2015 in Review

What a big year it has been! My first book came out at the end of 2014 – Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. I have traveled a lot this year for speaking engagements: from here in Seattle to Denver, Colorado, Auckland, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia.

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I just picked up Jean Houston’s book, The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology. I was surprised to read her introduction to the second edition. She describes that in September of 1992 she stood at the northern-most point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga and watched the waters of different oceans come together. She asks her companion if “this is the place where the planetary DNA gets coded anew?” He replies, “it is…the place where all Maoris go when they have died to lift off to the Other World,” (vii).

The Search for the Beloved

This is the place, right by this tree in the photo, named Te Aroha (love), where the Māori believe that departing spirits leave this world for the other after death. Houston’s guide continued, “It is because of places like this…where the spirits of many people and many lands can meet and refresh themselves. And it is here as well…that we remember who we are and…And call our spirits home,” (viii).

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I, myself, stood in this same place, looking down on the coming together of masculine and feminine waters and of the place where souls leave this place after death – during my last month living in New Zealand, November 2013. See my blog about this trip.

Now, 2 years into living back in the United States, but in a new region, Seattle in the Northwest, I am at this point. Sorry, I know that sounds like Yoda-speak, I just saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Where am I now? Where is my home? Is my home here in the Northwest?

My wife and I went up to Victoria, British Columbia on the Victoria Clipper for an overnight weekend for our 24th wedding anniversary last weekend. Here are a few photos from that trip.

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We are still exploring this region, so it seems difficult to call it home when it is so new and so far from where we grew up and where most of our relatives live. I have been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell lately, as well as other authors (whom I will discuss below). This has been a big part of my transition from “down under” back to the Northern Hemisphere. At age 48, this has been my mid-life transition, like Dante taking his mid-life journey:

Midway along the journey of our life

     I woke to find myself in a dark wood

I have developed a class for veterans based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. The hero hears a call to adventure, crosses a threshold, meets mentors and challengers, has a descent into the unknown world, comes to a challenge which is both external and internal, comes to terms with the inner/outer feminine as well as the authority of society, re-crosses the threshold to the known world, but here finds himself or herself a stranger in a strange land and must work to re-acculturate to their own home. What the hero finds at the furthest point of the journey is the gift or boon which transforms the self and has the potential to renew and transform society as well. But often, this gift is hard to see and the physical treasure might even be lost, as happens to Gilgamesh when he sets down the herb of immortality that he has brought up from the deepest ocean and it is eaten by a snake. This means that the real treasure is the transformation of the self – not some material item. This framework is so useful for returning veterans who have been away in the military world and have difficulty returning back to the civilian world. The book and class I have developed are at the point where I have just submitted it to a publisher for review with a tentative title of, Return:  The Hero’s Journey Home – for Veterans & Society After War.

Hero's Journey

I have found this framework helpful for my own return and I have felt fellowship with these lost souls I have been working with. Reading Houston’s introduction, my mind returned to that rocky outcropping where Te Aroha clings to the cliff, serving as a guidepost for those who have died and transition on to another world. The end of my life in New Zealand really was a kind of death for me, while I am living here in the Northwest, I am still waiting in some ways to be reborn, to find out who I will be and what my life will be like here. The Northwest is the boundary between the physical West and the spiritual North on the medicine wheel. This brings me to the other major project I have been working on, co-authoring a book with my friend and Brother Joseph Rael (Joseph likes to think of us as verbs, rather than nouns, thus “Joseph-ing”), whose Tiwa name is Tsluu-teh-koh-ay (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

I met Joseph in October of 2014 and he and I have met in person a few times and been talking on the phone and exchanging letters for work on our book, which we are calling Becoming Your Own Medicine. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Joseph. Not only does he make me ponder spiritual questions, he is really fun to work with and I always laugh with him. We are getting to the point of doing some editing work on the manuscript for the book and it is very much my own personal journey, my own hero’s journey as much as it is about Joseph’s teachings. Of course I have been reading and re-reading Joseph’s books and he just re-released a new version of his classic, Being & Vibration: Entering the New World. Hopefully the hero’s journey book and Becoming Your Own Medicine will be released in 2016/2017.

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In addition to my work with veterans and my collaboration with Joseph, I have been doing some deep study of various topics and authors. 2014 was largely reading Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham’s works on esoteric Islam and Sufism. This also included a lot of the well-known poets, Rumi and Hafiz, but also one of my favourite books of that time, The Unveiling of Secrets: Diary of a Sufi Master by Ruzbihan Baqli. In 2015, I met Richard Miller, who was kind enough to spend some time talking about iRest & yoga Nidra, when he was up here for a conference. This year has been defined by reading a lot about Hinduism and Kashmiri Shaivism with the principle of non-duality being a primary focus, as well as the concept of spanda, the divine creative pulsation which corresponds so well to Joseph Rael’s teachings about reality. These books have primarily been by Jaideva Singh and Mark S. G. Dyczkowski.

The Unveiling of Secrets

Another topic that has been of interest to me is understanding the foundation of American democracy and seeing how we have lost touch with that and how we can re-invigorate the sense of non-denominational spirituality and human rights that were foundational for our country. I think this has been a kind of re-acquaintance with the U.S. for me. Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, Jacob Needleman’s The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, Steven Hermann’s two books Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward and Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul have helped me to come to a re-imagining of the idea of America.

George Kirazian

George Kirazian

Another highpoint of the year was working with George Kirazian on an interview with him about his friendship with translator Juan Mascaró, whose renderings of The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Dhammapada are still readily available in the Penguin Classics series.

Juan Mascaro

Juan MascaróUpanishads

 

In addition to my own writing, I look forward to continued collaboration with Joseph Rael, as well as some other friends of mine: Gary Orr, Hilton Kopp, and Sandy Carter. I met Gary and Hilton during my time down under and we have some great ideas – stay tuned…I met Sandy when she did a book review of Re-humanizing Medicine for the Courage & Renewal blog. She and I put together a conference proposal on Joy in Work, which was turned down, but has led to our long-distance collaboration on a project on this same topic, which I have been calling, A Work of Joy. This examines finding joy in work at a time when there are high rates of stress and burnout in health care.

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At the VA, I have a couple projects I have been working on that are specific to the VA. Along with Nicola De Paul, Craig Santerre, and Jenny Salmon, we have been developing a Whole Health class that provides holistic support and inspiration to veterans who are interested in taking a more active role in their health care. I have also been working with Laura Merritt on an adaptation of Re-humanizing Medicine for VA staff, which we have been calling, Caring for Self. It is great to be able to apply some of the ideas I developed in my book to self-care for staff as well as for patients.

I’ll close in returning to what Houston writes in the introduction to her book, The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology.

“The premise of this book is that we must call our spirits home, lest we forsake our origins, and lose hope, meaning, health, and the ability to serve and participate in the greatest challenge that history has ever known…We are all being asked, both singularly and collectively, to cross a bridge and to meet halfway a rising reality, a sacred reality. Thus the need for training in journeys into the Sacred,” (viii).

Houston develops this concept of Sacred Psychology and training in journeys into the Sacred. I feel that this is also the focus of my work in the past two years. My understanding of the hero’s journey class is that it is a form of initiation rite to help veterans move from a state of being of war to a state of being of peace in order to make the transition back into the civilian world. One of the primary ways of doing this is a kind of spiritual awakening that accompanies a shift from a materialism-based separation to a spiritual-based sense of connection and even oneness with others. I have also come to understand my work with Joseph as being a guidebook on how to become a visionary in order to move from war to peace and again to move from a state of isolated separation (which is a state of conflict) to a state of Unity as expressions of the Vast Self. This requires dying to the old self and being reborn, continuously.

Hero's Journey Reflection

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Here is how Joseph ends his book, The House of Shattering Light:

The House of Shattering Light

Each of us is a ceremony, a vibration of the All-That-Is. We ourselves are the Vast Self, that One Actor in the universe, who creates continually in all moments. We are the Vast Self playing in creation as creatures, as individuals.

In the experiences of my life, through loss and transformation, ceremony and story, I learned how to emerge continually from the individual self that is Joseph Earl Head Rael into the Vast Self again. In the kiva, in the sweat lodge, in the sun dances and long dances. I have learned to die to myself in order to know the Self, dying from this House of Shattering Light into states of ecstasy, and then returning again, that the Vast Self might drink continually of the light that It is creating.

To know ourselves as the Vast Self playing is to be both human and divine. It is for this we all are born, to be mystics, fully alive and dancing, (199-200).

My return to North America and my transition into the second half of my life have brought me to look less for a physical place of home and more for a spiritual, internal place – a place that also includes many places in the world as well as the whole world, or as Houston writes, “a citizen of the universe.”

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Alliance of International Aromatherapists conference – Denver, September 2015

I just got some photos back from a conference I did in Denver back in September. My dear friend, Sara Holmes encouraged me to present at the conference. Here is a photo of the two of us together with Sara promoting my book!

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I have been presenting variations on the topic of “Becoming a Whole Person to Treat a Whole Person.”

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The idea is that we lose important aspects of ourselves as we learn to be good technicians. Therefore we must work to balance out our technical learning with human learning. This is what I call the “counter-curriculum,” the way that we re-humanize ourselves as we go through technical training and work in institutions that value economic and productivity issues in which we can lose sight of our humanity as well as the humanity of the client we are there to serve.

Be a Whole Person slide

In order to be a whole person, we must have some understanding of what it means to be a whole person. This is the framework that I use in my book:

Whole Person

I did a book signing as well as the presentation at the conference. The book signing was fun and I was able to have some great in-depth conversations with some people doing really great work. Here I am talking with Debrah Zepf (center) and Julia Graves, author of a very interesting book, The Language of Plants (right).

David Kopacz, Debrah Zepf, Julia Graves

David Kopacz, Debrah Zepf, Julia Graves

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Here are a few photos from the presentation that the conference photographer took:

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I was originally going to do a workshop, but ended up doing an hour presentation at the conference. I ran out of time to do this visualization, or perhaps I should call it a scentualization exercise. Here was the idea I had for this particular aromatherapy conference:

Integrating the Scents of Self

I also spoke some about my work with veterans and developing the hero’s journey class based on Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey. This class uses narrative, story telling, writing, mindfulness, and understanding PTSD as a form of cultural adaptation as well as a conditioned response of the nervous system. Here is a painting that I did as part of the class where we do a “hero’s project.”

Hero's Journey

It was a great conference and I really enjoyed meeting these wonderful healers there. Sara had me stand in front of this painting for a photo and I thought the lighting was interesting, so let’s end this post with that. I forget what Sara was saying to try to make me laugh, but I know it was great seeing her and her husband, Chuck – great friends from our time in Central Illinois:

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Australasian Doctors Health Conference, Melbourne, Australia

I just got back from a presentation at the Australasian Doctors Health conference in Melbourne Australia. Ironically,  I got sick at the doctors health conference! It was worth it, though, such a great conference, great people, great topic! Now I am back in Seattle, recovering and unpacking.

The flight out of Seattle, heading to LA for my connection, had some great sunset views.

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I presented on “Becoming a Whole Person to Treat a Whole Person.”

becoming a whole person

I first stopped in New Zealand for a quick visit with friends. Of course, I stopped at my favourite morning coffee place, the Kohi Cafe and looked out at the ocean (I didn’t have my good camera, so these are just a few snaps with my phone camera).

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I spent a very beautiful and peaceful day out at the gannet colony in Muriwai. It was a cool, blustery day. One of my favourite places on Earth.

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I then headed down to Melbourne, Australia. I met up with my friend, Gary Orr and we brainstormed some about doing a presentation at Esalen sometime in the future. We also talked about dusting off our blog: Creating Human Work Environments, which we need to update our details on and do some more posts.

Then the Australasian Doctors Health conference. This was the third time I attended and presented. It was great to catch up with some friends and hear about what Marsha Snyder is up to and about her book, Positive Health: Flourishing Lives, Well-being in Doctors.

Marsha's book

Add I spent some time catching up with my mate, Hilton Koppe, a GP from Lennox Head, Australia, who has been doing some great stuff on re-humanizing medicine using poetry and writing. Here is a snap of him doing his presentation:

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My presentation was on “Becoming a Whole Person to Treat a Whole Person.” This is a theme from my book, Re-humanizing Medicine, because you can’t give to others what you haven’t first developed in yourself. One thing I have been working on is trying to come up with a conceptualization of how doctors can be both competent technicians as well as compassionate healers.

developing a technician healer identity

technician.healer characteristics

And I have been working with Laura Merritt on adapting my book into a staff self-care workbook called, Caring for Self. This uses the multi-dimensional whole person model from Re-humanizing Medicine in a workbook format. One thing that is new is that we have been working on developing a set of three attributes for each dimension to give a gestalt of what that dimension represents.

Caring for Self

Here is the outline of the nine dimensions with the three attributes of each dimension listed. From my work with Joseph Rael, I challenged myself to develop these attributes as verbs rather than nouns, to show that we are in a never-ending process of becoming, rather than thinking of ourselves as static objects we are flickering lights of being & vibration!

BODY: embodying, moving, savouring

EMOTIONS: feeling, connecting, flowing

MIND: thinking, minding, evolving

HEART: creating compassion, loving, expanding boundaries

CREATIVE SELF-EXPRESSION: wording, drawing, expressing Self

INTUITION: dreaming, visioning, receiving

SPIRIT: unifying, integrating, transforming

CONTEXT: harmonizing, sustaining, communing

TIME: growing, transitioning, becoming who you are

I met some great, very inspirational people at the conference. I didn’t have much time in Melbourne, but I walked around the market a bit and stopped in at the State Library of Victoria which had a good coffee shop and book store.

One thing I love about Australia is all the parrots everywhere. Here is photo of a few of them:

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The next Australasian Doctors Health Conference is to be held in Sydney, Australia in two years…I’ll be there…

We Need a New Holistic Paradigm – “Re-humanizing Medicine” Review

Please check out the Courage & Renewal Blog post, “We Need a New Holistic Paradigm – Re-humanizing Medicine Review,” by Sandra Carter, of the Center for Physician Leadership Coaching.

Here is a quote from the review:

“If ever a path was needed, the time is now! Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.’ In this case, a must read for physicians is Re-humanizing Medicine by David Kopacz, M.D., who shines a ray of light on a positive path forward.”

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Thanks Sandra for your kind words and thanks Courage & Renewal for your support!

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Some Photos from the Book Talk at University of Washington Bookstore, January 8, 2015

Photos courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor appeals to colleagues: Do more than problem-solve

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Dave Kopacz at book reading at University of Washington Bookstore

HSNewsBeat article on Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine.

http://hsnewsbeat.uw.edu/story/doctor-appeals-colleagues-do-more-problem-solve

“The push toward evidence-based medicine can blind physicians to other aspects of human interaction, Kopacz suggests.”

 

 

 

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Re-humanizing Medicine: On the Radio and Book Reading!

 

Rehumanizing Medicine Book on Exam Table

Follow this link for an 8:30 minute interview with Dave Kopacz on KUOW public radio: “Doctor’s Push To Get People Talking About Health”

Join me for a book reading and signing

Thursday, 1/8/15 at 7 PM

University of Washington Book Store on the main campus

Address & Phone

4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Phone: 206.634.3400

Book Reading: University of Washington Bookstore!

Discussion & Book Signingjhp53db8b682bd57[1]

University of  Washington Book Store
U District store
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

THURSDAY • January 8, 2015 • 7:00PM

Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine (AYNI BOOKS)

Throughout the field of medicine, science and data reign supreme. In his new book, David R. Kopacz, MD, argues that this has resulted in a predominantly dehumanized profession. If medicine is to be effective, claims Kopacz, doctors must integrate a more holistic and human framework into their training, their practice, and their own personal understanding and self-care. To learn more about Kopacz’s impassioned challenge to the field of medicine and his map for individual and systematic transformation that has implications far beyond the medical field, join us at this special reading and signing with the author.