Misunderstanding Our Patients
There is a tendency among some health care professionals to believe that a patient is “making up symptoms” or is mentally unstable when the patient presents with a problem for which the doctor has no answer. If the tests for a particular ailment show no signs of disease, then the pain that the patient is feeling is exaggerated or simply made up for attention or pain medication. Most allopathic health care providers do not consider that there may be other ways of viewing a physical problem that is outside western scientific thought. Nor do they consider that the western medical paradigm has some blind spots that prevent them from seeing what is really going on. Whenever a patient arrives with a very thick file and a plethora of different problems and disorders, does the provider pause to ask what is the underlying cause of all of these illnesses or do they just treat the problem at hand?
If we accept that we have a physical body, a psyche or emotional body, and an energy body, then it is important to consider how these three bodies interact and impact one other. One of the reasons that we such high medical costs is that rarely do we consider how the emotional and physical bodies impacts our health and well being. Most hospitals have mind body programs, which acknowledge the impact that the mind has on our ability to heal, but they do not put the same focus on how unresolved emotional issues may cause the body to become ill nor how toxic energy is stored in the body. All too often allopathic health care does not probe all the necessary levels to determine the underlying reasons for chronic or serial illness. And all too often patients leave their doctors feeling misunderstood, uncared for, and frustrated.
When patients leave their doctors feeling misunderstood, uncared for and frustrated, they often blame themselves. Often clients tell me that their doctors could find nothing wrong with them so they struggle with the notion that they are making it up or it is really nothing and that they are exaggerating how badly they feel. They fear being labeled as a hypochondriac or being told that their illness is psychosomatic. Sometimes they stop taking their concerns to their doctor for fear of judgment. A psychosomatic illness is one in which emotional issue results in an illness emerging in the body. Some physicians treat illnesses that derive from emotional issues as matter-of-factly as one would a virus and truly do understand the mind-body connection. But other physicians and much of the general population view a psychosomatic illness as a weakness or a sign that one’s emotions are so out of control that they have made their body sick.
Many people that come to see me carry shame around the notion that their emotional pain may have resulted in a physical illness and view this as a personal failure. The shame and self-blame that some carry is a heavy burden that weighs down the body and the psyche and slows the healing process. Others profess that their illness is “real” and refuse to look at any underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to their body being out of balance also fearful that they will be judged. In many indigenous cultures there is a belief that all illness, be it expressed emotionally or physically can be traced to a loss of core essence and that this loss must be restored to return to full health. There is no judgment or shame regarding the pathway that one expresses this loss of core essence. The acceptance of the various aspects of our being – the emotional, energetic and physical – and the interplay among these levels can go a long way towards lifting us from the burden of self-blame and shame and towards ease in healing.
Health Care Reform
On the eve of the vote for health care reform, it seems important to reflect on the issue of reform. As I said in my first blog, it is a national embarrassment that as the richest country in the world, many of our citizens do not have health care and millions of others who do have health insurance find themselves bankrupt as result of a chronic or catastrophic illness. Over the years I have worked with people who have serious and life threatening illness and have been saddened again and again at the suffering that comes not only from the illness, but also for the myriad of ways that the health care system fails them . I am struck by how many people blame themselves for their inability to make the system work for them and feel as if they are a failure, if they fall behind on their bills as a result of a serious illness. We have lost the art of holding healing as a sacred art and a right for all. Much of the practice of healing has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare of forms, notes and paperwork.
Unfortunately the art of healing has turned into a very lucrative business for those who manage and run the insurance industry. The insurance industry determines what kind of care is given, the rates of payment for the various levels of care and most significantly, if they will approve one for care. If someone wants to augment their treatment protocol with alternative healing methods, they must pay for these treatments out of pocket. In their attempt to maintain control of the health care industry, the insurance industry has waged a campaign against reform by scaring people with false claims and accusations. The insurance industry’s ability to frame the debate and to steer us from the real issues has been a masterful form of manipulation. Although the bill before Congress is far from perfect as a public option is desperately needed as a way of reigning in the spiraling rise in health care premiums, it is a first step.
Understanding Our Path
Many who are in the alternative healing network have come to believe that if we have positive thoughts and practices, we will not get sick and conversely, if we do get sick, we have done something wrong. Yes, clearly there are things that we can do to facilitate good health such as exercise, moderation in food and drink and healthy eating. And positive outlooks bring us inner peace and physical well being. But often serious and life threatening illnesses are part of our life journey, our life path. In western cultures many of us were led to believe that life should run smoothly and without too much stress or difficulty; and if things do go poorly, it is someone’s fault. The reality as we know, but do not like to admit, is that there are many challenges along the way, that suffering is a part of life. We can view these difficult times as something being done to us, a sign of our personal failure, or as evidence that there really are not supportive beings in the universe; i.e. “if there were a God, he would not have done this to me.” We can also view challenging times as teachings or lessons that we agreed to learn in this lifetime.
When we are physically or emotionally challenged, there is often a teaching within this experience. Maybe we have strayed from our path and need a wake-up call; I certainly have had several of these. Sometimes we have agreed before we came into this incarnation that we would take on a particular challenge to further our soul’s development and growth. When it feels as if things cannot get any worse, it is important to pause and tune into our inner wisdom to understand the message or teaching. Many of us waste time and more importantly energy blaming ourselves or others for our misfortunes or railing against the natural cycle of birth, aging and death. If we take the time to tune into our higher self or soul essence, to learn from our inner wisdom, we can be more at peace at the events and challenges we are asked to take on in this life.
Life Threatening Illness and the Soul
When a person with a life threatening illness comes to see me, one of the first questions that I ask is: “On a soul level do you feel as if your work here is complete or do you feel as if you are ready to leave this plane and transition to the next?” I caution people to sit with this question and, if they are familiar with shamanic journeying, to do a journey or go into a deep meditation to ask the soul the next step in one’s evolution. One’s first response is often one from the personality and not the core essence. I have had people initially say that of course they want to live, but after careful reflection realize that in many ways they are ready to transition. People also have responded that they are tired and feel they are ready to go, only to learn on deeper reflection that the exhaustion stems from either taking on too much or not fully doing what they came here to do. They decide that there is still more to do and learn on the physical plane and chose to stay.
When we connect with our soul or higher essence, and engage this very pure part of our being in the sacred process of healing or transitioning to the next realm, it can be extremely healing in and of itself. Our soul’s wisdom is intimately connected with the divine. There is unlimited divine healing energy available to us and we all have access to this energy. This energy is needed to truly heal on the deepest of levels. Often I find that there is an important piece of work that needs to be done to clear the personality and the physical body of the pain that has accumulated throughout a lifetime. Once this is cleared, we are more open to the love and healing energy around us and are able to absorb and successfully work with the treatment protocol that we have chosen. It is common to feel as if everything is out of control and crashing around us when we are given a potentially life threatening diagnosis. Yet the peace and deep healing that can occur in this process is one of the most sacred and magical experiences that we may have.
Energy and Genetics
After one has done the preliminary work on deciding how one wants to approach news of a life threatening illness, the next step is to identify and heal any ancestral, karmic or environmental factors that might have contributed to the current health crisis. We are familiar with the concept of a genetic predisposition to illness such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. We all have areas within the body that are more vulnerable to illness than others. These areas of weakness may be inherited or they may be energetic or both. One might have a family history of heart disease, but the likelihood of this disease advancing may be influenced by energetic factors. If one had to protect oneself to be safe in the family or was stifled from speaking from one’s heart, these energetic factors may directly increase the predisposition to heart disease. Thus from the shamanic perspective, the energetic aspect must be healed for the physical body to have a chance to return to health.
Extraction or energy work is done to remove and heal any energy in the field that does not belong. Sometimes I will find rocks, blocks of wood or even manhole covers over the heart chakra, protecting the heart from further hurt. Sometimes I find part of a person hiding deep within the heart chakra, afraid to come out and confront the pain around them. Thus for the heart to heal the blocks need to be removed and any injured parts healed and returned to the larger energy field. If part of the stifling energy belongs to another person, then this energy is removed, healed and sent back to that person. After the extraction phase of the healing, divine healing energy is channeled into the body with the help of spirit guides and power animals. It is not uncommon for a deceased family member to be present for the healing, so they can support and care for their loved one and, if needed, make amends for any harm that they may have caused. Frequently an ancestral pattern weaves around the genetic one, which brings into life a potential health problem.
Healing Wounded Parts of the Soul
After the extraction and energy work is done, it is important to find any parts of the self that may have left the field through dissociation and trauma or were pushed out by ancestral energies. For a person to be vibrant and well they need all of their life force energy. Many people grow up feeling that they are told who they are to be, but do not feel seen for who they really are. Sometimes families are wonderfully matched. Musicians have musical children; athletic families produce athletic children. But just as often there are mismatches. The parents try to make the child into the person that they want and believe they should be, but do not take the time to see and understand who the child really is. If the child is told that he is to be an electrician and join the family business, this expectation and the energy that is attached to it may push aside an important creative part. The child may never realize that he is a talented artist as there was no avenue or encouragement to honor this. In the place of this important aspect of oneself are the beliefs, energy and expectations of the family, that may have been carried for several generations. This energetic burden can make one sick. Thus it needs to be removed and the part of oneself that has been pushed out brought back.
Through a shamanic soul retrieval pushed out and traumatized parts are healed and brought back into the core energy field of the person replacing the painful or burdensome energy. Additionally anyone who struggles with a life threatening or chronic illness needs to find a passion that is sustaining and sparks the life force energy into action. Creative energies need to be engaged for the body to heal. One client who has stage four cancers gets up each morning and does a knitting meditation while listening to a CD of frogs singing. As she is in a meditative state working on a creative project while her loving power animals sing to her, she is in the optimal state for her body to begin its own healing process.
Health Care and the Energy Body
I recently gave a talk for a class in complimentary medicine at the public health department in a local medical school. As I prepared to talk to a group of people, who for the most part, knew very little about shamanism and worked from the allopathic paradigm, I strove to build a bridge between the two models. The image that came to mind was of the allopathic model at the center with the understanding of the energetic body surrounding and influencing all that occurs in the physical body. Allopathic medicine has much to offer in understanding how we physically heal and has made enormous strides in dealing with infections, communicable diseases and, in essence, the technical aspects of medicine. What is missing from the discussion is how to evoke the inner healing process and how to rid the psyche and the energy body of energetic baggage that block the inner healing process from activating.
Why is it that there are so many people who suffer from chronic illness or who live from one medical crisis to the next? We devise studies that factor in and out a variety of factors such as diet, weight, stress, tobacco and alcohol consumption, but all of us know people who are overweight that eat poorly and drink and smoke too much who are not sick all of the time just as we know people who do all of the right things, but who struggle with health and well being. It as if there are blinders that disallow the existence of the energy body and the enormous impact that it has on our physical health. China and India threaten to eclipse the US economically. At the foundation of their health care system is an understanding of how we operate energetically and how to keep the energetic system in balance so as not to become ill. As they incorporate allopathic procedures to treat communicable and infectious disease to their understanding of the energetic system, they are poised to surpass us, if they have not already, in health care as well.