Lesson Plans

Years ago I had a practice in San Rafael, California. One day an 11-year-old boy came to my office with his father. He presented with a very aggressive form of lung cancer which shortens the lifespan.

Perusing my office he noticed a white Kachina doll perched on my bookcase. “Ah,” said the boy, “you have a white healing Kachina, but I have a black healing Kachina which is even more powerful.” At that moment it became obvious to me that this boy had some knowledge and awareness of Native American spirituality. Realizing the treatment and medicine I could offer him would probably not cure or help his debilitating condition, I turned my attention to his inner awareness of earthbound healing.

I contacted a close friend, “Sacheen Littlefeather” a White Mountain Apache and actress in Hollywood. She had received the Academy award in the name of the Native American Nations. Sacheen had many contacts with medicine healers at several reservations. I told her the health status of my patient and that he was searching for help for his condition. She took down the information and said she would contact medicine people at the reservations and that she would get back to me in three days. Three days later, Sacheen gave me the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of ten healers. Using this information, his father planned a trip to reservations in South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

I had not heard from them in three months when the boy’s father suddenly appeared in my office. I asked him how his son was doing. He said, “He completed his visits. His healing cycle was complete and he died.” I felt very surprised and saddened by the death of his son. He said, “Healing comes in many forms and when he completed his healing journey with the Native Americans, he left his body. The circle was complete and there was nothing more to do.”

Age is irrelevant when we completed our lesson plan, regardless of being age 11 or 91. We can move on to a new journey. The question is always, have we learned the lesson plan? In this case I believe the lessons were learned.

Medicine, Healing, and Meditation

As a physician practicing oriental medicine as well as being a Zen priest-sensei, I have been involved in the practice of health and well-being for over thirty years. During this time period, I was able to observe and document the importance of spiritual well-being and natural healing through Asian medicine, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture as well as homeopathic and naturopathic medicine.

The “Hippocratic Oath,” which has been replaced by a modern materialistic statement, had originally ended with the sentence, “and most of all give medicinals that benefit the patient and do no harm.” It is true that chemical drugs have helped save lives and protected against illness, but where it falls apart is in understanding the spiritual health and well-being of the total person. Like most things in conventional allopathic medicine, such things are relegated to the hospital chaplain, patient’s social worker, counselor, or religious representative. Medicine tends to divide and subdivide specialties whereby one physician may not understand the medications and therapies of another. In our society, the doctor with the stethoscope around their neck, like a stole around the priest, pronounces the name of an illness and then writes the name of a drug on paper resembling an indulgence. Years ago, pharmacies compounded each prescription which was written for the specific condition of each individual. Today pills are poured into a plastic container with a litany of serious counter indications and side effects. Is this what our society has come to? If healing or cure has not been obtained, or the patient has gotten worse, they are instructed to visit the hospital, which is the cathedral of higher magic. Has conventional medicine become a religion? Obviously! If we were to fill each bottle in the pharmacy with a placebo, how many individuals would get better, or at least not worse? Of course some medications, like insulin, are not in this category. Most, if not all, physicians have never had a course in nutrition while at medical school. Vitamin are taught as additions to I.V. medications. The “pill cure illness” gives rise to the unilateral misunderstanding of the complexity of the human species. How many of you were told that food does not play a role in your condition? “Just eat a well-balanced meal!” like some of the health care providers that eat at unhealthy fast food establishments. How can anyone deny the healing components of fresh, organic vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, etc? Vegans are considered weirdos and nut-cases who need to follow the guidance of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Have a dose of glycophosphates, phthalates or bisphenols.

Physicians and health care workers cannot be everything, but they can set the example of healthy eating, exercise, and most of all develop a meditation practice to help with stress. They can be more attentive to prayer and put energy in their practice when examining a patient. Palpating an abdomen or auscultating a heart can all be performed with the intention of “laying on of hands.” Nothing is said, only loving kindness and compassion is placed upon the patient. When needles are inserted into the body in acupuncture, they can be inserted with consciousness and intention for a good outcome. During the delivery of a baby, the mother can be given a mantra during the birth and the baby held with loving and compassionate hands. Love is the only action – everything else is reaction.


O-ryu Dr. Paul, Sensei