Looking for support in your healing process?

A H.O.P.E. Group is a safe place in which we come together to find wellness by sharing our story and listening with open heart and mind to the other stories in the room. In our H.O.P.E. Groups we learn the practice of compassion and the release of suffering—the engine of forgiving. Join us at one of our six locations in Maine to see for yourself what a difference a H.O.P.E. Group can make.

Join A H.O.P.E. Group

Welcome to H.O.P.E.

…where you find out who you really are… where we know that at the core of our being all humans strive to be healthy and whole—a process called healing; all of us are persons; and because no two of us are alike, we are all exceptions to each other…. Moreover, an intense, indomitable curiosity about life, health, and our spirituality has brought us to see that we are alive because the whole marvelous Universe is alive, and It’s not in the business of repeating Itself… we are, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin told Jean Houston just before he died in 1955, “spiritual beings immersed in the human condition!”

Recent News

Tao Te Ching; Book of Changes; or, simply, the Tao

Come with me on an exploration of the ancient and classic Chinese text known as Tao Te Ching. The text, which is laid out in 81 sections, is often enigmatic, which, to the Western mind, can be very confusing. Over centuries, much time and thought has been spent exploring this work, creating a confusion of interpretations. The version created by Stephen Mitchell and published by HarperPerennial in 1988 appeals to me because Mitchell studied many translations of the text in several different languages and came to the realization that he could express this in a contemporary version. This has received both praise and criticism from scholars. However, he does not claim that this is a translation; it is a version and I happen to like it. It still leaves me with many challenging, contradictory thoughts that stimulate my creativity.

I will simply say that this work excites my love of the Mystery that I have never been able to explain; nor have I wanted to. I only spend time appreciating the profound Mystery of the very existence of the entire universe including you and me.

Today, I invite you to spend some time with me on the first section of Mitchell’s version of the Tao, which reads,

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.

For me, and probably for you, too, this is a mass of contradictions, and, with our minds disciplined by the ancient Greeks and their system of logic, the contradictions cancel each other out. The result: both sides of the contradiction disappear… lost to us for over 2000 years. The Greek thinking that began around the time of Socrates, creates an “either-or” thought form that destroys the Mystery of our very existence. I offer you the consideration that the challenges we face today, which appear so daunting, arise from the limitations of this way of thinking known as “dualism”.

The first sentence says, does it not, that there can be two “way”(s) of looking at the Mystery. The second sentence gets more specific, saying that “telling” and “naming” define their object. Let’s face it, there is no way that we can define—confine—the mystery of our existence, regardless of our propensity for the intellectual pursuit of virtually all answers and understanding. My senses tell me that it is an ego trip to believe that we can define the Mystery. For those who think we can define it, I humbly request their humility. That humility frees humans from desire—that which sees only the manifestations of the Mystery—not both. To be able to see both is to be able to be aware that the two contradictions arise from the same source. That source can only be total darkness, which, to me, is a symbol for that which was always there before the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

“Darkness within darkness” sets up a situation that is impossible to understand, but what really must be an invitation into the Mystery. I cannot begin to take that apart, and yet I can give myself permission to be uncomfortably present to it and appreciate what is meant by “the gateway to all understanding.” I feel a great opening and receptiveness within me. I appreciate what is meant by “vulnerability”. I hope you can, too.

To close, I offer you a challenge that Richard Whittaker found in an interview http://www.conversations.org/story.php?sid=285 which he did with Peter Kingsley in May 2011, titled, Remembering What We Have Forgotten. Kingsley (http://peterkingsley.org/), a passionate student of pre–Socratic Greek thinking as found in the work of Parmenides and Empedocles, has an intense appreciation of the wonder of that Mystery. He saw that those Tao–like thoughts of these two great mystics were so confusing to subsequent Greeks that they were simply left out of all logical discussion… and so we have forgotten who we really are. This skilled, passionate scholar is the author of five books that express his devotion for remembering the truth of the pre-Socratic Greeks. The last of them is A Story Waiting to Pierce You http://www.goldensufi.org/book_desc_a_story.html. In it, he describes his discovery that the source of the pre-Socratic wisdom was carried from Mongolia by a shaman named Abaris and given to Pythagoras to bring to the Western world (through Parmenides and Empedocles). Read it if you are challenged by the evidence of our forgetting and want to remember what these messengers from the past brought to us.

Everything in this blog has come together in a way that has taken apart my amnesia and, to put it simply, helped me remember that you and I have been promised these lives since the beginning of time—the greatest mystery of all—and because that is who and what we are, I encourage you to remember that you are an immortal product of love… as are we all.

Sandra Bland’s Tragic Death

Sandra Bland’s tragic death on July 13, 2015 is another tragic consequence of the unresolved legacy of slavery in our country. No, slavery did not end with either the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect on January 1, 1863, or General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. It was too deeply ingrained in the subconscious mind of both slave and slave master. Lest one thinks that I am making a special case of this part of our history, I am not. The struggle for dominance is not limited to slave and slave master. Kosovo’s struggle between two civil groups goes back about seven centuries. Rwanda’s Hutu versus Tutsi conflict goes back to the end of the 19th century. Today’s conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Near East is nearly 1400 years old.

I am not at all interested in pointing the finger of shame, blame, or guilt in this situation. Rather, I want to point out a function of certain areas of consciousness that have an imprint on core nuclei of the brain around the upper end of the spinal cord. Two of them, the hippocampus and the amygdala, store both memory and emotion, both of which are evoked by triggers over which we have all too often too very little control. Together, they evoke damaging responses to perceived threats. Take a moment now to look at these patterns in the behaviors of the two humans caught up in a simple traffic violation in Waller County, Texas. It ended in the death of the one, Sandra Bland.

Please do not try to separate these two human beings, but see these lives bound together by history. Look at the other examples of the death of a dark–skinned human by a white–skinned human that we have seen over the past few months in our country. Bring them together so that we can see the suffering of slavery that exists in the human condition throughout history. Bring them together so that we can seek to relieve ourselves of that suffering.

I am inviting you to enter into what is called non–dual thinking. It is truly all around us; so we can learn to identify it and start to use it to solve our suffering—our struggles. We can go back to the great spiritual leaders of yesteryear: the Buddha, the Christ, the Prophet, etc. All of these great humans could see that we are indeed all ONE with the One Source that gives life to everything. Give yourself permission to sense that there is nothing other than that One Source in which we are all ONE. Follow that spiritual line of non-dual thinking and acting to today. Bring to mind those who emphasize the fact that the whole universe is not so much “non-dual” as it is a remarkable and beautiful WHOLE—the ONE.

What stands out for me in our struggles is that so many keep trying to believe that there are orders of differences between us—duality. Our spiritual leaders of today and yesterday understood the non-dual nature of love, grace, truth, forgiveness, creativity, mercy, reality…. When you set an intention to discover and participate in non–dual, holistic thinking, those resources that make the difference for you will present themselves to you. As they do, you will be able to look at the two parties involved in the circumstances that lead to Sandra Bland’s death with compassion and a sense of gratitude for what they are helping us to sense—REALITY.

Hate, Compassion, and Tonglen

Freeing oneself of hatred by practicing compassion…

You may well ask how hate, compassion, and Tonglen could possibly relate to each other… a single word will do… fear! Hate is a simple, animist, survival response to fear. Compassion transforms that response to peace. Tonglen is a specific practice of the breath that comes from the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and which makes that transformation a physical process.

Now, you may well ask how I might be familiar with all of this… my answer… my healing traditions; my choice to become a physician; my fascination with physiology (the study of bodily functions); and 40 years of helping myself and others with what can well be called “attitudinal healing”, especially that aspect which makes it possible to become peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside. I have been shown in many ways that compassion is the attitude which makes the action of cutting attachments—forgiveness—possible. [click to continue…]

Love, honor, and respect all women

I invite you to come with me on a journey to love, honor, and respect all women. I share with you a segue of two quotes, the first from Carl Sagan: “The old appeals to racial, sexual and religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalism are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed.”

The second comes from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.”

I began working on this post, “Love, honor, and respect all women” shortly after I had posted the one concerning our evolution from violence through nonviolence to peace. [click to continue…]

A Dream of the Future

About three years ago, I had a “key dream” (the kind I remember forever), a Dream of the Future. It developed around an off–the–track train wreck that I saw happen, but in which I was not involved as a passenger. After it had passed, I scrambled through the wrecked trees into the still–standing trees of a deep, dark forest that called me to walk through it, on the other side of which I saw a beautifully clear image of where we humans are going. [click to continue…]

My December 31, 2014, blog post, Shame, Blame, and Guilt is a segue to this one: Violence, Nonviolence, and Peace: our past, present, and future. That first triplet, which I call “the cruel offspring of judgment” is the primary cause of all violence. In it, I pointed out that all harm comes from the misapplication of knowledge. From that we can imagine a beneficial application of knowledge. What then might the future look like were we to find a way to describe a beneficial application of knowledge and then to use it? I call that second triplet “our way home”. I invite you to explore this with me.

We cannot change anything unless we accept it.
Carl Jung

[click to continue…]

Shaman, a healer of soul wounds

A shaman is a healer of soul wounds. S-he is a human being who is able to travel to the realm of the soul of an individual or a community and heal the deep spiritual wounds of trauma—soul wounds—by retrieving the fragments of soul that have fled trauma to hang out in another realm, draining the host of life energy—Chi. By simple ritual(s) the shaman instills the fragment(s) back into their true home, restoring that energy to the rightful host. This simple description of a remarkably diverse set of healing practices found in virtually every corner of the earth comes to me from two masters of shamanic work here in America: Michael Harner, PhD, author of The Way of the Shaman, and founder of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies www.shamanism.org
and his protégé, Sandra Ingerman, MA, author of Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self.

Sandra grew up in New York City, a chronically depressed New York teenager whose depression disappeared quickly when she went to work with a New York shaman. She was already familiar with Harner’s work, and in one of her deep depressions, a friend reminded her of her familiarity with him, saying (if I remember Sandra’s words correctly, nearly twenty years later), “Sandy you know Michael Harner… for G—d’s sake, go and get your soul back!” She did; she healed; she became active in his organization; and now has her own rich experience to share at www.sandraingerman.com/. I suggest you pay her a visit there to see how broad and rich her shamanic experience has become.

A participant in the Portland (Maine) H.O.P.E. Group that came together in 1987 recommended that I read Harner’s book, because she felt that the work we were doing was soul work and, to her, Harner was a “soul worker”. When I read it, I could see how she made this suggestion… I had a strong sense that a lot of the suffering that we call “disease” had a spiritual component.

That “sense” came from the fact that I was born into a family of medical, spiritual, and social healers, and it was a part of my nature to look at all three of these aspects of healing as having equal importance. Healing was my spiritual call. Allopathic medicine and General Surgery were my professional call. Listening with open heart and mind made it possible for me to get a strong intuitive sense of what lay at the actual root of a physical or mental disease or disorder. Reading Harner’s book helped me to get a much deeper appreciation for that same sense. [click to continue…]

Shame, Blame, and Guilt

… the cruel offspring of judgment.

Shame, blame, and guilt are cruel expressions of the practice of judgment that have been with us for many thousands of years… just look at the Old Testament to get an historical perspective of the ways through which we have sought to control self and others. Just look around you today… the cruel triplet is virtually everywhere in practically every news broadcast, and not uncommonly with several examples in a single broadcast! History tells us that the longer we spend focusing on this the more we are going to find of it and it’s evil stepchild, violence. Let us keep in mind that the more we focus on something, the bigger it becomes. This is a situation that is crying for change. I have the strong sense that today we are changing our addiction to believing that we can control our violent nature by more violence. I ask you to look at the harm that this practice has produced over these eons. We are so addicted to judgment and punishment that we have a difficult time even considering that there might be an alternative. There is… perceiving rather than judging and restorative justice rather than punishment… and I think it helps to know that we already know the alternative to violence—peace. [click to continue…]


Kindness has been with me for most of my life, growing in my appreciation of its healthy power all that time, and especially of late. Kindness came forward with a bang when I learned that Anne Herbert, writer and peace activist from Marin County, California, had scribbled this on a paper napkin in 1982: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” I first met this wise piece of advice very soon after it first appeared, five years before the first H.O.P.E. Group meeting. It caused a tingle then, and the tingle reappears still, given the occasion. This is one such occasion, comprised of four parts: human stories of very different situations that all came to me within 24 hours, giving me cause to get a shiver up my spine and see how powerful kindness becomes today.

The first was learning of the assassination of Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig, 26 year-old US aid worker murdered by an Islamic State militant. He was known for his kindness and devotion to helping humans in Syria. The following day, the evening news contained a segment about the Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon who had gone to Sierra Leone to help treat people caught by the Ebola epidemic there, became infected with Ebola, and died shorty after coming to the US for treatment. His words in an earlier TV interview came from a human whose facial expressions were those of a kind and caring Human. The third was the TV interview of Daniel Menz, a Cape Elizabeth (Maine) High School senior student, president of his class, and known for his kindness. He is kind to everyone without exception and never appears to be above any of his fellow students.
http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/local/morning-report/2014/11/18/kind-kids-week-daniel-menz/19207265/ [click to continue…]

PTSD is Soul Loss

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extremely challenging mental disorder that has reached high levels of human interest because of its frequency in combat veterans. It truly is Soul Loss… marked by nightmares, hallucinations, and behaviors destructive of self and others. In short, though, it has been with us for centuries, triggered by participating in or observing horrifying events. It is associated with changes in the brain that can be found with today’s sophisticated technologies. Its effective treatment has seriously challenged the mental health community. However, it has not been recognized as a psychospiritual condition, even though it has been recognized for centuries in indigenous nations that see its expressions as “soul wounds,” especially, “soul loss”.

Lately, though, Edward Tick, PhD, a psychologist working with veterans of all of our current wars, starting with the war in Vietnam, has written a groundbreaking book about this called, War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. (Quest, 2005). He is Founding Director of Soldier’s Heart, “(whose) goal is to prepare families and communities in supporting and healing veterans—both those returning from current wars and those who fought in past wars.” . I have read the book and find myself in deep sympathy with, and appreciation of, his thesis that PTSD is a misnomer for what is really soul loss. Meet Dr. Tick at http://www.soldiersheart.net/index.shtml.

I use that word, “soul” deliberately, knowing that it is commonly confused with “spirit”. We, in the West, have the confusion because the philosophers of the 17th century Age of Reason decided that the soul’s existence could not be scientifically proven, and, for that reason, the soul does not exist. Prior to that time, we tended to believe that we were made a four–part being comprised of body, mind, soul, and spirit. It is easy to to see an ascending order to this rising from the body to the spirit. In this order, the soul can be seen as the bridge between the material body–mind and the immaterial spirit. [click to continue…]