Daemon Unfolding: The World Finding Me

I once owned a magnificent home in the Noordhoek Valley, outside of Cape Town, South Africa. It was a large, sprawling home on one and a half acres of land, perched on the hillside overlooking miles and miles of white sandy beaches and excellent surf, riding waves being a huge part of my lifestyle. After impulsively selling it, I was left with a deep regret and sense of futility, shame, loss, and self reproach that no amount of cognitive rationalizing could shift. Until, I saw it differently. This is my story of the illusion of gain and loss that exists in the relative world and how a simple shift from a local to a cosmological point of view, changed everything.

I went to medical school at the University of Cape Town from the years 1977 – 1981. For most of those years I lived up in the mountains around the Noordhoek valley- on the outskirts of Cape Town. I used to hitch hike into medical school and when not studying, I would surf on the beach breaks surrounding the idyllic valley. I lived in an abandoned church with a cross embedded on the main wall. I looked after my dogs, my chickens and my pet goat, Big Lil. My one dog Zana was not quite trainable: He fought with all the other dogs and ran away on a regular basis. He often came down with tick bite fever, lying on the floor with a white tongue and panting in the search for more air. I would take him to the vet, he received injections and recovered within a few days. I loved his presence and would take him to the university with me. He would sit in my car, I would roll down the window and he would jump in and out as he needed. At lunch, I would come down and sit with him and we would look out over the hospital graveyard and just be together.

I loved being in Noordhoek with my chickens, my dog and the shower at the bottom of the garden. I would stay up late at night, and huddled over my gas lantern, would read and write long poetic pieces emulating my heroes Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. I wanted to pull down the curtain on my daily life and sing in exaltation to the life of poetry I was not living. I would drink wine and in a half-altered state, write to women I had met who eluded me and taunted me with their beauty and unattainability, sirens beckoning from the gloom. I would also reluctantly study for my medical school exams, wishing all the while to answer only to the ecstatic poetic voices I heard in my head.

The Noordhoek valley held us all together in its big mystery. Hippies, artists, farmers, schizophrenics, cows, surfers, dogs and medical students – we all circled each other and looked to each other for support during our more vulnerable moments.

My view from my small cottage swept over the Noordhoek beach and valley. To the right and perched on the cliff, right above the surf, was a long sprawling ranch type home belonging to a reclusive gay misanthrope. As a student, I visited his home once. A friend of mine rented a room in his home. It was spectacular with its incredible view of a seven-mile beach, and the Slangkop Lighthouse in the distance. In the evening the sun dropped past the horizon and the whole valley lit up in smoky splendour. I could not imagine living in such a spectacular home. It was beyond my student dreams.

Events being what they were, I graduated from medical school, left the Noordhoek valley and moved to Canada. I adjusted to life on the Canadian prairies with vast plains of wheat fields and grain silos. I learned the art and craft of family medicine, taking it all quite seriously. I accumulated a little money and uneasily adjusted to the father and husband archetypes. I dreamt of the sea every night and longed for the day when I could move back to South Africa

One winter, a number of years after leaving the Noordhoek valley for Canada, I visited Cape Town and went surfing off the Noordhoek beach. I passed the driveway to the ranch type home and noticed a cardboard sign hammered into a tree with one nail. It said “Auction- tomorrow morning 9.00am.” I had nothing to lose and thought it worthwhile to show up. The auction took about three minutes. I found myself bidding at a ridiculously low figure of R 80,000 rand (an equivalent of $ 20,000). I expected the price to reach R300,000. Another person bid R90,000 and I went to R100, 000. I heard the auctioneer announce: “The home is sold to the surfer gentleman over there.” I signed the papers and went into the back garden to contemplate my unexpected fate. This was quite surreal. I had not planned this at all.

The home was large and sprawling over one and a half acres, perched on a hillside overlooking this vast expanse of clean white sand. My favourite surf spot was visible from every room in the house. I would wake up in the morning and scan the swells, tuned into the wind directions and the nuances of the changing seasons. Behind the house were these huge obelisk- like granite rocks. I would sit on these rocks for hours on end, listening to the noises, dog barks, and children’s voices from the valley below. In the dusk and dawn moments of the changing light, I would vibrate at this slow harmonic, still not believing my luck. I wanted to be buried on this land. I wanted generations of my family to know this ground.

In the first five years, I never lived in the house. My good friend Bobby took up residence, and my family and I would visit once a year to host these large Christmas gathering of the blood lines. We would celebrate life and each other. Every morning I would wake up and walk around the property, pulling out wayward weeds and watering its endless gardens. When it was hot at night, I would cool off in the swimming pool and delight in the comforts of the still night. I could not believe my luck and how good it made me feel.

Well, one thing led to another and back in Canada, I went through a divorce and my family split up. I attempted to put my life together as a single person but the anxiety and stress got the better of me. My wife was a divorce lawyer and I was no match for her. I fell apart. My psychiatrist said, either we admit you to hospital or you go back to SA for a break. One day, after a year of trying to start again, I put my pen down on my desk at work (I was running the most successful integrative medical clinic in the city at the time and had a long waiting list of people wanting to move beyond the drug and surgery solution to their issues). My resolve was final. I booked a flight and flew back to my Noordhoek home the next day.

Walking up the driveway to my home, I felt the burden of the divorce lift. I sat for days in the lounge with the vast windows looking over the endless beach and waves, and I knew this is where I could put my life back together again. It was an incredible experience, allowing the sea and the waves to enter into my motionless life. Instead of returning to Calgary after three weeks, as I was supposed to, I let my staff, ex-wife and children know that I was never coming back. I walked away from it all. It was a reckless, irresponsible thing to do, but I couldn’t bare the thought of facing all of the stress again. My physiology had given in, my mind had followed. I was home with the earth, the sea and the sky. My ego was crushed but my sense of soul was returning. I walked away from my practice, my loyal and devoted staff, my incredible patients, my kids, my debts, and my life as I knew it. Within weeks the healing power of the view from the front lounge over the vast expanse of beach, had moved me past my shrunken self.

I need the sea because it teaches me
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness
If it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining one,
a suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
In some magnetic way I move in
The university of the waves. (Pablo Neruda, “Absence and Presence”)

I don’t know what it was, but my bones seemed to rearrange themselves and my mind woke up to itself. I sensed a self returning.

Within weeks I had recovered sufficiently to be open to a new love. She walked up the same driveway, I had walked years ago, to interview for a house-sitting job I had advertised. I was smitten. It was love at first sight. But she was twenty years younger than me, and I felt out of my depth. Nonetheless, we became engaged and lived out our destiny within the colourful walls of the house. We spoke of past loves, talked over wine, shared pasta in garlic sauce and planned our fate. At times, friends would visit. We would stand on the porch and hold each other lightly, not quite sure of how best to reckon with the fragile night air, always the sea wind on our faces and the moon on the roof.

After two years, at her insistence, we moved back to Canada. I wanted to sort out the mess I had left behind and see my children; she wanted to travel and see the world. After two years of being surrounded by this magnificent home and sparing in love with this mystery being, we packed up and left the home, securing renters for the time being.

Back in Canada, she became homesick and longed for her youthful lifestyle. I struggled to meet her needs but it was no use. After one year, I drove her to the airport and we said our goodbyes. I had never felt so inconsolable. But it was done and we slipped away from each other, for good. There is no greater despondent feeling knowing that you are revisiting old behaviors and old circumstances, just in a recycled form. I struggled to find a way to be in the world again.

By then I was having trouble with the renters who never paid their bills. The garden was overrun with weeds; the wood was rotting on the window frames; and, the rental agency was unreliable. I could not find anyone to help me get through this tough patch. Trying to manage the problems from Canada without an intermediary was proving insurmountable.

It was at this time that a Shaman trickster came to live in my basement. I met him at a country fair, sitting surrounded by his tarot cards. He convinced me of his ability to help me heal my broken heart. It was decided one night that I could not realize my destiny if I held onto the past and I needed to release my attachments to South Africa and the home. That meant selling. It seemed like a good idea especially since I was so stressed from trying to manage the affairs from a long distance. The house went on sale and received R1.4 million for sale, a profit of more than ten times what I paid for it. I took the money and in the year 2000, invested in the tech boom. It only lasted a further two weeks. I bought Intel, Microsoft, Cisco – the whole disastrous package. Within six months my home and the money received had disappeared. My fiancé and I had split, my home sold, and I had lost the money. I had no idea what to do with my life. I just knew that I did not feel very well.

I revisited that dark place that was becoming familiar. There seemed no way I could reinvent myself and recreate some of the joy and meaning that the home and the relationship had given me. I was deeply depressed and feeling hopeless.

There is no space wider than that of grief
There is no universe like that which bleeds (Pablo Neruda, “Absence and Presence”)

I plunged into therapy, visited as many healers as I could, went on a trip to Mexico with Deepak Chopra and his group, visited gurus in India, sat in Ramana Maharishi’s cave on Mt. Arunachala and felt the aloneness and silence, consulted with psychics and clairvoyants, and sat quietly in the suburbs, where I collapsed in on myself with no sense of recovery. I could not contemplate a life without love. I rationalized that associating with the famous and visiting with Saints who knew, that I would see past the folly of the emotional self and glimpse the unseeing seer beyond. It was not to be. I remained distraught and empty.

One day, I came across a seminar flyer on my desk. I attended and was slowly exposed to the work of John Demartini. I went to Houston, met him and studied further. His work follows one central principle from which many other insights arise. There is a divine, hidden order, and everything that occurs in your life serves a purpose. This is a Platonic concept, discussed and written about by Emerson, and Leibniz, and recently resurrected by James Hillman, John Demartini and others. Your biography is dictated by your Daemon, your Soul, so to speak, and you are called from above, by your Daemon, to live the life you are destined to fulfill. Every event in your biography serves that intent if you train your mind to integrate the law. The other insight that I gained was that nothing was missing from your life. Whatever you think you have lost is present in a new form that you just have not seen or appreciated. The significance of Demartini’s work is that he is the only cognitively applicable system that integrates the shadow without going through a long analysis. It is also the most direct method of seeing the Buddha Mind, your original face.

Demartini himself had systematically set out to examine many different branches of knowledge and in so doing, discover some of the universal laws underlying the commonality of them all. I studied psychology, biology, astronomy, finances, health and healing under him and received a vast education in many different branches of knowledge. In so doing, I relaxed my attachment to my ex-fiancé and my ex-wife and moved on with my life. I placed myself with the impermanence of a changing universe, contemplated my insignificance against the drama of black holes and supernovas, and discovered the evidence for the insignificance of my ego self, against the backdrop of the infinite – somewhat overwhelming. What a relief!

I began a successful practice and found renewed vigor and a sense of purpose in integrative medical practice. I felt resurrected and enlivened and connected once again to something other than my misery. I finally came to live in the world, without shame or despair. And my loves were present in so many new forms, companions, patients, cats, and the waitress at the bistro on the corner. I was missing nothing.

Except, one issue kept nagging at me. I could not see the benefits and movement of selling my home. I still regretted the decision and longed to return and undo what appeared to be a most foolish and rash decision. No matter how hard I tried, I kept coming up with the ongoing thought as to what a ridiculous, impulsive decision to have made. It was a terrible heaviness that I carried around on this issue. My heart had rested in the indigenous gardens, and the bedrooms, where I had laid, haunted me with their views of the beaches and the beckoning sea.

So, drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
The seas lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
And gather it up in a perpetual cup
So that, wherever those in prison may be,
Wherever they suffer the sentence of autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of windows,
And hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
Asking “How can I reach the sea?”
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
The starry echoes of the wave,
A breaking up of foam and quicksand,
A rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
The gray cry of seabirds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea
Will call in answer to the shrouded heart (Pablo Neruda, “Absence and Presence”)

I needed to resolve my longing. I attended a seminar and worked on the issue. I was asked: “What is it about the home that you miss so much?” I thought about if for some time and then proceeded to describe the view from the living room with the lighthouse in the distance, the waves, the solitariness and the fragrance of the wide, open, oceanic spaces. I was then asked: “What is the form of your new view?” I thought for a moment and then fell into a deep, transcendent expanse of awareness. I knew that I had replaced a geographical view with a cosmological one. I needed to leave behind the physical place so I could be exposed to the cosmology that had become my life’s work. The entire integration of my medical training, my eastern religious and Ayurvedic exposure, my study of integrative medicine and psychological principles, my immersion in depth psychology and discovery of the basic laws of the universe, would not have been possible if I had stayed in my home, looking out over the pristine Noordhoek beaches. In that moment of realization, my yearning stopped and my mind, as I had known it, fell apart. This moment has often been described as a satori, or non-local reality, or Buddha Mind.

At that moment, all clinging, all sense of loss, all doubt about my actions entirely disappeared and was replaced by a deep sense of ecstatic awareness at the perfect unfolding of my life’s journey. When I was asked about the drawbacks of the old view and the benefits of the new view, I instantly realized the hidden order in my perceived sense of loss. At that moment, all striving disappeared and all need to influence the outcome of any further experience disappeared. I saw the order and was graced.

The prison of the forests
Opened a green door,
Letting in the wave in all its thunder,
And, with the shock of the sea, my life widened out into space (Pablo Neruda, “The First Sea”)

Optimal Health – It’s Not What You Think or Do, It’s Who You Become

When a patient is considering a return to full health and wellness, I, as an integrated medical practitioner, and you, as an informed, self-actualizing person, can no longer use only the antiquated Newtonian method of diagnosing and treating conditions. Although this is still taught at both medical schools and naturopathic colleges around the world, we’re now working in an expanded, systems-based paradigm.

Medical school prepared me for the linear process that identification of symptoms is followed by identification of the disease then the determination of the drugs or surgical procedures that are required. This process may apply if a patient has symptoms suggestive of acute meningitis requiring immediate intravenous antibiotics, but it will do nothing to address the myriad of antecedents, triggers, and mediators of complex, chronic, multisystem symptom processes. Patients suffering from a multitude of complaints that defy traditional diagnosis, a situation that is only too common today, require a much more complex method of assessment and treatment.

This new model of integrative medicine must ground itself in the more comprehensive models of environmental and ecological medicine, functional medicine, energy medicine, early developmental trauma, sociology, traditional and depth psychology, family systems, and models of consciousness as proposed by neuroscience and spirituality research. In complex cases of healing, we need to expand the lens of inquiry to help identify the multilayered factors that are hindering our wellness and self-fulfillment and determine what aspects of ourselves are affected. Furthermore, we must listen to our symptoms and our bodies for any clues that will help us to integrate the neglected parts of ourselves that are hidden from our conscious, rational points of view and may be hindering the realization of our full potential.

For integrated practitioners, an education in an array of disciplines is imperative to a successful outcome. A new curriculum must be written for these new healers and a different method of selection employed. I don’t propose training traditional medical personnel to embrace this task. We need them to continue practicing disease-based medicine with the latest technological advances. However, for those that wish to embrace the expanded paradigm, a new wellness curriculum is imperative, a curriculum that will be highly dependent on a healer’s personal experience and level of education. This is complicated territory to imagine and traverse. A highly educated healer lacking the necessary life experience to have developed compassion and empathic understanding cannot embody the knowledge and the compassion represented by the twin snakes entwined around the caduceus, the ancient Asclepian symbol of medicine and medical practice.

In addition, if all we do when patients present is to tell them what they could read in a book or online, there’s probably no reason for them to see us again. It’s essential, in the new paradigm, that healers strike a chord that resonates in the core of the patients’ being and creates a shift in energy or information, forming a new image that will allow them to perceive themselves and their issues very differently. This will usually entail a radical shift in their value systems whereby health issues become their top priority and other values, such as work, family, or recreation, take a temporary back seat. Under the old model, this is seldom the case unless a patient presents with a life-threatening illness.

To assist in the diagnostic and therapeutic processes required in the new paradigm, I’ve developed the 7 Stages to Health and Transformation™ model (for a detailed explanation, click here). Each stage looks at a different aspect of the individual so that diagnostic and healing methods can be focused on the true causes of illness. 

First Stage – Environmental Body

We must first examine the influences of the external environment and the effects of infections, pollutants, heavy metals, and dental materials on our physiology. We must also optimize the body’s detoxification mechanisms.

Second Stage – Physical Body

This is the biochemical and structural stage. We must optimize the biochemistry and homeostatic mechanisms of the body’s regulatory systems. These include diet, gut ecology, hormones, neurotransmitters, the immune system, and brain function. Any structural defects and injuries must also be attended to.

Third Stage – Energy Body

At the electrophysiological, any disturbances to the body’s energy systems must be addressed. The effects of man-made electrical fields on the autonomic nervous system and the balance between stress and relaxation responses need to be taken into consideration. The status of the brain’s electrical circuits, as determined by QEEG analysis, must also be addressed.

Fourth Stage – Emotional Body

Early developmental trauma and emotional wounds need to be examined, brought to conscious awareness, and processed accordingly.

Fifth Stage – Mind/Ego Body

An individual’s sense of an authentic, separate psychological self, his value systems, his internal dialogue, and his general orientation to and defenses against the world at large need to be examined and assessed. Just how balanced and stable are his mental/cognitive processes and how well equipped is he to handle the slings and arrows of a typical stress-filled life? It’s been estimated that our nervous systems are designed to handle one or two challenges every three months. Yet in the modern era the number is more likely to feature six or seven challenges on a daily basis.

Sixth Stage – Soul Body

At this stage one has to turn to the personal unconscious, the more hidden aspects of ourselves and the lessons we’ve learned from Jungian and depth psychology, to ascertain what the deepest part of the individual wishes to express. The question at this stage is not what the ego still strives for but what the soul wants. At this level, we also turn to the influences of the family soul and, through Family Constellation therapy, begin to unravel the entanglements and family secrets that lie hidden in the patient’s intergenerational field. These entanglements and secrets often present as symptoms or as an illness in the patient, who is usually entirely unaware of the connection. 

Seventh Stage – Spirit Body/Unified Field

About a hundred years ago, there was an infusion of ancient souls into Western science, great beings like Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Albert Einstein who began to wake us up by mathematically deducing that the objects of our perception aren’t physical. Beyond the masks of molecules, beyond the façade of material matter, beyond the limits of space and time, there’s a vast mystical domain of energy and information. Human beings are composed of these same networks of energy and information and are thus locked in a dynamic exchange with the energy and information of our extended body, which we call the universe. We’re part of the ‘unified field’ proposed by particle physics. At this level, an individual deepens a relationship with a witnessing self, observing the world of phenomenology rise and fall but with little or no attachment to its outcomes or a personal self. In the seventh stage, all personal agendas are surrendered to intelligence greater than ourselves. This intelligence that causes our hearts to beat and organizes both the migration of birds and the movement of the intergalactic cosmos achieves a greater significance than our own personal, mortal agendas. It is to this intelligence that we can turn for help and guidance. At this stage, we’re not identified with our physical, emotional, or mental bodies but with that which is timeless within us. When patients present with complex symptoms or well-entrenched disease processes, how well equipped they are to proceed with the healing process varies widely from case to case. There are also many possible combinations of the seven stages that they may seek to address. Some may simply want to cure their irritable bowel symptoms, while others want to heal across all levels. Consequently, it’s important, at the outset, for the practitioner to establish what exactly the patient wants or expects to be healed and to narrow or widen the diagnostic and therapeutic lens accordingly.

The standard Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary defines healing as ‘a restoration of wounded parts’, but the Oxford English Dictionary definition is ‘to make whole or sound.’ These definitions are profoundly different from each other. The first refers to the treatment of a symptom or the setting of a broken bone, the fixing that which is broken. The Oxford definition is more congruent with the true etymology of the word health, which is to make whole or holy. In truth, healing is an extraordinary miracle about which, despite our 2,000-year effort to understand it, we know very little. It’s a profound, courageous, and spiritual act of coming to wholeness, where the body is relatively healthy, the emotions are stable, the mind is clear and focused, one’s destiny is clear, and yet one remains humbled to a greater intelligence from which one derives daily guidance and sustenance and to which thanks are given. Alternatively, healing can mean that the deepest essence of the individual is in an integrated or individuated, whole place, one where he knows and inhabits his authentic self, in spite of the body’s experiencing symptoms or a disease process. We identify with that which is timeless within us. We’re aware that we aren’t physical machines that have learned how to think. As Deepak Chopra likes to say, we are not ‘skin-encapsulated egos squeezed into the volume of a body in the span of a lifetime.’ We’re not the constricted, isolated individual entities that Western medicine would have us believe. At our core, we identify with that which is defined as an unbounded, infinite, eternal, ever-present witnessing awareness. We’re consciously aware of being a network of energy and intelligence that’s inextricably interwoven with the web of life.

However, given that definitions vary, healing is dependent on where the individual or the healer places the emphasis or the location of the patient’s concerns, whether this is mind, body, soul, or spirit. When a patient presents, part of the intake process is to ask what his intention is in seeking out the doctor/healer’s advice and on what stages, such as environmental, physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual, he wishes to address his concerns. Many people aren’t interested in pursuing higher levels of health, so one of a physician’s first responsibilities is to determine and clarify each patient’s intentions and respond accordingly. There are four possible intentions.

In the first instance, many if not most patients will view their symptomatology, whether this is physical or emotional, as a nuisance that has to be removed as soon as possible. They’ll turn to healers, whether allopathic or alternative, to provide the most powerful external treatment that can be found to treat worrisome symptoms at the level of the physical body, which is at stage two of the model. They subscribe to the consensual reality of our culture, which entails identifying the cluster of symptoms, naming the disease then finding a drug or surgical procedure to treat it. . At medical schools and naturopathic colleges today, students are still taught that human beings are collections of molecules encapsulated by skin and bones, physical machines devoid of any influential states of consciousness. If you’re feeling a little depressed, it’s because there’s a problem with your serotonin molecules, the implication being that if you take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Prozac or Effexor, or a herb like St. John’s wort, it will prevent reuptake of your serotonin molecules and you’ll no longer be depressed. Likewise, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, it’s not because you’re worrying about your marriage or your kids. Instead it’s because you have a deficiency of gamma-aminobutyric acid molecules, which Ambien, Xanax, or a GABA supplement will fix. Increasing your concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid molecules will allow you to sleep soundly and the symptom will be eradicated.

The problem with this model is that it works too well in the short run. Mahatma Gandhi lamented that the problem with Western medicine is that it’s too effective. If a patient mentions to his doctor that he’s regularly woken at 3 a.m. by heartburn, he’s prescribed Tums or Nexium and the symptom disappears. In the standard six-minute doctor visit, very few inquiries are made into the fact that, before bed, the patient always eats cookies and has a whiskey nightcap. As a result, if you pop a couple of tablets and ten minutes later the symptoms are gone, what you’ve learned at this level of healing is that you should have taken your heartburn medicine before going to bed. Instead of fixing the problem, this mode of treatment perpetuates the ongoing cycle of symptom, diagnosis, and remedy. This is symptom treatment and has nothing to do with healing. At this level, patients see the source and the solution of their problem as being outside of themselves. In turn, their healing becomes dependent on changes in situations and on circumstances outside themselves.

It’s interesting that the original definition of a ‘quack’ was someone that treats symptoms. This approach has little chance of activating any inner process within the patient or resulting in healing on a deeper level. All too often, patients with significant diseases such as cancer sit in front of me and demand to be cured. The prospect of a deeper healing experience is extremely remote in these cases.

The second possible intention involves some patients arriving in the consultation room willing to go a little further. They look at physical symptoms as entry points into a larger inquiry. They ask much deeper questions and use their symptoms as allies in their quest for meaning, well-being, and integration. They might inquire about what emotional patterns may underlie their disease and recognize the role of unresolved emotional issues, anxiety, stress, and other mental factors in the development, perpetuation, and recurrence of illness. They may learn about their individual Meyers-Briggs typologies, their defense mechanisms and complexes, and their Ayurvedic doshas. This deeper understanding of themselves allows them to respond to the stresses of life in a less reactive manner, one that won’t cripple their growth, individuation, or consciousness. They begin to use a more conscious, mind-body approach to healing, making use of stages one through five in the 7 Stages model™.

As these factors are explored, it becomes possible to tailor a series of mind-body approaches such as integrated body psychotherapies, relaxation techniques, yoga, neurofeedback, and biofeedback. These patients recognize their personal role in suffering and disease, they link cause and effect and, to an extent, they substitute internal remedies for external ones. They’re beginning to move from the more limited definition of healing, namely fixing a broken part, to the more expanded definition of restoring wholeness.

As psychologist Alastair Cunningham has said, the qualities that best predict spontaneous remission among cancer survivors are an openness to change, a commitment to daily practices, a deep sense of self-worth, and a degree of autonomy and inner authority.

The third possible intention has patients seeking a state of health because they aspire to something more than an absence of symptoms and desire an overall state of wellbeing. They’re fully engaged in a deeper relationship with self-healing and are seeking a sense of wholeness, either for themselves, their loved ones, or the planet as a whole. They’ve learned about the signs and symptoms of disease and are now learning about the signs and symptoms of health. These include a deep sense of inner vitality, integration and self-knowing, healthy relationships, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

A patient I’ll call Jane was primarily interested in eliminating or at least managing her symptoms. This is true for many new patients until I teach them the 7 Stages of Health and Transformation™. Once Jane increased her understanding of optimal health, she said she wanted more than to simply get rid of her symptoms. She wanted to find meaning in her life and enjoy herself and her family. She wanted to achieve overall well-being. Her three-year inquiry into her symptoms had produced a lot of information about the signs and symptoms of a disease, but now she was open to learning about the signs and symptoms of health. With that goal in mind, she became fully engaged in deeper relationships with herself, her loved ones, self-healing, and with the planet.

This desire to be whole is a profound evolutionary urge that prompts many of us to seek out a vast array of healing techniques, from physical to spiritual. In the East, such seekers, upon a certain attainment, are referred to as enlightened. Carl Jung called them individuated and Abraham Maslow’s term was self-actualized. “As far as we can discern,” Jung said, “the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” To me, this means leading a life of inspired, self-actualized creativity rather than an existence of mere tolerance set against a backdrop of the mundane.

For many people, this desire to shine with their true essence emerges around the midpoint of their lives. Until that point, what our deepest, instinctual self, or our soul, wants is often hidden from our conscious view, clouded by the innumerable and overwhelming demands of the first half of life and by vague value systems that we have yet to develop fully. Often, what brings these individuals into the office is a conflict with a midlife transition. Their symptoms often arise as a result of a discrepancy between what their egos want, such as endeavors in the first half of their lives, and what their deepest, unconscious selves desire, namely the aspirations related to the second half of life. What drives us to achieve our life goals in the first half isn’t what serves us in the second half. What drives us in the first half of life are often the wishes and wants of outer authority figures, including parents, society, or our culture at large, as well as the innate, Darwinian selfish gene that wishes to perpetuate the species by mating with the most suitable partner from whatever gene pool is available. Thus, with the help of a hormone-drenched physiology, we develop a strong sense of an ego-driven self. We strive to achieve the highest standards that our gene pool is capable of. We educate ourselves, fall in love, marry, create financial security, and buy the most suitable home to provide safety for our offspring. We feel accomplished on achieving some modicum of success in these areas.

It’s usually in the second half of life, which begins between ages 35 and 55, that the first whisperings of our hidden potentials and possibilities emerge. We may be plagued by lingering doubts: “Is this all there is?” “Is this what I really want?” “Am I fulfilling my true potential?” “Is this partner really aligned with my values?” “Does my partner really see who I am?” “Should I be doing something else with my life?” We may also start to develop symptoms or signs of an illness or disease process. It’s at this exact interface between what the ego has striven to achieve and what the soul really wants that symptom may appear, as if to draw us into a deeper inquiry with ourselves. It’s been my observation that symptoms at this level serve as feedback mechanisms of our core selves, drawing our attention to that which is most neglected within us and which most needs our attention. Perceived in this way, symptoms may be said to have teleological intent, drawing us into a deeper, unimagined unfolding of our life’s journey, previously hidden from our conscious view.

In such cases, the task of a healer is to help patients identify the factors that are preventing them from achieving what their souls are seeking and what their ego-based minds are incapable of determining. When patients are in this position, no amount of ‘goal setting’ or ‘life-purpose’ strategizing will fulfill their deeper motivations. Often, the continued pursuit of the goals and life-purpose strategies of the ego-based first half of life is the very reason for a lingering sense of malaise and can even make patients sicker, driving them further from the very aspects of themselves that are calling for attention.

Somewhat problematically, the therapist/healer’s success is highly dependent on his own level of differentiation, autonomy, and stage of life individuation. If any healing is to take place at all, the healer must be highly aware and conscious of his own stage of life preparedness, his own ‘woundedness’, and must refrain from projecting his own agenda too heavily. Similarly, but in an opposite direction, the client must become aware of the inner healer/healed part of himself, the part that needs to be activated and made conscious. Tragically, this is rarely the case in most current healing exchanges, where mutual cause and effect inquiry is ignored. This practice limits the patient’s involvement in their own care and projects the power to heal onto some outer authority. The doctor is seen as all-healthy, while the patient is often seen as all-sick. The patient frequently identifies with their diagnosis in order to derive some form of identity and meaning from this one-sided relationship. It’s a means of barter and exchange within the allopathic system. The implication is that when this transaction occurs, the patient’s inner physician, the healthy part of themselves, completely shuts down. 

This atrophy is particularly tragic, since it’s been my observation that it’s the physician within the patient that needs to be activated if a true transformation is to occur. The inner physician’s healing action is as vital as that of the physical doctor appearing on the scene. Similarly, if the inner healer isn’t mobilized by the conscious act of intention by the patient, the possibility of a true healing experience is somewhat dissipated. If nothing shifts in the internal dialogue and mental field of the patient, if they aren’t fully engaged in cause and effect enquiry and totally committed to changing previous behaviors and decisions that had led to the symptom presentation, then the possibility of something shifting at the physiology level is somewhat muted and no true or lasting transformation takes place.

Furthermore, it’s at this third possible intentional level of healing that the answer to the patient’s malaise will surface only after a deep inquiry and a deep surrender are made, a surrender to their own unconscious and to a larger wisdom than their own ego-based minds. At this level of healing, one has to listen to the many ways the psyche expresses itself in its desire to make conscious its hidden intentions.

Actively listening to our bodies, our symptoms, and for messages from our unconscious are some of the profound tools we can use to seek information outside of our rational ego-based mind-set. Dreams are spontaneous messages from the unconscious, suggesting symbolic ways of seeing issues that we cannot see or understand with our conscious minds. Synchronicities, when an event in the outer world coincides meaningfully with a psychological state of mind, may also provide us with clues to the directions our souls may want to take.

Symptoms or illness can also arise from an issue within a family system, perhaps some entanglement or hidden secret that’s never been consciously exposed. In this way, symptoms provide a voice to the silence in the family system. They help shine a flashlight into the system, revealing what normally cannot be seen. We know from recent research on the epigenetic transfer of life experience that the unresolved emotions and traumas of our ancestors can affect family members for multiple generations. Family Constellation therapy can cover the unconscious bonds and loyalties that underlie many physical and emotional symptoms. It’s been my observation that very often the inner healing process cannot be accessed if the patient is not fully aligned with his birth mother or father. 

When my patient Jane told me that she despised her mother, it was a very clear indication that she didn’t have access to her full life force and inner healer. It’s vital to keep in mind that we inherit half our gene pool and the epigenetic transfer of their life experiences from our mothers and her ancestors and half from our fathers and his ancestors. We’re literally half our mother and half our father. If we disown or otherwise remove a parent from our lives, we’re literally disowning half of ourselves and all that this parent represents to us. I’ve never seen  a patient fully recover without first realigning themselves in the correct way with the parents that birthed them, no matter what the story they tell themselves consciously regarding why this may not be possible. 

Jane had symptoms of crippling fatigue, anxiety, depression, and body pain that had been present for three years. She said that the symptoms had started when she was 44 and that she’d seen many medical doctors and naturopaths, been to the Mayo Clinic, and undergone numerous blood tests and special investigations. The diagnosis was atypical depression. This is the catchall of the medical profession when no discernible causative factor or factors can be ascertained.

Although further tests did reveal significant biochemical imbalances, what was most revealing to me was her obvious dissatisfaction with her life, her anger toward her mother, and a generalized sense of boredom. 

“I am my father’s daughter,” she said, through clenched teeth. “I despise my mother.”

She later elaborated about her father.

“I’m an engineer like my dad, but I haven’t worked for 12 years because I wanted to stay home and bring up my daughter.”

After a long dialogue investigating her family dynamics, it was clear that her rejection of her mother and her overidentification with her father had led to an imbalance in her psyche between the masculine and feminine lineages. It’s been observed in family system dynamics that the energy we take from our mothers provides us with our day-to-day relational energy, nurtures us, and gives us life. A father’s energy organizes and provides a context for the unfolding of our life force. It’s possibly not ironic that the mitochondria, the organelles within our cells that transform food into life-giving ATP or energy, our life force for healing and repair of all bodily functions, are obtained entirely from our mothers. For a very long time, Jane had been under the influence of her father’s desires, negated her mother’s character and positive influence, and subjugated her own deeper, soul-based desires to the point of total silence. It’s common that people experiencing fatigue are living not according to their own inner value systems but according to those of outer authority figures that have been unconsciously adopted as one’s own, in this case those of Jane’s father. She’d also silenced and rejected her mother’s voice, hence abandoning half of herself, creating a perfect, dual causation scenario in which life-crippling fatigue could arise.

It took many months of listening intently to the symptoms of her body, paying attention to her dreams, asking her body for guidance, and turning inward to the inner healer within for her to see the path of her true, creative self more clearly. She realized that being only a wife and a mother was not her true vocation. Her symptoms had escalated until she could no longer ignore the issue. Although much work was done to optimize her adrenal function, treat her Epstein-Barr virus infection, balance her glutathione levels and tweak her hormones, involving treatment at the outer, physical level, it wasn’t until she turned inward that the healing occurred. When she saw her symptoms not as some curse to be eradicated but as harbingers, whisperings of the need for a deeper inquiry, she did what it took to begin her healing journey to return to wholeness.

She saw that what she’d proudly worn as a badge of honor as Daddy’s little girl was a trap from which she had to escape. She realized that she wasn’t living her life based on her own authentic values but on those of her father. As she softened her stance toward her mother, accepting and seeing her through a more compassionate lens for the first time, she felt a certain lightness return to her mood.

As she turned inward, Jane’s inner healer was activated. She learned to trust her body and her instincts for the first time. She’d resisted this progress for years and seen countless excellent physicians/healers to get the latest outer remedies, all to no avail. But once she recognized her symptoms as messages from her soul and learned how to pay attention, her healing was dramatic.

If successive generations of a family have struggled with parenting problems, the patient will often be unconsciously entangled in an unresolved, energy depleting, family system issue. The only way to resolve this is to uncover the hidden dynamics of the ancestral family. No amount of personal nutrition, bodywork, or herbs could heal Jane. She had to uncover the entanglements in her ancestral lineage that were hidden from her conscious view and she had to learn to listen to the messages of her own soul.

The following visualization exercise, entitled Creative Imagery: Listening to Your Cells, will help you to listen to your body for clues regarding what your soul is seeking and how your conscious mind may be obscuring from its view.

Come into contact with yourself and taste your own presence. Welcome and cherish your own presence in this world.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Let go of any physical tensions and relax any mental tensions. Focus your attention on your heart and your soul.

Allow your attention to go to the place within you that has a lot of pain or symptoms. It can be a mental place or a physical place, a muscle or an organ.

Approach this area with respect, tenderness, and care. Talk to this area. You’re talking to these cells in a time of difficulty. Memories may arise.

Say, “I am here now to listen to you.” Let whatever comes from that place speak to you.


Allow the messages of the cells to come to you. These cells represent the strength of life trying to talk to you and connect with you. This attitude of listening and respect, without discussion, is already healing you.

Now that your cells or your symptoms finally have your attention, and you’ve heard their message, say to them, “You don’t need to keep showing up in this way. You now have my attention.”

With the same care and respect, begin to transform. Imagine your stem cells coming from your shoulder blade or hipbone, where your bone marrow is active, and flooding the tissue that’s in need of healing. 

Imagine your stem cells flowing through to the place where you’re suffering. Imagine them dancing and producing color and light.

Let this dance take part in all your cells and in your entire psyche, producing an experience of healing. Soon your entire body is light and warm. Rejoice in the health that these stem cells bring. Imagine yourself becoming luminous from this sensation, nourishing yourself and everyone around you.

Imagine what you will do with yourself once your health is restored. Where will you go to nourish your health and what creative choices will you make? Imagine yourself doing things you like, things that give you an intensified love of life.

When you’re ready, open your eyes and make a note of what you experienced, what you saw, and what new image or images have arisen for you.

Finally, the fourth possible intention involves individuals aspiring to a level of health that’s fundamentally and radically different from those described above and can only arise following a leap in consciousness. They don’t seek simply self-regulation or self-improvement, but self-transformation.

Such people usually achieve this only after traversing each of the preliminary stages. For them, healing’s center of gravity progressively shifts from the physical to the psychological to the soul to the spiritual. They’re defined by their attention to a spiritual inner process rather than an outer remedy, herb, or potion. They become witnessing selves rather than active ‘doers’ in an external life. The internal reference point shifts from ego to spirit.

Chopra Center co-founder David Simon said this process occurs when “we stop thinking of ourselves as this skin-encapsulated ego that’s been compressed into this physical body for the span of a lifetime and we remember on a daily moment-to-moment basis that our essential nature is unbounded, infinite, eternal, unlimited, unborn, and undying.” Buddhist M.D. and author Elliott Dacher states that this occurs when we’re fully engaged in the broadest and deepest vision of health and healing and define what’s possible rather than what is considered to be customary.

At this level of healing, we suspend our rational left brains and personal agendas and ask for guidance and help from the intelligence greater than ourselves, namely G.O.D. or grand organized design, or the unified field. We surrender and we listen. We trust that at our deepest core we’re part of and connected to the unified field. We discipline ourselves, through daily practice, to surrender, tune in, and trust. Since we’re no longer identified with the mortal body, our fear of death disappears.

This is the deepest possibility for a transformed, healed individual. In achieving this, we’ve moved from the relative purpose of medicine to the absolute purpose and possibilities of a healing experience.

The Quest: From Relative to Absolute Health

Relieving symptoms and curing disease, fixing people, eradicating tumors, normalizing blood tests, alleviating pain, creating clear CT scans, and prolonging life are the culturally sanctioned notions of what physicians are supposed to do. This is the quest for relative health and relative health should be realized with the least amount of effort, expense, and sense of personal responsibility. This mindset also dictates that all illness is negative, to be eradicated. As a result, illness is not used as information to bring about self-transformation.

Yet some people choose to seek a level of health that is even beyond wholeness, a level that might be called absolute health. They want to heal their physical bodies so they can live out their lives in a state of maximum potential and in the fulfillment of love and purpose, feeling the joy, wisdom, and compassion in their lives more fully.

We achieve this not by medicating symptoms but by using them as feedback mechanisms to show us where we need to become more conscious. We learn to “lean into the sharp points of our lives,” as Pema Chodron has said. With this knowledge, we don’t retreat from the world. Rather we consciously engage with the world as we start to wake up to the wonder of our existence.

We start to address the questions raised by the poet Mary Oliver, such as what are we going to do with this one wild precious life? This is indeed a precious life, a fragile treasure. Recognizing this is the second most essential step on the path to integrated health and life. The first is to recognize that our true nature is more than our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and our possessions and that there’s an intelligence guiding us that we can turn to and trust. When we do this, we start to celebrate the miracle and sacredness of our human existence.

Einstein said there are only two ways to live your life. One is to live as if nothing is a miracle, the other to live as if everything is a miracle. The word miracle comes from the Spanish mirari, which means to wonder, to smile, to break into joy, and to release. If you have feet to walk with, that’s a miracle. And isn’t the fact that our bodies are subatomic particles of frozen light also a miracle? Isn’t water a miracle? Isn’t breath a miracle? Isn’t the human brain a miracle? Isn’t the eye a miracle?

We make a mistake if we wait until we’re on our deathbed to say thank you, to show our gratitude for having been given this one precious life. Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that will suffice.” If we don’t recognize the preciousness of life, we will neither care enough about it nor feel the urgency to let go of the thoughts, idea, values, and concepts that no longer serve our expanding sense of self and the world in which we live.

Once we hold the preciousness of life near and dear, its importance no longer fades with the busy nature of daily life. And when we die of physical diseases, it isn’t a tragedy. We die fully healed, with an open heart and the realization that our true self is nonlocal, outside of space and time and incapable of death.

References:

  1. Alastair J. Cunningham. Can the Mind Heal Cancer? (2005)
  2. Elliott Dacher. Integral Health. (Basic Health Publications, 2006)
  3. Carl Jung. Memories, Dreams and Reflections, revised edition. (New York: Vintage, 1989)
  4. Ken Wilber. The Integral Vision of Healing. (Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone, 2005)
  5. David Simon. Keynote address at Ayurvedic conference, University of California, Berkeley, 2002.
  6. Pema Chodron. When Things Fall Apart. (Boston: Shambhala, 2002)
  7. Guy Corneau. Lecture at Jung Society, Calgary, Alberta, 2012.
  8. James Hollis. The Middle Passage. (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1993)
  9. Dietrich Klinghardt. Five Levels of Healing Model. www.klinghardtacademy.com
  10. John Demartini. The Breakthrough Experience. (Hay House, Inc. 2002)

There is a Common Misconception Concerning Meditation

There is a common misconception that meditation is concerned with “quietening” or stopping the activity of the busy mind. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it may downregulate the biological consequences of an active or stressed mental field, (by lowering cortisol and the stress hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline), the truest and deepest benefit of meditation is the gradual awakening to the reality that we are more than just our physical bodies.

In deep meditation states, we become aware of the many layers of our human experience – the movement of our physical bodies, the fluctuations in our moods and emotional states and the thousands of thoughts that pass across our consciousness. We may also stand the chance of becoming, for the first time, deeply aware of our true, subjective, core nature.

Our body changes year to year, our moods come and go, and our thoughts flit across our consciousness at an alarming rate. We have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day, the majority of which are the same as the day before. But the fundamental question is: to whom are these changing events taking place?

The answer is YOU, the real you, the witnessing subjective sense of oneself. Only in the deepest states of witnessing meditation do we stand the chance of arriving at our true, authentic selves.

While it has many health benefits, the deepest and most enduring benefit of a daily meditation practice is that we may, for the first time, become aware of our core nature, our deepest selves. Like a cloth that we dip into dye every day with a meditation practice, we stand the chance of permanently colouring our daily lives with the qualities of our core, unchanging, authentic selves. We slowly wake up to the realization that our daily waking consciousness and the incessant movement of our internal dialogue do not represent our deepest identity.

If we make meditation part of our daily practice, we may also experience many of the well-documented health benefits of a daily practice. Forty seven studies on meditation were analyzed and published in JAMA Internal Medicine in Jan 2014. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, IBS, chronic pain, cancer, HIV, tinnitus and insomnia have all been positively influenced by a meditation practice.

MRI scans have shown that after 8 weeks of a meditation practice the area of the brain associated with fear and the fight or flight response (called the amygdala) shrinks. Mean while, the prefrontal cortex, the area associated with concentration and decision making, increases in size. The scale of change is influenced by the number of meditation hours practiced.

Furthermore, in deep meditation, we may transcend all awareness of a separate, symptomatic self and experience the opening into a sense that my separate, subjective self is no different than anyone else’s. We wake up to the awareness that at the deepest core of the human experience lies the awareness that there are no boundaries between you and me.

Ancient Healing Methods: The Seven Stages to Health & Transformation

Patient: “I have an earache.”

Doctor: 2000 BC “Here, eat this root.”

1000 AD “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”

1850 AD “That prayer is superstitious, drink this potion.”

1940 AD “That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.”

1985 AD “That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.”

2000 AD “That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.”

—Author unknown

An integrated approach to healing is not a new idea. It has appeared in various forms since antiquity. In fact, what is now termed traditional or allopathic medicine has only been dominant for about 100 years, but the tendency to be focused only on outer ways of healing has been dominant for at least the last five hundred years. Alternative or complementary medicine is, in fact, the true traditional medicine. “We have been calling genuinely traditional medicine—used for at least 2500 years—‘alternative’ only because today’s newcomer ’traditional’ medicine has misappropriated that attractive word, and truly traditional medicine has not shouted theft.” In order to see how healing has evolved, let’s journey together backwards in time for twenty-five centuries to Ancient Greece.

Traditional medicine, according to the more accurate definition, was well established in Classical Greece from 450 BC to 380 AD. Traditional medicine as practiced in this era, was a truly integrated approach, where equal emphasis was placed on both the inner and outer aspects of healing. Scattered throughout southern Europe were about four hundred temples of Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of healing. In order to heal their physical symptoms, people would have to travel from their town or city to the temples in outlying areas.

The first implication of this arrangement was that they actually had to do something. They had to be intentional about their healing; they had to mobilize themselves and change location. This intentionality is not just about physical location, but also about a change in attitude or psychology as well. Some effort and discipline were needed, and there was inevitably some hardship. Modern research has shown that the further one travels to seek help, the better one’s prognosis, particularly with regard to cancer. So there was logic and wisdom in the methodology of the ancient Greeks. They required that their patients travel far distances to get the healing they sought. Today, an individual may not take a physical journey for her healing, but rather a psychological one in which she moves from one attitude in the beginning to an entirely new psychological place. There must be a tremendous urge that arises from within the person seeking the healing for her to live as much as she is humanly capable at her maximum potential as a fully embodied and conscious human being. She must be willing to challenge many of her preconceived notions about herself, delve deeply into her conscious and unconscious material and be willing to take on the archetype of the seeker who wishes to be healed. This, in my experience, is the real crux of a healing and transforming experience. Unless there is a fundamental shift in consciousness, true healing and integration of your life is impossible.

When people came to the temples of Asclepius, they began their healing experience in the outer sanctum, where the concerns of the physical body were addressed. They fasted, studied nutrition, detoxified, and were massaged with anointed oils. In my office, most people expect to be addressed initially at this level of healing. They want to know that, for their particular diagnosis, there are some physical remedies that can be applied. They are, however, fortified and lulled into a false security by the beliefs propagated through mechanistic medicine: if they are suffering from a symptom, there must be only a physical explanation and hence, only a physical treatment. I believe this attitude is fundamental to human nature and typical of our collective understanding of disease and illness at this time. This approach to healing is entirely appropriate, albeit limited, and forms the basis of the methods of healing we bring to bear at Stage Two of the Seven Stages model. The research that links mind, body, and spirit (Stages Two through Seven in the Seven Stage model) to physical healing, although it exists, has not yet achieved respectability among mainstream practitioners. It will probably take another few decades before the research achieves a level of reproducibility that will convince the skeptics to sit up and take notice.

Back to the ancient temple of Asclepius. After they had completed the rituals and practices of outer healing, Greek patients would move into the inner sanctum of the temple, where the priests officiated. In the middle of the temple were stone pillars carved with symbols of twin snakes winding around and down the pillars. The twin snakes or serpents were the symbol of healing in Greek mythology—the balanced serpents of the conscious and the unconscious, the inner and the outer. This was to acknowledge that health is not just an external matter. Patients were also required to take an oath, swearing allegiance to the gods Apollo and Asclepius. They also were asked to give an offering of a honey cake, implying that in order to gain something, they had to let go of something that was no longer working in their lives, to allow for renewal. Elliot Dacher describes this ritual:

“(And) the offering and devotion to the god, which was an outward projection of the healer within, was an acknowledgement of and symbolic surrender to the more profound healing forces buried in our mind and spirit, unseen because they are as yet unknown”

It was expected that the patients, when they went into the inner temple, would stay for a number of days, if not weeks. In fact, it was encouraged that they not leave until they had had some sign, usually in the form of a dream, signifying that healing was either underway or complete. They were asked to reference their inner wisdom, the healer within, an essential requirement in any healing experience, where the limited vision of consciousness as experienced through the five senses is enriched by messages and symbols from the unconscious. These dreams were then interpreted by the priests and permission was then given to continue on the healing journey. In undertaking this part of the experience, they were acknowledging that they were not coming for a quick fix or a physical cure, but were prepared for an encounter with the deeper medicine, the healing force within

The twin snakes, the Caduceus, are the symbol of healing used in modern medicine. It has been acknowledged for at least the last few thousand years as a symbol of power inherited from the past, with its origins in the world of myth which, as Robertson Davies has written,is still a potent, if rarely recognized, force in our daily lives.” What exactly does this symbol signify? Myth tells us this is the staff of Hermes, the Greek version of the Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth is the god with a man’s body and the head of a bird, the ibis. He was worshipped as the creator of the arts and the sciences, of music, astronomy, speech and the written word. The staff is said to represent the power of the gods. Greek legend has it that one day Hermes was walking along and saw two warring snakes fighting with each other. He took his staff and struck it between them to separate them. They curled themselves around the staff, “forever in contention, but held in a mutuality of power by the reconciling staff,” as Davies wrote. And now the symbol of modern medicine is the staff of Hermes, separating two opposing forces, not letting one outshine the other, not letting either win the battle in their struggle for supremacy.

The two opposing forces are Wisdom and Knowledge, and the caduceus is a reminder that medical practitioners must maintain a balance between the two. Knowledge, in this framework, is what one learns from the outside: the doctor brings his many years of arduous training to bear on the diagnosis. Wisdom is what comes from within, where the doctor looks not at the disease but at the bearer of the disease: “It is what creates the link that unites the healer with his patient, and the exercise of which makes him a true physician, a true healer, a true child of Hermes. It is Wisdom that tells the physician how to make the patient a partner in his own cure”

Both of these sources of wisdom must be accessed by not only health care providers in the application of their healing arts, but also by the patient, in order to maximize the healing transformation. The patient must acquire as much external knowledge as she can, from as many different sources as she needs, while also being cognizant of the fact that not all healing is about external remedies or potions. An inner journey is required.

Alastair Cunningham (2005) has described the broad terrain of this dichotomy by dividing the different routes to healing into two broad categories:

[Spontaneous healing] is what the body does by itself, without any deliberate intervention by the owner of the body, or by others. There are many spontaneous or automatic healing mechanisms operating constantly in the body and mind; for example, healing of wounds, the immune response to foreign micro-organisms, or, at the mental level, the lessening of anxiety or depression with the passage of time. Assisted healing, by contrast, denotes some kind of active intervention, by the person herself, or by others.

He further divides the latter form of healing into two forms. Externally assisted healing is “applied to the sufferer from outside, either by oneself or by others.” This is what occurred in the outer courtyards of the healing temples. In modern times, external assistance can be in the form of “drugs, surgery, [or] healthy behaviors like exercise and good diet.” Internally assisted healing “is caused by changes initiated within the person…by changes in thoughts and emotional reactions…to try to affect the health of the body or the mind.” This process is what is broadly referred to as mind–body or self-healing, and occurs only after deep introspection and a shift in attitude about one’s beliefs, values and preconceptions.

Further to these two ways of healing is that which is transcendent to both. Deepak Chopra, in an address to the Institute for Noetic Studies (IONS) conference, Washington, 2005, spoke about the fact that there are three essential ways of perceiving reality:

1) Through the eyes of the flesh — This requires our sensory perception. Science utilizes sophisticated technology, referred to as the “prostheses of our senses,” to extract information from the physical world. He gives the example that if we want to see if there are craters on the moon we use these “eyes of the flesh” to collect the relevant data. In mechanistic, externally-assisted healing, we are highly dependent on knowledge at this level.

2) Through the eyes of the mind — In this manner, information arrives, through our senses, and then is interpreted against the backdrop of our own personal knowledge base, ideas, thoughts, perceptions, values, beliefs, etc. It is this internal dialogue, the nature of which, being of a mental construct, that often has to be “re written”: so to speak, so that new information can replace the old. This occurs in the mind, not in the physical world.

3) Through the eyes of the soul — Chopra quotes William Blake:

We are led to Believe a Lie

When we see not Thro’ the Eye

Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night

When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light

Blake describes here the concept of true reality lying beyond the illusion of our senses.

Thus if we wish to know this deeper aspect of ourselves, this timeless, eternal, non physical self, we cannot use the eyes of the flesh or the eyes of the mind. One has to traverse the territory of the inner landscape, the world of transcendent consciousness that is beyond the experience of everyday waking reality. This landscape is beyond both mind and body. This experience has been highly sanctified and respected as an essential component of any one person’s healing journey. Upon seeing reality through the “eyes of the soul”, ones sense of self is no longer entirely fixated on physical or psychological reality. It is as if you see with another eye, another perspective, often called the witnessing self, where the concerns of the body and that of the psychological self, fade into the far distance, and what is left is this sense of presence, this sense of a timeless and eternal Self. All concerns about physical reality, health and illness, disappear into the expanded realization that we are not our physical bodies. We “wake up” to our true, extraordinary reality and transcend day to day concerns of ordinary, pedestrian life. In this sense we are ‘eternally healthy” and have no concerns with the fears and limitations of a limited physical lifespan. There is a deep, abiding, unshakeable inner silence and knowing. It is as if our souls have woken up to their existence and to their relevance.

In the East, with its profound dedication to the inner process of healing, there has long been a tradition of orientating oneself towards this experience through various yoga traditions: Bhakti yoga is the path of love and devotion; jnana yoga is the path of intellectual rigor and discipline; hatha yoga is the path of physical mastery of the body and the senses; and karma yoga is the path of selfless service. By dedicated and rigorous adherence to these spiritual practices, the possibility of transcendence to only sensory and mental ways of seeing the world is possible. The path to transcendent consciousness is arrived at via the third way of perceiving reality that Chopra describes. The West has not had the same exposure to these well-defined disciplines.

This awareness of transcendent consciousness is a relatively recent development with the emergence on the planet of the great sages Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Socrates and the sages of the Upanishads. Previous to their appearance on the world stage, human experience was limited to everyday reality as dictated by the senses and the mind, motivated largely by a desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The master control of these behaviors was the autonomic nervous system and its twin controls of pleasure seeking and/or the fight/flight response. Seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, feeding, procreation of the species and fending off approaching danger were very much the only operational systems of day-to-day existence. Once these sages spread their teachings, human beings were able to transcend mundane states of living and taste reality for the first time—not reality as is witnessed through the five senses, but transcendent reality, the state of pure awareness so well described in metaphysical texts. This process is an inner one, one that requires deep enquiry into the core nature of one’s reality.

Modern allopathic medicine has skewed itself more heavily in the direction of the Caduceus’ Knowledge, which has resulted in some of the most successful medical advances of modern times, but has neglected Wisdom, and the necessity for this inner exploration of an individual’s landscape of consciousness, which holds the promise of this deeper healing, beyond merely treating symptoms or diseases of the physical body.

Let’s again return to the temple of Asclepius. Once the patients had been in the temples and had their inner transformative experiences interpreted by the priests, they were then escorted outside of the temple to large amphitheaters where traditional plays, such as the Oedipal Trilogy, the trilogy of Orestia, the journeys of Odysseus, and the great dramas of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripedes were enacted. The largest theatre in ancient Greece was at the healing temple at Epidaurus, and with its perfect acoustics, it is still in use today. The purpose behind exposing patients to these dramas was to illustrate to the patients that what they considered to be very personal, dramatic experiences had their origins in antiquity. Behind an individual’s personal experiences lay the archetypal dramas of health, illness, love and hate, living and dying that have been playing out for centuries. This exposure was meant to reinforce that whatever problems the patient had, others had those problems, too. By reflecting on the themes that were enacted in these plays, those of lust and betrayal, revenge and shame, suffering and salvation, the individual could engage in deep inner therapy where the meaning and lessons of their own lives could be compared to those enacted on stage.

Wisdom could be imparted and the experience gained could be contemplated, against the backdrop of the patients own lives.

Furthermore, many of us have been through great traumas in our lives, from romantic betrayals to divorce and bankruptcy, death of loved ones, and stories of loss and gain. This realization would lead them to lighten up somewhat, to take themselves a little less seriously, knowing that we are mythical beings living out mythical lives. In Ancient Greece, as in our world, one of the greatest dangers to living at ones maximum potential, is making the mistake of taking oneself too seriously!

Many of us have taken heroic journeys—spending the first half of life conquering and creating a safe haven for our emerging egos, only to find in the second half of life that nothing of the senses truly satisfies our soul. Nothing outside of ourselves really satisfies our deep existential longing for a fulfilled, related and meaningful life. Once we wake up to this awareness, we then shift our awareness from an outer-directed life governed by trying to satisfy outer authorities (our parents, our peers, or societal expectations), to an inner-directed psychological or spiritually-based life where the questions we ask are more about the meanings behind apparent reality. We access our inner voice, rather than relying on the “outer voice” and opinions of others. Some of us have struggled with these life transitions and thought we were quite unique in these experiences, but throughout antiquity, these stories and dramas have repeatedly unfolded. We are all participating in this greater story of life. Every one of us is living stories out of the Bible or the Bhagavad-Gita or Greek mythology or Roman mythology, and when we, like the Greeks in the amphitheater, see that we’re just re-enacting the perennial human dramas, we lose some of our anxiety over it. We can begin to let go of the sense of existential anxiety that tells us we’re not getting it right.

Furthermore, within the Asclepian temples, in the surrounding gardens and walkways, there were statues completed by some of the great sculptors of the day such as Phidias and Praxiteles. There were also scholars involved in ongoing philosophical debates, “engaging the mind in self-reflective exploration of the meaning and nature of life. Beauty, truth and virtue were all aspects of the good life and a more profound well-being.”

In summary, Greek healing methods suggested that there is an interweaving of both the inner and outer experiences through the evolution and shift of consciousness. Outer remedies were required, but inner ones were just as significant. For every movement on the outside, there had to be the possibility for a movement on the inside as well. The Asclepian temples provided a multitude of experiences across the spectrum of the patient’s physical mental and emotional lives and these “multiplicity of experiences together formed a healing ecology of body, mind and spirit”They were the first and most enduring example of a truly integrated medical approach.

It is important to realize from the Asclepian times onwards, this movement between the outer (physical) healing and the inner healing, from the Scientists to the Vitalists, from the rational to the mystical, has been perpetuated throughout history. At certain periods, the outer traditions have held sway, such as what we now experience in Western medicine, and at other times, more inner directed practices have been dominant. According to Elliot Dacher, there have been two major periods where the outer and inner ways of healing have been equally balanced, the first being the times of ancient Greece and the second in renaissance Europe.

These were what we call crossover periods, times in which the previously dominant way of viewing the world was in decline and its opposite was on the rise. And for a brief shining moment, inner and outer ways of knowing and healing were in the proper balance and harmony. When this occurs, there is a corresponding flourishing of the arts, science, healing, and of human life itself.”

It is apparent, with the recent interest in all forms of healing, that we are once again in a major crossover period in our history. We have developed extraordinary competence in technological advances and outer ways of healing, but have largely ignored the compensatory opposite, the significance and mastery of the inner life. As with all things that we tend to focus on exclusively, the equal and opposite component will eventually force a balance towards a central integration. This illustrates the obvious yin and yang of day to day dualistically experienced life. It is exciting to witness this present integration, when we have so many opportunities to implement the lessons from this incredible synthesis of ideas.

Originally, the Cnidian School of healing in Ancient Greece viewed the body very much as we view it today: as a mechanistic entity that, when it breaks down, needed fixing. Hippocrates, 460–370 BC, did not agree with this approach. He was more interested in the individual as a unified whole, and all the variables and causative factors that contributed towards a state of sickness or disease, especially the inner attitude of the patient. He viewed symptoms as the body’s attempt to heal itself, and he used remedies and potions taken from nature that assisted the body by exacerbating the symptoms in order to facilitate the body’s own restorative mechanisms.

Hippocrates was also very cognizant of the power of dreams in revealing diagnostic and therapeutic insights. “He theorized that during the day the sense organs are dominant and the soul is passive; but during sleep the emphasis shifts, and the soul then produces impressions instead of receiving them.” So we see that even way back in antiquity, there was interplay between the mechanistic traditions and the more holistic traditions, between the outer and inner methods.

A few centuries later, a famous Roman healer by the name of Galen (ca.130-ca 200 ce) saw the body in a more mechanistic light, made of parts that needed to be separated from the whole in order to assist in healing. Unlike Hippocrates, who saw symptoms as an attempt of the body to heal itself, Galen was the first to consider the body’s symptoms as the actual problem that needed specific treatment. He initiated the separation between seeing symptoms as the problem versus seeing them as a necessary defense of the body to initiate its own spontaneous healing. Galen did have some redeeming features in that he was quite respectful of the capacity of dreams to impart important information to the patient, and to the physician—to the point of carrying out surgical operations based on them (Dossey, 1999, pg. 4). But from our perspective, Galen represents a step away from the holistic approach, to a more mechanistic, physically based “scientific”orientation.

After Galen, the trend swung back towards the more vitalistic orientation and the Christian healing traditions emerged. During this time, there were no remedies as such; there was just faith and the inspiration and presence of the Christ-like healer himself. Here the emphasis was not so much on physical remedies but on the power of God or Christ, inspired by faith, to initiate the healing required. A few kernels of physical medicine remained, but these were replaced by the common belief that illness was due to punishment from God for sins or transgressions of God’s will and that any attempt to treat them with physical remedies, was a transgression of God’s will. Paul Strathern writes, “Other illnesses were thought to result from possession by devils, or were caused by witchcraft, or arose as a result of spells cast by pixies and elves. The only way to cure such afflictions was prayer, penitence or calling upon the assistance of an appropriate saint” For example, St. Anthony was the saint prayed to if afflicted with ergotism, a fungus-infected rye. If ingested, it led to tremendous burning of the intestines which led the inflicted to dance with agony. This was interpreted by onlookers as being possessed by demons. If one had rheumatic fever with spasmodic movements called chorea, you prayed to St. Vitus for relief. I remember as a medical student seeing young kids in the hospital wards in Cape Town, affected with this consequence of rheumatic heart disease, a terrible affliction that responds quite well to large doses of penicillin. If one compares the approaches to epilepsy as practiced by the Greeks, one realizes how far medicine had turned away from a more comprehensive approach and descended into superstition and ignorance, a millennium later.

Paracelsus (1493–1541) was an extraordinary, controversial figure who primarily followed a more holistic, integral approach to healing. He was the first healer we know of who possessed an understanding of both the vitalistic and the mechanistic aspects of healing, and is considered by many, including the Prince of Wales, to be the father of modern medicine. He experimented with different dosing of substances, ushering in the modern science of chemistry. He retained and developed further some of the ideas initiated by Hippocrates, including that of treating with similars—the idea that the substance which initiated a disease, in the correct dose, will assist in the cure. “Never a hot illness has been cured by something cold, nor a cold one by something hot. But it has happened that like has cured like.” While contributing quite significantly to the idea that certain diseases needed specific treatments of their own, he also understood that many diseases were the result of chemical imbalances in the body. While impressively advancing the cause of scientific medicine, he retained deep mystical leanings and was intrigued by the work by the alchemists of his day, whose mystical interests were to turn the base issues of humanity into a golden spiritual purity. Paracelsus had a deep respect for the innate healing force of Nature, and like Hippocrates, believed that this inner healer was superior to any remedies applied from the outside.

Until the 1500s, we had inner and outer healing traditions entwined with each other. For some of the time, one of the traditions would hold sway, only to be overtaken as the other gained momentum. Descartes, who lived during the first half of the seventeenth century, was the first to separate the internal process—the moods, the emotion, the mind—from the body in a process today called Cartesian dualism. “According to Descartes, the body is one sort of substance and the mind another because each can be conceived in term of totally distinct attributes. The body (matter) is characterized by spatial extension and motion, while the mind is characterized by thought.

Newton, who flourished in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, took dualism and materialism even further. He demonstrated that the universe, according to his calculations, was entirely mechanistic, following strict, precise laws. The implication was made that if the world and the universe existed independently and outside of human experience, then the body must behave in much the same way. Thus, if the body is a machine, interventions must be external and aimed at fixing what is broken. In their haste to replicate the precision in logic being demonstrated by physicists, doctors began to dissect the body into smaller and smaller parts in order to understand the whole.

The first dissection of the human body in 1543 was the beginning of our understanding of anatomy and the mystery of the complexity of the physical body, and the beginning of the dominance of modern or outer medicine. From this time forward emerged a tremendous amount of knowledge that gave rise to modern medicine as we know it today. Era 1 Medicine in the 1850s, says Dossey, is when medicine first began to become a science. We’ve had now had four hundred years of this model, with absolutely amazing achievements. We’ve developed an extraordinary wealth of external knowledge, but now have an under-developed understanding of internal or more subjective methods of healing; we are lacking in integral vision when it comes to healing.

Dossey has collected quotations from individuals who view reality from this fixed, external, mechanistic point of view:

What is the brain but a big slab of meat?
– Marvin Minsky, MIT

When I die, I shall rot and nothing of my consciousness will remain.
– Bertrand Russell

Consciousness; our thoughts are nothing other than the byproduct of neuropeptides; they have no real relevance.
– Francis Crick, the individual who discovered the structure of the DNA Double Helix

The implication of such statements is that our inner subjective experiences are irrelevant; there is nothing more going on than neurotransmitters, generated by the brain, speaking to each other. And so our inner experiences are completely disregarded as a real and crucial element of our healing, and we are completely divorced from the influences of our cultural traditions and the systems in which they are embedded. I believe this to be an entirely untenable approach to healing and one that has built into its existence its own
demise. Fortunately, there are new approaches to consciousness studies as written by Daniel Siegel and Alva Noe, who illustrate how the mind is quite distinct from the brain and how the brain is shaped by the mind, the body and the environment constantly interacting with each other in meaningful coexistence. The brain, in this case, is seen as an appendage added to the mind to increase its computing power19.

There you have the past, from the temples of Asclepius through ancient Rome, onto the Enlightenment, and down to our present day. Science today predominantly focuses on external factors, as we have seen. As we enter a healing journey, we will see how the external and the internal are entwined, equal in importance, and unable to be separated, like the two
snakes on the Caduceus staff.

Integrative Medicine: What’s Really Going On?

I have heard the same lament too many times to ignore it any longer. Every day, while interviewing new patients, I hear the same thing. They tell me – often with sadness, sometimes with anger, and most often with regret – that they’ve come to the end of their relationships with their family practitioners. Most often, the reasons are, “He just doesn’t listen to my needs anymore”, or “She chastises me every time I wish to use non-medicinal therapies”, or “She’s a very good doctor, but she doesn’t know anything about the supplements I’m taking”.

This morning a new patient, whom I’ll call Helen, told me that her doctor of 23 years, with whom she had a close relationship and who had delivered her three children, replied to her questions about alternative therapies with, “Oh, come on Helen, get a grip!” She told me their relationship ended right then and there. I find this situation tragic.

I know how hard my colleagues work, how compassionate and dedicated so many of them are and how accomplished they are at the fine art and science of family medicine. So why is there this huge resistance to embracing the healing modalities that so many of their patients are actively seeking out and benefiting from?

ON THE BANDWAGON

In 1998, the American Medical Association (AMA) dedicated an entire issue of their journal JAMA to alternative medicine.1 Their editorial literally gushed with the promise of alternative medical procedures. The question was raised as to why this bastion of conventional medical, which has vociferously opposed alternative medicine in the past, suddenly jumped on the bandwagon?

According to Dr. Julian Whitaker, a well-known US practitioner and spokesperson for alternative medicine, the answer is simple: “It’s because the public is deserting conventional medicine and flocking to alternative health care providers by the millions.”

THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE

While reliable statistics in developing countries such as South Africa are hard to come by, the figures we see in the first world indicate a growing trend towards integrative medicine among educated, high-income social groups. In 1991, Dr. David Eisenberg, MD, published a groundbreaking study on the extent to which the public had adopted alternative medicine. His follow-up study was the lead article in JAMA, entitled, “Trends in Alternative Medicine Use in the United Sates, 1990-1997”.2 Dr. Eisenberg reported that 46.3% of Americans visited an alternative practitioner in 1997. This is a substantial increase from the 36.3% he reported in 1991, with the American public making 427 million visits. By 1997, the number jumped to 629 million, exceeding the total visits to all conventional physicians.

We know that 3.8 million Canadians consult alternative practitioners, spending about 1.8 billion dollars in the process.3 An additional two billion dollars are spent on herbs, vitamins, supplements, books and courses. A Statistics Canada 1998-1999 National Population Health Survey showed that 19% of women use alternative health care versus 14% of men. Some observations have shown that users tend to have post-secondary education and are high-income earners.

One finding of the study, which must surely be alarming to the medical establishment, was that 60% of people who consulted alternative practitioners didn’t discuss it with their doctors. I have found that this lack of consultation is not because people don’t want a conventional doctor’s professional advice. But most people know in advance what their doctors will say, and thus decide to spare themselves the embarrassment of an unpleasant interview.

MEETING DEMANDS

Patients want more from their doctors. Not only do they want them to be informed about the latest research on supplements such as saw palmetto or glucosamine sulfate, they also want them to recognize issues more commonly addressed by alternative practitioners. My advice is not to let any doctor get away with comments such as, ‘There aren’t enough studies to recommend their use,” as there are many good quality studies done on a multitude of non-medicinal therapies that just aren’t published
in journals sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, which doctors usually read. Patients are also expressing a profound need for their family practitioners to hear their concerns about the mind-body connection and all that it entails.

Patients are no longer tolerant of alternative medicine being regarded as light medicine. They are taking their worldviews seriously and are expecting their health care providers to assist them. People are realizing that they are more than just a physical body with a set of symptoms. They’re aware that physical disease is often the end expression of long-ignored minor symptoms, which is why they are searching for advice before the minor symptoms manifest as major diseases.

A QUESTION OF COLLUSION

I suspect that some of my colleagues’ resistance to this new medicine my be due to a genuine distrust in what they see as entrepreneurial zeal on the part of alternative practitioners who exploit the gullibility of a vulnerable and ill-informed public. Some of these colleagues may also genuinely believe that alternative treatments are without scientific merit.

But there seems to be more at play here. Unwittingly, I believe that doctors and patients unconsciously collude in an archetypal relationship whereby doctors see themselves as all-healthy and the patients as all-sick. This model blinds both doctors and patients to the reality of the inner physician, that part of within ourselves that activates healing. The medical perspective often depersonalizes the patient, while treating the disease.

I also suspect that my colleagues are afraid of this new medicine because they have not been adequately prepared or trained to diagnose, let alone treat, the full extent of their own private suffering. Hence, they fail to recognize the full extent of their patients’ cries for help.

Alternative medicine is being integrated into mainstream medicine by a patient-driven, educated consumerism, whether the medical profession likes it or not. Viable alternative solutions for virtually all medical conditions will continue to grow in popularity into the next century. As a result, the entire face of medicine will change dramatically. My colleagues had better be prepared, or face the disappointment of ever-increasing patient dissatisfaction. Or worst yet, extinction.

By Dr. Bruce Hoffman
MBChB