Holistic Coach and Consultant
Copyright © 2021
Roger has just finished his description of a stroke he experienced three months ago, available in the previous blog. We converse in his tiny house that he uses for retreat, heated with a shoe-box-sized wood stove--a very peaceful and welcoming space.
I've said all this, and I'd love to hear your response to any or all of that.
I always practiced medicine, and now I practice coaching, with the approach that all illnesses are opportunities to heal.
Let me throw this out to you, then--all my life I had this terrible diet, and I never could go on a diet, I couldn't lose weight, I couldn't resist, I couldn't do this, I couldn't do that, and so the functional doctor told me all this--"You've got inflammation, you're pre-diabetic, you have markers for auto-immune illness," and she said, "lupus." And I said, I don't want lupus, and my initial reaction was, I want to die. My second reaction was, I'm going to do this (diet). And my third reaction was, I'll get over this, I can do this--all three in about thirty seconds.
So those were my reactions that I think were very uncharacteristic from how I'd always been, up to that point. It's like I stepped into that healing. I think it's like that spin you've got, illness is a lack of healing, and it's finding that healing. I feel it's kind of like what I stepped into, for some reason.
So then I was going around telling everybody, I can't do this, I can't eat that, and I joked, "I eat cardboard every day."
And I told a friend who'd actually gone through something similar, and she told me, "You will not say, you can only eat cardboard, and your doctor won't let you eat this. You are going to say, I eat this way because I want to eat this way." My thirty-second reaction to that was, that was harsh. Thirty seconds after that I was, like, I want to step into that. And so that's become my approach, also--that I can do all this, it's my choice to do this, not because the doctor told me to do this. So that's where I got to where I am.
Yes--the free-will "thing" is essential--that's part of my relief of not being in medicine any more, because people expected me to tell them what to do, and I never wanted to tell people what to do. Patients might hear that regardless, but it's always about our own decisions. If I tell someone to stop eating sugar, forget it.
I've heard that a few times, it didn't mean anything to me. I'd stop sugar for the next ten minutes, and then I'd go right back.
I tell people--I'm a total sugar-holic; if someone put a big gooey chocolate cake in front of me, I'd want to eat that whole cake.
Yeah, if I started to eat it, I would. So I don't do it.
Right. I choose to walk away from that cake, because my desire, it never goes away. It's just like alcoholism. And that's how recovery happens, too--it's choosing every day to not act on that desire. That's the cornerstone of real change--and why medicine is so ineffective.
To add insult to injury, doctors fire patients when they refuse to take the prescribed medications--when they're not compliant--when patients don't "do what they've been told to do."
So back to your story; you had already changed how you eat, and you still had this stroke. That's part of this healing story, that you had this family history, and then you had these incredible prayers and shamanism going on, and then there's your spirit in this--was this event you went through part of your destiny?
Are you saying that I made this contract before I was born, or is it part of my genes that came through?
No, I'm wondering, I'm thinking out loud--it's like our bodies give us messages, even through these catastrophic illnesses. You're getting messages, good ones--it's about trusting that inner knowing, that there's nothing better than walking the Carl Sandburg National Park trail day after day.
I came down from that trail so charged, so fully charged, I just wanted to skip, I felt so full of life after what I had gone through. Then my wife, she just blew a gasket; and then finally she said, okay, you're going to do what you're gonna do. If you want to take off and walk through the old growth down there in Alabama, go do it. Do what you gotta do.
So, what do you think about me getting that stroke almost two-and-a-half years after getting on that diet?
I'm intrigued by that, what do you make of it?
I asked my functional doctor about that, and she said, "When you have a type of illness that takes a long time to develop--that's a stroke, diabetes, that's cancer," she says, "that takes a minimum of seven-to-ten years in your body to get to that point. So if you had not made those changes, this (stroke) would have happened, and you would have probably died. But since you have gotten so much in your body cleaned out, you've recovered very quickly." I think it took probably thirty years in my life where all that was building up, but I had made enough changes, I did quickly get better.
That's all possible, and that's the physical explanation. What about the bigger picture? It's here, somehow--it's in your story.
I haven't looked at it until now, with disease as a form of healing. I see it more now, I'm changing to that. I see it more as a spiritual path that I'm on, that wanted me to change gears a little bit, pull out of some things, drop some of my psychological structures--they just washed away, and put me in a different place. We want you to just sit tight for six months, six years, we don't know, we'll see, we'll tell you when the time is right. That's the way I look at it, this is an opportunity for me to prepare for, whatever--if I were to die tomorrow, I would be happy about how all this happened. I have no sense that I need to go do something, but I feel like this is, maybe, a spiritual stage that I need to step through.
Story is always part of an illness--even when you just get a cold, most people are run down--a cold is the only way they're going to stop "running" around--unless they use over-the-counter medications to power through, and then that just puts in more toxins, and eventually the person deals with it, or not. Everyone has free-will, whether they listen to their body messages.
You're getting the message, your story seems clear--you've got the walks in the woods, and just being, you have your spiritual path. Those are gifts. And they make a good story.
Let me ask you this. What is your personal philosophy about medicine and healing?
There's a role for conventional medicine; they saved my life, they saved your life. I believe where medicine is headed, though, no one wants to do primary care; the spin is, oh, we need more primary care doctors. But they don't pay enough, they don't support the process, so it's just spin.
When someone takes charge of their own lives, when someone starts making choices, like just giving up refined sugar--if the majority of us did that, it would change the whole country--that's what I believe in; and that kind of change is available to everybody. And that form of healing taps the inner healer that is in every person.
I have a series of public service announcements. I blogged one already, that had me walking on the road, saying, did you know that a daily walk can be as effective as most antidepressants? I imagine my series of public service announcements coming on TV after each drug commercial.
It's these simple things that are available to every person that can make the most difference--not the newest version of a blood pressure pill. Like a salt-water nose wash for a head cold and allergy symptoms. If we just go back to common sense--if you go to bed at the beginning of a sore throat, even for a half-day, you might not get sick. If you drink more water, guess what? You're less vulnerable to getting a bladder infection.
That was part of why my community loved me, I had that kind of handout for almost anything.
You were allowed to use them for awhile there, weren't you?
Yes. I lived my dream while it lasted.
I write a lot about this inner healer versus the outer healer, in the fourth book, Re-Creation. We all have an inner healer, and we are co-creators in our health.
The outer healer is the one who needs to know about all those medications and how to interpret an EKG. They talk about creating a robot physician, and you can--of the outer healer. You can do remote medicine, even remote surgeries. But it's the inner healer that our medical system does not acknowledge, and maybe that was why I was so threatening.
If somebody has a disease and they get healed through the outer healer, outer medicine, it's likely they'll get sick again; is that what you're saying?
Yes. All medicine buys us time, so we can do the additional inner-healer work. Sure, we can get "fixed," but the spirit still matters. Whether we take the opportunity for deeper healing is where free-will comes in.
I still have an urge to run around buying vitamins or herbs, and I've got a friend who buys all these gadgets about EMS; one emits red lights, another one, you sit on this coil and it hits you with some kind of radiation from something. Is all of that coming from part of the outer healer, or where is all that coming from?
Two things; supplements and herbs can be only the outer healer, if that's all you're relying on. You know as well as anyone the value of nutritious food, that's a common-sense way of living. But do our bodies need all those supplements, is that part of the basic need for nutrition, or are they attempts to "fix" something? Or is a person's inner healer involved, do you have that inner sense that this supplement or that herb is valuable to you? That's one response.
The other thing that comes to mind, is that gadgets or techniques can be used to help us detox whatever has built up in our bodies--they can provide a shortcut, is one way to say it. But then there is the question of how to create in ourselves the capacity to shed what is not useful, and how to deflect toxicity with our own strengths.
Another aspect is the notion of being healed versus co-creating the healing. I used to go on shamanic journeys with drumming, and I acquired insight during them. What a shamanic healer does to someone else is like a short-cut. When I journeyed, I was co-creating directly with the healing process. When a shaman performs a soul-retrieval, he or she has more strength, has capacity to take you to a place where you can heal more quickly and deeply than on your own, and that can either be co-creating with that shaman and your own spirit, or it can be an experience only done to you. Plus, we can get pretty far on our own if a shaman isn't readily available, by co-creating more directly with our own spirit-world.
I've been told by several individuals that they do not believe they have this ability; they want a guide, want to be healed by someone else. That's fine, and we all rely on one another in many ways, and receiving help can certainly lead to co-creating. In any situation, if you believe in yourself, if you begin to trust those inner knowings, more opportunities for healing occur.
It comes back again to free-will; some people don't want to wake up to their own inner landscape; they just want to be fixed so they can go back to how they've always lived; they use their will to stay the same. Like with type 2 diabetes, I used to cringe when someone told me they would take more insulin in order to eat another piece of cake, rather than decrease the sugar. They were missing this opportunity to wake up.
I'm glad I no longer have to face that every day. "Oh, you'd like to increase your statin dose rather than change how you eat? Okay, I can do that." That's how doctors are perceived--we are the gatekeepers to all these meds that "fix" the problem. Plus, I was fired by a few patients for not prescribing antibiotics for viral illnesses. I couldn't prescribe something that I knew would hurt them.
There are parts of what you're saying that I resonate with. There are other parts that I cannot get into--I can't follow Rudolph Steiner, for example (Roger already knows that I was trained as an anthroposophic doctor); I'm a bee keeper, and I've tried to read his bee book four or five times, and I cannot get anywhere with it. I can follow the words, but I cannot understand what all that says.
It's the same way with Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, the five elements, it's like, I just can't get it. I have to step back from all that, and accept some of it on faith.
What I'm saying, isn't what Steiner says. As I speak, it's resonating with you, because we are both being authentic. But if I bring in Steiner or anthroposophy and things shut down, I'm not surprised. A lot of people are that way about Steiner; it's confusing, and can be intellectually exhausting.
That's my Enneagram five, a coping device, trying to know and understand all that.
I do love Steiner's work. I might read the same thing twelve times before getting to a place where I can grasp what he's saying. It's like poetry for me.
I figure, most religions claim they are "the answer." Same with ways to heal. So they all must be true, be right, is what I've come up with. There are many ways to heal--I absorb wisdoms from all over the place, including Steiner.
Are you familiar with Ken Wilber and his integral philosophy? He says everybody is right, everybody has pieces of the truth. It sounds similar to what you're saying.
Yes, it does.
It's supposed to stop raining in a few hours, I'm going to go somewhere and play the fiddle for awhile.
Where else do you play around here?
Most recently, I played in the parking lot of the Asheville Community Yoga Center; I went to a group class for the Alexander Technique.
I've been exposed to that, but it didn't do much for me. I've done a fair amount of Tai Chi, a few of those principles have been helpful. But I don't get energy. I don't receive energy, receive energetically. That's why I come up with blocks about everything.
Oh, maybe that's related to the stroke. When you can't receive, it's a block.
What do you mean? If I understand, is it going to free me from that? Or the stroke was because of that?
Think of it as a symptom, not a cause. When you don't receive, there's a block. Think of the blockages the surgeon cleared in your neck and brain. The blood stopped flowing--the energy stopped flowing. As you learn to receive, and you're doing that--you received the message about walking in the woods and being in nature, so you do receive, that ability will grow.
I think I do, but I can't sense it.
Okay, maybe that's your cutting edge, the edge of your envelope that you're pushing, is you're learning to receive.
I'm still not able to perceive that I receive.
Right--it's just starting to develop for you.
I haven't seen the fruit of that, yet.
Some of it is trusting--you might not allow yourself to believe the messages you have received. Trusting ourselves, believing what we sense--that's a tough one. But you're the one telling me what you heard.
You're right, it's hard for me to admit it.
Well Roger, we're having an incredible encounter today, thank you.
It has been, it's been dynamite for me.
I did more of the talking than expected--this is the first time I've interviewed someone, I'll work on that. Anyway, I'll let you know how I use this material, maybe in a future book.
What are you going to write about next?
I'm playing with the theme of saints I have known--like Joan of Arc, and Julian of Norwich.
Do you know about Hildegard of Bergen? A woman, I can't remember her name, wrote a book called Slow Medicine, she also wrote about medicine linked to Hildegard--that a German doctor used her writings and information to treat people. Have you come across that?
I haven't, that's a great resource, thank you. That illustrates how I did what I wanted within anthroposophic medicine, and the German doctor took Hildegard's work, and with his strong inner healer, he also practiced the kind of medicine I value. I could take any form of medicine, and be a good healer with it--functional medicine, even conventional medicine, Chinese medicine--they can all bring goodness into the world.
I've had a lot of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), and same thing, I just can't receive it. Even though for five thousand years, it's worked for many other people.
Your path is clearly working for you.
So try to flesh out for me what a stroke might have done for me. Did I need to have that stroke to get me to the point where I can learn to receive better? Or is that just a piece of this?
What do you think?
I don't have any idea, I've got all these theories that I can list on the wall; none of them jump out at me at the moment.
There may be a lot more gifts from that event; learning about receiving is certainly one of them.
I know how challenging receiving is; I had to receive help in order to heal from my heart event. I'd much rather give; I now know receiving is as essential as giving.
When people offer me help now, I know it's important to receive it. Even small gestures matter. I'm relatively elderly, and I was at a spring and had these two heavy water jugs I was carrying back to the van. And this bright young teenage fellow asked, "Ma'm, can I help you with those?" I was fine, but the gesture was so lovely, I thanked him and let him carry the jugs. Things like that.
You said it very well, that you're challenged by perceiving what you receive. Maybe receiving anything--like these small gestures, will help you perceive more clearly.
Oh--I'm reminded of a great exercise I use in nature. When I walk in the woods or other nature, I beam love toward all that goodness. Just beam away--and then pause, and wait to receive nature's love in return--from the trees, the rocks, wherever I am. It might take a few minutes--most of us are familiar with loving nature, and actually, nature might want to also love us back. At first when I did this, I became emotional, tearful, and sometimes that still happens--but mostly, my joy bubbles up these days.
Roger smiles, and glances out the window; the rain has slowed.
Thank you, Roger, for a wonderful conversation. I'm inspired to search out old growth forests after what you've described--and I will look up the medicine book about Hildegard. Happy trails to us both.
As I reach for my raincoat, Roger is closing up the stove and shrugging on his jacket. We get up at the same time, leave the cozy tiny-house, and walk in the light rain, down the already saturated dirt road.
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