When the large block of rose quartz I had picked up in Colorado started talking to me, I simply was not—in any way—in the mood for wizard-like otherworld shenanigans. I was eighteen, working three jobs, and living in a haunted house while my parents were going through a nasty divorce. I was distracted and tired and not in the mood. Because of said divorce, I had unexpectedly been told there would be no money to send me to college.
Thus the three jobs. One gave me a place to live and two gave me food.
Now the lack of funds had not been a terrible blow to me, though it was maybe a waste of some good college-application essays and certainly not what I had been ready for. But it gave me the time and space to consider my life plans. Most of my friends were off at college, Ivy League schools or the next best thing, and they treated my circumstance with fearful pity. I started my mornings working at a bagel shop; then I went to work at a veterinary clinic. In the evenings, I came home to oversee and occasionally tutor six high school girls in a special boarding program for smart inner city youth. This program took kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn and moved them to the wealthy Connecticut suburbs (my hometown being among them) for “a better chance.” These were very impressive young women and I admired them greatly. I am sure they had a bigger impact on me than I did on them. They were no doubt influencing my consideration of how I might achieve more for the benefit of society. Their perseverance in the face of all kinds of adversity kept me from feeling sorry for myself in even the slightest of ways.
Yet even in the midst of this otherwise ordinary working life, odd things were happening. In the evening, strange and inexplicable ghostly occurrences plagued our household of tutors and students. Something was pulling girls out of bed, ripping heavy furniture apart, and generally playing pranks that ranged from mildly annoying to slightly terrifying. Months later I discovered that this was the apparent result of a Ouija board game gone horribly wrong—but that is another story entirely.
Suffice it to say I was, at that time, singularly unimpressed by my family, deeply annoyed by the mystical, and sure I had no idea what to make of the human experience in general. I spent my off hours (what few I had) contemplating how I could go about getting a better understanding of human beings and society in order to do something useful for the people and the planet.
I was pondering my life strategy after coming home from a long day and had just sat down on my bed to untie my shoes. That’s when the large and beautiful rose quartz crystal I had found while hiking in Colorado the previous summer and was now perched on my window ledge began—without preamble—to launch itself into a lecture on the creative forces of the universe. It sounded, I thought, like the college professor of the physics class I was never going to experience with my current lack of college funds. While I sat on my bed and continued to untie my shoes, I briefly contemplated getting a pen and paper to start taking notes. It was an instinctual and pre-programed response to a lecturing teacher, and I had to remind myself that it appeared to be a ROCK that was lecturing me.
I looked around. There was no TV. There was no radio.
I did a quick internal review, checking to see if I had eaten anything strange that day or if maybe I was dehydrated. No and no. Furthermore, I could not recall that I had bumped my head or been in an accident. I did not feel sick or feverish. I had never (until this point) heard “voices in my head” of any kind. I did not take any medication and I had never done drugs. I felt quite calm and wholly sane. The rose quartz itself sounded professorial and well organized in its lecture. Did people who hear voices receive this sort of calm, detailed, well-organized lecture on the universal forces of creation? I wondered. I had no basis for comparison. The information was admittedly fascinating, though I was getting lost in some of what sounded like mathematical jargon. This large crystal was talking of vectors and forces and fields and other technical-sounding things. It was also speaking at a fairly rapid pace.
As the lecture continued, I thought about my family. I was not aware of any frank insanity or of mental illness in my immediate kin. That did not mean it wasn’t there, I supposed. Of course, how do you know if you are crazy, right? Certainly I could make an argument that I was under stress, but I was sleeping and eating well…if maybe a few too many bagels. I felt pretty calm, rational, and normal in all the ways I could assess for someone potentially having a psychotic break.
I considered it: the speaking rock and the implications of both the source and the information. First things first. Did I believe that a rock was talking to me? Well, yes, actually. Or at least I believed something was talking through it somehow. If you had lived my life, you would have believed it too, probably. Strange encounters of strange beings and otherworldly things were not unheard of in my childhood. I had heard stories that gave me pause. I was not afraid right then, sitting in broad daylight, but I did consider the implications and possible consequences of going along with this. Did I want to walk down the road of the medicine woman? Or shaman? Mystic? Wizard? My father wrote fantasy novels based on mythic stories. I grew up with both the real and the imagined supernatural world. None of that saved his marriage or my family, or helped me understand how to be the person I wanted to be. I mean, it might make a good novel or campfire story, but was it really of any use to me?
I have to say, right then I did not feel that that road held any solutions to the human problem. It certainly did not seem like shamanism, wizardry, and magic were going to help me understand things like love, compassion, and how to be a good and successful human being. Let alone how to solve poverty or world hunger. I wanted wisdom more than I wanted knowledge. I had met people and beings of power, none of whom seemed like role models for me at that point. After all, I was not getting moral lessons here. This was no sermon on the mount. The rock was expounding coherently about universal forces and such, but there was no discussion of how an eighteen-year-old girl was going to make her way in the world as a modern human being at the close of the twentieth century. Like most teenagers, figuring out how I personally was to be in the world was my dominant concern. This rock lecture thing did not seem exactly relevant to my immediate concerns.
I sighed. As I sat there, holding an untied shoe, the universe (via the rock) was offering me power and a doorway to the mystical (assuming I was sane). Yet I was only half paying attention because all these things and more were running through my head. I was tired. When I was a child I had intended on walking the paths of spirit and power, but recently I had lost my taste for it. As I sat listening, I certainly found it easy enough to decide that whatever seemed like it belonged in the pages of a fantasy novel was not, in fact, going to help me get the hang of my actual modern life.
The situation was not wholly unexpected, to be sure. I had once heard a Native American medicine elder talking about her spiritual path, and she had said that everyone feels a little crazy when the rocks start talking.
Well, damn. No kidding.
After all these thoughts and more passed through my brain, I interrupted the rose quartz, with a cough.
“Excuse me,” I said. The rock continued unfazed.
“Uhm, excuse me… rock?” I repeated.
The rock paused.
“I am very sorry, but I just am not ready for the rocks to talk to me,” I said very firmly, if apologetically.
There was a pause, followed by a complete and heavy silence.
Then the rock gave me a distinct “Humph” of indignation, and the lecture was over.
That was the last time for many years that any rock attempted to talk to me. The next attempt consisted of a single word eight years later from a geode. But that is another story about helping a friend, and a Hopi man’s advice for the ending of the fourth world. We’ll get to that later.
That night, at eighteen, I went to bed without regret. During the night I dreamed of a powerful, handsome, black-haired man who flew in on a personal jet to talk to me. He had a blue-green glow. He offered me wealth, power, mystery, and adventure if I took the path of mystical forces, knowledge, and power. He was certainly more persuasive than the lecturing professor-rock. He tempted me, I freely admit. But I was raised in Connecticut, a state settled by white European Puritans. I knew to be suspicious of things that tempt. In any case, I had read all those fantasy novels. I knew the story of wizard apprentices and the hero’s journey. It sounded…daunting. AGAIN, could anyone help me just get the hang of being a normal person? No? Anyone? Sexy warrior-wizard dream beings aside, I declined his offer as well.
Instead, I decided to embark on a path of human knowledge where everything had a rational and maybe even a scientific explanation. I ended up with a B.S. in biology. I studied natural science quite happily. It led in turn to studying natural medicine (yes, a story there, but this one among Mayan ruins and tropical jungles) and then acupuncture, nutrition, qi gong, and yoga. I studied religion and spirituality and the scientific method. I explored physics and metaphysics. But I stayed as far away from crystals as I could (you could perhaps see why?). The last thing I was going to do was confuse medicine with gemstones. None of that New Age wacky crap for me, thank you. No. It seemed challenging enough to figure out the non-quack version of holistic natural medicine. Keep the crystal-healing thing away from me. I became a licensed naturopathic doctor. Life continued.
Yet all my resistance to gemstones was met with an intermittent but steady series of invitations by the subtle spiritual forces of the universe to pick up where the rose quartz had left off. Nothing tried to lecture me, to be sure—although there was the rare and polite word or phrase when I needed help trying to heal people.
What follows here and in the blog posts to come is the story of a woman who found her way back to a world of spiritual powers after years of science, medicine, martial arts, meditation, and yoga. If you, gentle readers, are of the mindset to dismiss my tale as a series of delusions, placebo effects, or pure fantasy, I can offer nothing but respect for so sane and reasonable an opinion. Respect.
There is, in fact, much quackery out there. As a naturopathic physician, I can assure you that I have met quackery in abundance. Some people are simply deluding themselves. Some are quite consciously in the business of deluding others. I never wanted to be mistaken for one of the latter. I believed and still do believe that there is a golden zone of medicine that can embrace natural therapies, consciousness, and spirit effectively and safely for greater medical care and optimal life. Science and skepticism are good and useful tools. But my mentors and elders that combined traditional natural healing with excellent doctoring set the standard for what I wanted to achieve. The first day of naturopathic philosophy class Dr. Jared Zeff explained that the most powerful aspect of health and healing may be spiritual --bit we were not going to learn about that in the four years of medical school, not even in naturopathic medical school. THAT you will have to find elsewhere, he said. So the spiritual masters I proceeded to meet—the Yogis, the Taoists, the Hopi, the Sioux, and the Tibetan Lamas (oh, and one Sufi)—have all encouraged me to stop pretending that I was anything other than what I am, step one. When you have been told nearly identical things on many continents by people from radically different traditions—many of whom slapped me hard on the back in the exact same spot while laughing knowingly (I mean really? Seriously, the SAME SPOT. Was there a sign on my back? Is there a secret club of spiritual elders who got a memo on me?)—eventually, after a few decades, you might just give in and take the hint. I get it. Time to walk more firmly on the spirit side of the road. So if a rock or plant or faerie or what-have-you has something to say, I occasionally listen. Not every time, mind you, but now and again.
The world is changing, and my understanding of how to be a useful human being is changing. At a certain point I began to wonder if extraordinary avenues of knowledge, and stories of outside-the-box possibilities, might have their place. Perhaps not all of this knowledge or this way of knowing will stand up to current scientific scrutiny. But truth will come out in the end, I think. Science will catch up to spiritual consciousness. Therefore, when a plant seems to tell me it will help a patient, and the patient then proceeds to do extraordinarily well, then that is something to consider. It’s also worth noting that said plant was given only after I looked up the plant’s effects in the literature and check for any possible side effects and the correct dosages. We have PubMed now and international databases and volumes of literature on much that was once handed down by word of mouth (or Spirit). I am not taking this sort of thing just on faith.
My story and my truths are part of a growing wave of evolving consciousness that seeks to unlock human potential. When those who have known me best tell me I should write an autobiography, I have always assumed I would have to write it as fiction. No one in his or her right mind would believe my life. I am not sure that I would trust anyone who did not approach my stories with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, anyone looking to learn the truth of things should find a way to juxtapose that skepticism with an open mind. Whether you are a scientist or a spiritual seeker, we must all challenge our assumptions (especially our hidden ones) while exploring the possibilities of what the deeper and greater realities of the universe might actually be.
I never did find the time for a book. Instead I thought I would try a blog. Be my guest to consider my truth your fiction. For those of you who find yourself waking up in a reality that is stranger than fiction, WELCOME. There are others, and they will write and are writing, too. We are working on T-shirts (seriously, T-shirts seem necessary).
Most of my career I have spent trying to work on the ground of safe and effective medical science. There is an ever-increasing body of evidence showing that stress reduction, proper nutrition, and exercise can prevent and treat disease. Growing evidence also shows that both heat and cold therapy can modulate physiological processes with benefit. Even more research supports botanical medicine, meditation, acupuncture, and massage. And there is ever-increasing documentation that we are being inundated with environmental toxins that are putting our collective and individual health at risk. As a practitioner of naturopathic medicine, these were the primary arenas of my professional concern—all within the context of standard diagnostic testing and evaluation, and the appropriate use of drugs, surgery, and specialist referrals.
Science and the healing traditions passed down to me by my medical teachers made the bulk of my medical practice for many years. Natural medicine works in the hands of good doctors. It just doesn't always work for everything, and not all alternative therapies are safe, and not all alternative doctors are good. I do not mean to defend all treatments in or practitioners of alternative medicine. Being a naturopathic doctor, I learned long ago to lead with intelligent medical behavior and follow with any alternative ideas, or risk being dismissed as a quack.
This blog marks my willingness to invite more doubt into my corner in order to explore the possibilities as someone who experiences the world in ways that science does not always have a way to document and confirm. This fact makes me uncomfortable still.
But here we are.
As I practiced natural medicine, I found that sometimes it worked for me because I could hear the spirit of things. I could see the energy of things. I also prayed. I prayed the way I was taught by medicine men and by my spiritual elders. Sometimes those prayers were answered in surprising ways.
Now, as I turn 47, and after two decades of trying to bridge the gaps between modern medical science, nature cure, and traditional medicine systems, I find myself most interested in the subtle spiritual powers at work in the world. I have come full circle, and I have made my peace with the rocks. The story of how I traveled that circle will be told in upcoming posts.
Today I sometimes use very pure and refined gemstones on acupuncture points and chakras to unexpectedly good effect. I am fascinated by how patients and students are continually amazed that such a thing could appear to work. They are rocks, after all. I once placed gemstone spheres on the acupuncture points of an M.D. with chronic sinus problems, and in minutes he was breathing more clearly than he had in years. But he also went completely white and broke out in a light sweat. He told me very bluntly that he found the fact that the gems appeared to work highly disturbing. I understood. His thoughts had flown immediately to the implications. Despite the immediate benefit he had experienced, he was really unhappy, even afraid, and slightly angry with me. I could relate and certainly took no offense. This kind of experience shifts the mind to ponder the nature of the universe and the nature of what a human being is actually made of. Do you really want to go there? I myself avoided it deliberately for years.
Not all stones or crystals work for such purposes, by the way—only some, and only those of a certain quality in the right shape and size. The rules here are developing. Uncovering these rules is what currently occupies me. How do subtle biological energies, and potentially the energies of consciousness, interact with crystalline forms? So far, rounded emeralds, sapphires, citrines, and others have shown distinctly different effects. Are all these differences in our minds? Are the subconscious and conscious minds directing these experiences in some way? Is gemstone therapy an elaborate meditation on shifting outcomes that depend on how we perceive reality? Can we call it all the placebo effect? What is a placebo really? I ended up in medicine because of an undergrad research paper I wrote that probed the nature of the placebo effect and the challenges of applying science in medical care. (THAT is a rabbit hole-and-a-half to go down; talk about taking the blue pill…a Matrix movie reference, for the non-geeks out there.) If belief has this much power in medicine, then it has this much power in our lives every day. This power is at work every minute, and not just in randomized double-blind placebo-controlled studies. Are we using this power correctly?
This is where my attention is now.
You might still need your rescue inhaler, your blood pressure medication, your insulin. Please do not abandon intelligent medical care as you pursue alternative views of reality. I only believe that untapped power exists in nature and the mind that most of us could do a better job of using and many have shied away from exploring.
Last year I closed my practice in the city, stepped away from my teaching career, and headed into the northern desert outside of Hopi land. This is where my visions and an elder or two had always told me to go. There I am building an education center where simple experiences of natural healing can occur alongside organic desert gardening, off-grid self-sufficiency, and hikes through juniper-filled volcanic landscapes. (Leave the Native American pottery shards alone if you find them, please; they are scattered everywhere on the ground here.) It is a place where my family is healthier and happier than they ever were in the city. A place where the stars in the night sky are unclouded by light pollution, and the atmosphere is freer of the many kinds of environmental toxins against which I spent my Phoenix practice fighting an uphill battle. Other doctors and teachers have joined me, but they will tell you their own stories (see upcoming blog entries).
Advanced nutrition, exercise, plant and mineral therapies, sauna, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, and massage all remain a good foundation for recovering one’s health in many cases. I have learned that doing these things in nature helps. All else aside, working to apply what we already know about diet and lifestyle is already more than enough challenge for most people. I have also learned that employing the subtle energies of consciousness and spirit enriches and often accelerates the process.
The wisdom of nature and the inherent capacity and potential of the human body and mind are still mostly unused. I have dedicated my life to change that. I know for a certainty that we could do far more to achieve greater health in our bodies and our minds. I expect both science and spirit to continue as my partners in this, along with the extraordinary human beings that are gathering here in the Four Corners area and in other places around the world.
And if not now, when?
(That could be a T-shirt.)