Fortunate Blessings

by Barry Sultanoff

Sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the brow of the flower,
and retell it in words and in touch,
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within,
of self-blessing....

-Galway Kinnell, from St. Francis and the Sow

As professional helpers, we are doubly blessed.

First is the blessing of our vocation: we are called upon to be havens of hope. Each time a client comes to us, places his or her life in our hands, thirsts for the miracle (great or small) that an encounter with us can bestow, we are invited to be a gift of good fortune. Our calm surface can reflect a deep soul connection. Our attention can soothe. We can be wellsprings of healing energy.

The second blessing is the gift that each client brings to us. It is not only we who are called upon to reteach a client her loveliness. We relearn how beautiful we are, in beholding our own image as seen through the eyes of that client. That reflection sustains us, spurs us on to be excellent providers of hope---and inspiration for practical change.

This mutually-sustaining cycle of healthy mirroring is further reflected in the larger cycles of nature. We are interdependent with the natural environment. Our place in the office is mirrored by our place in the universe.

A social movement called "deep ecology" seeks to describe and implement a way of living on earth where the beauty in all things is fully respected. Its principles invite an attitude of humility: we can bow our heads in awe, even as we stand tall in celebrating the magnificence of life---and of our place in its circle.

Deep ecology teaches a healthy balance between intervention and restraint. We discover how to "tame" the elements, when that is necessary for our survival, or pleasure. We learn, too, how to "keep our hands off", when that is appropriate---allowing and celebrating the wildness of nature unrestrained.

In fact, there is no "we" and "they". We interrelate with the whole natural world---indeed, the entire cosmos---through a pliable, reflective boundary. At that interface, we dance with "the other" as ourself. We are one with the "environment".

The principles of deep ecology describe the "nature" of a healthy practitioner-client relationship, and a way of being a physician that supports healthy living on earth. They can inspire us to a deeper calling, which I believe is our destiny as 21st century physicians---to be "gardeners" who cultivate practical change throughout our living planet.

Here is a brief exploration of several key principles of deep ecology:

I. Little to be gained
where excess pruning drains all
of their will to live

This is the principle of non-interference: when in doubt, don't do....or look for a less invasive approach. (And remember: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!")

Whether the "patient" shows up as an out-of-control perennial garden or as a esistant case of hypertension, the "cure" may be the same: in finding just the right balance between wildness and domestication. The attitude here is one of working co-creatively with (that patient's) nature. An essential part of the approach lies in balancing what we do with what we don't do.

We must keep an eye on the broader context. Shall we view the natural environment as a storehouse of resources put here primarily for human use? Do we then justify plundering it, wantonly clear-cutting old growth forests, fishing our lakes to extinction?

Likewise, do we read a high diastolic pressure as an aberration, to be eliminated or forced into submission by the chemical scythe of an antihypertensive? Or do we look for an alternative---forge an alliance with nature's rhythms, apply a more gentle stroke? (use self-regulation via breathing, physical exercise, foods {e.g., garlic} and herbs {e.g., linden, mistletoe}, homeopathy, flower essences, etc.)

II. Right questioning
awakens imagination:
answers can wait

Deep ecology beseeches us to look below the surface, to ponder the mystery of our interconnection with all life. The investigative spirit of 21st century medicine gives us a friendly nudge, too---asks us to be willing to look more deeply into ourselves and the nature of our mission.

The purpose of "right questioning" is not just to dig up answers. More important is to recognize each question for what it really is: an inner travel guide, a finger pointing at the moon of our own unconscious......deepening our capacity to imagine what the next level of questioning might we go ever deeper.

III. Common sense is
using senses, sight, smell, sound,
feel, this touch will heal

We are coming to a time of coming to our senses, re-educating ourselves to see (hear, taste, smell) again, with increasing clarity. We'll be trusting more fully our capacity to discern what is right in front of us. With that clear vision of the present moment, we'll be able to diagnose more accurately---by complementing that objective view with a healthy dollop of intuition.

This way of seeing will naturally restrain us from abusing the living world. As we perceive aliveness (in ourselves, in others, in rocks, oceans, forests), we naturally become shepherds of all life.

Life appears too precious to destroy.

Navigating the 21st century will mean flowing more gracefully in the confluence of technology and nature that has carried us to our present level of understanding. We'll think twice before sending single-hulled oil tankers on a cruise too near to pristine beaches which are home to aquatic wildlife. By analogy, we'll be less likely to use potentially destructive therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy without adding safeguards, such as nutritional and herbal support.

IV. The place where we meet
is what makes the roses sweet:
live in the garden

In the '60s and '70s, Marshall McLuhan taught that "the medium is the message". In the '00s, we'll come to understand that "the environment is the cure."

Where we practice is how we practice. We'll be honoring traditions such as Feng Shui, which teach that our "fit" with the environment, even the specific shape of our office and its placement in relation to its surroundings determines the flow--even the success or failure!---of our work.

The way we conduct our lives is a broadcast having vibrational impact on everyone, and everything, around us. As we live in harmony within our own microcosm, we offer a unique gift to the world. We become a fortunate blessing upon the earth.

V. A work of art
framed in shades of chronic pain
walks through the door

It will be fortunate, indeed, when we routinely see through the veil of symptomatology to the core of astonishing beauty that greets us. In that way all life, both human and non-human, can flourish, framed by our own enlightened perception.

The suffering patient is a work in progress. We are the assistants of the Great Sculptor.

The bottom line is this: health is the natural expression of a thriving planetary community. It will take all of us together to build a vital community worldwide. But, that possibility is on the horizon.....

When that time does come, we will all flower from within, of self-blessing..... and we'll share the blessing, by affirming that blossoming in one another.

???B.A. 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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