Ancient Sailors

by Barry Sultanoff

There is no fair wind for the one who has no direction.

-Chief Seneca

Imagine that we have time-traveled to the year 2098, one century from now. Looking back from this vantage point, we can reflect upon the legacy that our forbears have provided us.

Who were these ancestors, the ones who at the dawn of the 21st century were sailing through the darkness? How did they navigate in those challenging and confusing times? What can we learn from them, as we look back one hundred years to the year 1998?

A century ago, these bold pioneers were striving to find a new course for medicine. The medical ship of state had nearly run aground on the jagged rocks of materialism, hyper-specialization, and an odd reductionism that had elevated the submolecular to a kind of Holy Grail, while, ironically, devaluing the soul.

This outmoded way of thinking was beginning to yield, however, to a more enlightened view. This new way of perceiving the world and valuing life became the foundation for what we now, in 2098, call "modern medicine."

Through the dark night of their collective soul, our ancestors eventually learned that "Less is more". Consistent with that understanding, they developed a language and a communications style that was based upon a choice to be simple, yet effective, in all that they said and did.

They believed in refinement, and in particular, in using the fewest words possible to convey the "meat" (or, as the vegetarians preferred to call it, the "soy-juice") of the issue. This streamlined way of languaging was valued as a legitimate healing art. Words were believed to have authentic healing magic.

Our ancestors honored, and for inspiration often drew upon, the wisdom of indigenous peoples from diverse cultures. One traditional way that came strongly into favor in their time was the haiku poetry of Old Japan. In this style, they could speak volumes, using an economy of words.

These poetic stanzas were recited to me by one of the tribal elders, on a winter morning at sunrise. They are an offering to our modern-day community of healers.

Each poem from long ago is a tiny gift of practical wisdom for us now, tucked into our collective holiday stocking:

First, about DIRECTION.....

Traveling inward
we meet the Healer fully;
Go there for the cure.

Second, about FOCUS....

The surgeon's knife cuts
through layers of the body;
Intention heals the wound.

Third, about KARMA......

Just think about it:
If you throw away the parts,
a dying whole will haunt you.

Fourth, about SILENCE.....

Orchids making love
beyond ideas of orchidness
blossom in your ears

Fifth, about the power of the HEART....

Goethe said it once:
"We are shaped by what we love"
Listen now, it's you!

Sixth, about the healing power of the ARTS....

Artist's medicine:
Paint the soul alive;
Brush with compassion.

Seventh, about LEVITY....

How we used to be:
Searching selves too seriously,
we hid our light away.

Eighth, about STORY....

All that there is
is what you tell yourself
about all that there is

Ninth, about PHARMACOLOGY....

Every medicine,
same active ingredient:
elixir of empty space

Tenth, about partnership with NATURE...

In your healing art
practice deep ecology:
Greet the Great Green Groves.

Eleventh, about the HIPPOCRATIC OATH......

Don't do what you can't,
do what you can safely do;
Know the difference.

Twelfth, about COOPERATION....

Often joining hands
is nourishing, through finger chi
balancing community

And lastly, thirteenth (they were not superstitious),
about PASSION....

Where passion reigns
the soulful body quivers;
ecstatic cells sail home

Be Well!

?Barry Sultanoff 1997

Barry Sultanoff is a physician (M.D.) who believes that health is the natural expression of a thriving planetary community. His home-based private practice near Washington, DC, is an innovative mix of soulful psychotherapy, energy medicine, and holistic health "coaching". There will be a link to his website on our links page as soon as it becomes available. For now he can be contacted at or by phone (301) 942-9024 or FAX (301)946-9035.

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