1992

Professional MAP
COMMITMENT TO A SANE ASYLUM
by Barry Sultanoff, MD

As a medical student in the '60s, I was trained to separate myself energetically and emotionally from my patients (to develop "clinical objectivity," as it was called), but I held on (for dear life!) to my intention of becoming a compassionate doctor, and a genuine human being.

I knew that I wanted to create a grounded, alive, and vital experience as the context for my future professional life. I was determined to find a way of being a doctor which would allow me to live and express myself from the heart, as well as utilize the capacities of my mind.

In the process of finding my way I have valued collaboration, community, and partnership. I've aligned myself with those whose vision is broader than the mechanical, surface-type approach that the conventional "medical model" embraces. My clients, too, have been a significant part of my own healing jouney.

Through Machaelle Small Wright's seminars and books I've learned to work cooperatively with invisible allies. MAP sessions and the use of Perelandra Essences have become a valued part of my life and my professional work. In my individual sessions with patients (whom I prefer to call "clients," or "fellow travelers") I now regularly work with a professional MAP team*.

There has been a wonderful shift in attitude and energy present during these sessions. This has felt profoundly nourishing to me and to my clients. Despite what I learned in medical school — which was reinforced during some of the intervening years — I don't have to do it alone. Really, I can't do it alone.

I don't make specific reference to my work with the MAP teams in the following article, but that connection is implied and shows how my life/work is touched in so many ways by the work being done at Perelandra.

I am not your usual sort of doctor. My leanings are not, for the most part, toward participation in local medical societies. What I value most is shared, creative "juice."

My proclivity is for social and spiritual communion with the artistic, creative crowd — writers, clowns, adventurers, inventors, the "growing edge" pioneers of our society. These are my real colleagues.

In medical school, I was frequently told that I was "too sensitive" to be a successful doctor. But the truth is that I'd rather get high on inhaling the subtly intoxicating vapors of the human spirit than be brought down by the lethal sobriety that in those days was pedaled to me as "professionalism."

I have an irrepressible spark of madness . . . and this I am not willing to compromise. In the face of intense conditioning toward convention — beginning with my family of origin and progressing on through the hallowed halls of medical education — I have held on to my zaniness like a life raft in a seductive sea of seriousness that at times threatened to drown me.

I am grateful now that I opposed the Procrustean efforts of my mentors to have me be like the others — conservative, superficial, and elite. At times, maintaining that resistance was a Herculean task — but, as I look back on it now, I see that it has gotten me to where I want to be.

Sometimes I wear my non-conformity too proudly, as if it were a badge of honor, commemorating my survival of those years of boot camp known as medical education — and my subsequent escape to the "suburbs" of unconventional medicine. I know, though, that the refuge to which I have fled — the one in which I have found my sane asylum — has provided me the soil for a unique lifestyle far afield from the world of country clubs, caviar, and cummerbunds.

I still use a stethoscope, though not very often. When I do, it is the pleasure of feeling my eardrums touched by the thumpety-thump rhythm of that magnificent muscular pump that engages me. I have very little curiosity about what sort of pathology might be underlying those sounds. But I do listen to the person whose heart this is, and I joyfully receive him or her into the rhythm of my life.

As I listen and feel those heart-rhythms in my own chest, I connect deeply with my heritage. I remember myself as a cave man beating on stones with dinosaur bones, a Native American drumming in the moonlight, a country doctor with his ear to the chest of an old farmer . . . always listening, listening, listening.

I have learned to listen well. That lesson from medical school was well invested in this pupil. I listen, both without and within. Ears turned inward upon my own heart, I hear a silence broken only by whispers. I know what I know. The quietest voices are the truest. There is no authority higher than my own inner knowing.

I have traveled to India, followed many gurus and teachers. What I have learned is that my own inner knowing is the senior knower. As a student who was always taught to see himself as the child and to view the world "out there" as the parent, I am still dazzled by the bleeding through of this startling awareness: that I am the benevolent king of my own domain, sovereign within my own land, living on equal terms with all the great masters and teachers.

What blasphemy it has been to claim that truth! How often have I wanted to settle back into the seeming comfort of being a helpless child, cradled in the brawny, dependable arms of grown-up "experts." How passionately have I argued that someone else — someone bigger, smarter, someone with more impressive credentials — ought to take responsibility for me, cast my vote, do my work.

I am my own highest authority in a world in which I am an equal, co-creative partner. So, where do I turn now when I am feeling confused? Where do I find a specialist in the body part known as "me?" This is scary stuff! I often feel all alone in the depths of my confusion, shadow-dancing with my lingering fears of inadequacy.

Better, though, to feel alone than to list and drift upon a sea of denial . . . blind to my own strength and wisdom, pretending not to know what I do, pretending not to be who I am. This "coming out" into the truth has been disorienting and feels depressing at times. It is not what medical school has prepared me for.

Life is training me to be a listener and a warrior, to dare to ask for the truth. At the same time another voice in me demands, "I want to go to sleep for awhile: this is tiring!" So, I eat a pint of ice cream or watch a dull baseball game or indulge myself in fantasies of the ideal woman or get lost in sorting through my endless piles of junk.

But what would I do if I ever did get caught up? I have been addicted to an old concept about "activity." Gotta keep movin'. Each time I have allowed myself to touch into the quiet place in my heart for a moment, I have panicked and run away from it. Too slow in there . . . it feels like "not enough." Drama and restless activity have run my life.

Never mistake furious activity for progress! I'd make it mandatory that this message be posted on every wall of every room and every bulletin board in every medical school, every hospital, and every out-patient clinic in America. It is something I remind myself of each day (though I still forget it, more often than not, and race around frantically through my maze of ideas and activities as if I still believed they'd lead me somewhere).

Never mistake furious activity for progress! This is my golden rule, written across the ventricles of my heart, a wraparound banner to help modulate the pace, slow the rhythm, bring the para- and sympathetic halves of me into balance. Gradually it has been seeping through the myocardium, mixing with the arterial blood, gilding the bloodstream, fanning out into the network of organs and tissues that are me.

As my capillaries carry more of this message out toward the surface, I glow with relief . . . which is not spelled R-O-L-A-I-D-S, but S-O-U-L-A-I-D-S. The soul aids the body by co-creating an architecture within which swirling energy can be claimed and named. Parts like bone and kidney and T-cells — condensed energy, architectural wonders.

In medical school I studied neurophysiology, hoping to learn something about consciousness. I did learn some fascinating and useful things, like how a cat is aroused by nerve impulses mediated through the reticular activating system. After that, I fell asleep. But eventually I awakened myself, and I continued to ask pointed questions.

What is it that determines health? (A reasonable question for us in health-promoting professions to ponder.) That has more to do with attitudes and patterns of belief, I have found, than it does with a lack of health "resources," such as access to doctors and hospitals. (Let the new health-care delivery system be constructed inside of us, out of energy pathways that channel awareness.)

So, I've specialized in exploring with my clients those limiting beliefs that can stand in the way of thriving . . . beliefs such as: "I don't deserve to be healthy. Nothing I do will make any difference; I'm supposed to be this way. I owe it to my parents (I would betray them otherwise!) to follow this script."

In our sessions together we explore these beliefs. We track down thought patterns that are outmoded or that don't make any sense (only human beings, of all animals, indulge in this habit of self-doubt and doublethink) . . . but which nonetheless exist consciously or subconsciously, largely determining the direction of our lives. Having seen and identified them, we can move past them. Whatever can be named, can be tamed!

Our salvation is that we can mobilize the power of choice. This is the secret of creating known to all the great masters and available to everyone. Whatever we can find in the depths of our hearts can be manifested in form. Whatever we care enough about to love into being becomes a reality in our lives.

The "tool" that most effectively mobilizes change for my clients and for myself is this: The choice to be healthy, made from a place deep within the heart. This conscious choice can move mountains. At the very least, it can lay a foundation for the success of any interventions that follow. It is a choice made not only for oneself, but also in support of the earth that sustains us all: our whirling planet, attuned to our deepest, heart-felt prayers.

The power of choice can break the spell of our collective hypnosis — that web of distortion wrought by unchallenged, limiting beliefs and social conditioning. This power of choice is our greatest ally. It is the place from which we co-create with the universe . . . .

The inspiration for a rarefied quality of life — and health — moves in us through a deep longing form something more: God, Love, connection, the expression of Universal Law. That something may be hard to define, but it is deeply compelling, nonetheless. My mission with clients is to help them find something in the depths of themselves that they can trust — something steady, something rock-solid yet spacious, utterly still yet irrepressibly dynamic. From that place, a pattern of easeful evolution emerges, and life can move forward gracefully.

It's not that life gets easy. It's just that it feels more "on track," as the struggle against life subsides and trust begins to eclipse doubt and fear. It is a beautiful process to watch and to be a part of. Whenever I am participating in this miracle of transformation, I find it a joy to be a physician.

For much of my life, and particularly during my medical career, I have wrestled with the pain of my differentness. On one hand, I have felt ashamed of it and have "hidden under a rock," where I don't have to risk being seen. On the other hand, I have worn my "uniqueness" as an emblem of rebellion and confrontation, a dramatic crusade starring me (the "good guy") against "them" (the myopic "bad guys").

I've been making a journey from separation toward community. As I follow this path, I am learning to become a genuine participant in a "conspiracy of equals," a celebrant of all that is alive. My fundamental choice is to be a radiant part of the circle, to do — and to be — the best that I can.

At times, I am still plagued with the ghosts of arrogance, but I don't take myself — or the appearance of these shadow-parts — as seriously as I once did.

Here's the truth: I am different, but no better, than anyone else.

 

Editor's Note: The process for working with a professional MAP team is detailed in the book MAP: The Co-Creative White Brotherhood Medical Assistance Program. If you are a health care practitioner and want to include the new Aquarian health and healing dynamics in your practice, this paper is for you. This team is different from your personal MAP team because its focus will be the direction and nature of your professional work.