Avant-guard psychiatry

IMG_0193When I encounter people working in alternative energy or holistic health, I find a purity to their work born from having personal experience with their modality and a conviction in its importance.  There is a clarity in their words and a humility in their demeanor.

At the moment I have in mind a psychiatrist named Will Van Derveer whom I heard speak in Boulder, Colorado, last week.   Van Derveer is soft-spoken and articulate, a lean middle-aged man with clear skin and the centeredness that stems from meditation and wisdom.  He spoke on a holistic approach to psychiatry, one that takes into account gut health, neurotransmitter fluency, chemistry, genetics, attachment disruptions, ego structure, trauma, relationship, and spirituality.  As someone who has studied psychology but often finds something missing, I reveled in hearing a perspective that made sense to me on every level.

Van Derveer does prescribe medications, but he keeps his sights on the truth that it is still the relationship between therapist that is the heart of healing, as research has shown for decades now.  He also works with natural medicine to determine if someone has adrenal fatigue, candidiasis, gluten intolerance, lyme disease, or some other issue underlying mental dysfunction.  He may order neuropsych tests as well.  He works with somatic experiencing to address trauma, and he uses a natural supplement to help those who wish to come off meds.  It’s a very complex job he has, and his clientele is varied, their symptoms sometimes mysterious.  But he listens, seeks the advice of colleagues, and recommends a variety of treatments, including yoga, tai chi, and meditation.

Many MDs do not even recognize the validity of adrenal fatigue or candida, and Van Derveer acknowledges that these issues are more often the territory of naturopaths and sometimes of a few integrative medicine docs.  But he believes these disorders are real and much of his clientele does too. He follows studies and can describe case studies in which clearing up candida or adrenal issues clears up depression, lethargy, or anxiety.

When people are suffering, have tried a myriad of treatment approaches that have not helped enough, or are inclined to minimize medication use, they seek out Van Derveer’s.  They may have to make some real lifestyle changes, but this doc is patient and understanding.  He understands the importance of community and social support in making changes and recovering.  He understands the problems involved in an unbalanced brain and in addiction.  He has compassion, and he is open to learning from patients, colleagues, research.

Here is a man in touch with the realities of his time, the evolution of medicine, the suffering of his fellow creatures.  When someone in the audience asked him why he often prescribes medications for a person in acute distress, he said, “fear.”  Not a common confession from a physician, but an honest one.  Another listener noted that compassion is also involved in wanting to help someone suffering deeply and using the most powerful or best known remedy at hand.  At another point he spoke of the need to accept a condition and the ongoing struggles associated.   For me, the daughter of a doctor, I am most impressed by one admitting his fears, the limitations of medical knowledge, and this awareness of the complexity of humans, our environments and the food we eat.  At the same time I am reassured that he is attentive to the latest thinking and research as well as the experience of patients.

Other things he said let me know he is aware of his own psychological issues, that he eats well, lives well, and learns from mistakes.  Here is the art of medicine in full relief:  open to mystery, employing intellect and intuition, considering the natural world, practicing what one preaches, learning from mistakes and from patients and colleagues of all ranks.   I call him enlightened.

The brave new world of work

IMG_0618I peruse the want ads online for that off-hand chance I’ll discover a job that I want, but also to learn of trends and new companies. Once in a while I see a job that is a good fit, but I have yet to land one. And while I look, I find that I am formulating a role for myself, one whose outlines have slowly emerged and brought me to a place where I can now fill in this little sketch.

The online world has stimulated my thought process. I read the blogs of entrepreneurs like Seth Godin, Penelope Trunk, and Chris Guillebeau. I see artists and healers make a name for themselves through their online presence. And I read about new professions, like digital media coordinator and web content manager, or ayurvedic counselor. New types of health professions are emerging, like navigators and coaches. Environmental fields are developing. As the world changes and consumer needs evolve, as healthcare and energy sources change, some of us will be taking on new roles. Seeing this change happening invigorates me: I like this direction and the values it espouses.

Some new businesses that inspire me include Mindbody Solutions, a nonprofit started by a yoga teacher paralyzed from the chest down. Matthew Sanford seeks to change healthcare and bring yoga philosophy to the process of rehabilitation. I see new companies developing solar energy products and new types of energy provision. New health insurance cooperatives.

I know a man who is a counselor who advises from a yogic framework. Physician Nita Desai and psychiatrist Scott Shannon in Colorado embrace nutrition and Eastern healing arts to help people heal in new ways. Brain imaging is changing the way we interpret some forms of learning or mental illness, and there are new perspectives on autoimmune diseases.

Meanwhile the digital age has made it possible for many to make their living through blogging, web design, social media, or online marketing. More folks are becoming entrepreneurs or advice distributors.

I feel that I am developing right along with all of these trends, evolving into a new kind of professional who will translate these ideas into words and “treatments.” I feel that I might finally bring together my knowledge, skills, and life experiences to serve, rather than hanging out on the fringes.

I am fashioning this conception of my work. It involves creating and running a web “magazine” on mental health in the digital age. One utilizing my knowledge of yoga, ayurveda, and mindfulness. My other hat will be educator/coach. I want to work with a holistic psychiatrist or an ayurvedic practitioner teaching about mindfulness, yoga, and yoga philosophy for the westerner. The third component of this work is facilitating support or discussion groups, in which people learn together how they are getting in their own way and how to apply mindfulness, nutrition, and energetic aspects of wellness.

Yes, in the meantime, I may serve in a good nonprofit or healthcare organization, most likely one that allows me the flexibility to develop my own endeavor. I may yet need to shed a few layers of my own armor, fear, and limited perceptions to embrace my creative power and take a fully realized role in my community. I know deep down it can be done.

I think of body workers who changed the “world” like Moshe Feldenkrais and Ida Rolf. Of academics, scientists, or clergy who thought out of the box: Einstein, Buckminster Fuller, Howard Zinn, Thomas Merton. People who tried to make it in established professions until creating their own niche, like Karen Armstrong, former nun who became the writer of The History of God, Buddha, and Islam. Throughout my whole adult life I have wondered, “Can we not do the work that engages our particular sensitivity?” It is the artists and somatic educators who inspire me: In them I see an engagement and fostering of life, a vocation that also provides a “living.”

For me the question is, What stirs my heart and serves the world? Though I have longed searched for my niche, it just may be that I have to create it.

Wrestling with bulldogs

IMG_0945Two years ago, after a year of unemployment, I began a new job at a disability center in a dilapidated building.  That same week, another woman was hired.  We bonded in the rocky adjustment to cluttered offices and murkily defined jobs.  Our shared discomfort in landing in this neglected corner of the earth, along with the familiarity of her Catholic sense of social service to my Methodist upbringing, created for me a strange sense of destiny.

We cleaned out our spaces, working through piles of files and discarded junk, dusting and sterilizing.  Then we began to define our jobs.  Months into this process, conflict arose. Katie, a Christian who had worked in mental health, is committed to service and motivated to serve.  She’s social, outspoken, and driven to help people change.  I, on the other hand, a strong introvert fresh off a year at home alone and two decades of writing work, was uncertain I should be in human services at all.

Katie is 70 years old and a great grandmother.  Raised by various family members and nuns, she brought up five kids on her own, earned two degrees, and became director of senior services in a nearby county.  She’s used to fighting her way through the world.  I’m an avowed introvert, and I was reeling in the chaos.  Since neither of us was given guidance or feedback we felt uneasy about our work, and we clashed.  Katie tried to tell me how to do my job while I struggled mightily to create my boundaries in an environment where staff and clientele seemed ready to intrude wherever possible.  While Katie attacked her job with a vengeance, calling folks to see if they needed services, developing new programs, and organizing new activities, I tried to see if I could provide service to the organization and clientele in a way that I could sustain, behind the scenes.

I’d hear Katie cajoling, challenging, and encouraging others.  But she pushed me to do the same, and I resisted, wondering at times if she was right.  We squabbled a few times over how I should do my job or the wording of a flier.  Yet she learned to let me be, and I started to appreciate her strength and to find my own.  I enjoyed her colorful stories of exotic pets, encounters with police, and her husband’s ranching family.

Slowly, I became better at outreach for my program and found ways to contribute.  I made a new website, redesigned the newsletter,  set up a series of workshops.  I learned and taught others about assistive technology.

I was adjusting, and at the same time coming to see Katie as a bulldog—indomitable, resilient, energetic.  On the other hand it seemed she couldn’t slow down and listen, and I felt like I was always wrestling with her.  We traveled to other cities together for conferences, trainings, and outreach, meeting with farmers and ranchers disabled by work or age.   Crawling back into my hotel room after a long day of meetings and lunches with my cohort, I could breathe again.

On the most recent road trip with my friend, she chatted away, ready to direct until we established a pattern of cooperation.  This week we went to a senior fair together in a small plains town in Colorado.  We’d found new sympathy for each other on that road trip, and when she started insisting on how a client needed to quit smoking, I laughed and pretended to bang my head on the steering wheel.  She laughed too.

At the fair I had an epiphany.  Seated along the wall adjacent to us were three tables, one for a senior living residence, one for assisted living, the last for a funeral home.  Katie commented on how the booths represented the stages we all go through and then started talking about her plans for where to be buried and with whom.  She joked about her sister in law and brother saying she could be buried in a stack three high with them, but she responded she didn’t want to spend eternity in between them.  “Well, we won’t be doing anything!”, said her relative.  Then Katie turned to the woman in the table next to us and began a lively conversation.  Sharing her experience as a gerontologist and spiritual director and learning about the other woman’s love of working with seniors in assisted living, I felt privileged to learn about work that is not often acknowledged and about these stages of life at the other end.  Here were two elders themselves helping people take their last steps on the earth.

My own process of changing in this strange job, of softening and opening, of letting go of my previous definitions of myself, seemed suddenly tremendously fruitful.  I felt wizened and blessed, strengthened by schooling about the stages of life and the forgotten areas of this human experience.  And I again had the sense of fate in my connection with this woman.

Here’s why:  Though we were raised quite differently, have different personalities and spiritual practices, we are also of the same ilk, fighters who have come to unusual perspectives on healing and wellness through our own experiences.  Katie is a strong spiritual being from a background of abuse and poverty, riches gained and lost, now in tune with the reality of aging and death.  A student of psychotherapy, Emotions Anonymous, wellness training with wellness wheel, and spiritual gerontology, she has wisdom to share in a world bent on material gain, youth, and fitness.

My life has been more stable, but early acquaintance with illness through my dad’s work made me a questioner, and my experience in Quaker meetings, with yoga and meditation, with managing health issues through holistic medicine, with mental health counseling and body-oriented psychotherapy, have led me to a perspective much like my coworker’s. We have the same sense of wellness as involving spiritual, emotional, and physical elements, of being a lifelong process of learning and letting go.

In this relationship, over time, our spirituality, our life struggles, and our experience with uncertain positions, led inevitably to a bond. So often, different languages, backgrounds, personalities, or fear and the need for clearly defined beliefs create barriers between us humans.  In this case, I now have a strong sense of crazy adventure and of a chance meeting of fellow travelers on the road, perhaps a cliché, but an apt one.

On that outing to the senior fair, I saw beyond the grind of a job into the precious encounter with the divine and a woman full of fire and spirit.  I felt I understood the biblical parable of Jacob wrestling with an angel.   I really thought I was wrestling with this bulldog, but it was definitely an angel, both the job itself and this bundle of love and courage that is Katie.

Happy or normal?

IMG_0920I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning never stops.  The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.

That’s Jeannette Winterson, in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She is talking about her long-time fascination with the Grail stories and Perceval’s “twenty years wandering in the woods, looking for the thing that he found, that was given to him, that seemed so easy, that was not.”

Winterson’s book is a memoir.  Adopted at the age of six weeks, she has explored issues of identity through reading and writing, an endeavor I identify with strongly.  Her book elicits thoughts and memories for me related to my worklife, and this message in the grail stories reassures me as it did Winterson.  I remember that the same message comes through in The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong, another favorite of mine whose title is a reference to this process of departing and returning.

At one point in my life I worked for a magazine on a staff of creative writers as well as with people revisioning psychology, looking at the field’s intersection with spirituality.  Already a reader of Carl Jung, an observer of my dreams, and a student of Taoism, I couldn’t believe my fortune in landing this job.  The staff, which was young and inquisitive, attended plays and concerts after work, had stimulating conversations over lunch.  I was living my dream life.  Then the magazine folded, and most of us were faced with the prospect of reentering a more utilitarian, mechanistic work world.  Like Perceval, I’ve been trying to find my way back for a long time, and I haven’t made it, though I’ve found sure found some nuts and berries along the way.

Like teaching yoga and studying ayurveda.  Exposure to some incredible teachers and experiences through yoga.  Writing articles on Feldenkrais, Continuum, and qigong.  Studying Hakomi, or body-oriented psychotherapy.  Working for an herbalist and making tinctures from freshly harvested herbs.

Like living in a small town in Colorado and hiking in the mountains.  Working at a bookstore, meeting folks in the disability world.

Finding berries in the form of books and ideas from novels of all kinds to Kerouac to American history, to Buddhist psychology to yoga to Jung, Wendell Berry to David Orr and Terry Tempest Williams.

Work has been spotty, but I have grown, and I’ve had an incredible education.  I am ready to plug into a community, a project, an organization working for change in healthcare and education.  Think Parker Palmer, founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal.  The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota, Positive Futures Network, the Center for Mind-body Medicine.

Where do I come out?  Winterson writes that the “stories of loss, of loyalty, of failure, of recognition of second chances” related to the Grail continue to inform her life.  Right now they inspire me, for I have experienced loss of good and connected jobs.  I have remained true to my mission in many ways, but I have also failed by becoming lost in fear or alienation, but I am still here, and I recognize the second chance.  I come back to writing, yoga, and integrative medicine.  My “Perceval” question to the Parker Palmers, the James Gordons, the editors of Yes! magazine, is, can I work with you?

Clash of cultures

What motivates us to work? We know from an early age that we have to work as adults, and we find our way into jobs one way or another, some through years of education and some not.  How much time do we really spend thinking about it?

Many of us don’t get to know ourselves, or have the opportunity to try out numerous jobs, before we really need to “make a living.”  We choose a job, or a field, and we enter an enculturation process either in school or in the workplace.  The culture we absorb becomes a motivation itself:  We learn a vocabulary, way of thinking, norms, even habits of thinking, often without realizing it or taking time to reflect.  Some may relish the process and enjoy having a niche, others may experience a bit of unease, a sense of something missing depending on the fit with the culture.

Some professions, such as medicine or social services, possess a strong culture, one the employee has to embrace to some extent to excel in the field.  My father said medical school was like boot camp, a challenging experience in which his own ego and perspective were subordinated to the process of becoming a doctor.  He worked so hard for so long, was sometimes belittled, and he became one with his role, demonstrating decisiveness and as much clarity as possible to treat illness and perform surgery in a capable way.

Many of us are unknowingly brainwashed by a worldview, unaware of the underpinnings and influences forming that perspective, not possessing the tools with which to question or examine.  For some darn reason, not completely known to me, I have stood on the outside and asked questions.  While I had an interest in psychology in college, studying it raised more questions than it answered, so I asked my favorite professor to recommend books on the history of the field, because studying it made me uncomfortable, and I wondered why.

I think we need to stay alert, to ask questions as we learn a field and after we are in it.  To develop our own perceptions and to participate in ongoing inquiry with peers and supervisors.  But generally we are not encouraged to follow our hunches, to turn inside, to question, or even to dialogue with others in our fields.  We instead become absorbed into the work, the money, starting a family, building security for that family and ourselves.  But I believe there is a place for curiosity.

I have long conversations with a friend who teaches a contemplative education course at a university and is a sometime psychotherapist herself.  She teaches in a scholars’ program populated by pre-med students, future scientists and engineers, future writers.  She encourages the students to examine their assumptions, to consider their personal relationship to the subjects they study, to explore the underpinnings and influences on the professions they are considering entering.  Some of the students are resistant to her proddings in this class, at least at first.  The pre-med student is a bright, busy, focused fellow, or gal, who usually embraces a belief in the medical model, says my friend.  She does not ask them to let go of that belief, only to be circumspect, and many find themselves immensely grateful for the process of internal and philosophical inquiry she guides them through.  While some see no use for the process, others tell my friend they will go to med school as more sensitive, well-rounded humans.

My friend herself is examining the mental health field, from psychoanalysis to psychopharmacology, as a consumer, professional, and researcher.  She has experienced ill effects from medications and explored alternatives from re-attachment to ayurvedic herbs and diets to yoga and dance.  You could say she is a renegade academic and psychotherapist.

A person awake to her own emotions, adventurous in her intellectual pursuits, and brave enough to ask questions, is a different kind of professional.  Rather than immersing herself in a culture and system of thought, she remains a sensitive individual with an ability to respond to situations from within her self.

The book, The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down, is about the clash of the Hmong people’s needs and beliefs with that of the Western medical system.  It is about the damage that can occur when two strong belief systems meet.  I was struck by a story in the book about a young Western enthnographer and fan of improvisational theater who is able to appreciate and understand the Hmong peoples’ perspective on illness and their resistance to the imposition of Western ways upon them.  He learns about them and their beliefs and is able to encourage them to get immunizations for their pets through staging a theatrical parade.

What made him sensitive to these people, capable of understanding their perspective?  Was he less enamored of the Western view he was born into?  Was he secure enough in himself to open his mind?

I have been immersed in this very process throughout my life:  I studied psychology but wanted to know where it came from, I was interested in medicine but had the mind and heart of an anthropologist.  I’m not sure why I am like this.  I think it may be feeling close to nature most of my life, through listening to old-time music as a young child and driving through inner-city DC with my dad on his way to work, through reading black authors from off my parents’ bookshelves.  I knew there were other ways of thinking about things than mine, other cultures and races, varied spiritual paths.

My role is that of an amateur ethnographer, a student of work cultures.  I make my living as a yoga teacher and writer, and I work various part-time jobs along the way.  It is a grand adventure, and I am grateful to share it with friends like my university teacher buddy.   This is my enduring question:  Can we not work from our authentic selves in ways that make sense to us and are healing to the world?  We must let the world change us, but sometimes we need to change it.

Hakomi homies

I have been interested in models for mental health care for many years, beginning in college where the approach was behavioral and not to my taste.  At that time I asked one professor if he could recommend some books on the history of psychology so I could learn more about where the field had come from as well as about other schools of thought within it.   Later I worked as a writer for the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and for Common Boundary, a magazine on transpersonal psychology.  And now I work in independent living, which is akin to the clubhouse model in mental health.  This model emphasizes connecting individuals with community and a range of practical resources to help them live the lives they wish given their disability or disorder.

Shortly before this stop on my journey, I joined an experiential training in hakomi body-centered psychotherapy.  This is a mindfulness-based approach sometimes called “assisted meditation.”  During a two-year training I traveled through new territory of emotion, psyche, and community.   With two excellent teachers and 22 brave cohorts, I left the achievement-oriented world and explored inner terrain I hadn’t known was there.

Hakomi drew me like a magnet.  As a yoga teacher and meditator interested in the emotional and spiritual effects of practice, it rang true for me as a method for freeing oneself of some reactivity, old beliefs, and behavioral patterns.  Observing the sensations of the body and the responses to statements and “experiments” in social interaction seemed a practical way to heal, to develop “new neural pathways” and to lighten up on the old ingrained ones.

The training was extraordinary but challenging for this introverted writer.  I had resisted group interaction most of my life, yet there I was, sitting in a very large circle “talking about my feelings” or someone else’s feelings. It was downright scary at times, but I was also awed.  The blend of teaching, experimenting, and sharing perceptions with others amazed me.  Where else, I wondered, would you find a group so willing to put their psyches on display and learn with others how us humans work, with all of our ingrained beliefs and perceptions and reactivity?  Where else would people be willing to let down old responses in the presence of others and make room for new ones?

Hakomi, which was created by therapist Ron Kurtz and is influenced by Buddhism, Taoism and even psychoanalysis, is a way of being with others, usually a therapist, in a mindful state, and noticing the sensations in one’s body as well as the thoughts and images that emerge.  Sometimes these things poke their heads up on their own, sometimes they arise as reactions to a statement or “experiment” designed by the therapist.  In this experience we begin to see how we are “organized” and what our core beliefs are.

The beauty in it is the principle of compassion for ourselves, the respecting of those resistances we have, and just observing them.  The gentle acceptance of the therapist allows all kinds of beliefs and reactions to arise and be “studied.”  Sometimes the noticing itself brings a shift in the belief.  In bringing mindfulness and compassion to one’s patterns, we see how they work, and we see the possibility of different conclusions and more choice in responding.

I often felt insecure and flawed sitting in a big circle and having to “share” my experience, but I learned, particularly I learned to give myself a break.  I learned from others that they all have their own patterns, that even those who seem most together have insecurities that motivate much of their behavior.  Forcing myself to talk, feeling analytical and scared, I watched myself perform, became more able to admit my discomfort to the group, and gradually to express a feeling or thought more spontaneously, with less analysis.

I loved the teaching and the one-on-one process. I gratefully soaked up words of wisdom about how we organize around our early experiences, about the dynamics and intricacies of anger.  Mostly I absorbed a capacity to be sloppy, to connect with others in the chaos and the tossing up of our fears and shames as just part of the human canvas.  To explore with others our childlike needs and how we manage them.  To dance without self-consciousness when we turned on some music and let ourselves move.

Ultimately, I came away more solid, more engaged with the world, and freer.  Being a hakomi therapist wasn’t for me, but hakomi infuses my yoga teaching, my writing, my meditation, and my interactions with others.  It changed me just like a year in a far-off land would: It pulled away my assumptions, my frame of reference, and let me experiment.  It gave me a more flexible sense of myself.  An invaluable trip, I’d say, this one with my “hakomi homies.”

Why I am not a psychologist

What is this particular blog, a negative manifesto? Why should I write about why I am not a psychologist, and why would anyone care?  Well, yes, quite so.  Here’s the beauty of blogging for the blogger; it sometimes becomes journaling.  And yet it has the added dimension of inviting dialogue.  Have you ever had the experience of thinking something is a good idea for you but then learning in practice that it is not?

I am attracted to medical and psychological professions at first blush, but then part of me balks.  I have never been able to get past taking some courses, and when I get near to practicing, I run the other way.   The truth is, even the coursework gives me a headache.  Am I dumb?  Terribly resistant?  Or is it something else?

For sure something won’t let me work as a psychotherapist.  It feels like the gods to me, or as if my wires are crossed.  Maybe I’m just one hell of a rebel, a contrarian.  Perhaps I belong on the fringe, and here I sit here in the way the Buddhist does, listening, learning, watching the world go ‘round.  Looking for my way to participate in the art of healing.

Though I’ve attempted to work in the field of psychology several times, I am not doing so for the following reasons:

  1. These professions require an immersion in a system of thought that I am in the process of examining, evaluating really.  It’s true I do not feel qualified to guide others over their emotional terrain.  Call me rebel or explorer, perhaps time will tell.
  2. I am on a mission to explore the nature and circumstances of healing.  It isn’t as though one day I had the thought that this is what I must do and embarked on the endeavor; it took me over.  I’m insatiably curious about the nature of life, the human condition, and how we find wholeness in any circumstances.  Partly this orientation comes from being exposed to suffering children  through my dad’s work, but I also believe it is my daemon, my driving motivation in this life to explore these things.
  3.  I want to pull myself back from the textbook, the table, the clinical orientation, and look at the larger system in which we are embedded.  Where do some of our assumptions come from, and how do they strike us at this time in history?  We made fast progress in medicine:  From the creation of antibiotics to brain imaging, we have learned a lot about function and disease, no denying, and many lives have been prolonged.  But we are also missing part of the picture.   We’ve been coming from a materialist perspective, a reductionist perspective for a long time. As a follower of trends in psychiatry and mental health therapies, I see a movement that has traversed territory from locking away the crazy, to looking for ways to help, to applying harmful “treatments,” to deinstitutionalizing, to fearfully clinging to chemistry and treatment.  In this relatively new science, we have been like a blind man walking down the wrong hallway and into a dark dangerous alley.
  4.  I am deeply curious about the traditions and knowledge we virtually lost touch with in the industrial and information technology ages.   Those things we buried so well during the Salem witch hunts in our own country or distanced ourselves from in our quest for technological advance.  I need to know about the holistic, naturalistic approach in which we saw ourselves as part of nature and plants as medicines and foods.  Such a view is slowly returning to our Western consciousness:  Others seek such knowledge as I do, often when they come up against the limits of Western medicine or psychology.
  5.  My personality, temperament, and turn of mind make me predisposed to seek an overarching cosmology in which we see ourselves as part of the natural world.  My more global bent of mind draws me toward this perspective when comes to questions of healing and wholeness.  I want to explore the world through yogic practice and philosophy, through plant medicine, through an ayurvedic worldview about the creation of the earth and man’s place in it.  Within this view we discover ways to find balance within our bodies and with our environments.  We see the environment as part of ourselves and treat it with more respect.
  6.  I believe in the art of healing.  I also believe in the science of healing, but my daemon orients me to a full embrace of the art:  the story of the human encountering illness or injury, the communication between the man and his gods or God, the connection between the woman and her mother earth and father sky.  I see poetry and deep truth to medicines based on the theory of five elements (Indian, Chinese, native).  I intuitively relate to the idea that my bodies is comprised of air, ether, water, fire,  and earth (or metal and wood in Chinese medicine).  I can sense when one is out of balance:  my water element causing sinus headaches, or the element of air (wind) contributing to anxiety.
  7. I need to examine the role of our societal dysfunction in illness.  Economics and social demographics contribute to habits and even addictions that cause diabetes, obesity, and cancer.  Our lack of wisdom about emotional difficulty contributes to the psychological reliance on food and drink for numbing, for comfort, for protecting ourselves from others.  A myriad of issues affect an individual’s psychology, and we need more awareness of that fact so we don’t get to buried in blaming our family dynamics.
  8. Psychology leaves out the spiritual dimension.  I am interested in the role of spiritual practice in our emotional health, mindfulness as central to this practice, and the body as a conduit to this dimension.

After making this list and carrying on a bit, I feel the need to state my manifesto in more positive terms.  I am a journalist and psychological anthropologist, an explorer into other realms of explaining and depicting our mental and physical challenges.   A writer who covers mental health paradigms.   A yoga practitioner and teacher involved in a process of finding greater physical and emotional freedom.  Writing and yoga are professions in tune with my mindset and temperament; they call me and engage me and connect me with the world.

I talk to healers, dialogue with doctors of Chinese or Indian medicine, with native American shamans, medical doctors looking into integration of perspectives.  Listen to people who’ve tune into their internal wisdom and recovered from challenging illnesses.  Explore with others in a yoga class what it means to be human and how to hear our own bodies’ messages about health.  Learn about food and herbs that work synergistically with our bodies to make us more whole.  I want to bring back some of what we lost.

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