Read an Excerpt
Dr. Bach wanted to keep his new system of medicine as simple as possible so that anyone could use it with confidence. He did not leave any detailed instructions or complicated texts that would have to be studied before being able to use the remedies. The only text he wrote specifically about the remedies and how to use them is The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies. It is a small and easy-to-read booklet giving accurate but brief explanations of the thirty-eight remedies, when they should be used, and how to use them. It is invaluable to anyone wishing to make the most of the Bach remedies.
Dr. Bach destroyed many of his earlier notes and papers on the remedies, because it was his intention that people would only need brief, accurate details on how and when to use them. He did not want to complicate or confuse matters with theoretical or academic explanations.
Whatever mental, emotional, or physical condition we want to treat, all we have to do is identify those states of mind we or the person we are treating are experiencing and choose the appropriate remedies accordingly. We do not need to have knowledge of anatomy or physiology or be able to diagnose physical or mental illness, because we are not treating ourselves or others in this way. We only need to be able to recognize states of mind and simply ask others how they are feeling.
Of course, if we are treating others on a regular basis, we need to be sure that they are seeing a medical doctor if they have any serious conditions. We should never try to replace conventional treatments or medicines with the Bach remedies. The Bach remedies will work in harmony with any conventional therapy and will not cause adverse side effects. They are gentle healing agents without the possibility of overdose, addiction, or adverse effects from misdiagnosis. They are pure and natural remedies that contain little or none of the physical plant or tree, only the plant’s healing life force energy held within the water and a little alcohol for preservation.
If we are diagnosing for ourselves or others, and we have some knowledge of the remedies, it is a simple task to choose the appropriate ones for use.
Steps for Prescribing
1. Conduct an interview to identify the states of mind that are present, i.e., anger, fear, indecision, anxiety, etc.
2. List all the remedies that are relevant to these states of mind. Determine the patient’s type remedy.
3. Put them in order of severity or importance, keeping the list to within ten. This helps identify which remedies are most likely to be successful.
4. Choose the remedies we want to try from this list.
Remember, we are not treating a physical illness, so if someone has a strained ligament, for example, we should not choose Vervain because it is for people who tend to overexert themselves. Instead we need to establish what sort of person he or she is. What is the character and disposition of the person? How does he or she think and feel about him or herself and the world around them? For example, is the person dominant and controlling? Does he or she get angry easily? Is the person shy, or constantly distracted or dreamy? We need to have a good knowledge of the remedies to spot these mental traits, then we will begin to diagnose accurately and quickly.
There is no easy way to learn the remedies. Everyone has a different way of remembering things that works for them. A good way is to set a goal of remembering two or three remedies a day. Then within two or three weeks we will have a basic knowledge of all the remedies. Try to remember the key words at first (shown at the beginning of each remedy in chapter 8). When we have this basic knowledge we can begin to learn more about the remedies by using them as much as possible. The real key to success is developing the skill to recognize the relevant and predominant states of mind that someone is naturally disposed to or that accompany a particular illness.
We all have a “type remedy.” A type remedy is one, two, or sometime three remedies that make up the core or major traits of someone’s personality. For example, it is easy to spot someone who is always impatient, quick in thought and action, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. This person’s type remedy is Impatiens. People who are dreamy, as if in a world of their own, and tend to sleep a lot are classic Clematis types. It is interesting to begin spotting these traits in ourselves and others. We can learn a lot about human nature in this way, and we can do this kind of study anywhere, anytime, and no one has to know that we are practicing our diagnostic techniques.
Generally speaking, when we are prescribing a Bach remedy we should try to identify the type remedy and then add other remedies that are relevant for the short-term or easily changeable states of mind. For example, someone might be a Water Violet typeproud, aloof, quiet, a loner, intelligent, and artisticbut during illness he or she may have constant worries that go around and around in his or her head. This would then indicate White Chestnut. The solution is to use both remedies together, the White Chestnut being a more temporary remedy.
When choosing the final number of remedies, we should keep the number to within six or seven. Usually just one or two remedies are needed. Using too many remedies at once can confuse the picture, and we will not know which remedies are working and which are unnecessary. We need to use our own judgment and intuition, then with experience we will become skilled and accomplished healers.
Another good way of beginning our journey with the Bach remedies and also remembering them is to briefly read through the remedy descriptions and make a note of those that are relevant to our own personality and those people closest to us. Then we should buy those remedies and use them on ourselves and others. We might need a good friend to help us spot our own type remedy, someone who knows us well and is not afraid to be honest with us. Often we think we know ourselves well, but we can miss the traits that our subconscious selfish mind does not want us to admit. We are very good at spotting our good qualities but not so good at spotting our weaknesses. If we try this exercise with a friend who is also interested in the remedies, we can learn a lot about ourselves and the remedies while having fun, too.
After prescribing for ourselves and our friend, we should have a review session in two or three weeks to share our experiences. We may find that some remedies have gone straight to the heart of the matter, or we may decide to try others. Another useful idea is to keep a diary of our states of mind over a couple of weeks. Write down how we feel about ourself, our life, and how we react to certain situations. This can be a useful way to recognize predominant states of mind and those that are more fleeting and less deep-seated, then we can tailor our remedy accordingly.
If we are thinking of prescribing for others on a regular basis, it is a good idea to treat ourselves and those closest to us for a few months first and get to know the remedies well before going further.
Prescribing for Others
The key to successfully prescribing for others is simply learning to listen well. Let the other person guide the interview. Try not to be too intrusive; people are an open book if we know how to read them. Don’t try too hard to pry them open. If they are shy and find it difficult to talk (Mimulus), or are obviously putting a brave face on things (Agrimony), these are immediate remedy indicators. If they talk too much about their own problems (Heather) this is also a big give-away. When we get to know the remedies well these personality traits will gradually become more obvious, and we will be able to spot them often within minutes of meeting someone.
It doesn’t matter if we get the diagnosis wrong on the first or second attempts. All the Bach remedies have remarkable healing qualities, and even the wrong remedy can have good results. Sometimes in the pressure of an interview or therapy session we may not be able to think clearly enough to prescribe accurately. The best remedy may come to us later on when we are more relaxed and have had time to think about the interview. This is not a problem, simply include this remedy next time. If necessary, to be more relaxed and clear in thought during an interview, take the appropriate remedies beforehand, such as Mimulus for nervousness and Clematis for clearer thinking.
During the interview we may temporarily “pick-up” the patient’s state of mind. For example, it might be a negative Clematis state that prevents us from thinking clearly. We don’t need to experience this to make a good diagnosis. To guard against this, use the Walnut remedy, which can protect us from external influences. This is also a good remedy to use between therapy sessions to help us stay centered, strong, and clear.
If we intend to treat people on a regular basis, good counseling skills are very useful. Just learning to listen without judging is a special skill that is invaluable in the healing process. It creates an environment that helps the patient relax and feel more comfortable and able to talk openly about his or her problems. We can learn these skills from reading books, practicing on family or friends, or, preferably, taking a short course at a local college or center. Learning to listen also helps us develop our ability to tune in to others and their feelings, thoughts, and personal characteristics. Listening also helps us reduce our sense of self-importance, which increases our daily worries and problems and creates a mental barrier, preventing a clear and healthy client-therapist relationship. If we think other people are important, we are obviously going to treat them with respect and kindness.
The Bach remedies can be combined safely with any other type of alternative or complementary therapy. However, if we use them as Dr. Bach did, as a complete system of healing for mind and body, then we should regard them as a “nondirective” form of therapy. This means that we should try to let the client dictate which remedies are right for them by the simple diagnostic techniques outlined in this book, and then give the remedies time to work. Giving too much advice, no matter how well intentioned, can sometimes cause more problems than it solves, especially if the person being treated is feeling vulnerable. We can give verbal advice and guidance if the patient asks for it and if we feel strongly and clearly that it is appropriate.
The Healing Power of Compassion
What really makes for a good therapist or healer is a strong mind of compassion. From a Buddhist perspective, compassion is a mind that acts on the wish to relieve the suffering of others and to protect them from future suffering in the wisest way possible. This basic wish to benefit others is our “Buddha nature” and the source of many spiritual realizations. We could say that compassion is a wise action of body, speech, or mind that arises out of our empathy toward others. It is an empowering, active, and deeply fulfilling state of mind, and it is a long way from worry. Compassion is the opposite of, or the antidote to, worry. Worry is an uncomfortable, self-centered, inward-looking mind that restricts the free flow of healthy life force energy and brings more future problems. Compassion is a wide, outward-looking, giving, and deeply peaceful mind that creates a boundless and effortless flow of positive energy.
We can increase our compassion by regularly contemplating the difficulties and potential dangers that all living beings face, then firmly resolving to help them in whatever way we can. By doing this, we will eventually be able to directly release and protect others from suffering.
The best way to help others is by simply developing our own inner qualities of compassion and wisdom. Although externally it appears that these qualities are not very useful, as we develop them, we draw closer to our own greatest potential for good. Eventually, when we fully realize this potential, we will be able to benefit others in countless ways. If we need a little encouragement to begin this inner journey, it is worth considering that generating this wish and decision to help others, by walking a spiritual path, is the only way we will find true lasting happiness for ourselves.
Can the power of our compassion affect the Bach remedies that we prescribe for others? The simple answer is “Yes,” but we may not be able to see this clearly. Again, the mind is a subtle object, and the effect of the thoughts and intentions that accompany our actions are not easily revealed unless we are familiar with our inner world. We can prove this in another way. If someone were to prescribe the Bach remedies, and he or she were in a very negative frame of mind, perhaps impatient or distracted and not that bothered about the welfare of the person he or she were treating, then this would obviously have a profound effect on the treatment. The client would sense this and not be at ease, leaving with little faith in the remedies. The therapist might also not choose the right remedies. Already many “doors” are closing and the chance of a successful treatment is reduced. Conversely, if the therapist has his or her client’s best interests at heart and has a mind of great compassion, this will naturally lead to a successful treatment and also give the client confidence in the therapist and the treatment.
We also have to look again at karma to gain some clarity on this issue. The karma of the client and therapist is the key factor in the possibility of a successful treatment. There are two conditions that they can establish that will help the karma of a successful treatment to ripen. From the therapist’s side, the mind of pure compassion is vital, and, from the patient’s side, the minds of patience, faith, and the wish to be well are vital. Even if we only have a little of these qualities, that will give the remedies enough room to work well.
If patients can also develop more compassion for others, this will aid their own healing process. The opposite of compassion is a selfish mind, and selfish minds are one of the conditions that can encourage the karma of illness to ripen. Conversely, a wish to use our life well and help others whenever possible will help the karma of good health to ripen. It is important to stress that this is not a guarantee of good health. Many compassionate people suffer from illness. It is simply another condition that can influence health.
Whatever conditions we create, good and bad karma can only ripen if we have created the causes by planting the seeds of this karma by our actions of body, speech, and mind in previous lives. This is why some very negative people never get ill and have long lives and why some very positive people get ill and sometimes die young. It is all about causes and conditions. If we have not created the causes to be ill, or we have removed them through inner purification, whatever conditions we create, we will not become ill.
There is one more advantage in trying to develop our compassion. If selfish actions lead to future suffering, then compassion must lead to great health and happiness in the future.
There were occasions in Dr. Bach’s life when he was able to heal simply through touch. This is relevant because, whenever it happened, he would have no warning but simply and naturally feel overwhelming compassion for his patient and feel the need to touch them. If the patient felt comfortable with this, he would feel a great surge of healing energy come through him from “above” and into the patient through his hands. A cure or relief from the illness would almost be immediate. The interesting point is that he would always feel this great sense of compassion first, and it would be this state of mind that created the bridge, channel, and environment for the healing energy to flow and ripen the patient’s karmic seed of good health. This was not always possible because not many people have the karma to experience that kind of healing nowadays. However, the Bach remedies are so special because millions of people do have the karma to benefit from them today.
Transforming Illness into “The Path”
By using our mind and the Bach remedies, we can try to create the conditions that will give rise to good health. But what can we do when good health still does not arise? Hard times are never meaningless if we know how to transform them by using them to develop our inner qualities. From the point of view of dealing with illness, one of the most valuable qualities we can develop is patience and reduce our propensity for anger and frustration.
Often we see patience as being an uncomfortable “grit your teeth and bear it” state of mind. However, the truly patient mind is able to accept difficult circumstances while remaining peaceful and happy. Depending on our circumstances, this may not seem easy, especially as we so often feel justified in our judgement of others’ wrong actions. No matter how justified we feel, if we check, anger or irritation is an uncomfortable mind. If we have been hurt by someone, why do we hurt ourselves more by feeling the pain of anger? We have a choice. Surely common sense tells us to develop the state of mind that will help the hurt heal sooner. If we burn our hand, we immediately put it under cold water, not hot. Developing anger can only be a cause of more conflict, whereas patience and understanding can actively diffuse confrontation and promote mutual understanding.
Patience does not mean that we should suppress anger, as this only leads to resentment, bitterness, and related physical illness in the future. Patience and forgiveness are the healing way between the extremes of either suppressing or indulging anger and other strong negative emotions. The practice of patience is a deeply transforming process. It creates a peaceful and stable mind and enables us to release negativity as it arises in the mind. Patience also gives us the mental space and clarity to judge our responses to challenging situations with wisdom, fairness, and honesty.
Practicing patience means willingly accepting and transforming everyday annoyances and difficulties into the path to personal happiness and inner contentment. Normally we would try to avoid any amount of irritation, but with gentle, consistent determination we can use these opportunities to gradually learn to relax, accept, and eventually welcome the chance to practice developing a peaceful mind in trying situations. Also in this way, we can quickly and directly purify the negative karma (previous negative actions) that are causing unpleasant circumstances to arise. Remembering this can help us maintain peaceful patience. This is actually the quickest way to purify negative karma that we are already experiencing, like illness, poverty, loneliness, and so on.
Anger can be the most damaging and destructive force known to humans. We should be ruthless with it and never allow ourselves to be controlled by it. When we are under the influence of anger, we easily lose control of our thoughts and actions, saying and doing things that we later regret. Just as a forest fire starts from one small spark, violent anger can easily develop in a mind that readily becomes frustrated or impatient with small problems. Anger gets us into trouble and pride keeps us there. Anger is our worst enemy. We should only ever get angry at our anger.
Buddha said: “Illness has many good qualities.” There is no doubt that many people would disagree with this. How can any form of suffering be beneficial? We all work constantly to avoid suffering and to find happiness. However, the happiness we seek in the external world is transient and provides no lasting satisfaction. Often the temporary happiness we find in relationships and possessions only leads to greater unhappiness when we are parted from them. But the happiness that comes from a peaceful and content mind can never be stolen and will never leave us even when we die.
Many people develop such happiness by learning to live with illness and transform it into the inner path. There are many instances of this happening. So what is the value of physical healing if it denies us the opportunity to develop such inner wisdom and happiness? Obviously we do not have to be ill to develop such qualities, but it can point us in the right direction. Then when we are familiar with that path and no longer need illness to point us in the right direction, that can be an appropriate time for healing. Again, there is no guarantee of this, but this is often what happens.
As a healer, the most important lesson to learn from all of this is that although we want people to be healthy, our main aim should be to help people make the most of the opportunities they have to find some lasting happiness now and in the future. This will only come about through realizing their own divinity or spiritual nature, not necessarily through good health and success in the external world. These are simple but challenging truths. Dr. Bach went out of his way to share this knowledge and wisdom with others. He was not simply and blindly bent on physical healing. If we read Heal Thyself, we will see that his real message to humanity was to look within for the answers.
One more interesting result of trying to develop our spiritual qualities is that we are able to enjoy our relationships and external possessions much more when we reduce our attachment and need for them. It is as if the less we need these things, the more fun we have. Having more space and clarity in our mind helps us to view the external world in a more playful way, while our regard for the really serious issues, like our wish for others to be happy, increases.
In conclusion, Dr. Bach taught by example that real freedom and happiness can be found simply by abandoning our selfish, needy mind and concentrating on helping others. If we strive to emulate this great man, our own practice and prescribing of the Bach remedies will become a powerful force for good.