Some of you are familiar with the public health issue I’ve been wrestling with. In my fourth TEDx talk I spoke about the #1 Public Health Issue Doctors Aren’t Talking About. Addressing loneliness from a public health perspective, I have a vision of healing circles that practice and advocate Whole Health and Sacred Medicine modalities for healing. (I described my vision in detail here.) Since the data is so clear that loneliness predisposes us to disease and healing community helps us live a health span that equals our life span, I feel responsible as a doctor for offering treatment options for those who need this medicine of loving, authentic human connection.
I’m also passionate about solving the accessibility issue. Right now, Sacred Medicine healing methods, such as mind-body-spirit medicine, energy healing, shamanism, transformational work, cutting edge trauma therapies like IFS and AIT, and spiritual teaching are luxury goods available only to privileged elites who can afford to pay out of pocket for one-on-one treatment, group workshops at retreat centers like Esalen, Kripalu, Omega, and 1440 Multiversity, and expensive conferences. As someone who charges for my services and trains doctors who charge for theirs, I am part of the problem, which means I also feel resolved to be part of the solution. This blog is intended to update you regarding the progress I’m making with solving this problem and invite those who want to be part of the solution to join the Healing Soul Tribe, where those who can currently afford to participate are gathering to create the solution for those who can’t. (Join the Healing Soul Tribe and learn all about William Bengston’s Hands On Healing “Bengston” method this month. Bill’s method has been successfully curing cancer in mice over 90% of the time, and this month, those in recovery from illness, injury or trauma are invited to learn how to practice this method themselves. Join the Healing Soul Tribe here).
Let me break down the very overwhelming task before me so I can be transparent and vulnerable with you all—because the truth is that I need your help, and I’m also not sure how to wrangle together all of the people who want to be part of the solution. I’m hoping this update will give you a chance to see where I am in the development of this project and where those of you who want to support it might fit in.
The Problem: Mind, body, and spirit all participate in the development of the disease, and trauma is a known risk factor for chronic and life-threatening illness. However, the highly successful, efficient, cost effective, integrated whole health, mind/body/spirit tools that support conventional medicine in its approach to disease and are effective at helping people in recovery from illness, injury, or trauma are currently a luxury good in most of the modern world, especially in the US where for-profit insurances do not cover such services. Mind-body-spirit medicine, transformational work, energy healing, shamanism, cutting edge trauma therapy methods, and non-institutionalized spiritual teaching are effective and crucial adjuncts to conventional medicine and need to be part of any treatment plan, yet these healing methods are not accessible to the marginalized populations who are often the most traumatized and the most sick. Social justice requires that we serve these marginalized populations in affordable and scalable ways. An additional problem is that masterful people who can facilitate this kind of healing work are in limited supply. Creating a prototype that can be easily taught to group leaders so those in need can be served with cutting edge tools can help amplify this kind of work without being reliant upon mind-body experts, healers, transformational leaders, and spiritual teachers. As people become more disengaged from religion, the “spiritual but not religious” population also needs a place to gather in person to reunite communities who suffer, experience joy, and heal together, easing the loneliness that is a public health epidemic in the modern world and restoring intimacy as medicine for the body, mind, and soul.
The Solution: Scaling mind-body-spirit medicine, transformational work, energy healing, and trauma clearing in a group setting, by donation only, using a 12-step like model that is available for anyone on a healing journey with illness, injury, or trauma. While 12 step helps many people and offers cost effective transformation and healing to addicts and those who love them, many of the people who need healing work do not identify with the label of addict or co-dependent. Finding and scaling an effective model that serves those who identify as sick, injured, or traumatized may help save medical dollars, offer healthy community to an otherwise isolated, lonely population, and improve physical and mental health outcomes.
Background: Although spiritual transformation and healing of the physical body have been linked by shamans and other ancient healing methods for thousands of years, we in the modern world have forgotten that the body cannot be divorced from the spirit and psyche. The Cartesian split of mind, body, and spirit persists in our academic institutions today. The body is in the medical school or biology department. The psyche is in the psychology department. The spirit is in the religion department or the divinity school. The shamans are studied in the anthropology department. Quantum mechanics and biofield studies happen in the physics department and the biology department. Energy healing doesn’t even have its own department in the world of academia, leaving such healers feeling homeless and disenfranchised by more widely respected methods of medical and psychological treatment. Separating these disciplines into their silos prevents a whole health paradigm that sees them as intimately and irreversibly intertwined. Our approach to the treatment of disease has suffered greatly from this Cartesian split.
Psycho-spiritual aspects of healing are not taught in medical schools or practiced in most offices and hospitals, in spite of copious data that would support its use (see my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself for original sources). While interest in transformational work has become more mainstream through life coaching, executive coaching, and transformational programs such as EST, Landmark, Hoffman Process, Tony Robbins, etc, linking transformational work, trauma healing, energy healing, shamanism, and disease treatment and prevention is still far from mainstream.
Transformational work and spirituality outside Judeo-Christian religion didn’t really hit modern Western culture until it landed in places like California and Byronshire in the 1960s. In California, it was the hippie movement, the LSD experiments, and Esalen Institute, where people like Fritz Perls (Gestalt), Joseph Campbell (the Hero’s journey), Alan Watts, and other human potential pioneers gathered to explore the cutting edge of human transformation. Simultaneously, the Beatles were hooking up with the Maharishi and Eastern philosophy and meditation were breaking into the mainstream consciousness. In Nimbin, Australia, environmentalism was being born and intentional communities were sprouting up around spiritual ideologies. Since then, transformation has been commoditized and popularized through programs like EST, Landmark, Hoffman Process, through charismatic transformational leaders like Tony Robbins, Joe Dispenza, Jack Canfield, Louise Hay, and the people who made The Secret. Popular spiritual teachers like Yogananda Paramahansa, Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Adyashanti, and now our presidential candidate Marianne Williamson have further taken spirituality out of the religious traditions and broadcast them to a mainstream audience. Many of the people attracted to such programs and leaders have experienced childhood trauma and sought ways to transcend their pain, often to the point of “spiritual bypassing,” as promoted by a lot of Advaita Vedanta Indian teachers who teach “you are not your body, you are not your emotions, we are All One and must transcend this reality.” This is half of the paradox of the nature of reality, but not the whole truth. We are also two, a duality of seeming opposites, and we are, in fact, our bodies as well. Meanwhile, our psychological understanding of trauma continues to develop and we now understand that 1) trauma is curable, 2) talk therapy alone doesn’t cure it, 3) meditation alone doesn’t treat trauma, and 4) healing trauma can cure disease.
To top it all off, loneliness is the #1 public health issue doctors aren’t talking about. Copious scientific data links loneliness and disease, and blue zones where a high percentage of the population live to be healthy until over 100 years old all have tight knit communities built into the culture. The disintegration of the church, temple, and mosque has contributed to the fragmentation of society and the isolation of the rugged individualist. More and more people identify as “spiritual but not religious,” and these people seek community through yoga studios, meditation retreats, ayahuasca circles, ecstatic dance, and other communities based on spiritual ideas outside mainstream religion. But those who are sick or financially disadvantaged often fail to benefit from these spiritual gatherings that happen outside traditional religion. Healing Soul Tribes offer a solution for both the cure for loneliness and a way to make mind-body-spirit healing options accessible to the masses.
The Prototype: The model I envision would be simple enough to train group leaders and scale it but would eventually distill what I’ve learned in my Sacred Medicine research into practical, reproducible, trauma-healing, transformational, energy healing, sound healing, and shamanic tools that can be shared with those who participate in the program. Models I most value and intend to incorporate in the prototype include my own model, the “6 Steps To Healing Yourself” from Mind Over Medicine, as well as Internal Family Systems (IFS), Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine tools, Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT) energy psychology tools, indigenous healing tools like earth offering practices, sound healing tools like Karen Drucker’s group chanting, Lynne McTaggart’s Power of Eight group healings, and William Bengston’s “image cycling” healing method. We have seed funding from two generous philanthropists should we build this out as a 501c3 non-profit organization, which we have not yet done while we explore options. We also have some Hollywood celebrities interested in helping to roll this out on social media and broadcast it to those who might feel ready to do this deep inner healing work. We have a cadre of therapists and mind-body-spirit medicine doctors interested in being trained to be group leaders once we are clear on our protocol. We have angel investors interested in funding this should it have a triple bottom line for-profit arm to the organization. We have volunteers who want to get this off the ground and begin to implement it. Yet such visions take time and require grounded foundations upon which we can build visionary castles.
Questions That Crave Answers
It is not lost on me that the word “question” has the word “quest” inside of it. When we can get clear on our questions, we are on the quest for the answers. What follows here is a list of questions that crave answers.
Addressing the Accessibility Issue
- How do we bring transformational work, healing work, and trauma clearing work to marginalized communities in an affordable way?
- Can we scale healing so it doesn’t have to be offered one-on-one?
Business Structure & Finance
- What is the legal structure—non-profit, for-profit, hybrid? B corp? Beneficial corp?
- What’s in it for the group leaders? What motivates them to volunteer for this? Do they get paid? Do they do it because they were cured and they’re paying it forward? Do they do it to build their one on one practice? Do they do it as part of their ongoing recovery and preventive health?
- How do we make this sustainable so Lissa doesn’t have to do fundraising every year?
- How does the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for health care providers fit into this model? Is it a B to B model to raise capital for the social justice project?
- How do we structure it so those giving healing are also receiving healing, with true sacred reciprocity and balance?
- How much money do we need to cover the operations costs for the next six months?
- How much money do we need to free up Lissa so she can focus on tasks only she can do?
- Who do we need on the team and how will we find those people?
- What is the name? Healing Soul Tribes? Whole Health Circles? Healing Circles? Something else?
- How do we brand this and use language so that the military/industrial/medical/pharmaceutical/prison complex isn’t triggered by “woo” stuff?
- How do we leverage Lissa’s online platform to bring people together in person?
- How do we frame this in the positive so people want to identify with it?
- If a participant walks into a soul tribe gathering, what does it look/feel/be like?
Training Group Leaders
- Who qualifies as a group leader?
- Do these circles need an expert (therapist, doctor, energy worker, guru) to facilitate them in order to keep them safe? Or can lay people be trained to do this?
- How do we train group leaders?
- Who pays for group leader training? Who does the training? Lissa or someone else?
- How do we set up these circles so they’re not Lissa-centric and dependent on Lissa?
- What is the prototype—what are our 12 steps, Blue Book, leader training manual, etc? Does it include Lissa’s 6 steps?
- Is Lissa creating this alone, or is it a collaborative effort with the other healers?
- Do we offer people in the soul tribe “sponsors” so they get one-on-one, peer-to-peer attention the way 12 steppers do? If so, how do we get sponsors when nobody has done the program yet?
- How do we help people get out of their victim stories while still meeting them where they’re at?
- How do we handle people in the room who are at very different phases of their healing journey? For example, some people have never told their victim story and need to be comforted and supported, while others are stuck in their victim stories and need to be challenged to move beyond it without being bullied or pressured?
- What are the group agreements and how do we enforce them?
- How do we avoid bonding people around their victim stories such that they won’t want to let go of being sick because they’re getting connection as a result of it?
- How do we motivate people to stay in the program after they’re cured so they don’t lose community bonding when the disease frees them?
- How do we get around the stigma people feel about being lonely, traumatized, or sick? What’s the “sell” that makes people willing to come together?
- What are the limits of this scale? 10 people at a time? 100? An arena?
- What are the downsides of scaling?
- How do we protect people from getting harmed as a result of scaling? How do we honor “First, do no harm”?
- What if people have a meltdown in a larger group? What is our emergency trigger management protocol?
- If Soul Tribes are in some way a replacement for religious churches/temples/mosques—a place where suffering people gather together around spirituality and healing—how do we “cult-proof” this so it doesn’t bear the baggage of religion and dogma?
- How do we address the people coming in cold without a lot of inner work?
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
- How do we apply Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) principles to the model so those who are marginalized feel welcome?
- How do we share and distribute power in the group so there’s equity, balance, and a way to keep narcissists under wraps and draw out introverts?
- How do we make this appealing and safe to marginalized communities?
- Where do people gather? How do they pay for the space? Or do spaces gift their space?
- What is the ideal size of a circle?
- How often do these circles meet?
Gathering The Troops
To begin, those who can afford to join us are gathering in a virtual Healing Soul Tribe online as this program gets rolled out. In the long term, we intend for this program to have both a healing track and a leadership track, but these distinctions are still in development. Join The Healing Soul Tribe here.
In the mean time, if you want to be part of this unfolding, we are creating a document to keep track of those who want to participate. Please email email@example.com and include in the title of the email one of the following categories so we can put you on the right list:
Therapist/Doctor interested in being a group leader
Celebrity interested in broadcasting
Other (Volunteering An Offering)
Please send your prayers and healing intentions while this all unfolds. As the holder of this vision, I have parts that feel overwhelmed, so I could use your support with taking some of the responsibility off me and redistributing it among others who are resourced with time, money, or energy to help out.
With love and gratitude for this deep calling to be of service,
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