Both a Mystic and a Rebel am I: I have been told by a good friend and advisor that I am not only a mystic but a rebel, and after listening to my heart around this, I realize that I am a rebel… not one who is against something… rather one who is for something. For me, that something is life, creativity, passion, respect, devotion, love…. As these rich concepts—thoughts—that science cannot define—rise from heart to mind, I am aware that this has always been what I stood for. I have had many fine humans come forward to teach me more about this. I remember some of their names, and I have forgotten many of their names. Nevertheless I live with deep gratitude to every one of them for their gifts.
I started H.O.P.E. in 1987 as a support group for people who had cancer and who wanted to get on with their lives. The rebel in me was passionately in a rebellion for life but not against cancer which I simply saw is a mistake of life, sensing that virtually any mistake can be corrected. The McGill University Faculty of Medicine emphasized this apparent rebellious thinking and acting for the six years I spent there. In short, it was the context of life and caring for life that made all of my therapies work. My professors were those who taught me how to use the science and data of medicine to help my patients get on with their lives. My teachers were those who taught me about the value of life and helping people get on with their lives—my patients in particular.
Through this marvelous group of humans—both professors and patients—I was shown the power of focusing on a particular aspect of life: the unique heart–song with which every person comes into their life. I couldn’t pretend to know what that song might be in any of my patients. Rather, I somehow knew how to listen for it and then comment on it in such a way as to give it back to the person who came with it. I learned that at times I was not being sung to, rather that I was being shown a beautiful dance… a “beauty–dance”. At times I was aware that I was listening to what can be called a “soul–cry” complete with all of the passion in that cry. Again, somehow, I knew how to give my appreciation for the sharing of that “beauty–dance”… that“soul–cry”.
Early on I was attracted to the way of the Quaker, George Fox, who taught that there was “that of God” in every one. This, to me, was, and is, to this day, perfect truth. And, as a physician, I was often shown that we human beings have a challenging time trying to accept the wonderful idea that we are divine; meaning that inside these finite physical bodies of ours there resides a piece of universal consciousness called Soul. Learning to be present to the beauty–dance, the heart–song, the soul-cry taught me how to get out of the way of my ego and to listen to the cry of my own soul.
Then, in short order, I was introduced to the work of a modern Quaker, Douglas van Steere, who saw this listening as a sacred function that all of us could learn to use. He called it “holy listening” and said that it “listens a soul into life… through a process of discernment and discovery… that may be the single greatest service one human being can do for another.”
To and for these ends I rebel.