Despite the risk of sounding like a science geek, I have to admit that I have been mining the widsom in my old physics and mathematics books. I recall how perplexed I felt when I first read about the Uncertainty Principle in physics. How could something be in two different places simultaneously? I felt a know in my stomach just imagining the chaos at the micro-core of our universe. My logical mind simply could not make sense of it all. And that led me to the revelatory answer; that is, the universe does not work exclusively by logic. It has rules certainly, but they are cloaked in magic. The mind is powerful but not all-seeing. Once I relaxed into this understanding, I could actually feel how all things truly are connected, how all possibilities are real. In that spirit, I reclaimed the old physics proposal into the Possibility Principle.
In practicing medicine, I experience this Principle in action everyday. I see people with mysterious afflictions with no formal diagnosis that still manages to create great pain in their bodies, I see women who have been told they will never get pregnant actually become pregnant and bring little beings into the world, I see babies who clearly carry the weight of their ancestors’ suffering in their tiny bodies, and I have seen many times the joy of spontaneous recoveries when all seems hopeless. Indeed, the human experience is shaped but not entirely defined by logic. There is magic and mystery to everything, absolutely everything.
Lately, I have been contemplating the future of naturopathic medicine as it is currently taught in institutions of higher learning. The emphasis has certainly been on providing primary care, much like the model of MD family physicians. To this end, the focus is on developing treatment protocols which are ‘evidence-based’. Usually the most acceptable evidence are randomized control trials. I do wonder, though, how the vitalistic tradition of naturopathy fits into this primary care model. Like all traditional medical systems, naturopathy honours the healing power of nature as it assists our own potential to heal ourselves. This past weekend, I had a proverbial ‘a-ha’ moment. While re-reading Bruce Lipton’s book “Biology of Belief’, I realized that the primary care model of allopathic medicine is actually based on old science of the Newton and Descartes. Traditional and vitalistic medicine is actually based on the new science of quantum physics. Energy is matter and matter is energy. Communication can and does occur beyond the speed of light. So, rather than being antiquated in my practice of naturopathy, myself and like-minded healers are actually at the leading edge. I am not trying to devalue allopathic medicine, but I am finally recognizing that the future of naturopathy lies in its roots of vitalism.
Last night, I was fortunate to see the film “Fierce Light” by Velcrow Ripper. The film follows people who infuse their activism with spirit and spiritual people who turn their focus to activism. I was inspired by the commitment of people getting together in community to make this planet a more sane and compassionate place. Not all the endeavours end happily. Indeed, so many activists have died. Still, I feel so strongly that spirituality must be grounded in the events of the world. Rather than turning away from suffering, the Buddha encouraged all of us to face it squarely, to study it and embody it. That is the only way to the end of suffering.
As the G20 descends on Toronto, I think of my friends and clients who are organizing communities and protests. I wish all of you success and safety. I admire your commitment and faith in a better world. In fact, I hope to see you at Queen’s Park and on the streets. Without justice, there is dis-ease. As a healer, I know how my health and the health of all the people in my life depend intimately on the health of mother earth and all the beings on this planet .
As many of my friends, clients and colleagues know, I am an avid advocate for the power of the mind in healing. I have experienced that power in my own life so many times. Not that the outcomes always fell in line with my expectations. Indeed, sometimes I felt quite disheartened at the universe’s reply to my pain. Inevitably, though, when I sit with the experience, I can taste the wisdom in what the universe has offered me. I have had a circuitous and sometimes arduous journey towards my own healing. I am grateful, however, for each diversion, each loss, each moment of suffering. For it has taught me how to appreciate what exactly is in front of me. Practicing mindfulness, whether on the cushion or in everyday life, has been the most challenging and rewarding path.
Just over a week ago, my faith in the universe was tested. After a long struggle with my former landlady, my partner and I reluctantly agreed to end all legal actions against her. Rather than feeling vindicated by our decision, I felt defeated, feeling as though justice had once again eluded me. My ego got caught up in the drama of the injustice. I felt enraged and disappointed by the court system. I ruminated over the countless times that my former landlady had violated my rights and my boundaries. On that rainy Wednesday afternoon, I felt absolutely terrible.
In a moment of mindfulness, though, I notice how much I was suffering. Then my thoughts turned to where I am now. I am living in a beautiful house with lovely gardens. I wake each morning to the chirping of birds and to sun shining into my practice room. One month into living in my new place, I feel lighter and happier. In that moment of mindfulness, I thanked my former landlady for forcing me to stand up for my rights and make a move to a new home. Without her prompting, perhaps I would remained stuck in a unhealthy house, with my energy depleted. I realized then how the universe gives me exactly what I need when I need it. My only job is to remain open enough to the opportunities I am offered.
On a recent walk through the woods of High Park in Toronto, I noticed many turkey tail mushrooms growing on dying oak trees. Again, the wisdom of nature puts me in awe. I realized the symbiotic relationship between the mushrooms’ growth and the trees’ dying process. As the tree ends it life, it passes on the distillation of its vast experience to the growing mushroom. The mushroom then can be eaten by humans to benefit from the tree’s wisdom. When I think of the medicial uses of mushrooms, particularly to bolster the immune system, it all comes together for me. When the immune system is in balance, it operates in wisdom; that is, it knows when to defend an invader and when to stand down. When immunity is out of balance, our cells attack healthy tissue or they grow out of control in an undifferentiated way as in cancer. Medicinal mushrooms help to bring a reasoned response back to the body, to guide the immune cells. Of course, there are many mushrooms that are harmful, even fatal, to humans. Perhaps these fungi represent the limits of knowledge available to us, telling us not to rely on them too much for easy answers. Mushrooms bring us back to the earth, back to wisdom, back to the origin and to the end.
Nature never fails to enlighten me about the important truths in life. Several months ago, I sat by a river near my home watching salmon swim. The salmon were attempting the truly challenging task of jumping up a small dam in the river. The current blasted against them, but the salmon continued to jump. They clearly exerted great effort in their attempts. Some of them even appeared to have a plan, to time their jumps when the current slightly relented. After a few tries, the salmon rested in a quiet pool within the current. During the time in which I observed them, some of the salmon did make the jump but many were left persisting in their jumps.
I was struck by how the salmon emobodied the path of healing. Indeed there are times when we need to focus all of our attention and energy to affect positive change. At other times, a relaxed patience is more effective. Similarly, in prepration for an event , an athlete balances her training between times of intense effort and rest periods. An effective path of healing simply cannot be one long relentless struggle. By cultivating calm and rest, the intensity of the struggle seems to be more manageable. As well, spending time in quietude helps the inner voice to emerge. The inner voice then can guide us in knowing when to focus our energies and when to take a break.
Today, try getting acquainted with that inner voice. Sit down in a comfortable place and just breathe. Slowly and deeply. No agenda to meet, no task to accomplish. Listen for the soft murmurs within you. The more acutely you listen, the more you will hear. Like the salmon’s journey, your wisdom will blossom.
Lately I have been observing a dance within me, between my dreamer and my logician. Last December, as I sat in retreat in Texas, my dreamer dreamed up some beautiful visions for me in 2010. Unexpected events, otherwise known as Life, interceded though, and distracted from my dreams. A few days ago, while looking through an as-yet unopened moving box, I found that list of dreams. Along with the stated visions, I had drawn up a list of interim goals to realize them. My logician had the wisdom to do that work, to help support the dreamer’s dreams. Looking at a list of mostly unmet goals, I feel as though I have let down both my dreamer and logician. I felt the deflation of my lofty visions and mired in despair. Am I condemned to a scaled-down life with manageable tasks? How can I break from these tiny little pretty boxes I have made in my adulthood? By keeping the dance alive. By letting the logician and the dreamer exchange leads in the proverbial foxtrot. By staying out there on the dance floor and not withdrawing into a wall flower. Dream on!
In all of the busy-ness of the business of healing, I have been remiss in posting to my blog. So, I thought that a new site with a new look would inspire me to write. I plan to use this space to encourage discussions on what exactly healing is and how we can embody it. Being an eclectic naturopath, I draw from a range of traditions and viewpoints. Of course, I filter through my personal lens which I have scratched and polished, broken and mended throughout my life. Welcome, then, to this ongoing exploration of all things healing.