Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ho'oponopono and Hope for Medicine

This weekend I'm enjoying an annual conference with my colleagues from the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, Arizona. It's a wonderful group of people, graduates of Dr. Andrew Weil's fellowship in Integrative Medicine.

Integrative Medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.

Physicians come to the 2-year fellowship for all kinds of reasons. Some want to bring additional modalities such as nutrition or botanical medicine into their existing practices. Others want help shifting their entire practices in more healing, prevention-oriented directions. Still others are developing Integrative Medicine clinics and departments in their own medical centers. Perhaps some of us seek healing ourselves.

All fellows come out valuing our fellow humans' natural healing capacities, even when this wasn't emphasized in our previous training. It's a great relief to discover that patients and physicians can be partners in care.

Our annual conferences allow us to review recent research in areas such as botanicals, vitamins, and mind-body medicine, plus experience modalities like holotropic breathwork or energy medicine together. Most of all we can connect with each other, supporting our myriad efforts to improve health care for our patients.

In our opening circle, we each shared what we are really passionate about. Here was a group of well-educated clinicians from all over the nation, telling about their own personal journeys. When my time came, I shared how Ho'oponopono has helped me find such peace within my own everyday life and medical practice.

Many of my colleagues were very interested in this, and came up to ask more about it at dinner. They responded with excellent questions (of course all the time I was cleaning). Understand, we're all very intellectual people -- for better or worse! And yet none questioned that Divinity is in charge of the healing in us all.

As I spoke with two people in particular, the noisy room seemed to quiet down. I mentioned nothing, but spontaneously, both commented on this shift in the room's energy. "Yes, that's Ho'oponopono for you," I said, the hairs on my arms standing up. My friends marveled and wanted to learn more -- so I directed them to the Foundation of I for seminar information.

The next day, one man I'd spoken with said he'd called his therapist wife and mentioned my comments about Ho'oponopono. He was shocked to hear her reply: she'd been interested in this practice for years! However, he'd never remembered her telling about it. He laughed that it was now coming to him "in stereo", so perhaps it was time to really listen. We agreed that wake-up calls come in all forms.

Even though this process has helped me so much, I had been somewhat shy about telling others -- especially other physicians who might think me "nuts". This weekend, I got over that. I simply shared something that offers me solace and peace. No one laughed. Instead, they were curious. How wonderful to find my colleagues so open to the possibility that our patients' problems offer opportunities to let go of our own memories!

This gives me great hope for medicine itself. Imagine a world where our practices are informed by Inspiration, rather than engaging in conflict. And as we touch others' lives, we'll be able to hear without judging. I am grateful, and continue to clean.

Peace begins with me,

Monday, September 22, 2008

Love and 100% responsibility -- enough to turn the tide? We're the ones we've been waiting for

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about Ho'oponopono and the United States' financial crisis.

The most salient aspect of this is our personal, individual, 100% responsibility for what we're experiencing -- always.

Rather than feeling burdened by guilt and shame, though, I feel hopeful with this. It means we can choose how we'll respond. Will we point fingers and scream that the government did it to us? That we have been tricked by "bad", money-grubbing financial advisors? This would be engaging in the chaos, leading nowhere but into more misery.

Or will we find another way?

As a step-by-step problem solving process, Ho'oponopono does offer another way -- and excludes no one. People from all traditions and religions may find solace in it. It also allows a larger universal view than what's on our individual screens right now. It acknowledges that whatever we see on the "outside" is also in us. Further, it acknowledges that we as humans cannot know the entire story of creation as Divinity does.

This does not mean we're insignificant. Far from it.

We may feel small, especially if not part of financial institutions, lobby organizations, or political machines. But through what we do in each moment, we can turn the tide. We can accept responsibility for whatever memories we share that show up as stock market upheaval, political and military warfare, corporate greed, and a host of other national ills -- because sure as we're alive, we all share this shadow.

Through our choices, we can allow Divinity to transmute whatever memories need addressing in us. All we need to do is say, "I love you." According to Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, that's code for, "I'm sorry, dear Divinity, for whatever is going on in me that presents as this problem now. Please forgive me. Thank you for the opportunity to clean (and release) this now."

In his article, "Who's in Charge?", Dr. Hew Len explains further about "I love you."

When your Soul experiences memories replaying problems, say to them mentally or silently: "I love you dear memories. I am grateful for the opportunity to free all of you and me." "I love you" can be repeated quietly again and again. Memories never go on vacation or retire unless you retire them. "I love you" can be used even if you are not conscious of problems. For example, it can be applied before engaging in any activity such as making or answering a telephone call or before getting into your car to go somewhere.

As crazy as it may sound to our intellects, this is the greatest thing any of us can do in any situation. And although there are no expectations for "how" things will resolve, we can know they will. Clearing ourselves of old, outmoded "stuff" allows room for Divine Inspiration and Love to fill in the vacuum in us. We can do this not for any particular outcome other than experiencing the peace we're seeking.

I heard a wonderful song today by singer-songwriter Karen Drucker that inspires me with hope. Though not specifically about Ho'oponopono, it resonates well with it -- and is what I wish to communicate to all today. "We are the ones we've been waiting for," after maybe years of waiting for someone else to save us. Enjoy!

We are the Ones
by Karen Drucker

Thank you, Karen Drucker, and Dr. Hew Len. Thank you, dear memories, for presenting now and giving me the opportunity to set us all free.

Peace begins with me,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ho'oponopono and money -- what to hold onto in a financial hurricane?

Many people are worried about money these days. With stock market cataclysms, venerable companies going bankrupt, home foreclosures, job loss, plus rising costs for groceries and gas, some have called this the worst financial crisis since the Depression.

President Bush and the federal government are working out a $700 billion financial rescue package, in hopes of shoring things up. But hammering out details isn't easy.

The whole thing summons fear -- some kinds crashing through our lives like King Kong, while others linger like twining tendrils of unease the morning after a very bad dream. Depending on our need for financial security, we are vulnerable to all of this.

Doubt that money and security are linked in any formal way? Consider the name of the organization in charge of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation: the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. hmmmmm . . . .

Does Ho'oponopono offer any methods for dealing with situations like these, that generate such fear and INsecurity?

Fortunately, yes. I've learned a great deal from Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len at live Foundation of I seminars, conference calls, and recorded CD's. I've also been participating with Mabel Katz's weekly teleseminars for well over a year now, including special series' on wealth, success, business, relationships, and other vital topics. She's currently running a special series titled: "The Easiest Way to Peaceful Relationships, Wealth, Success, and How to Take Good Care of Ourselves with Self-Identity through Ho'oponopono."

This last week I asked Mabel about Ho'oponopono and dealing with our nation's financial crisis. I was thinking about all the people who have lost their jobs or homes, have trouble paying for their basic needs, and who have lost retirement funds in the stock market recently. So many souls, and so much pain and angst.

Ho'oponopono sees the "problem" as our reactions and associations to events, rather than the events themselves. The idea is that once we clear ourselves of these reactions or memories, we can be open to inspiration from Divinity -- possibly about things to "do" in the situation.

There are certain cleaning tools that can help us with financial concerns, such as mentally placing the identity of money in a glass of orange juice whenever such worries arise. Dr. Hew Len described this in detail on the available CD and MP3 recording, Conference with Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and Mabel Katz at the Love and Understanding Institute.

But what Mabel really emphasized in answering my question was not the particular "tool" used. Instead, she focused on the need for continuous cleaning: practicing Ho'oponopono with the fears and worries coming up with these financial situations I was asking about. Since I am the one asking, it is my responsibility to do the cleaning -- not waiting for anybody else to do it.

Mabel likened our current financial issues to a tornado or hurricane we are going through, on the way to something better coming in its place. She spoke of our need to hold onto something stable and "trust, trust, trust." For people practicing Ho'oponopono, this "something stable" is the practice itself.

Further, shared Mabel, we need to really concentrate on this practice ("the cleaning") no matter how things appear on the outside. "I am sure if we asked God, God would have a solution to all this. So, let's give permission to God, especially since this is a situation that brings so much fear and doubt. . . . don't get distracted or let appearances blow you away."

She commented that this is a very good opportunity to do the cleaning and to trust, "because, what else can we do?"

Good point. I can use my energy for the worst worries imaginable, or can hold onto practicing Ho'oponopono like one might to a sturdy tree in a hurricane.

Perhaps, suggested Mabel, what we're seeing might even have to do with "putting money first, and a lot of other things that have to be corrected. This is waking a lot of people up -- and sometimes it's the only way."

I don't know what's going on in the larger scheme of things. And I told Mabel that to my conscious mind, the whole thing seems much too big for my little cleaning to have any effect. "Each time you have those thoughts, you clean," she replied. "Don't go deeper into those thoughts. You are not small. You can make a big change in the world just by cleaning."

I cannot "see" the immediate results of any of this cleaning as others (such as Kamaile and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len) can. But I can at least deal with my individual "data" or reactions to what I see in the news and in my bank account. I am cleaning, and I join with many others hoping for the best as the storm eventually settles. And if anyone else is noticing reactions similar to mine, I'd be grateful for your help cleaning too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Peace within the storm

What would you do in a storm? Would you be willing to lay down with a lion?

Hurricane Ike recently slammed into Texas -- and stories of survival are surfacing from the flood. One in particular has amazed me: that of a lioness named Shackle and her owner taking shelter in church.

It seems Shackle lived in a zoo on Bolivar Peninsula, which was flattened by the hurricane. Michael Ray Kujawa was driving to safety with her, but saw stranded cars and trucks ahead. He knew they were in deep trouble.

Heading for the church, he was met by residents who helped the lion wade inside. Though water crept up to people's waists, and two-by-fours came floating through broken windows, Shackle stayed calm as a kitten. The people locked her in the sanctuary overnight, where she took reign on the altar.

And when morning came, everyone was still alive. They fed Shackle pork roast for breakfast . . . but when she roared, the National Guard stood at attention.

"They worked pretty well together, actually," Kujawa (her owner) remarked. "When you have to swim, the lion doesn't care about eating nobody."

A shrimper, Richard Jones, said he wasn't afraid of the beast -- and before that night, he hadn't set foot in a church in the 40 years he'd lived on the Bolivar Peninsula. He figured his survival was no divine intervention either.

"I drink beer and chase women, gamble, cuss," he said. "You can't call that religion. I'm either too good, the devil won't have me, or I'm so bad the good Lord won't take me. That's a good toss-up."

Perhaps peace can be wherever we find it, or can allow it to be within us. Here is a miracle on so many fronts: people caring for an animal who would have died in her cage without their help, her own calm during a horrendous and unfamiliar storm, and people living to tell the tale when whole houses were floating past. Being alive is a miracle in itself -- even down to the shrimper with his pithy world view.

What kept Shackle so calm during the night? How did she let people help her inside the church in a flood? Could she have been practicing ho'oponopono cleaning? I wonder. :-)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The power of "I am sorry"

Certain words -- or lack of them -- can profoundly affect our lives. Three in particular, "I am sorry", are huge even though very short. They can make the difference between estrangement and healing in relationships.

And yet many people resist saying these words, which are part of the Ho'oponopono process. Some say they fear opening the door to undeserved guilt and recriminations, or resent the implication that they could have made an error. Maybe in the given circumstance they are "right", but there is always a cost. There are many other reasons these three words are difficult for many.

This week's issue of Newsweek magazine carries a wonderful "My Turn" story by Janice Wilberg, showing the results of "I am sorry" in her life.

by Janice Wilberg

After years of silence between my parents and me, my father reached out with a few simple words.

When I was growing up, my family had its own way of dealing with disagreements. We stopped speaking. Sometimes the deep freeze lasted a day, sometimes a week. Every once in a while, an offending cousin or aunt was simply erased from the family landscape, airbrushed out of our lives like a deposed member of the Politburo.

I stopped talking to my parents after a series of family difficulties culminating in an angry phone conversation with my mother in 1988. This communication blockade continued to 2000. Other than an annual Christmas card from my parents, which they warmly signed using only their last name, there was no interaction whatever for 12 years.

People like me who were raised in a grudge-holding culture know that the silent treatment is self-perpetuating. The longer you are silent, the longer you will be silent. The further out into the ocean you sail, the harder it is to see the harbor. After a year or two or three, it's not so easy to pick up the phone and just chat.

And then my father sent me a card in which he wrote three very powerful words: "I'm so sorry."

We began to write letters. I told him about his grandchildren. He told me about his weekly golf and bowling outings. He also told me about my mother's Alzheimer's. Every letter matter-of-factly mentioned a new loss, always preceded by the phrase "Mom is about the same," as in "Mom is about the same but she can't cook anymore because she forgot how to use the stove."

The letters represented rapprochement but not reconciliation. That would have to happen in person. A year later it did. On the six-hour drive to their home, I asked my husband every 10 minutes what I should say to parents I hadn't seen in 12 years. "Say hello," he said. "Ask what's new."

This is pretty much what I did as we sat down to the supper of turkey loaf and instant mashed potatoes that my father put on the table almost the moment we walked in the door. Over supper, he briefed me on deaths, births and family estrangements. By dessert we were caught up. Over the next two years, I visited frequently.

Had I waited any longer to reconcile with my mother, she would not have known who I was, or cared that I had returned. As it was, I had a chance to apologize, to go on walks with her, to admire her purple velvet wedding dress from 1937 and to have many other turkey-loaf suppers. As her Alzheimer's progressed she became argumentative, then mute and, worse for my father, incontinent. He asked me not to visit during this time, and his terse letters chronicled more and more serious "Mom is about the same" news.

Months later, she died. I came as soon as my father called to help him with funeral plans. I sat with him as he typed out my mother's death notice on his ancient Royal typewriter. We picked out the clothes she would be buried in: a print shirt, slacks and the locket he'd given her when they were engaged 64 years before. We sat next to each other on folding chairs at the small-town cemetery and watched my mother's casket lowered into the ground.

Eighteen months later, my father died. During that time we had many more visits—nights out at the local Chinese restaurant with his grandchildren, hearing his stories about the Depression, about playing in jazz bands and running a five-and-dime store. We talked about my mother and his grief. He told me about taking an urn full of artificial flowers to the cemetery. He liked making my mother's grave prettier.

Every year I visit the cemetery where my parents are buried. I tend the hostas I planted to replace my father's artificial flowers and scatter thistle seeds to attract the finches they loved to watch. When I leave, I kiss the top of their headstone. I say goodbye and I feel happy. I feel part of my family.

The irony doesn't escape me. Here I am tending the grave site of parents whom I iced for 12 years. Oddly, I don't feel regret. I feel grateful. My father's three words saved me from being an orphan. Maybe there are other members of the grudge-holding culture who might listen to my story and make the move. It's not too late.

Newsweek -- 9/15/08, page 20

Thank you so much, Janice Wilberg. You have reminded me that 3 little words can initiate a process that completely transforms our lives.

Peace begins with me,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Something greater than myself, in me

"What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me." ~James Clerk Maxwell, physicist, on his deathbed in 1879

The artwork above is a painting by Navajo artist David K. John, and hangs in my office. Titled "Rain Chanters," it depicts beings that are sacred to the Dine (the Navajo people), and which can offer healing assistance. It blesses the space where I see my patients.

I am grateful for any feeling of help when working with my patients. To me this is a huge responsibility, and doctors, nurses, therapists, and other caregivers can easily feel overwhelmed. We're all the time trying to understand and solve others' problems.

It sometimes amounts to what Dr. David Reilly of Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital in Scotland calls "fixitology". We act as if we think the patient is broken , needing to be "fixed" -- as quickly as possible ("quickfixitology"). Further, we reduce the person to body alone, leaving out his or her psychological, personal, inner world where both suffering and healing reside.

Not only is this disastrous for the patient, but it's also a recipe for physician burnout.

Imagine how it feels when someone enters our offices in pain (either emotional or physical) and asks for help? Imagine we've forgotten that the patient has any creative or self-healing resources of his/her own. After all, we're supposed to be "the doctor", know what's going on, and how to fix it. Turn up the heat.

Sometimes we think we know, and we apply our medicines. Perhaps these seem to work, and the suffering is, for now, quieted. But is it really gone? We're sweating in our chairs, now.

What happens when the patient doesn't respond as we hope, or has intolerable side effects? Or, what if we really don't know what to do from the start? We don't dare acknowledge that -- the shame and guilt are too horrendous. We work and work, trying to find answers. We want to help, but we think only perfect is good enough.

Healthcare professionals soon resemble burnt toast.

Ho'oponopono seems to pile on further burden by suggesting that, through our own erroneous memories, we are 100% responsible for our patients' suffering. Not only has medical reductionism already severed our patients from their own healing abilities, we have put ourselves in the "gotta-know-it-all" seat as physicians. Is it possible to feel any worse? Yikes!

But wait. There's an opening -- and maybe more help than we'd ever imagine.

In Ho'oponopono, we're only one "I'm sorry" or "I love you" away from coming back to Who We Really Are: connected at all times with Divinity (or Love, or the Creator, or any other term that feels comfortable for you). Peace and healing can bathe our weary souls.

The updated Self-Identity through Ho'oponopono approach does see memories in us manifesting in our own, and our patients', problems. But through this repentance, forgiveness, and transmutation process we can free ourselves of these memory-related problems. Initiating this through "I love you" or other tools gives permission for Divinity to clear us, simultaneously lifting these memories presenting as problems from our patients too. Once clear, we are open to Divine Inspiration. Thank heavens.

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len describes this "I love you" process:

"When your Soul experiences memories replaying problems, say to them mentally or silently: "I love you, dear memories. I am grateful for the opportunity to free all of you and me." "I love you" can be repeated quietly again and again. Memories never go on vacation or retire unless you retire them."

An added feature: Dr. Hew Len reminds us often that in working with patients, we're also taking on memories we share with their families, relatives, and ancestors. Scary, but maybe our work with ourselves can have even more far-reaching effects than first thought. All the more reason to "clean", too -- we don't really know what we're getting ourselves into, he says.

Ho'oponopono in some ways is a paradox. We are 100% responsible for everything in our lives and in our offices. And yet, when we work from this very humble position, we're also open to greater assistance than any one human (MD or otherwise) could ever invoke. This also allows patients to bring forth their own healing capacities -- which are powerful and effective in themselves. We doctors can do what seems indicated, but from a clear, compassionate, and much less stressed starting point. It seems healthier for everyone, this way.

I'm reminded of a story that has often been told about Morrnah Simeona, the Hawaiian kahuna who updated and taught Ho'oponopono all over the world for many years. Although given the gift of healing since age 3, she had apparently also been afraid to cross the street. It's said that she would imagine a gigantic hand extending from the sky, supporting and protecting her as she walked. For her, this made her way safe.

Perhaps we all have access to that same Great Hand, if we choose. It comes in many languages, and many traditions.

Thank you Morrnah, Dr. Hew Len, Mabel Katz, and Foundation of I for teaching, challenging, and reminding me. Thank you David John, for blessing my healing space with your beautiful painting and spirit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

From rat brain to right mind -- transmute your stress and survive

Ever wonder how chronic stress affects you and your body? There are many ways to notice this personally, if we can self-observe. But researchers at Emory University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Yerkes Primate Research Center have developed an animal model that illustrates how stress affects physiology, behavior, and even reproduction.

Anxiety, depression, and infertility are a few of the known results of chronic stress.

Typical of many in contemporary biomedicine, these researchers describe effects in terms of neurohormones -- in this case, corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). In response to stress, the hypothalmus (a part of the brain) secretes CRF; this stimulates the pituitary gland to make hormones that go on to stimulate the adrenal glands (ACTH).

In acute stress, CRF levels rise, leading to a complete hormonal fight-or-flight cascade. Once the stressor passes, CRF levels fall. This process in our bodies helps us respond to immediate dangers such as floods, earthquakes, and things that go "bump" in the night.

But with chronic stress, ongoing high CRF levels bathe parts of the brain associated with fear and emotion (such as the amygdala), possibly leading to anxiety, depression, and infertility. What helps us function acutely, can wear us out chronically.

In this study, researchers used a viral vector to increase CRF in the amygdalas of female rats. Rats continuously exposed to CRF from this area of the brain showed anxious and depressed behaviors, as well as disrupted ovarian cycles -- suggesting that persistent release of CRF (as in chronic stress) affects multiple body systems.

In fact, these changes were likened to those seen in human females exposed to stressors daily. Hmmmmm . . . .

The whole purpose of the study was to help researchers devise better treatment options, but again they're looking for a biological intervention point. This makes me wonder: what is the "disease" to begin with? Is elevated CRF the root cause of our pain, or is this chemical change and its myriad effects only a very potent side dish?

And what if there are ways to modulate the effects of chronic stress that don't rely on drugs to rearrange our neurohormones? What if our consciousness itself could impact the fluctuation of CRF plus a slew of other important biological substrates?

In some ways, this is the basis of psychotherapy: the idea that developing insight into our fixed [problematic] behavioral patterns can allow us to release and replace them with healthier modes of being. As a psychiatrist I've been trained to help people in exactly this way as well as others. However, this also involves teaching people to cope, manage, and learn new behaviors. Then they go back into the pressure cookers that delivered them to us initially.

What if it were possible to simply let go of stressful responses in the first place? Then we wouldn't be needing animal models to show us the way to heal.

According to Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ho'oponopono does offer such a method -- and it does it very simply. We can choose to engage in stressful reactions, or let go of them -- allowing Divinity to transmute them and fill us with itself instead.

In the book Zero Limits, by Dr. Joe Vitale and Dr. Hew Len, the latter states:

"The updated Ho'oponopono, a process of repentance, forgiveness and transmutations, is a petition to Love to void and replace toxic energies with itself. Love accomplishes this by flowing through the mind, beginning with the spiritual mind, the superconscious. it then continues its flow through the intellectual mind, the conscious mind, freeing it of thinking energies. Finally it moves into the emotional mind, the subconscious, voiding thoughts of toxic emotions and filling them with itself. "

Morrnah Simeona, the native Hawaiian Kahuna Lapa'au who by modernizing an ancient spiritual cleansing ritual developed Self-Identity through Ho'oponopono, explained further:

"We are the sum total of our experiences, which is to say that we are burdened by our pasts. When we experience stress or fear in our lives, if we would look carefully, we would find that the cause is actually a memory. It is the emotions which are tied to these memories which affect us now. The subconscious associates an action or person in the present with something that happened in the past. When this occurs, emotions are activated and stress is produced.

Ho'oponopono is a profound gift which allows one to develop a working relationship with the Divinity within and learn to ask that in each moment, our errors in thought, word, deed, or action be cleansed. The process is essentially about freedom, complete freedom from the past."

So rather than analyzing, solving, managing, or coping with problems, Ho'oponopono purportedly allows us to go to Divinity within and ask that these "errors" be corrected. When we give permission by saying, "Thank you" "I'm sorry", or using any other ho'oponopono tools we know, our problematic memories can be transmuted into pure energy -- leaving behind the "zero" state from which we were created. Divinity can then fill us with Inspiration. ahhhhhhhhhhh . . . .

Personally, I'd prefer Divine Inspiration over disrupted brain chemicals any old day. What about you?

Learn more through the Foundation of I, or teleseminars with Mabel Katz.