As a doctor who runs a business that relies on the internet, I realize it’s a strong statement to suggest that the internet may be literally killing us, but I’ll give you my reasons for saying something so provocative. When you look at the scientific data, I think it’s safe to say that the greatest risk to your health is not a poor diet, a bad habit, or lack of exercise; it’s loneliness. If you don’t believe me, there’s a whole chapter loaded with scientific data from reputable medical journals in my book Mind Over Medicine. When scientists study “Blue Zones,” those places on earth where a greater than usual number of people live healthy, happy lives until over 100 years old, they all share one thing. They live in close knit, multi-generational tribes that take care of each other. None of them spend all day glued to computers or cell phones, chatting virtually with people they have probably never met in real life.
The internet is burning us out. With so many emails to check, so many social media sites to keep updating, so many teleclasses to listen to and webinars to watch and Skype calls to log onto, our schedules are so busy that we don’t have time to gather with those we might really get to know, to go for a hike, to have a cup of tea, to sing together, to dance, to share our pain, to celebrate our triumphs. Even when we do gather in person, we aren’t present with each other. Last Christmas, I saw a whole family of people—10 of them—sitting at a restaurant, every single one of them on their mobile phone, not one of them connecting at a soul level with anyone at the table.
For three weeks, I have been spending a lot of time in nature in Australia and gathering with part of my own soul tribe, singing and dancing and making meals with each other, all far away from the internet. While I’ve been here, I have been deeply marinating on a paradox that seems in need of attention.
THE PARADOX OF CONNECTION/DISCONNECTION:
About five years ago, things that seemed like miracles—things my mind couldn’t explain—started happening around me. Patients were having “spontaneous” remissions. Synchronicities were unfolding around me as if I had been swept up in some current of magic. Spiritual superpowers were awakening within me, bringing with them gifts and powers I didn’t know I had access to. At first I was fascinated—in awe—and I played with these spiritual superpowers (which the yogis call “siddhis”). My entire view of reality got shattered. Things that should have been impossible were happening with regularity. At first, they were happening in waves of what I called “quickenings.” These quickenings lasted about two weeks and then a few months would pass before another quickening happened. Then, after a very mystical experience in January 2014, the mystical events became my new normal. I could no longer deny that reality was not as it seemed to my scientific, rational, materialist mind. When I told Byron Katie about some of the events that were happening, she said, “Lissa, they’ve always been happening. Only now you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.”
Years ago, when I was practicing medicine in an unusual way and trying to find language to describe what I was doing, I struggled through words that didn’t quite fit my definition. Although words like “integrative medicine” and “holistic health” got close, the way those words are understood in our culture wasn’t the same thing I envisioned. To me, “integrative medicine” meant you play nice in the medical sandbox with acupuncturists and homeopaths. “Holistic health” meant you recommend green juice cleanses and prescribe a lot of supplements. “Functional medicine” means you order a lot of unusual laboratory tests not usually covered by insurance, and you treat often neglected biochemical imbalances naturally. While I very much appreciate the value of natural medicines, green juice cleanses, non-mainstream lab tests, and alternative healers, and while I fully endorse the benefit of all of these interventions, I was more journeying down another rabbit hole, where patients were having “spontaneous remissions” without drugs, supplements, raw vegan diets, or acupuncture needles.
Finding and fulfilling your calling can be confusing, disheartening, anxiety-provoking, disappointing, and frustrating, but it can also lead to the greatest feelings of deep fulfillment you’ve ever experienced. When you know—you just know—that you’re here to be an instrument of sacred service for the Divine to use you as a vessel of love amidst a world in crisis, you’ll find yourself on just such a hero’s journey—because your calling will reach out for you like a magnet draws forth metal. This kind of journey is not for the faint of heart, which is why I wrote my new book The Anatomy of a Calling. Consider it a sort of field manual for anyone on the hero’s or heroine’s journey of embodying your soul’s purpose. (The book trailer just dropped today! You can watch it here.) I wrote this book for anyone who just knows that you’re here on a sort of spiritual mission, one that your soul has been preparing for your whole life, which may be quite mysterious, filled with unexpected twists and turns.
You may have already heard the Call to Adventure, and you’re now on the Road of Trials, where things don’t always go quite as you planned. Or maybe you’ve heard the Call, but you’re Refusing the Call. Or maybe you’re in the Ordeal in the Innermost Cave, experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, which always happens just before you Find the Holy Grail that you bring back to the Ordinary World on the Road Back. Maybe you’ve already completed one hero’s journey and now you just got called to another, because most of us are in the midst of multiple hero’s journeys all at once! Wherever you are, The Anatomy of a Calling is meant to offer you comfort, reassurance, tools, and practices that can facilitate whatever phase of the journey you find yourself navigating.
One of the ways in which heroes and heroines get off tracks is that people get seduced by myths about what it means to find and fulfill your calling. As I wrote about in 8 Myths About Finding Your Calling, your true soul’s purpose may not be what you think. So how can you tell if you’re on the right track? Here are a few signs.
The following is an excerpt from my new memoir The Anatomy of a Calling. The Anatomy of a Calling is about finding and fulfilling your calling, using Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey as a map for what happens in between the moment when you hear The Call to Adventure and when you finally bring the Holy Grail home to your people who need it. This excerpt describes a particularly painful part of my hero’s journey and demonstrates what happens when we start to veer out of alignment with the integrity of the soul.
I received the letter from my patient Fiona in my box at the office after a long night of delivering babies, when I had almost no reserve left. In her letter, Fiona explained that after she and her husband fought for the bazillionth time about the fact that they hadn’t had sex in over a year, he threatened to leave her if she didn’t go see a gynecologist to figure out what was wrong. Because my schedule was so packed, she waited two months to see me, praying I might have some magical solution that would save her marriage. I had taken care of her a few years back, and her recollection of me was that I was approachable, tender, funny, compassionate, and honest. She felt she could trust me.