When the British Medical Journal reported in May of 2016 that preventable medical error is the #3 cause of death in the United States, my mentor Rachel Naomi Remen, MD and I co-wrote an op-ed piece that we submitted to the New York Times. We thought this was big news and hoped that a reputable newspaper like the New York Times would agree. They never responded to us, so we submitted it to CNN, but they failed to respond too. Almost a year later, and especially in light of what's currently happening to Obamacare and Trumpcare, it still feels relevant, so I'm going to post it here. Be prepared. It's frightening to think that it might not be safe to trust your body in the hands of the current medical system. But fear not. As I wrote in my book The Fear Cure, fear only makes us sicker. Instead, let this be a call to action. Let us drop into our hearts and trust that when all of us join together in sacred activism, we can do hard things with great love and even behemoth systems like the United States health care system can heal . . .
I’m in Boulder, Colorado right now with Trevor Hart, leading a Sounds True event about trusting the invisible forces of love to guide you in your life. Yesterday, we spent all day talking about how we can invoke spiritual guidance, the tools and practices that can help you receive guidance, and what gets in the way of opening to this kind of guidance. Today, we’ll be focusing on the tricky topic of discernment.
Yesterday’s first class that I taught with Trevor Hart for Reorienting Your Inner Compass was called When Life Throws You A Curveball. (It’s not too late to get the recording and learn the deeper practices we shared to help us navigate life’s curveballs with great consciousness. You can still register here.)
As I shared with you yesterday, my beloved mother was just diagnosed with a rare and aggressive kind of leukemia. (If you missed it, you can read about our shock and our magic stories here.) When life throws you a curveball, advice is often the last thing you need. You need permission to be emotional. You need room to be with what has happened. You need . . . whatever YOU need. It’s so individual. That said, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that help me when life throws me curveballs.
With my mother’s permission, I want to share with you all the curveball life just threw my family. A few weeks ago, my healthy 71-going-on-55 year old mother started feeling palpitations in her chest, a fast heart rate, and some shortness of breath. She thought something might be wrong with her so far always healthy heart, so she went to Urgent Care, where they found a healthy heart but severe anemia of the macrocytic (big blood cells) variety. We thought she might have a B12 or folate deficiency and hoped the treatment would be as simple as a vitamin supplement. But the next day, the doctor called me. Her blood smear was just reviewed by the pathologist, and it didn’t look good. It looked like leukemia, but the only way to know for sure would be to endure the painful gold standard test—a bone marrow biopsy.
I first heard the term “generous listening” almost ten years ago, when I took a workshop for doctors with Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. She told us that most doctors don’t listen generously. They’re always in their heads, trying to fix someone, rushing to a diagnosis and treatment plan. Or they’re judging what the person is saying—“Do I like what this person is saying? Or do I not like it?" Or they’re comparing—“Am I smarter than this person? Or are they smarter than me?” Or they’re one-upping, thinking of other patients who are in even more pain or have even more dire straits than the person who’s talking. Or they’re interrupting, barely letting the patient get a word in edgewise.