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Celebrating Changes
(An  article by Barry Sultanoff, MD)


I. Case Report on Treating Depression With Natural Approaches

Gathering Strength

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began...
...though the whole house
began to tremble...

Mary Oliver,
"The Journey"

When Hal came to my office in May of this year, he was trembling. His "whole house" had been shaken. His depression was so pronounced that nine out of ten psychiatrists would have put him on antidepressants. Probably, four out often would have hospitalized him.

Through the final months of his wife's ovarian cancer, he had struggled nobly to save her life. He had intended to cure her, and had made that his personal mission. Devouring everything he could find pertaining to her illness, he had virtually lived by her bedside, accompanying her tirelessly and with dogged devotion. But, as he described it to me at that first visit, he had "lost the battle". Considering himself a failure, he felt guilty, ashamed, and hopeless. He had weathered the aftermath of her death for several months, but lately was unable to sleep past 3:00 AM and lacked the motivation to get out of bed. For the first time in his 63 years of life, he was feeling panicked and out of control.

Hal had fallen into a pit of depression, clueless about how to pull himself out. He had no idea how to re-energize himself or how to regain the unshakable confidence that had been his professional signature, and the hallmark of his approach to life. All his excellent skills as an electrical engineer were proving useless to him in navigating this inner territory.

As his doctor, I believed that I could best serve him by helping him access his own power source. By re-awakening this capacity to turn on his "inner electricity", he would heal himself. As I sat with Hal at our first meeting, I took off my medical model hat. I put it on the shelf for safekeeping. I slipped off my shoes and put my feet up on the edge of the chair. I looked Hal in the eye. I saw a man ready for a new vision, one that would give him direction for the future and sustain him for the rest of his life. I knew the power of relationship as a context for healing. So, I enlisted him in a plan for us to work as a team.

We agreed that we would journey together, at times go to places beyond the world of conventional medical practice---into potent, uncharted realms where "secret" things about healing were known. There we would access and harvest restorative powers, greater than any antidepressant medication. I had deliberately made the choice to view Hal's crisis as process/poetry rather than pathology. Some might consider that risky. But I was struck by the poignancy of his demeanor at this crossroads, and his readiness for change. He seemed almost childlike in his openness to support and willingness to receive guidance. His guard was down and his antenna was up, leaving him highly sensitized to new input. His chiropractor, who had referred him to me, had already introduced him to non-rational approaches to healing.It seemed to me that Hal was on the crest of a breakthrough. His engineer's mind was opening to more inclusive ways of perceiving. He had reached the limits of what he could achieve through pushing forward in the old way. He was ripe for discovering an inner dream that would inspire and guide him, long after our sessions were over.

My task, to paraphrase Mary Oliver's words from "The Journey", was to help Hal know what he had to do---and begin! Over a period of about 100 days, we met once or twice a week. These meetings, which I like to call "holistic coaching", took many forms: conversation, guided imagery, nutritional counseling, visioning, energy work using sound, touch, aroma, and other modalities. Also significant was some cognitive reframing, using an approach called Essence Repatterning(TM), in which we uncovered, and eliminated, a "rule for life" of getting close to---but never achieving---breakthrough. Hal's recovery has been wondrous.

Though his depression persisted through the first several weeks of our working together, we continued to actively explore his vision of a new life with unlimited possibility, built upon the conviction that listening and allowing, rather than controlling and pushing, would get him there. Hal's story beautifully illustrates what's possible when we view personal crisis not as a medical issue, but as a healthy and necessary opportunity for soul-searching, along a pathway to self-realization. Hal's story is a clinical example of what can happen when we broaden our perspective and focus on long-term possibility, knowing that we can cultivate an inner dream that can nourish us for a lifetime. It is often a leap of faith to trust a patient's capacity to heal him- or herself. But that leap may pay great dividends, for the practitioner as well as for the patient. That kind of daring leap, when taken judiciously, and supported by intuitive wisdom and the intention to be of the highest service, may be a worthwhile model for 21st century medical practice.

(C)Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1997

II. A View of 21st Century Medicine

Ancient Sailors

There is no fair wind for the one who has no direction.
-Chief Seneca

Imagine that we have time-traveled to the year 2097, one century from now.
Looking back from this vantage point, we can reflect upon the legacy that our
forbears have provided us.

Who were these ancestors, the ones who at the dawn of the 21st century were
sailing through the darkness? How did they navigate in those challenging and
confusing times? What can we learn from them, as we look back one hundred
years to the year 1997?

A century ago, these bold pioneers were striving to find a new course for
medicine. The medical ship of state had nearly run aground on the jagged
rocks of materialism, hyper-specialization, and an odd reductionism that had
elevated the sub-molecular to a kind of Holy Grail, while, ironically,
devaluing the soul.

This outmoded way of thinking was beginning to yield, however, to a more
enlightened view. This new way of perceiving the world and valuing life
became the foundation for what we now, in 2097, call "modern medicine."

Through the dark night of their collective soul, our ancestors eventually
learned that "Less is more". Consistent with that understanding, they
developed a language and a communications style that was based upon a choice
to be simple, yet effective, in all that they said and did.

They believed in refinement, and in particular, in using the fewest words
possible to convey the "meat" (or, as the vegetarians preferred to call it,
the "soy-juice") of the issue. This streamlined way of languaging was valued
as a legitimate healing art. Words were believed to have authentic healing

Our ancestors honored, and for inspiration often drew upon, the wisdom of
indigenous peoples from diverse cultures. One traditional way that came
strongly into favor in their time was the haiku poetry of Old Japan. In this
style, they could speak volumes, using an economy of words.
These poetic stanzas were recited to me by one of the tribal elders, on a
winter morning at sunrise. They are an offering to our modern-day community
of healers.

Each poem from long ago is a tiny gift of practical wisdom for us now, tucked
into our collective holiday stocking:

First, about DIRECTION.....

Traveling inward
we meet the Healer fully;
Go there for the cure.

Second, about FOCUS....

The surgeon's knife cuts
through layers of the body;
Intention heals the wound.

Third, about KARMA......

Just think about it:
If you throw away the parts,
a dying whole will haunt you.

Fourth, about SILENCE.....

Orchids making love
beyond ideas of orchidness
blossom in your ears

Fifth, about the power of the HEART....

Goethe said it once:
"We are shaped by what we love"
Listen now, it's you!

Sixth, about the healing power of the ARTS....

Artist's medicine:
Paint the soul alive;
Brush with compassion.
Seventh, about LEVITY....

How we used to be:
Searching selves too seriously,
we hid our light away.

Eighth, about STORY....

All that there is
is what you tell yourself
about all that there is

Ninth, about PHARMACOLOGY....

Every medicine,
same active ingredient:
elixir of empty space

Tenth, about partnership with NATURE...

In your healing art
practice deep ecology:
Greet the Great Green Groves.

Eleventh, about the HIPPOCRATIC OATH......

Don't do what you can't,
do what you can safely do;
Know the difference.

Twelfth, about COOPERATION....

Often joining hands
is nourishing, through finger chi
balancing community

And lastly, thirteenth (they were not superstitious),
about PASSION....

Where passion reigns
the soulful body quivers;
ecstatic cells sail home

(C)Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1997


III. Deep Ecology: Personal and Planetary Healing

Fortunate Blessings

Sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the brow of the flower,
and retell it in words and in touch,
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within,
of self-blessing....

-Galway Kinnell, from St. Francis and the Sow

As professional helpers, we are doubly blessed.

First is the blessing of our vocation: we are called upon to be havens of
hope. Each time a client comes to us, places his or her life in our hands,
thirsts for the miracle (great or small) that an encounter with us can
bestow, we are invited to be a gift of good fortune. Our calm surface can
reflect a deep soul connection. Our attention can soothe. We can be
wellsprings of healing energy.

The second blessing is the gift that each client brings to us. It is not
only we who are called upon to reteach a client her loveliness. We relearn
how beautiful we are, in beholding our own image as seen through the eyes of
that client. That reflection sustains us, spurs us on to be excellent
providers of hope---and inspiration for practical change.

This mutually-sustaining cycle of healthy mirroring is further reflected in
the larger cycles of nature. We are interdependent with the natural
environment. Our place in the office is mirrored by our place in the

A social movement called "deep ecology" seeks to describe and implement a way
of living on earth where the beauty in all things is fully respected. Its
principles invite an attitude of humility: we can bow our heads in awe, even
as we stand tall in celebrating the magnificence of life---and of our place
in its circle.

Deep ecology teaches a healthy balance between intervention and restraint. We
discover how to "tame" the elements, when that is necessary for our survival,
or pleasure. We learn, too, how to "keep our hands off", when that is
appropriate---allowing and celebrating the wildness of nature unrestrained.

In fact, there is no "we" and "they". We interrelate with the whole natural
world---indeed, the entire cosmos---through a pliable, reflective boundary.
At that interface, we dance with "the other" as ourself. We are one with the

The principles of deep ecology describe the "nature" of a healthy
practitioner-client relationship, and a way of being a physician that
supports healthy living on earth. They can inspire us to a deeper calling,
which I believe is our destiny as 21st century physicians---to be "gardeners"
who cultivate practical change throughout our living planet.

Here is a brief exploration of several key principles of deep ecology:

Little to be gained
where excess pruning drains all
of their will to live

This is the principle of non-interference: when in doubt, don't do....or look
for a less invasive approach. (And remember: "If it ain't broke, don't fix

Whether the "patient" shows up as an out-of-control perennial garden or as a
resistant case of hypertension, the "cure" may be the same: in finding just
the right balance between wildness and domestication. The attitude here is
one of working co-creatively with (that patient's) nature. An essential part
of the approach lies in balancing what we do with what we don't do.

We must keep an eye on the broader context. Shall we view the natural
environment as a storehouse of resources put here primarily for human use? Do
we then justify plundering it, wantonly clear-cutting old growth forests,
fishing our lakes to extinction?

Likewise, do we read a high diastolic pressure as an aberration, to be
eliminated or forced into submission by the chemical scythe of an
anti-hypertensive? Or do we look for an alternative---forge an alliance with
nature's rhythms, apply a more gentle stroke? (use self-regulation via
breathing, physical exercise, foods {e.g., garlic} and herbs {e.g., linden,
mistletoe}, homeopathy, flower essences, etc.)

Right questioning
awakens imagination:
answers can wait

Deep ecology beseeches us to look below the surface, to ponder the mystery of
our interconnection with all life. The investigative spirit of 21st century
medicine gives us a friendly nudge, too---asks us to be willing to look more
deeply into ourselves and the nature of our mission.

The purpose of "right questioning" is not just to dig up answers. More
important is to recognize each question for what it really is: an inner
travel guide, a finger pointing at the moon of our own
unconscious......deepening our capacity to imagine what the next level of
questioning might be....as we go ever deeper.

Common sense is
using senses, sight, smell, sound,
feel, this touch will heal

We are coming to a time of coming to our senses, re-educating ourselves to
see (hear, taste, smell) again, with increasing clarity. We'll be trusting
more fully our capacity to discern what is right in front of us. With that
clear vision of the present moment, we'll be able to diagnose more
accurately---by complementing that objective view with a healthy dollop of

This way of seeing will naturally restrain us from abusing the living world.
As we perceive aliveness (in ourselves, in others, in rocks, oceans,
forests), we naturally become shepherds of all life.
Life appears too precious to destroy.

Navigating the 21st century will mean flowing more gracefully in the
confluence of technology and nature that has carried us
to our present level of understanding. We'll think twice before sending
single-hulled oil tankers on a cruise too near to pristine beaches which
are home to aquatic wildlife. By analogy, we'll be less likely to use
potentially destructive therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy without
adding safeguards, such as nutritional and herbal support.

The place where we meet
is what makes the roses sweet:
live in the garden

In the '60s and '70s, Marshall McLuhan taught that "the medium is the
message". In the '00s, we'll come to understand that "the environment is the

Where we practice is how we practice. We'll be honoring traditions such as
Feng Shui, which teach that our "fit" with the environment, even the specific
shape of our office and its placement in relation to its surroundings
determines the flow--even the success or failure!---of our work.

The way we conduct our lives is a broadcast having vibrational impact on
everyone, and everything, around us. As we live in harmony within our own
microcosm, we offer a unique gift to the world. We become a fortunate
blessing upon the earth.

A work of art
framed in shades of chronic pain
walks through the door

It will be fortunate, indeed, when we routinely see through the veil of
symptomatology to the core of astonishing beauty that greets us. In that way
all life, both human and non-human, can flourish, framed by our own
enlightened perception.

The suffering patient is a work in progress. We are the assistants of the
Great Sculptor.

The bottom line is this: health is the natural expression of a thriving
planetary community. It will take all of us together to build a vital
community worldwide. But, that possibility is on the horizon.....

When that time does come, we will all flower from within, of
self-blessing..... and we'll share the blessing, by affirming that blossoming
in one another.

(C)Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1997

IV. The Joys and Challenges of Home-Based Medical Practice


"It just may be that the most radical act we can commit is to stay home.
Otherwise, who will be there to chart the changes?

-Terry Tempest Williams,
from "The Wild Card"

Four years ago, I embarked upon a new style of practice: I moved my office
from a downtown Bethesda high-rise to the relative quiet of my suburban home.
During this time, I have discovered that a home-office can be a fertile
field, where a garden of love can thrive. Real work gets
accomplished.....though, more often than not, the work feels like play!

Cosmic good humor keeps germinating here---and it continues to sprout seeds
of well-being. An ambiance of ease and permissiveness abides. Clients often
describe a quality of acceptance that they feel here...a welcoming energy
that transcends gender, culture, race, species, and even generational

One thing is certain: We do not deal in definites. I make no pretense of
having the final word on what is right for any particular client. Everything
is continually under review.

This "therapeutic den" of mine is a place where magic and so-called objective
truth can comfortably intermingle. Serendipity is treasured. This home-office
is an inviting place, where child and adult can both curl up on the (futon)
couch together.

One client who always loved coming here was 2-year-old Anna. Anna's dad was
discharged from the psychiatric unit of one of our local hospitals following
a manic episode and referred to me for follow-up. I believed that
strengthening the family bond was paramount, so I initiated a series of
family therapy sessions, with Anna, her mom and dad.

These meetings proved to be an important refuge for Anna and her parents, a
way station in preparation for their journey home to their roots. For,
unbeknownst to any of us at the time, this family would soon be selling their
home in Maryland and moving west to Oregon. This would prove to be a major
life-journey, of rebuilding the family homestead on land formerly owned by
Anna's grandparents.

A highlight of our family meetings was Anna's love affair with Sandy, a
life-sized golden retriever puppet-dog, who is so close to being a real dog
that at times I meander over the line into believing that he really is alive.
(An 8-year-old friend of mine, after meeting Sandy, concluded that he is
"alive in a special way", and wanted to be sure that I understood this!)

I ordered Sandy last spring from the Puppet Petting Zoo in Connecticut
(tel:860-872-6899), after having been introduced to one of his cousins at the
Family Therapy Networker Conference here in Washington, D.C. Sandy (still
unnamed, at that time) arrived at my doorstep on a sunny April day, dropped
off by UPS.

I saw that his cardboard "kennel" had several holes punched in it, labeled
"air holes". He must have gotten enough oxygen to breathe, for he survived
the trip and arrived very much alive!

Sandy has been my loyal companion ever since. He is a good traveler and
makes friends easily (A security guard at Orange County Airport fell so in
love with him that we nearly missed our flight!). We have flown to San Diego
("Sandy, eh, Go!"...our first trip---this is how he got his name!),
Burlington (Vt.), and Istanbul (where he was a tremendous hit with the
Turkish locals!). We have ridden the elevators and walked the hallways of
hospitals and convalescent homes, where people smile at us in amazement.

When he is not off journeying with me, Sandy is very content to stay home. He
has chosen as his favorite spot, the floor just below my indoor fountain. As
Buddha sits motionless above him, serious and unperplexed by the random
droplets that splash off thin slabs of black slate, Sandy revels in the
perpetual rain-shower that gently mists his fur.

I believe he is gradually attaining enlightenment through this daily
devotional practice of zazen/hydrotherapy. A practical bonus for me (Sandy
believes it is part of his dharma) is that he protects the hardwood floor
underneath him from water damage.

A colleague recently commented upon the menagerie of stuffed animals, so
prominent in my home/work space. He wondered whether I see a lot of young
children in my practice. I told him that I do see a few (most often with
their parents) and, typically, they love to come here and engage with the

However, Doreen the Dragon, Armand the Armadillo, Leonard the Lion, my Jack
Russell terriers Pretzels and Be-er (who affirms that he is a be-er, not a
do-er!), and their pals would all be here, anyway. They are part of my
adopted family. This is their home, too!

I love the Sufi poet Rumi's inviting words, "Out beyond ideas of right or
wrong, there is a field. I'll meet you there!" My office intends to be such a
field, where pre-judgment (i.e., prejudice) is suspended. This way, my
clients and I meet in the undulating possibility of what can be, our minds
uncluttered by worn-out rules.

Especially when a child like Anna shows the way, professional life here
becomes animated and full of surprise awakenings. There need be no artificial
separation between what is "mature adult" and what is "healthy child".
Unpredictability is a friend---and spontaneity, a welcome healer!

In practical terms, working at home has its pros and cons. One obvious plus
is the (non-)commute. Another is the ease my clients now have in
parking---often a stressful challenge in the congested, commercial areas.

A question I often hear is, "Don't you feel isolated, working at home?".
Another is, "Do you really feel OK about sharing your home with your
patients?" To the first, I answer, "Probably a lot less isolated than I might
be feeling were I still working in my old environment---full of people, yet
often sterile of human contact."

To the second question, I give an unequivocal "Yes!"
My home-office is intended to be a haven for all who come. With the exception
of one private room in the back, it is all shared space. Not only do I feel
OK about having my clients here, I thrive on it!

I have had to continually revisit the question of what "healthy boundaries"
really means, as it pertains to competent professional practice. If I were to
have adopted the rigid, impersonal style that I was exposed to thirty years
ago, and had tried to tether myself to that, I would certainly have become
isolated and despondent. I would be bereft of community---at least in the way
I have come to know it.

I suspect I would no longer be practicing medicine.
I might have become a monk or run off to join the circus. Who knows? Instead,
I've found a "middle way", practicing in a home-office that is an unusual
hybrid of monastic serenity and Child's Garden of Whimsy.

Somewhere in that blend, the mature adult physician---with the heart of an
awakened child---is emerging. Most times, he meets his clients in a
profoundly healthy space, where---on his terms and on theirs---a new kind of
"therapeutic friendship" is continually being forged.

(C)Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1997

V. Asking the Right Questions

A Question-Able Practice

Most people don't know
there are angels
whose only job is to make sure
you don't get too comfortable
and fall asleep
and miss your life

-Brian Andreas, "Angels of Mercy" **

As a child in the '50s, I was enamored of the character Superman. Though I
felt klutzy and insecure, my TV model of super-masculinity could perform
superhuman feats. One evening, in the middle of an exciting episode, my
mother suddenly went into labor and was rushed off to the hospital to give
birth to my brother, Steve.

This was the era of black-and-white television, long before the days of
Christopher Reeve---whom we came to know first as airborne Prince Charming
personified, and then, in the aftermath of his riding accident, as a model of
more down-to-earth heroism.

TV-Superman in those days was rather two-dimensional. He looked like a kind
of cardboard cutout, an ER doc of a flat universe, always on call, streaking
across the sky in his fluted cape---with that big, bold "S" emblazoned on his

Were I to write my own version of the Superman parable, I'd depict
Superman/Superwoman as an angel, with a large question mark across her upper
torso, in
place of that signature "S". Her key role, as Angel of Mercy, would be to
always ask just the right questions. These "wise encounters of the
interrogatory kind" would liberate all those in danger of "falling asleep and
missing their lives".

Super-Angel's questions would spark her subjects to awaken themselves from
their Hypnotic Spell of
Disempowerment. Free at last, they would spread their latent wings ("Better
latent than never!")---and lift themselves to bold new heights of
super-generativity, creativity, and self-expression.

Super-Angel's central question, around which all the others would revolve
like planets around their central sun, would be this: "What is possible in
this situation....?"

Perhaps Super-Angel already exists. I found evidence of what looked like an
apparent visit of hers to this worldly plane, in a true story that appeared
in The Washington Post last March. Below, I have summarized that report.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died recently of heart failure, at the age of 44. He
had suffered a rare form of stroke that had rendered him completely
paralyzed....except for his left eyelid, which he was still able to move.

Using blinks of that eyelid as his code for letters of the alphabet, Bauby
collaborated with his stenographer in birthing a book, The Diving Suit and
the Butterfly, now published in France. In it he offers an insider's view of
his condition, medically referred to as "locked-in
syndrome". In the book, he paints a word-portrait of himself as a free inner
spirit who can "fly around like a butterfly", while encased in a motionless

Bauby, former editor-in-chief of France's Elle magazine, had told reporters:
"It was hinted that only a philistine could ignore the fact that I was more
part of the produce market [i.e., a 'vegetable'] than of the company of
man...If I was going to prove my intellectual potential had remained superior
to that of a radish, I could only count on myself."

Count on himself [with a little help from his stenographer-angel], he did.
Blinking his eyelid in code more than 200,000 times, he wrote his 130-page

How might health professionals don their Super-Angel habits and assist in
this practice of liberation? Part of the answer lies in choosing to value
questions as potent instruments for stretching the imagination.

From this core question, "What is possible (or might be possible) in this
situation?", a whole universe of sub-questions can emerge, questions that can
help unlock the treasures of an awakened mind. All together, these questions
might be used to fill a "rainbow-striped 'black bag'" with potent "verbal
instruments" for change.

A first question to ask yourself is this: "What question(s), used
strategically as part of my interaction with patients, might powerfully
facilitate their healing?" Let this question simmer awhile, with the
intention of having an answer. Perhaps write it on a
piece of paper near your bed just before falling off to sleep, and be
available to any clarity that comes to you during the night and/or upon

Here are some of the questions I carry in my own rainbow bag that have
proven to be safe and effective for moving the healing process to a new

1. What outcome, if you could have it, would make today's visit a success
for you? (I have found it helpful for clients to look at what success on
their terms looks like---and to align with specific aspects of their chosen

2. What are you likely to make more important than nurturing yourself in the
healthy ways we have discussed? (A way to get a glimpse of specific
attachments to dysfunctional personal/familial/societal values that may be
serving as distractions to self-nurturing)

3. What is most important to you, more than anything else, in this world? (A
way of introducing the point of view that you can't "have it all", but you
can have the one thing you most want, if you can identify it)

4. What's not wonderful YET? (I heard a variation of this one from
motivational maven Tony Robbins---a reminder that we are always in
process...with the best, perhaps, yet to come.)

5. What is worthy of your commitment, energy, and attention? (Looking at the
choice of where to focus---and where and when to take a stand)

6. What would you need to know, to be clear that now is the time to take
action.....? (Looking at patterns, such as procrastination, that may impede

7. How willing are you for us to take this journey together? (A scale of
1-10 may be useful, to be reassesed from time to time; what is the client's
level of conscious willingness to explore and co-create?)

8. What has been your experience with angels? (Angels come in many forms,
human and superhuman. We live in cooperation/community with many helpers, and
it is useful to affirm this.)

9. If you met an angel today, what would you ask for? (Self-explanatory!)

Such questions, strategically placed, can generate breakthroughs: They can
initiate a new level of dialogue. As in Einstein's well-known dictum, "You
can't solve a problem at the level of the problem", questions can serve as
springboards--even catapults--through therapeutic knots in the

Otherwise, as Richard Bach reminds us in his book Illusions, you can "argue
for your limitations, and they are yours!"

** Books of stories by Brian Andreas can be purchased from StoryPeople(TM) at

(C)Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1997

VI. Oneness With the Natural World


I live in a world of duality: I have a body, but also a soul; a chair is
solid, but also empty space; this page has a front side and a back side. The
seeming "two-ness" of things can be very convincing, at times.

But I know, in a deeper way, that I am One with all life. What is the One
Truth beyond these apparent dualities?

A year or so ago, at a yoga retreat in British Columbia, I sat one afternoon
in a magnificent organic garden, planting myself in front of a long row of
sunflowers. The black seed-heads, circled by a dazzling array of orange and
yellow petals, were resting upon thick stalks that held them safely aloft.
Each a flower-monarch in its own little kingdom, these regal-looking heads
looked well supported, and secure.

And yet, I saw that they willingly danced with the diverse community of wind
currents that came to "visit" them. They seemed to trust---even delight
in!---their wind-blown journey through time and space, and its unpredictable

As I watched and listened closely, keeping my "third" eye and ear as open as
I possibly could, I began to learn something about their particular way of
two-ness-into-oneness: The sunflowers "spoke" to me about the cycles of
nature, holding and releasing, honoring and grieving, life and death. They
told me about the oneness we can find when we surrender our rigidly-held
beliefs about how things are, and how they ought to be. We can let go---and
allow ourselves to ripen into humility.

Here is a description, in poetic verse, of what I glimpsed that day:

Bright as bonnets
they nod in the wind,
inviting each current they meet;
on thick, substantial stalks
that yield,
yet promise permanence,
reliable as sunrise.

Do you hear them whispering,
secret-ing among themselves,
loving the integrity
of ancient teachings,
welcoming the One Flow
of a Holy Breeze that comes?

Preferring sun,
they know
there is a time for fertile rain.
Black clouds roll, aroused,
ahead of rustling sheets
of piercing Arctic air.
Heavy raindrops mate and fall,
as yellow petals mist
and dampen gold.

Drenched, released,
the flowers drop their skyward faces,
face the earth
as crystal tears
unwind their way
around the spiny shafts.

The moistened ground agrees
to take another rounded seed,
receives the gift of cycling:
Every year
the new ones come
as elder faces crack
and rain their cache of blackened fruit,
releasing dreams that led them
on their journey to the sun---

On days like this,
when potent truths
of ripening
come home.

(C)Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1997

Barry Sultanoff is a physician who believes that optimal health is the
natural expression of a thriving planetary community. He can be reached
on-line at barrysult@aol.com

To reach us:

Humor Matters™

Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D.
Mirthologist and Clinical Psychologist
3972 Barranca Pkwy. Suite J-221
Irvine, CA 92606