Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
From a psychiatric ward, misdiagnosed and over-medicated, to practicing a new kind of medicine: Absolute Health
It’s the one story that I never wanted to tell. I was scared to, because I felt a lot of shame around it all. And from time to time, I still do. When I was beginning to think about writing a book, someone in the publishing business told me that I should tell my story, that it could be helpful to others. And so, I’ve come to telling it.
That story begins when I was in my early twenties, in college, during a cold, snowy New England winter. During those crisp, frosty days which began and ended with the long shadows of dawn and dusk, I started to have out-of-body experiences, otherwise known as “paranormal” experiences or psychic openings. They included telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. I wasn’t doing drugs of any sort — recreational or prescription — I was merely experiencing the drug of an expanded consciousness.
I traveled. I flew over snow drifts. Beyond my body and beyond my mind, I teleported through space, above ground, unaided by aircraft, trapezes, or ziplines. I could know peoples’ thoughts, hearing their words in the ears of my mind — all verified in sometimes embarrassing conversations. I seemed to have psychokinetic powers — bending metal, for example. Car keys changed form in my fingers, melting like objects in a Salvador Dali painting. I foresaw future events, like my physics professor’s request that I lead the class when he was away.
Other sensations emerged as well, a little less paranormal, if we’re being technical about it. I felt a deep kinship with dogs — something I’ve always felt. But this was a bit more. It seemed as though I could communicate with my canine friends directly, through the silences of intention and listening.
Perhaps the most compelling experience was the ever-present peace of mind that I felt, no matter what was going on. A feeling of lightness and joy. With this transcendent feeling state came the most certain truth that there is more to life than the experience of my five senses, and that this “more” is the essential key to a greater and truer reality.
That continuous peace of mind offered me an insight that I would only come to fully understand many years later. It was my first glimpse of our essential nature, of a way to freedom from suffering, my first glimpse of Absolute Health — a concept of health so unlike anything I had grown up with, so unlike anything I had been taught.
Openings and Closings
My psychic openings during that New England winter lasted several months or maybe a bit more. I don’t remember exactly. What was vivid and memorable was how it all ended — abruptly, with my incarceration. Talking, perhaps too much, about my experiences with people who didn’t understand them, I was taken against my will to a hospital emergency room and involuntarily admitted to a locked psychiatric ward. A hypodermic needle in my butt numbed my senses and dulled my mind. A wheelchair transported me upstairs to the hospital’s third floor — to a locked ward where I stayed for nearly six weeks. I’d been deemed crazy.
In the days that followed, medications took hold — four of them, to be exact. For schizophrenia, I was given an antipsychotic; for manic depression, lithium; for clinical depression, an antidepressant. Finally, for the side effects of the antipsychotic, yet another pill.
Because of the drugs, I have very few memories of my time in that ward. After that nearly six-week period, I was discharged to my parents, with a psychiatric diagnosis of “schizo-affective” and “manic-depressive.” I returned home on those same four medications, destined to be drugged for life. By then, winter had turned to spring, and summer was almost upon us. I withdrew from college, since I’d been away for too long and I was in no shape to return. For the next year and a half, I was essentially asleep in a body, mentally dull, emotionally numb, and physically anesthetized.
But being drugged for life was not to be my destiny. One day, a stifling hot summer day, my courageous, free-thinking mother came up to my bedroom, where I spent most of my waking hours, and told me that the medications needed to go. In an act of great love and faith, she slowly weaned me, cutting tablets and emptying capsules. Little by little, day by day, I crawled back into the person I had always known. As I stopped taking the drugs, thoughts returned. Feelings returned. Physical sensations returned. I returned to my mind. I returned to my body. I returned to what I now understand was a spiritual awakening gone awry.
That story I never wanted to tell forever changed me and everything I’d ever understood about life — about consciousness, time, space, medicine, health, and healing. It’s the story that fueled my life path, my choice of medicine as a calling, and how I practice medicine.
My psychic adventures and that introduction to conventional psychiatry were profound and formative teachers. But they weren’t the only ones.
Earlier on in my life, when I was thirteen, my father had a catastrophic stroke that left him hemiplegic and partially aphasic — he was paralyzed on one side and had difficulty finding the words he wanted to say. He was only forty-nine at the time. In the days that followed his stroke, he was unable to speak. Through weeks and months of therapy, his speech improved and his paralyzed side became more mobile, but neither got back to normal, the way he was before.
Nearly eighteen years later, when I was in my fourth and final year of medical school, I bore witness to the cure that returned my father’s speech. Completely. Over the years since then, I’ve borne witness to more of the seemingly miraculous: miraculous healings that defied conventional medical thinking, and miraculous phenomena that defied the laws of classical physics.
Through it all, I came to understand that what Western medicine holds to be tried and true is otherwise, and that reality is not what I’d always thought it to be — there’s a greater reality beyond cognition, beyond our thinking brains, beyond what we perceive with our five senses.
I became convinced that healing beyond the bounds of our conventional Western model was possible, and that healing can come easily, without effort. And so too, can all that we’re needing, no matter what’s going on.
Effortless Healing, Effortless Manifesting
What if there was a simple, effortless way to feel well and to thrive? What if there was a simple, effortless way to heal from illness and to shift challenging circumstances in your life?
Well, there is. You don’t need to struggle. You don’t need to try to change things or make things happen.
Whatever you’re needing for whatever’s going on in our life — whether it’s a health issue or a challenging situation — can be had in a moment. In this very moment. It’s simply a stop, pause, and breath away. All that you need to do, to heal that health issue or to shift that challenging situation, is to first stop, pause, and be here now.
It’s by surrendering to the present moment, and by allowing disease, that suffering and disease can leave us. We don’t have to struggle to be well. In fact, it’s by surrendering that we can become well. The same principle holds for challenging circumstances and situations in our lives. We don’t have to struggle to shift them. Rather, it’s by surrendering to being, rather than doing, that those challenges can leave us.
Perhaps this sounds implausible. Perhaps even magical thinking. If you’re not feeling well — if you’re ailing in any way or seeking change in your life — it may seem that you should be taking action, doing something to shift circumstances and situations. But it’s not magical thinking. Everything that you’ll ever need for anything and everything that’s going on in your life can arise from being, not doing.
To be clear, it’s not that we never take action. We don’t simply wait around for things to change or happen. But things changing, things happening — whether you’re healing a health issue or transforming a challenging situation — arises from a place of peace. Peace mentally. Peace emotionally. And peace physically. This place of peace is Absolute Health. It’s from this place of Absolute Health, of inner peace, that healing happens. And it’s from this place of peace, that clarity, solutions, and effortless, inspired action arises.
I didn’t always get this. In fact, it took me many, many years to get it. Years of living in an unwell body, with emotional strife, with challenging life circumstances, and more. I was always trying to fix things, to make them better, to make them change or go away. When I finally stopped with all of the trying, when I started to just be present with what I was experiencing in the moment, I came to know Absolute Health and inner peace. And then things started to change. My health improved. Circumstances and situations got better.
The Science of Being
Science has a lot to say about being. Here’s what some of that science tells us: Our thoughts and feelings affect our health and well-being instantaneously. Every thought and feeling is either creating a state of ease or dis-ease. A calm, peaceful mind creates a calm and peaceful body. A disturbed mind creates stress in the body.
When the mind is calm, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the system we need for rest, rejuvenation, and healing, as well as sleep and digestion. All the good stuff that nurtures and nourishes us.
When the mind’s not calm, the sympathetic nervous system is turned on. That’s the system we need to be active, alert, vigilant. It serves us in times of stress. The sympathetic system inhibits sleep and digestion, and so, too, healing — we can’t be sleeping or eating when we need to be alert and vigilant. And we can’t heal when our body is needing to use its resources to protect us.
The sympathetic system often gets a bad rap, but we need it. It evolved to protect us from deadly threats. When early humans faced dangerous predators or situations, those threats would provoke anxiety and fear and turn on our sympathetic, fight-or-flight system. We still need this system to avoid danger and to function in the world — I need it to navigate the streets and traffic of New York City and to avoid aggressive dogs when my canine companion and I are out for a walk. The problem is that nowadays, for many of us, the sympathetic system remains turned on for longer than it needs to be.
Given the stressors of modern life, many of us are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Our emotions are turned on and turned up, and we think we have to take action to fight off threats or fix problems. Or we attempt to “flee” problems or anxiety to escape them. Either way, we’re stuck in the gear of worry. And when our sympathetic system is on more often than not, when we don’t need it to be, it creates undesirable stress, dis-ease, and even disease.
A calm mind, a peaceful mind — by turning on that parasympathetic system — is where we need to be for healing to happen. It won’t happen otherwise.
We cultivate that peaceful mind by being here now, with all that we’re experiencing in the present moment. Thoughts, feelings, physical sensations. Even difficult ones.
Research studies have shown that being present with feelings can keep us well and get us well. A 2016 study of women with breast cancer demonstrated that women who were more able to be with their feelings about their health, even difficult ones, had less symptoms of sickness. Those who weren’t able to were sicker.1 In 2019, a study of individuals undergoing cancer treatment revealed the same connection between feelings and health: Those who avoided their feelings of uncertainty and fear fared worse.2
Other studies have demonstrated the connection between feeling feelings and chronic depression and anxiety. Individuals experienced less depression and less anxiety when they could be with their feelings of sadness or worry.3 Another study showed that being present with feelings, including difficult ones, leads to longer, healthier lives.4
And when it comes to physical pain, recent brain research has demonstrated that feeling feelings can help those with chronic physical pain. Being present with feelings can ease that pain.5
Here’s my take home message: Feeling feelings, rather than resisting or denying them, can move us from dis-ease to ease, to that place of peace where healing happens. What we resist, persists. Being with what is — is how we shift what is.
Finding Your Way to Absolute Health and Inner Peace
My book, Beyond Medicine: A Physician’s Revolutionary Prescription for Achieving Absolute Health and Finding Inner Peace, teaches you how to do just that.
Beyond Medicine isn’t a book about healing per se, though it can help you get better from a health issue, if that’s what’s going on for you. Rather, it’s about how to navigate living in a body, with ease, and how to navigate circumstances and situations in your life, with ease.
You’ll learn how to use the five Absolute Health tools for “being here now”, so you can experience inner peace in mere moments. You’ll also learn about your Four Primary Medicines — food, lifestyle, relationships and community, and purpose — essential medicines for finding your way.
You’ll learn about emotional healing and come to understand just what healing is. Healing may be an improvement in our physical health, but I offer that healing may be a departure from that body…that is, death. Whatever form healing takes — it’s always a return home to inner peace, no matter what.
If this notion of healing and dying is difficult for you, I’ll teach you how to be fearless in the face of illness, dying, and death. And how that fearlessness can, in fact, heal you, how it can return you to your body, to improved health. Or how that fearlessness can help you leave, peacefully and gracefully, if it’s your time to go.
Then, I invite you to travel with me to an extraordinary reality where consciousness transcends space and time and our minds and bodies. A reality where we don’t necessarily begin at birth and end at death — where some aspect of us exists before we’re born and persists after we die. A reality where our minds can affect matter, where our minds can heal our bodies.
If all of that seems implausible or perhaps even impossible to wrap your head around, I offer up the trove of scientific research that may help you to suspend your disbelief. And I share stories of seemingly apparent miracles, and explain that miracles are the natural order of things when we get out of the way.
Finally, I close with suggestions on how you can find your own, unique way home to Absolute Health, inner peace, and healing.
I invite you to travel with me beyond medicine — beyond Western medicine, beyond mind-body medicine, beyond holistic and integrative medicine, beyond any medicine. Beyond the need to search for a cure for what ails you. To a place where healing happens, clarity, solutions, and inspired action arise, and miracles can manifest. Simply. Effortlessly. In this very moment.
- Rebecca Reed et al., “Emotional Acceptance, Inflammation, and Sickness Symptoms Across the First Two Years Following Breast Cancer Diagnosis,” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 56 (2016): 165–74, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2016.02.018
- Bruno Aldaz et al., “Is Avoidance of Illness Uncertainty Associated with Distress During Oncology Treatment? A Daily Diary Study,” Psychology & Health 34, no. 4 (2019): 422–37, https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2018.1532511
- Todd Kashdan et al., “Experiential Avoidance as a Generalized Psychological Vulnerability: Comparisons with Coping and Emotion Regulation Strategies,” Behaviour Research and Therapy 44, no. 9 (September 2006): 1301–20, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2005.10.003
- Benjamin Chapman et al., “Emotion Suppression and Mortality Risk Over a 12-Year Follow-Up,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research 75, no. 4 (October 2013): 381–85, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2013.07.014
- Javeria Hashmi et al., “Shape Shifting Pain: Chronification of Back Pain Shifts Brain Representation from Nociceptive to Emotional Circuits,” Brain 136, no. 9 (September 2013): 2751–68, https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awt211
Based on the book Beyond Medicine. Copyright © 2021 by Patricia A. Muehsam, MD. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com
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