It all started when I was seven years old and the chimney sweep found a nest of newborn baby squirrels in our chimney. Mom wanted to leave them – to let nature take it’s course, but I was having none of that. I insisted she take me to the vet so I could learn how to rescue the baby squirrels. I wound up being a squirrel healer over the course of the next 15 years. They called me the “Squirrel Girl.” My picture was in the papers. I tended squirrels until I was finally old enough to go to medical school and practice on people. My calling was clear.
And then it got corrupted with my medical education – and I pretty much forgot what I was called to do when I was a child. I’ll apologize in advance for how long this will be – but in case you’re curious, here is the story of how I remembered what I am here on this earth to do.
April 2, 2005
It’s my wedding day, and I’m at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. While scanning the list of activities at the ranch, I see yoga, meditation, and “shamanic journey” on the schedule. Having no clue what a shamanic journey is, I decide, on a lark, to embark upon one, with no clue that the next hour would mark the beginning of a journey I am still on.
During the guided meditation led by shaman Jon Rasmussen, I enter the interior realms of my own heart and am given a gift by my subconscious – a stethoscope with a paintbrush on the diaphragm. As both a doctor and a professional artist, it sort of makes sense. But what was the deeper meaning of the gift? Was I supposed to paint my patients? Teach my patients how to paint? Paint stethoscopes? With no clue how to interpret this gift, I file it away in my mind under “unexplained woo woo phenomena” and forget about it… until a few months later.
On my wedding night, Matt and I stay up until 1am, when a nearby hot springs resort opens to the public in the early morning hours, and you can soak in the natural thermal springs. We’d never heard of Esalen Institute, but it sounds wild and crazy, so we go, not realizing at the time that Esalen will wind up playing a major role in my life years later.