I have a dream that we will bring the care back to health care. I have a dream that we will bring consciousness to medicine. I have a dream that we will practice love, married with all the miraculous technologies that make Western medicine so life-saving, especially in acute care situations.
Marry Western Medicine with Sacred Medicine
Imagine a health care system where the advances of modern medicine that save lives with emergency surgery during trauma, stent placement during heart attacks and strokes, and miracle treatments that save the lives of premature babies marries the wisdom, expertise, and techniques of shamans, Eastern medicine doctors, faith healers, and energy healers. Imagine functional medicine and nutritional interventions in a rock-and-roll mash up with scientifically proven mind-body medicine practices like the ones I teach in my book Mind Over Medicine. Imagine science and technology and psychology and spirituality all wrapped up together in a DNA spiral of infinite possibility that predisposes the body to seemingly miraculous cures from supposedly “incurable” illnesses.
We all know what it’s like to fill out detailed forms about our medical history at the doctor's office. But is your doctor asking you the questions he or she really needs in order to get a good read on your health? At the Whole Health Medicine Institute, the training program my team runs for doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, energy healers and other health care providers, we teach healers how to ask patients the right questions. But in case your doctor isn’t asking you the questions that might illuminate potential root causes of your illness, try asking yourself these questions.
1. What is your body saying no to?
You were called at a very young age. You were less than ten when you discovered that the life of another being mattered. Maybe you rescued lizards when the boys were pulling off their tails. Maybe spiders were your friends. Maybe you were the squirrel girl. But your natural healing tendencies weren’t cherished, not in our culture.
Your inner healer drove you to seek out a career in the health care profession. Maybe you’re a nurse practitioner or a midwife or an acupuncturist or a doctor, a therapist or a health or life coach or an energy healer or a physical therapist. You figured your innate healing gifts would be welcomed within the health care profession, that you would be given the opportunity to fulfill your calling, to serve out your purpose, to help others thrive.
But it didn’t quite work out that way. Your training in medicine robbed you of your joie de vivre, or becoming a therapist carved you into such a rigid box that you felt stifled in your earnest desire to help others find their phoenix wings. You felt abused by others in your profession, especially those who didn’t understand the profundity of your healing gift and left you feeling like you were somehow less than enough because you wanted to touch patients not only with your hands, but with your heart. You knew there was something more to health than you were taught, and having the heart of a healer- and often the experience of being a patient that perhaps stemmed from your thwarted gift- you yearn to fully express this innate ability you know you have.
Maybe you’re still slogging away in a career that doesn’t feel quite right, or maybe you’ve even left already, because you feel like you’re selling out your soul’s integrity when you compromise your gifts as a true healer. You know you’re being called to something more, but you’re not sure what it is. Your soul is calling you- stronger and stronger, like the pull of the moon on the ocean, arising waves within you that disturb but also awaken you. Mother Gaia is reaching out for you, pulling you into her mysterious rhythm, pulsing you like the heartbeat of Africa, yearning to initiate you.
But what would it mean to be an initiated healer?
You are called into ceremony with the others who are like you. You might have never met, yet on some soul level, when you are all in the same physical space, you recognize one another instantly. You sense a resonance, like a core vibration that entrains you into a frequency of Mother Gaia, deep and pulsing and vastly feminine, the mother, the healer, the goddess, the priestess. She has been there all along, this part of you that is being called forth. She is as familiar to you as your breath, and yet, you have forsaken her. But she has never abandoned you. She has been waiting for you all along, ready for you to call her back home, when you’re finally ready.
My mother had a sore neck, probably from Pilates class, she figured. So Mom went to her doctor, who ordered an X-ray. Upon reviewing the X-ray, her doctor ordered a CT scan for a week later. My mother asked her doctor why he was ordering more tests. Did he see evidence of osteoporosis? Arthritis? A slipped disc?
Without even making eye contact with her, Mom’s doctor said, “Could be metastatic cancer.” Then he promptly left the room.
Let me explain what was happening in my mother’s nervous system in that moment when my mother’s doctor said the words “metastatic cancer” without offering any comfort. Mom was married to my father, a radiologist who read X-rays for a living, so Mom’s thinking rational forebrain knew that if the radiologist saw anything even mildly suspicious, he might order follow up testing and it wasn’t necessarily the end of the world. But Mom’s rational forebrain was not in charge in the moment when her doctor said the words “metastatic cancer.” Instead, the amygdala in Mom’s primal brain flashed back to my father, who had died of metastatic cancer only a few years earlier. All her amygdala heard was, “METASTATIC CANCER! A CERTAIN DEATH SENTENCE!”
When Mom’s amygdala heard the word “cancer,” her amygdala automatically signaled “danger,” and the red alert fired off, flipping on Mom’s “fight-or-flight” stress response. Mom’s hypothalamus then released hormones that communicated with her pituitary gland, which communicated with her adrenal gland, and then BOOM. Her body was instantly filled with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Her whole body was now in what Walter Cannon at Harvard called the “stress response.” It was ready to outrun the threat, even though in reality, there was no threat to outrun. The only thing Mom could do was wait a week until her CT scan was scheduled.
Is medicine saving us- or killing us? Are doctors helping you- or harming you? Are you improving your health by taking prescription drugs- or are you decreasing your life expectancy? Are you getting the medicine you really need? Do you even know what kind of medicine that is?
These are the questions I answer in my third TEDx talk, which I delivered live at TEDxFargo, which was organized by Fargo community leader and Whole Health Medicine Institute physician Dr. Susan Mathison.
I had a meltdown on the plane on my way to Fargo because I knew what I would be discussing has the potential to be wildly controversial, and I wanted to ensure that my message was not misinterpreted by the very people I seek to serve- doctors and patients. I reached out to one of my mentors, Brené Brown, and she talked me off the ledge with an email that guided me with exactly the advice I needed. I wound up rewriting my speech on the plane only one day before I gave the talk.