The city of Portland is both very much the same and profoundly different then it was when I lived there twenty years ago. I recently went back to Portland, Oregon, where I had gone to live over two and half decades ago in order to attend a naturopathic medical school, an oriental medicine school and a massage school. My quest to learn how to combine modern medical science with traditional healing wisdom and practical natural philosophy has seemed never ending and has encompassed most of my professional life.
In Portland, I began my practice. I opened clinics and spas and practiced the arts of medicine, of yoga, of qi gong. I became a business owner (unintended, but practically unavoidable for my work) and a mother (very much intended). I began my teaching career in the basic medical sciences and clinical courses. I learned, I studied, I applied, and I taught. After all these years I have found that natural medicine has become something very different in my eyes in some ways, but -- like Portland, the heart of it has remained unchanged and steady. The natural medicine I learned in Portland is much like Portland herself, grounded, authentic, true to itself and its own eccentricities. I was taught by practical idealists and then given the freedom to make it my own. Very Portlandia.
The Pacific Northwest taught me the power in water therapies, in diet, nature, exercise, bodywork, meditation. I learned how to integrate modern life and modern knowledge with ancient traditions. I found yoga, martial arts, and qi gong. It was easy to embrace the many aspects of the different and even paradoxical paradigms in the city of Portland.
When I moved to the desert of Arizona I discovered far more challenges, more aggressive doubt and arguments and the harsh dry light of a skeptical dismissal of things that to me seemed always so terribly obvious: Nature heals and sustains us. Appreciating a challenge, I never minded too much this shift in cultural climate. What my recent return to Portland reminded me of, in a city that embraces its many different and alternative lifestyles and philosophies so well, is that as human beings we can thrive in many different climates. Unlike so many other organisms we have an unique ability to design our environment, to command it, create it and destroy it (both our external and internal ones). Through what we choose to believe, to think, to feel, and to act we effect our health, or lives, and our society. It is a two way street -- this existence we have in a body, created by nature but also subject to our will and our choices.
In 2018, I make my home off-grid outside of Flagstaff, Arizona where I apply both personally and professionally the most obvious and most overlooked principle: Nature heals. She sometimes also commands our respect through pain, suffering, and disease. I do not know if all such pain and disease is a "lesson" out of some grand design for our evolution, but it is always instructive if we choose to learn. Thank you, Portland, for the classrooms inside and outside of all the schools I attended.