As I look at the wedding photograph of my wife and me that hangs on our bedroom wall, I can see the two kids we were then. At the same time, I can’t help but think of what these sixty years of marriage have held, and how our lives have affected not just our family but the world. I wonder who could have predicted where we are now.
A dream I had conveys it best: In the dream, I played the lottery for fun — not for personal benefit but in the hope that I could help those in need with my winnings. I was told I was a lottery winner but there was no cash involved. I realized that the dream’s message is that I had won the lottery — of life. I was making a difference and helping to heal the planet. Our family of five children and eight grandchildren was the prize. And my books created an even larger family as I became a CD, or Chosen Dad, for people all over the world.
Now let me share why I feel my writing career has been so special. In four years of college I received only one grade of C. If it had been a B I would have graduated summa cum laude, with the highest honors. The course was in creative writing. Twenty-five years later, when my first book, Love, Medicine & Miracles, became a #1 New York Times bestseller, I wrote to Colgate University and asked if they could raise my grade to a B. I was kidding, of course, but I received a serious letter explaining they could not alter my grade. The child in me who wrote that letter has also helped me help others by bringing humor into people’s lives, humor that can help them heal.
Pay attention to small things because there are no coincidences. For example, I never would have attempted to write a book, especially after my experience in college with creative writing, if someone hadn’t asked me after one of my lectures if I ever planned to write a book. After that question got me thinking about writing, all the people I needed appeared in my life. Instead of writing a book I recorded my thoughts, and the recordings were turned into a book by a capable writer and editor. Today I have no trouble writing because I feel as if I am writing letters to everyone. They flow from my heart and feelings — not my head, as they did when I was a science major in college.
This approach, of simply passing along information, has had surprising results. I was recently voted one of the top twenty spiritually influential living people. My latest book, The Art of Healing
, was nominated for an award as a leading spiritual book, but I’m a physician writing about mind, body, and consciousness. To me, this is medical writing, not spiritual. However, I believe that these honors say much about true healing and the gift my work has been to me. I know I have made a difference with my life and words. And though wordswordswords
can become swordswordswords
I use them as a scalpel to cut away and eliminate disease and not to injure or kill.
When I see that photo on my wall, I’m a bit surprised when I look in the mirror afterward. I don’t ever think of myself as the age I am, which is 81. Literally, when people ask me how old I am, I stop and do the arithmetic and then tell them, because today is my life and when living in the moment you have no age. I try to live the sermon and so do not feel any different than I did decades ago.
I have learned that work is only work if there is someplace else you’d rather be or something else you’d rather be doing. I live free of fear because I have learned about life from my work with those with life-threatening illnesses and family health problems as well. I do, however, get tired at times because of all my caregiving and know from our house full of pets, who are my therapists, how important it is to take a nap, to say no to things you do not want to do, and to ask for help when you need it. I truly feel that when one lives in the moment and loses track of time by acting out of love, one does not age.
Another thing that young man in the photo might not have foreseen is that visual art has become an important aspect of my work and life. I’m an artist and a visual person, and my paintings have helped me to understand what needed to be uncovered within me. Decades ago, when my family and our pets were tired of posing for me, I did a self-portrait in which I was wearing a surgical cap, mask, and gown. It helped me to see that I was hiding myself and my feelings. It also showed me that I had the desire to shave my head, which Carl Jung’s writing helped me to understand as symbolic of the need to uncover my spirituality as monks do by shaving their heads. Perhaps that is part of how I learned to share the truth through my spoken and written words.
My goal is to share and spread love and discovery with my work and writing. I grew up with love, and I am here, as we all are, to share it in our unique way. My middle name, which my parents did not choose and were mystified by when it appeared on my birth certificate, is Shepard. Though it’s spelled differently, I believe it is about my being a shepherd, like all the spiritual leaders of the past, for those sheep who need someone to guide them to fulfill their potential and understand what self-induced healing is about. I do not know who the next messiah will be, but I think we all have that potential and I will keep trying through my life and work.
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