What I’ve learned from my own healing and those of my clients, is that deep, sustainable recovery from suffering, pain, and chronic illness can’t be done in the usual, outdated twentieth century way. We can’t do it with conventional medicine—a brilliant model of healthcare designed to address urgent problems.

As a doctor, that was something I didn’t come to understand overnight. I heard my clients and their countless stories of disillusionment with the medicine that failed them time and again. Initially I searched for the reasons they and their diseases were special. Why couldn’t the great institution of Western medicine help them? But as I listened and learned, I realized the lack of success wasn’t about my clients or the uniqueness of their suffering—it was about the medicine they put their faith in.

Conventional medicine is designed quite brilliantly to save lives and address acute symptoms. And make no mistake, for emergency problems, like appendicitis, a heart attack, or broken leg, conventional medicine is the ideal medical model, leading to rapid assessment and essential, often life-saving treatment. But most of our problems aren’t emergencies. The conventional acute-care strategy simply does not work for most of our health problems and our deeper aspirations for healing.

How Conventional Medicine Can Fall Short:

  • By focusing on the quick relief of acute symptoms when most of our problems are chronic, missing the chance to help us on a deeper level to create sustainable, root-cause-level solutions.
  • By treating just our symptoms, often with toxic drugs that beget their own problems, leading to unsatisfying results, or worse, greater suffering.
  • By offering one-size-fits-all treatment protocols that fail to understand us as unique individuals—and therefore fail us.
  • By failing to give us the time we need for true understanding, over-simplifying our problems and losing the rich context and complexity of our life stories— leading to incorrect diagnoses and delayed healing.
  • By parceling us out on the basis of where we hurt or which organ is in trouble, losing the integration that is the true wisdom of our bodies.

Too often conventional medicine fails to connect with us as human beings or support our innate wisdom about what we each need to heal. By not embracing who we are and our larger stories, this commonplace practice diminishes the possibility for meaningful connection. It’s just interaction. Transaction. And usually, dissatisfaction. I found this wholly unsatisfying and unacceptable. It failed me and failed my clients struggling with chronic problems, leaving them without solutions or hope.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

The prevailing medical model is not an immutable law of nature. It is a construct of thought—a belief system, a story—with a set of tools and treatment standards, created by human beings with specific historical and political underpinnings that make it what it is. Its dogma has become entrenched in our culture and accepted as “the truth,” and “the way it is,” leading to expectations about what the best healthcare is. But it’s a truth, not the truth. It doesn’t take the best care of human beings, especially those struggling with persistent fatigue and chronic, complex illness requiring deeper levels of personal agency and wisdom to recover from.

We can do better. To recover our energy and potential, we must do better. The real problem with conventional acute-care medicine is not in how it fails us, but with our expectations for what it can offer us—we’ve been barking up the wrong tree! We’ve got to write a new story of what the best healthcare is, what the best medicine is, and what it takes to live a healing life.

OUR NEW STORY OF HEALING: IT’S IN OUR HANDS

It’s clear what we have to do. We’ve got to call our power back.

To claim our healing, we must embrace the truth that it’s within our domain. It’s in our hands. Yes, we were born to heal. It’s our potential. But to activate this potential, we must affirm it. We must claim responsibility for it. We must call our power back from the outside sources we ask to “fix” us. From the “experts” who don’t know us as well as we do. Who attempt to define our problems and address our needs with their limited tools and understanding about who we are. We must own the truth that we can change and that we can direct that change to our advantage. We must educate ourselves, learn the skills, find the tools, and create the trusted team of supporters and advisors to guide us as we create our new paradigm of healing.

Yes, you’re hearing me right: we must reclaim the idea that we can heal ourselves. This is the path I’m asking you to walk with me.

Healing is a Primary Urge of All Nature

We must recall that healing is a primary urge of all nature—all things heal. We see it all around us in landscapes devastated by forest fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. As annihilation miraculously morphs into new growth and potential. As hopelessness emerges as hope. Inherently a part of the natural world, we have exactly the same potential for rebirth into something we couldn’t imagine before. We can passively accept our innate healing trajectory and fall short of our desires and true potential. Or we can actively direct this process. We can harness the gifts of nature, of our own biology, to engage and support our healing. But we must claim responsibility for this. We must own our healing. We must actively lead the journey of becoming our optimal selves.

So how do we do it? How do we claim this power of ours?

First, We Commit to This Journey

I’d like to introduce you to our new roadmap—where you’ll see the terrain of your healing life laid out before you. We’ll explore the Nine Domains of Healing to see the key elements of energy recovery and healing we’ll focus on and direct our actions toward. Each domain is supported by the leading edge science of human potential: epigenetics (how our genetic expression and biology are determined by how we live our lives), neuroplasticity (our brain’s enormous potential to change and heal), core systems biology, and body-mind psychology. But before the roadmap, before the bird’s eye view of our healing landscape, we’ve got to open our eyes and commit to this journey.

How?

We show up. We go slow. We pay attention.

Without showing up, going slow, and paying attention, none of our self-care efforts will work. Or if they work, we won’t be able to sustain them. They’ll get lost in the noise, chaos, and suffering of our lives.

By showing up we may be asked to step out of our comfort zones. Many of us are used to going fast, striving hard, and reaching for the goals out in front of us. What might happen if we show up for ourselves? Right here, right now. Will our lives and all the dreams and aspirations we’ve worked so hard for pass us by?

No. Our lives—our true lives, our healing lives—are right here. In present-moment awareness. Just waiting for us to see—really see—and participate. Not fretting about the past or worrying (and planning and striving) about a future that does not yet exist.

Then, through our wide-open eyes, in our present-moment awareness, we clearly see the roadmap and the areas of our lives that most need our attention. We then can call in guidance that makes the most sense to our real lives.

Our New Story of Healing

In this foundational way, we can change our medicine. We can change our lives. We can call our power back by choosing a new story of healing. Our new story of healing includes a roadmap of our choosing that guides our way. Our new story of healing includes tools that fit well in our hands and skills that support our real lives. Our new story of healing is inspired by the authenticity of Life School—our greatest teacher—ourselves. Our new story of healing is found by showing up, going slow, and paying attention.

Introductory Exercise to Taste the Path—Practice Being Present

I want you to take a few seconds and pause from reading, just long enough to let go of your thoughts— which by their very nature exist in past or future time—and get into your body, which is inherently linked to the present moment.

Take a deep cleansing belly breath. Breathe into the belly, hold just a second, then let go with an audible sigh. Repeat this several times. With your awareness on your breath, you have entered present time.

Now, let’s add a little action. Sit down, and pet and coo over your dog or cat. Smell a rose, slowly inhaling its perfume and let it permeate your whole being. Think of something hilariously funny and let yourself laugh. Lie down on your back (right there on your floor) and let your arms and legs splay out comfortably around you. Feel your whole body against the ground and breathe.

Focus your awareness on your breath and your task. Then come on back.

That was you in present-moment awareness. Not so hard, eh? This is the foundation of all our lessons and practices throughout this book. This is the key to your healing life.

THE PATH—YOUR ROADMAP FOR A HEALING LIFE

This is the journey of our lives, but we do not take it alone. We must engage trusted, valued partners to encourage us, support us, guide us, and give us feedback. And we must come prepared. We urgently need a roadmap for how best to take care of ourselves. We need to see the bird’s eye view of the terrain in front of us and choose what we need for ourselves. We need our power back. This is where I can help you.

I am highly trained: I have board certifications in internal medicine and Functional Medicine, and I am a founding diplomate of the pioneering American Board of Holistic Medicine. But my greatest teacher is Life School, what I call the profound lessons of my own experiences as a person, a physician, and a patient, and how I’ve integrated them with science, cultural wisdom, and experiential knowledge, gleaned from my work with thousands of clients—my true teachers, most of whom discovered their path of healing—over my many years of practicing medicine. From this work, inspired by the innovative science of Functional Medicine, the genius of body-mind wisdom, and my clients’ transformational journeys, I’ve synthesized a roadmap based on our commonalities, which I can’t wait to introduce you to.

Our new Nine Domains of Healing roadmap will guide us on a journey that explores our needs and problems as whole people, that offers solutions that go straight to the cause and to the heart of all healing—recovery of our precious energy. You will find our journey is grounded in the fundamental ways we care for ourselves because we know the bones of our healing are in how we call our power back: how we show up, slow down, pay attention, let go, love, balance, sleep, move, eat, think, feel, and live.

We’ll take this beautiful journey together. Through me, you are connected to thousands of clients I’ve worked with and the countless others just like us, ready to step up into the power of their inner wisdom and courage. We’ll share and build on our successes. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel or make the same mistakes. We know where we’re headed: Big Energy. Potential. Wholeness. Healing.

Our new story of healing—our power, our energy, our health—will become the path as well as the prize: the way to our untapped potential.

LAST THOUGHTS—OUR LIVES ARE MIRACLES

Why? Why do we work to heal ourselves?

Because our lives are miracles. Because our true potential, when realized, is a miracle, begets miracles, sees and understands the miracles all around us.

In the end, the greatest miracles are in discovering our true selves, our true potential, and the deep meaning of our lives. Only through deep awareness and recovery of our bodies can these deeper aspects of us be revealed.

I know this all for sure. I see it in all the stories of struggle and transformation that I’m privileged to witness every day in my consultation room. We’re all on this hero’s journey. We are common people with great, but perhaps untapped courage, strength, and accomplishment. We are not superpeople with superpowers. We are ordinary people deciding to create change in our lives.

It takes great courage to step up to the change that leads to healing. But the heroism and healing seem more commonplace to me now, knowing what I know and have learned from decades of study and experience and knowing how completely accessible deep healing is to even those people who are the most sick and dysfunctional.

It is my hope that this remarkable transformation becomes accessible to everyone, that it becomes more commonplace. That the miraculous becomes commonplace. My hope is that more people will discover the miraculous nature of their lives and how fully accessible it is to each one of us.

This is the ultimate message of this book: that your healing is in your own hands. All you need to recover your energy and vitality is accessible to you, right now. A new roadmap is available to you here, within this book, and healing your body is only the beginning. By nourishing your body and accessing your true power through showing up, going slow, and paying attention, you expand your energy, your strength, and your resilience to live a healing life. And your healing and energy elevates your experience as a human inhabiting a meaningful, purposeful, and extraordinary life.

Resources

Karyn Shanks MD. Heal: A Nine-Stage Roadmap to Recover Energy, Reverse Chronic Illness, and Claim the Potential of a Vibrant New You. 2019.

Karyn Shanks MD. Your Beautiful Energy Roadmap: The Nine Domains of Healing. 2019.

Gonzalez MJ, et al. Integrative Medicine: a paradigm shift in medical education and practice. P R Health Sci J. 2000.

World Health Organization. Patient empowerment and healthcare. 2009.

The American College of Cardiology. The Patient’s Voice/Patient Empowerment: Through the Eyes of Doctor and Patient. 2019.

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Karyn Shanks MD

About the Author

Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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