Daleen Totten (Managing Editor of Natural Medicine Journal) interviews Dr Arien van der Merwe, an integrative doctor and wellness advisor
Q: What was the pivotal moment that made you change from being a conventional doctor and becoming an integrative doctor?
A: During 1995 many things happened to set me on the new course. I got very fed-up with treating symptoms of illness. In fact, so much so, I wanted to open a coffee shop! My husband was sequestrated, we lost our house and many material things we thought we couldn’t cope without. We had to start from scratch.
I took the event as a learning opportunity to find new meaning and purpose in my chosen career. The old things weren’t working any longer – financially, relationship-wise, and life purpose and meaning, i.e. career-wise. I decided to change direction. The opportunity presented itself during this period when Elna Snyman, an Executive Director at Sportron International and a patient of mine, asked me to give training on vitamins and minerals to her marketing associates. Initially, I said no, who needs vitamins – simply eat your food! Fortunately a little voice inside told me to control my arrogance and explore before making rash decisions. The rest, as they say, is history!
Q: What do you see as important advances in integrative medicine today?
A: More and more research is being done. Coming from a left-brain, scientific background, I find it important that the often intangible benefits and results of integrative medicine also fit into the research model. The wonderful thing is that as more and more sophisticated techno equipment becomes available, evidence is coming forward of what natural healers have known for aeons. I’m also involved in actually living the integrative idea, with current negotiations to establish the wellness centre concept within mainstream group practices. This is proving to be quite a challenge, but I firmly believe that it’s the way forward.
Q: What will medicine look like in 50 years time?
A: Heaven on earth! Fully integrated practices between mainstream and complementary streams will exist. People will enter a wellness destiny practice and complete a comprehensive computer-based wellness assessment looking at 12 areas of wellness: physical, mental, emotional, breathing, work-play balance, sexual, spiritual, relationship, environmental, self actualisation, nutritional (incl. supplements, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, etc.) and social aspects. They’ll receive a comprehensive report after their screening profiles have been taken into consideration. The screening will include an energy assessment that will pick up early signals in the causal, mental, emotional and physical double energy bodies, decades before it appears in the gross physical body.
This is the truly preventative medicine of the future! An integrative wellness solution will then be developed for the individual’s specific needs. Everybody will make use of the wellness facilities, from talks, workshops and lectures, to personal consultations with energy healers and other healthcare practitioners, and water therapy, wellness deli’s, anti-ageing medicine, genetic coaching, etc. There are no limits to the possibilities! They will be referred for yoga, meditation, psychic counselling, physiotherapy, kinesiology, card readings – the whole shebang! Peoples’ minds will be open, ready to explore the fantastic ways available to become aware of the fact that their thoughts and emotions create their reality.
Q: What is your passion in life?
A: Seeing truly integrated wellness practices even in small towns, readily accessible to all people. Training more doctors to become passionate integrated wellness practitioners. Working with the community to increase awareness, education and growth in the population to live truly optimal wellness lives, becoming all they’re meant to be.
Q: What would you still like to study if you had the time?
A: I’m still looking for a job that will actually pay me to read and study full-time! I do make time to study more about quantum physics, alternative realities and spirituality.
Q: Do you believe in miracles?
A: Oh, yes! If we open our minds and release old patterns, we create new neural networks of endless possibilities. As JZ Knight says in What the Bleep Do We Know, we can create new elsewheres of thought. Miracles occur then.
Q: If you were reborn what would you like to do next time round?
A: Probably the same: wounded healer, teacher and communicator.
Q: Do you take nutritional supplements? And if you do, what do you take and do you do so regularly?
A: Yes. I take a superior antioxidant (my own formulation available as DocsFocus, actually!), calcium and magnesium with vitamins C, D and boron, and an essential fatty acid with omega 3, 6, and 9, every day. At present, I’m also using Hawthorne berry to control a slightly elevated blood pressure, DHEA and pregnenolone for anti-ageing and stress (because of all my new ventures!) and L-tyrosine to support thyroid function. I’m turning 50 in January, and have made a deeply inspired choice to finally lose the excess weight before then, really living the young at heart lifestyle, hence the additional supplements, which I’ll stop taking once I’ve reached my target.
Q: What was your most embarrassing moment?
A: Entering a lecture room with Velcro hair curlers still firmly lodged in the back of my head!
Q: If banished to an island and only allowed to take 3 items, what would they be?
A: A practical workbook on spirituality, seeds to grow my own veggies and herbs, and a spiritual, soulmate life partner to create our own version of Eden.
Q: If you could be any creature but human, what would you become?
A: A dolphin.
Q: Please tell us about the books you have written.
A: The first book came about when I was giving training for Sportron. After many lectures, I had enough material for a book entitled To Health! I wrote, printed and published it in 1997. After those were sold out, I did an improved version in 1999, called Health & Happiness. Then I wrote Herbal Remedies and Stress Solutions is the last in the trilogy. I’d always wanted to do the stress book, as I felt that people often get the mistaken idea that supplements or herbs can also be quick fixes. To me the origin of disease still lies deeper.
Q: If you had the time to write another book, what would the book be about?
The next book will be about quantum health, looking at spiritual connections, and how thoughts and emotions can create health or disease. The book will include practical exercises on changing habitual thought patterns, accessing the superconscious mind, reprogramming the unconscious mind and truly integrating all three minds (conscious mind being the 3rd).
Q: What is your favourite pass-time?
A: Reading of course! But also relaxing with likeminded friends, preferably in the bush, sea or mountains. I also love going on retreats.
Q: Do you relax regularly? And when you do, how do you choose to unwind?
A: I relax every day. I do visualisations to reprogramme my mind (especially now with my wellness journey to healthy weight), I do 40-day mantra practice and I work with angel cards. Actually, this is quite hard work, now that I think about it! I love long, relaxing baths with my favourite aromatherapy oils (orange blossom, sandalwood and geranium), and having a relaxing evening out with friends or my kids. I love a glass or two of wine, but at present that’s prohibited!
Q: Is there anything you would like to change in your life?
A: Right now I love my life. Sometimes though, I wish I chose this time around to be the pampered wife of a rich, adoring husband, simply lounging around and working on my spirituality in peace and quiet! Well, maybe next time my soul will choose an easier journey!
Q: Any regrets?
A: Absolutely none! I’ve made many mistakes, but also learned many lessons.
Q: Who do you look up to and respect most?
All the teachers I find in books: Candace Pert, Joan Borysenko, Ken Wilbur, Brian Luke Seaward – all the free spirits of this world.
Q: Tell us about your best friend.
My best friend is Loraine Colburn. We’ve been friends since we were 8 years old. We’ve stuck it out through thick and thin. I think she probably knows me best. We’ve grown up together, went through university, marriages, kids, relationship issues, the whole tutti. We’ve always been there for each other and still make time to spend together at least once a week.
Q: Do you have any children?
A: I have 3 children: Léan (20), my son and 2 daughters, Anri (17) and Stephni (14). We have a wonderful relationship – not all sugar and sweet, but really connecting, laughing, arguing, even shouting together. I’m so grateful that they allow me to teach them the way their thoughts and emotions impact their health, wealth and happiness. They even watched What the Bleep and The Secret, and now want all their friends to see it. My soul child is Craig Swanepoel who’s also my right-hand man at the Centre. He’s studying for a degree in natural medicine and I love the role of being his mentor! Actually, all my kids’ friends become more or less my foster kids.