digging up every medicinal plant and depleting them all over the face of the earth. And that's what would happen if we limited ourselves to traditional herbal medicine.