TV Article

When the Massage Is the Medium

Bill Moyers -- The journalist and PBS team up for ''Healing and the Mind''

Bill Moyers has felt the rising of his chi. In the first episode of Healing and the Mind, his new five-part PBS series about the interplay of mind and body in sickness and in health, the Baptist Texan sits in a hospital in Beijing while a Chinese doctor presses his hands on Moyers' arm to encourage the flow of the body's vital energy — its chi (pronounced chee). The patient feels...something. But what?

''There's definitely a zeitgeist building,'' says Moyers of the growing interest in alternative medicine, ''and I wanted to explore it — skeptical but open-minded.'' In fact, Moyers tapped into a trend that has recently made headlines: The New England Journal of Medicine reported last month that an estimated 34 percent of all Americans turned to some form of alternative therapy in 1990, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage.

It is perhaps a happy coincidence that the author of the study, Boston-based internist Dr. David M. Eisenberg, is also featured in the first episode of Healing and the Mind (Eisenberg was the first American medical exchange student in China in 1979). But coincidence has little to do with Moyers' nose for spiritual ions in the air: The journalist, who has made a TV career of listening ear-nestly to the thoughts of poets, philosophers, politicians, and vox populi, is the same guy whose PBS specials popularized the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell (in Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth) and who was one of the first to report on the hug-and-share men's movement in A Gathering of Men with Robert Bly. Indeed, Moyers began researching Healing three years ago, impressed, he says, that ''these are real people seeking help, not just San Francisco types.'' Baptist Texan types take note: As a result of his Healing experiences, Moyers (who now tinkers with the idea of a series about the wisdom of elders) has added meditation to his health regimen.

Originally posted Feb 19, 1993 Published in issue #158 Feb 19, 1993 Order article reprints