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See the Health, Be the Health

Originally written in January 2017 following a course in Biodynamics - sharing here as a reflection on key osteopathic principles so strongly felt on the island of Maui.

In my work as an osteopathic physician, there is much talk of lesions – areas of restriction or dysfunction in the patient, most commonly considered in the neuromusculoskeletal system, although as experience increases, the level of understanding of the concept of lesion – quality, location, connection – evolves. In any consideration, the following statement, and my favorite quote from the past week of study, reframed my thinking – unifying the ideas of finding the lesion and treating the health, infinitely extending the osteopathic concept:

There is more health in the lesion than there is lesion in the lesion.

- Originated by Jim Jealous, D.O. and shared by Tom Esser, D.O.

Inclement weather, delayed travels, an international group of osteopaths with a most treasured kindred spirit among them, mentors and magical moments. Though four years, three thousand miles, a third child and significant shift in career separated my experiences, it was with eerie familiarity this week that I journeyed to continue my study of Traditional Osteopathy. With travels delayed, I was faced with missing a day of the course and, with it, a large portion of the Hawaiian adventure. Thankfully, now as close to these magical islands as I am to my native peninsula, I was able to replace my initial flight with a relatively quick, though rainy, drive south and was welcomed with fresh flowers and Stevie Wonder on the loudspeaker onto a Virgin America flight in San Francisco. Having long admired the ingenuity and joy of Richard Branson, it was a fitting that I would reach Maui while witnessing his optimal entrepreneurial health in action. The unexpected relocation also gave me opportunity to visit a new gym, sending me on the journey more relaxed and physically balanced at an airport with quality food choices on a near-empty plane for prime relaxation. As it turns out, there was more calm in the stress than there was stress in the stress.

So many minor details combined to bring the joy back to travel - thanks Virgin!

In the morning, the group – nine from Germany and one from the USA, along with our nomadic guide, welcomed me into meditation after which we began our maiden voyage on the water. Ever a fresh water swimmer, an aversion to salt and the sharp-toothed predators of the sea has long kept me on the shores of the ocean. With a traumatic tale shared by my final clinic patient the day prior to travel, I was even more reluctant, committed only to kayaking but unlikely to breach the surface. Held by an inexplicable sense of safety in the group, I ventured into the waters, surprised to find myself gently supported by the water, not overwhelmed as I had expected based on past experience.   With letting go, there was more peace in the fear than there was fear in the fear.

Made it beyond the shore

As the week unfolded, I was stunned to learn of a tragic loss for dear friends back in Michigan, shocked and unsure of how to offer comfort. We had spoken during a lecture session about health and wholeness in dying and, given the prevailing theme of the week to find health, beauty and wholeness in nature, it seemed appropriate that the sign was presented to me simply and elegantly one evening in the form of a leaf. While not an absolution, it became clear in that moment that there was more love in the pain than there was pain in the pain (and perhaps that is what makes it so hard).

Love in the pain

Spending the week half in German, I marveled at the amazing skill of our teacher to navigate seamlessly between two languages and at the richness given to the tenets of our profession as they were reinforced through bilingual repetition. Though cherished for many reasons, the greatest treasure of studying Biodynamics these past five years has been the welcome into an international community of osteopathic kinship.  There is something powerful in sharing knowledge, belief and understanding beyond dialect and distance, increasing the global potency of our therapeutic forces. With common fluency in the language of health, there was more unity in our difference than there was difference in our difference.

Having run a trial version of my own continuing education course a few months prior, it was so valuable to see what was meaningful for the students, how the teacher held the class and it was refreshing to hear stated on the first afternoon, after a gentle kayak among the whales, that if nothing else transpired, the course would be a success – for having brought the individuals together, for having seen the beauty of the whales – that the beginning can be the end point. Though smaller than I anticipated, I felt the same about my own course – the encouragement of peers, enthusiasm of my mentor and presence of colleagues past and present made the entire experience, regardless of topics discussed or techniques practiced. Learning and understanding are so much greater when there is more wonder in knowing than there is knowing in knowing.

On returning home, I learned my family was studying the humpback whale to share in my experience from afar

On our first day, we made a wish for the course, putting into the universe our desire for the week.   Though the goals were unique to each individual –personal or professional, minor or major, physical or emotional – we shared the common therapeutic experience of space held, allowing compression to be released, fluid to flow freely and health to move in. Some achieved precisely that which they desired, some gained much more; for me, the tide began to turn just as the course concluded. It seemed there were more beginnings in the end than there was end in the end.

Simultaneous moonrise and sunset on Haleakala - beginnings in ends

Seeing these contrasting reference points – varied themes on health in the lesion – throughout the week brought me continually back to another quote shared recently by a wise colleague:

The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.

-Originated by Bruce Lee, shared by Zachary Musgrave, D.O.

In my work as an osteopathic physician, there is much talk of fulcrums– reference points about which we treat, gain leverage, seek balance. As I considered a definition applicable beyond the treatment room, I was moved by the simple yet poignant concept of a fulcrum as that which plays a central or essential role in an activity, event or situation. Once again, my thinking shifted and the osteopathic concept broadened – with health as the medium and the axis, the experiences of the week, and ultimately in life, were transformed. That wintry trip four years ago resulted in a physical shift as I now inhabit the fulcrum of the experience. Through this journey, I am inhabited by the spirit of the islands – calm, peace, love, unity, wonder and beginnings now a fulcrum within.

Held by and holding the spirit of the islands

May we hold space for health, both dynamic and tranquil, to serve as anchor and guide – a catalyst for authenticity and transformation along life’s journey.

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