In a recent sermon I told the story of a place called Epidaurus that I visited in Southern Greece. It was a temple to the ancient god of healing Asclepius. Hippocrates was a member of this group of physicians and they are thought to be the founders of the art of medicine. The Hippocratic Oath urges physicians to respect their patients and to avoid doing harm, above all. The temple at Epidaurus dates back to 430BC where the archeological site reveals an ancient hospital with a surprisingly modern and wholistic approach to health. They believed in the healing power of laughter, nature, massage, and wise counsel. Women in labor and people with serious illness would spent time on this campus which included patient rooms, an auditorium for plays and comedy, nature walks, group exercise, good food, as well as treatment by a physician. When we walked around this site and tried to imagine what it might have been like to go there 2500 years ago it reminded me most of a spa or a yoga retreat.
Imagine my surprise today when I found this article in the Cape Cod Times entitled “The Nature of Healing”. I learned that doctors in Michigan are treating people by sending them to local parks. It is all part of a pilot program called “Park Rx America”. Pioneered by Dr. Beth Peter of Lakewood Family Medicine in Holland MI, the program prescribes 20 minutes a day for walking out in nature, 30 minutes if at all possible. Physicians in the Middle West have built a database that finds the best parks for their patients' needs, filtering them for walkways and bathrooms.
Park Rx America’s website has links to 8000 parks in 34 states. The article included a mention of the Cape conservation lands along with encouragement to readers to find some of the space around us that is open for walking, hiking or simply appreciating the breeze.
I thought it was timely advice. After this long winter and rainy spring I hope you have some time to take advantage of your natural surroundings. As we enter into this Memorial weekend I hope you find time to enjoy Mother Nature, and its healing power.