The Importance Of The Spiritual Dimension

by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.

"Miracles are built on profound change..."
           --Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.


Coyote Medicine Healer

Native American philosophy teaches that all healing is first spiritual healing. Whatever else we doóincluding herbs, diet, radiation, surgery, bodywork, or medicationsówe need to humbly ask for help from the spiritual realm. People with a spiritual practice do better with any illness than those lacking religious beliefs; we must make ourselves available to the Divine for healing. Spirit is a necessary link in the chain that creates healing and miracles. Spirit cannot be ignored, whether it is to give our pain back to the earth or to accept healing from the earth, angels, or God.

If all healing is fundamentally spiritual, then we must make ourselves available to God or to the spiritual realm to be healed. In medieval times the touch of an angel restored health. It still does today. Ceremony and ritual provide the means for making ourselves available.

Each spiritual path offers a means for coming closer to God. Native Americans use the sweat lodge, the vision quest, and the sun dance. Christians fast and meditate. Islamics make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Sufis dance until they drop. However we choose to do it, we must access this spark that ignites the fire of healing...

Hope and Eliminating Self-Blame

...Eliminating self-blame is so different from the individualistic concept of the New Age approaches that tell people, "You created your illness, now, get over it." From this limited understanding of the complexity of health and disease, people feel like failures if they canít heal. The complexity of health and healing is phenomenal, and our small minds canít control or even begin to imagine the myriad forces involved in making us sick and making us well. But everyone is capable of some degree of personal and spiritual transformation, and even of imagining the possibility of angelic intervention and miraculous healing. Miracles are possible, but not something to feel guilty about if not achieved.

Once we eliminate feelings of personal blame we must address hope. Hope is hard to define, though we can immediately recognize those who have it and those who donít, even if we donít know how we make that distinction. Real hope is a by-product of creating a sense of peacefulness.

For many years I thought my job as a physician was to help people get well. I didnít recognize the importance of peacefulness and of helping people discover meaning and purpose in whatever experiences they had...

We have all grown up believing that science and its expertise will save us, and it is sobering when it doesnít. We are trained to believe in the experts and their technologies. Our belief in medicine is so strong that we usually turn to alternatives or to God as a last resort when conventional treatments have failed...

To kindle the fire of hope I often tell patients a liberal reinterpretation of a story attributed to Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet.

Rumi comes to a manís house to see him and is shocked to find the house almost empty. The master of the house is sick in bed and he has let the servants go for the day since he feels too sick to supervise. He has left the house almost empty and pulled the covers over his head, becoming the picture of despair. When Rumi finds him he tears the covers off the man. "Get up!" Rumi shouts. "Get up quick; Jesus is outside in the marketplace looking for someone to heal, and it might as well be you."

This image of Jesus looking for someone to heal that day, and of Rumi thinking it might as well be his friend, makes me smile. Rumi demonstrates hope. He knows that Jesus might not select his friend. He conveys his awareness of indeterminacy about who Jesus will choose, but he also conveys the urgency of getting his friend to the right place at the right time; there is no chance of his friend being chosen if he is not in the courtyard where Jesus can find him. Hope, therefore, embodies the belief in possibility without the guarantee of results.

What I love about Rumiís almost whimsical story is his awareness that we cannot force healing; all we can do is put ourselves in the right place to be healed and hope for the best. That location is simultaneously physical, emotional, spiritual, and situational.

(excerpts from Coyote Healing: Miracles In Native Medicine by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.)


Lewis Mehl-Madrona holds an M.D. from Stanford University and has been a practicing doctor for over 20 years. An experienced healer who has led many Native American healing ceremonies, Mehl-Madrona has also headed traditional medical clinics, helping AIDS and cancer patients as well as researching the benefits of relaxation techniques to aid in the natural correction of breech positioned babies. He is currently an Associate Professor of Family Practice at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine.

Dr. Mehl-Madrona is affiliated with the Native American Research and Training Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. He is a family physician, geriatrician, psychiatrist, and psychologist, and has worked many hours in rural emergency rooms. His best-selling book, Coyote Medicine is about his struggles to integrate his traditional Native American heritage (Cherokee and Lakota) with modern medicine. He also teaches Mind-Body Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil's program in Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Mehl-Madrona will be one of the presenters at this conference:

JUST FOR THE HEALTH OF IT! The Prophets Conference Boulder, Colorado
May 19-21, 2006





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