I guess you might say I’m a medicine woman, deeply connected with the wide array of sacred ways we nurture our health and alleviate our suffering…all things healing. The dictionary defines medicine as a practice, as if with enough repetition you might get it right some day. I know I’ve been at it for more than fifty years and I’m still learning on so many levels. This afternoon, up in my studio, I’ll meet a new patient with a shoulder problem, lean into all I know, stay open to emerging creative freshness. In class tomorrow morning I’ll share ways to create fluid pain free feet and connect them powerfully to our bellies. All the while attuned to those present, ready to shift on a dime if something different is needed. On the dance floor last night I weaved a dose of how to stay present when things fall apart. It is all a practice of medicine.
And I believe it is a calling, one I heard oh so long ago. My sister was born six years after me. I delighted in, loved this young sib and it was so child-like painful to watch my mom become increasingly concerned with her slow development. I unconsciously absorbed what it means to be a family in crisis. I felt suffering first hand on the most cellular level. And I grew up on a mission to alleviate it. Never waivered. Of course, practicing medicine is not for everyone.
On Take Your Daughter to Work Day 1993, my thirteen year old came along with me. Over the years she’d been with me at clinics but had never watched me work with patients. She trailed me room to room, observing as I took histories, examined patients in motion, laid hands on for treatment. She was atypically quiet as we drove home, so I nudged. “So what do you think about the work I do?” Without hesitation she shot back “Your job is so disgusting!”
I could see how a thirteen year old might come to that conclusion. This work means stepping into rooms with complete strangers, suspending all judgment, listening to stories, attuning to bodies, touching in the most intimate places. It is all that plus sensitizing to the nuances of developing relationships. And it is all this plus feeling into the choice points, the this or that of treatment decisions based on everything you’ve learned so far. Even as you acknowledge the depth of the unknown. It is only 50% science. The rest is art.
How clearly I recall that six year old aching artist, the one who ended up dedicating a lifetime to healing. As a teen I read with wonder about Florence Nightingale and hospital candy-striped. My first physical therapy job was with handicapped children. Sometimes it takes decades to develop perspective. I didn’t realize the roots of this calling until way later. Maybe concurrent to my first exposure to Buddhism 101. I was blown away by the four noble truths: there is suffering; there is a cause of suffering; there is an end to suffering; the way out is the eightfold path.
We all suffer. In ways big and small. In our aching bodies. In our vulnerable hearts. In our crazy-making minds. And alleviation of that is my jam. I absolutely love this work in the world. Come be with me: on the mat, on the dance floor, on the treatment table.