A Beautiful Medicine

A Radical Look at the Essence of Health and Healing

“Kerouac with On the Road and Pirsig with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance each inspired a generation and guided a movement. David Mercier’s marvelous book will do the same. After reading this engaging integration of stories, philosophy, and medicine, you will never think of healing in the same way again!” Richard Boyatzis, Ph.D.

A Beautiful Medicine is a look at the very soul of health, healing, and medicine. It explores the deep humanness that lies at the core of the human body, and leads the reader toward a radical vision of the mind-body relationship. The book is designed to inspire you and change forever the way you look at health and healing. Read more Praise for A Beautiful Medicine

Grand Prize Winner
2013 Nautilus Book Awards



One of the book’s key ideas is that the symptom is the message. The sole purpose of the symptom is to instruct. While the view on the street is that the symptom is the enemy, it is in fact an ally, a coach, a friend. Its job description includes prodding us to make choices that lead to a calm, strong body and an exuberant soul. And its source? The impulse of evolution in the cosmos itself which never ceases to purr, hum, and pulse in the veins of every creature walking the face of our beautiful earth.

Symptoms prompt us to see that our spiritual and emotional concerns permeate flesh, blood, and bones; they promote the understanding that the challenges of living healthily are woven into the demands of the spiritual journey. Compassion, intimacy, meaning, and purpose are as inescapably linked to our physical health as are broccoli and tomato, mango and blueberry.



To illustrate key ideas in the book, I’ve included threads of memoir that serve as milestones along my own journey to wholeness and healing. My childhood as a biracial child growing up in post-war Tokyo, my early conflicts and subsequent reconciliation with my father, my years as a wild-haired hippie, my illness and depression as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka during the 1970s, and then my long search in integrative medicine—all steps that led me to the lessons expressed in the book.



One of my goals in writing the book was to stir in people the desire to take action that they’ve been postponing. Why aren’t we doing what we know to be good for us? We’re capable of having more vitality and serenity, but we’re often stuck in old habits and in myths about health. The book is designed to inspire change. By seeing how we are firmly embedded in the fabric of existence itself and in the lives of others, we may even come to recognize our moral responsibility to take good care of ourselves.




Both our health and our illnesses are complex, and we often need more than simple tips and methods. What I teach is the ability to deeply understand the essence of health and illness. By learning how to think carefully, creatively, and insightfully about your health, you’ll be better able to navigate the often confusing landscape of healthcare options, whether conventional or holistic. This is essential—for once you know how to drive, you can use any car to get to your destination.

Developing your learning self will enable you to respond creatively and intelligently to the messages coming from your body. Then you can make better use of the expertise available to you, or find your own way to unlocking the keys to your vitality and wholeness.



A Beautiful Medicine reveals how the whole of ourselves—the acid of frustration, the gloom of regret and disappointment as well as the sweetness of our triumphs and passions (in short, the influence of everything)—must be considered if we are to fully understand the soul of medicine. In that light, the search for health is inseparable from the search for transformation, from the job of fulfilling our personal destinies, from the challenge of becoming the person our dogs think we are. But there is also a Whole that includes all of existence itself, and seeing how our individual minds and bodies are profoundly linked to this Whole is essential for understanding health, healing, and medicine.



We talk of whole foods. We talk of exercise. We talk of rest. And these are certainly core ingredients of good health. But one crucial element rarely mentioned in conversations of health is courage.

Experts estimate that between 70 to 90 percent of illnesses are preventable. This means that up to ninety percent of our country’s $2.6 trillion healthcare bill may be coming from malcontent, anxiety, frustration, and all manner of distress as well as appalling lifestyle choices such as the consumption of fast foods and sugary desserts, excessive alcohol, and surrendering to the hypnotic spell of TV and the gravitational pull of the couch.

Simply put, lack of courage is responsible for much of this self-destructive behavior: lack of the courage required to break the shackles of a culture of indulgence. We need the will and the wisdom to eat less sugar, to visit the gym more, to consume more leaves, roots, berries, and seeds.

We also need the courage to take steps toward the uncompromised life, which is the only acceptable choice for the human body’s blood chemistry.

In listening to patients for almost three decades, I’ve seen how fear—the fear of risk, the fear of making bold choices, the fear of speaking the truth—leads to the erosion of the human spirit and eventually to the breakdown of the body.

Despising your job is bad for your health. So is a marriage in hell or limbo. The antidote to the resulting fatigue, malaise, weakened immune system, cellular degeneration, etc., is not medication or nutritional supplements (though both can be helpful). Rather, it is the courage to do the right thing: to follow the call of destiny and to live in pure authenticity. It is not easy. A Beautiful Medicine provides a unique, revolutionary road map for the task.