Forty Years of Sacred Space: Life Lessons from a Doctor's Notebook

Forty Years of Sacred Space: Life Lessons from a Doctor's Notebook

by Patrick Donovan


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, January 24

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452584386
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 10/31/2013
Pages: 154
Sales rank: 1,021,679
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.36(d)

Read an Excerpt


Life Lessons from a Doctor's Notebook

By Patrick Donovan

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Patrick Donovan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-8438-6


To Be Known

"Health is the functional result of a living system's full engagement and participation in the process of continuous creation for the purpose of self-revelation and self-affirmation. It is not the absence of illness." (P. Donovan & H. Joinerbey: "The Face of Consciousness")

"The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease" (Sir William Osler)

The Real Medicine

I have worked as a professional health care provider for more than forty years immersed in the intimate, sacred space of therapeutic relationship with my patients. Over this time, I have learned a lot and have become acutely aware of an important personal truth: Patients do not come to the doctor solely to be cured; they come to be Known. The "real medicine" that heals each one of us on the deepest of levels is not found in a pill, a food, or an exercise alone. It is found in the discovery of ourselves. We are healed in the realization of who we are and why we are here.

For us to taste this real medicine of self-discovery, we are invited to risk our life for a fuller life. To experience its potency and magic, we must be willing to slay dragons and apply penetrating and purposeful introspection to our daily life so that we can acknowledge and bless our successes and failures. To be healed by this medicine is to experience our life as a revelation of itself because this medicine is one that is fashioned of self-revelation and self-transformation. Its actions are facilitated by our struggle to grow, evolve and self-affirm against the incessant drag of entropy and transform into a fuller realization of our self through the disintegrating trend of death and chaos we call illness.

Through my decades of patient care I have come to understand true healing to be a creative act of self-discovery and self-transformation made possible only by the transformative journey illness provides us. The 20th century philosopher and theologian, Paul Tillich tells us, "Healing is not healing, without the essential possibility and existential reality of illness." I agree. Without illness, our healing could not happen. Illness makes our healing possible. It allows for the "essential possibility and existential reality" of our healing. I have witnessed that healing open my patients up to a greater emergence and awareness of themselves and the world around them. Further, our life is what provides us with the fertile soil for our healing to occur out of which our ultimate and full life story then emerges as its own revelation.

Illness as Healing

Any one of us taking the time to truly look at ourselves can readily see that our lives are a continuous experience of birth, death, and rebirth. I like to refer to this triumvirate of experiences as continuous creation. Through continuous creation, our life continually and creatively affirms and reaffirms itself repeatedly against the unremitting drag of ennui, stagnation, and sameness. It continuously reaffirms itself against the continuous demands of death looming always in the shadows of our life. As our life's architect, we are expected to endlessly create newness out of the archaic, novelty out of uniformity. We are always in a constant creative flux of change. As the Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius has instructed, "Unceasingly contemplate the generation of all things through change, and accustom thyself to the thought that the nature of the universe delights above all in changing the things that exist and making new ones of the same pattern. For everything that exists, is the seed of that which shall come from it." Thus, we bear within ourselves the continual, eternal regeneration of the seed of our new life.

It is said, the only constant is change. The change required for our life's continuous creation and renewal of itself is self-transformation, hopefully a transformative change we have consciously acknowledged and chosen. Death is the transformational agent hidden within change. All life within the Creation requires of itself this transformational death for its rebirth, continuance and evolution just as all healing requires the disruptive dynamic of illness for its realization and fulfillment. When we think of it, death and illness are necessary catalysts in our lives; they provide us with the motivational constructs to transform, grow, adapt, and evolve. Through illness, death, and rebirth our life becomes a revelation of itself, a continuous yet fuller recreation of itself. As Pierre Teillard de Chardin would tell us, we continuously move toward the Omega Point. Healing, when we choose to pursue it, is always a transformational event and our life is a continuous series of these events. As we live, we are healed. The more fully we live our lives, the more completely we are healed. Healing, therefore, is an agent of our individual self-realization that transports us into a greater level of wholeness, integration, and completion.

Chaos and Change

Chaos, as described in the new theories of complexity and chaos, is the harbinger of change. It is the bringer of chance and opportunity. It heralds the beginning of the transformative process through death into new life and healing. As such; it is an inescapable reality of life yet, it is a necessary and welcome reality which beckons us toward growth, fulfillment, and ever expanding possibilities for healing. Chaos is found everywhere in nature as life struggles to survive and evolve against the disintegrating trend of entropy. To paraphrase N. Hall in Exploring Chaos, chaos stimulates the generation of new manifestations of complexity and diversity from tiny stimuli allowing us to evolve. It deconstructs the existing order of our life, so the new, more complex, and more self-affirming order of a new "I" can emerge reconstructed from the ashes of the old "I." As Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Erwin Schrodinger describes, "At every step, on every day of our life, as it were, something of the shape that we possessed until then has to change, to be overcome, to be deleted and replaced by something new." So, functioning as the transformative or chaotic element in our healing, illness is the root of our healing's creativity, the essence of our healing's beauty, and the purpose of our healing's liberation.

With this in mind, we might want to think much more carefully about the ramifications of completely removing or suppressing illness as it is addressed in our present healthcare system. The journey through our illness may be precisely the very experiential journey we need to realize our healing and to become something greater, to realize ourselves more fully. After all, we don't "get" cancer. We are not healthy one day and then get cancer the next day. Cancer, like any illness, is a process. We "become" our cancer over time as it becomes an expression of us. We "are" the cancer we manifest. Our cancer arises out of our own tissue and cellular make up. To rid our self of our cancer is to rid our self of a part of our self. Instead of thinking about illness as something we "get," something separate from ourselves needing to be removed or defeated ... as we do when we undertake the "war on cancer," we might well do better viewing our illness as a transformational journey that must be undertaken and completed for our healing to occur. This way we end up transforming our self into something more whole and complete instead of getting rid of a part of our self.

If we view our illness as such a journey, then the "true job" of a health care provider must be as an educated, intelligent and compassionate guide directing us through the chaos of our illness into the new order of wellness awaiting us at the completion of our healing journey. By understanding illness in this way, health care providers may quickly realize the important questions to be asked here of their patients. These questions are no longer solely focused upon, "How do I eliminate my patient's illness or help my patient fight it?" More significantly, the questions become, "What is it within my patient that needs to die ... that needs to be sacrificed, released, and transformed?" and "What is it in my patient that needs to be reborn ... what is it that needs to be facilitated and realized into a fuller manifestation?"

My personal observations over these many years of caring for people professionally has taught me that illness serves us by acting as life's destructive, disintegrating, and profaning process. I have come to appreciate illness as being absolutely crucial to our health as death is absolutely indispensable to life; just as the rotting wood and the decomposing debris on the forest floor is absolutely essential for the healthy growth and lushness of the forest's canopy. Health cannot exist without disease and our healing is impossible without the transformative opportunity the chaotic struggle of illness offers us. Healing through our illness is our path toward greater Being.

We might further understand that all healing involves a risk, a sacrifice or loss of something, a death of some kind to transform and facilitate the rebirth of new life. Like the phoenix out of the ashes, something of the "old" order and function of who we have been, something of our life style, belief system and story must be let go and sacrificed in the transformative fire of illness in order to make way for our healing and "new" order of being. As Tilich informs us, "Life must risk itself to win itself, but in the risking it may lose itself. A life which does not risk disease ... even in the highest forms of the life of the spirit, is a poor life, as is shown, for instance, by the hypochondriac or the conformist." Our illness is the physical evidence of this sacrificial, transformative process occurring in our life. It is the evidence of our healing taking place. It becomes the very process through which we must pass to complete our healing journey. "Healing is not healing, without the essential possibility and existential reality of illness." They are one and the same, just different sides of the same continuum.

The Dynamics of Illness

The extent to which we manifest our illness when caught in the state of our transformational chaos is directly related to:

1) Our initial vitality (the strength of our "vital force") and the potency of that vitality needed to propel us through the chaos of our illness;

2) The characteristics of the triggering stimuli (stressors; environmental exposures; dietary, genetic and life style risk factors; etc.) associated with the onset of our illness;

3) The intensity of the chaos causing our illness into which we have been plunged;

4) The magnitude of resulting disorder we undergo due to the illness; and

5) The degree of rigidity and resistance we have to the transformative change demanded of us through our illness process.

With these factors in mind, it becomes imperative for our healthcare providers to:

1) Assist us in maximizing our vital force;

2) Understand the characteristics of the risk factors and pathology underlying our illness;

3) Minimize or palliate the intensity of the chaos (pain and disability) that is underlying our illness and distracting us from our transformative work so as to facilitate our ability to more readily and consciously complete our healing journey;

4) Minimize the resulting disorder of our illness without suppressing the transformational process of it; and

5) Remove or reduce the obstacles obstructing our healing process on all levels.

This last factor is of particular importance to us on the psycho-emotional and spiritual levels. It is important to us here because it includes identifying, eliminating and resolving any of our self-destructive habits and lifestyles or restrictive beliefs and fears we have causing us to manifest rigidity and resistance to our healing. Oddly enough, I have found many of my patients through the years to be resistant to the transformative changes required for their healing. Some have even been in opposition to it. Further, so many of them even find it difficult or are fully unable to visualize their life as it could be if they were healed of their illness and no longer had to live under the restraints and limitations of their disease process. This aspect of human resistance has always been mind-boggling to me.

How can we not know or not be able to visualize and imagine what our life would be like without our illness? What would prohibit this? Why would any of us, in the depths of our struggle and suffering with illness, not want to at least try to visualize ourselves in a better place surrounded by loving friends, family and natural beauty doing the creative things we most enjoy doing? As I have witnessed far too often, fear is the common culprit here. I have observed so much of our lives to be directed by our fears: the fear of loosing anything even for the possibility of gaining something new and different ("fear of risking death for new life"); the fear of realizing our own power and our own light; the fear of assuming responsibility for ourselves and/or others; the fear of accountability for our own feelings, thoughts, actions, and words and; the fear of dying as well as the fear of living.

I think for many of us, we are more fearful of change than we would like to believe. We fear letting go of what is familiar and routine, of letting go of the experience to which we have come to self-identify as "our reality" even if it is based on illusion. We fear letting go of it more than holding on to it even if it has become an obstacle to our healing and fuller self-realization. As the saying goes, "We would rather wrestle with the devil we know." This is where the rigidity and resistance to change plays its part in keeping us ill. We would rather hold on to the burning, sinking boat than risk letting go of it to swim to shore even if the shore is a short distance away. Our human psyche is programmed by our ego mind to believe what is familiar to us is safe and what is unknown to us is dangerous. This is where our life must risk itself to find itself.

Here is where our asking the appropriate questions can reveal what must be risked and lost and what must be found and realized into manifestation so our healing may occur. I have witnessed the answers to these questions hiding in the nature of our illness; in the nature of our symptoms, signs, and underlying pathology. It is here where the story of our transformative change is continually being told and the answers to our healing are persistently revealed. It is important for our health care providers and for all of us to be able to read our story through our signs and symptoms. By understanding the story of our illness, we can better realize the course and direction of our healing and the guidance needed to be given to us so as to help us fulfill our journey into healing.

The Story of Illness Is the Story of Healing

I have taken the complete medical, psycho-social, and familial "histories" of thousands of patients through these many years of my naturopathic medical practice. In listening to these histories, I have discovered an interesting truth: the story of our life reveals the story of our illness and the story of our illness reveals the story of our life. The theme of our life's struggles and the resistance we manifest to the transformational changes demanded of us by those struggles is the theme that commonly plays itself out in our illness's pathology and symptoms. The morphogenetic field of our consciousness (our conscious and unconscious thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires as well as our familial genetics) is the form matrix that dictates and directs the underlying cellular and biochemical patterning of who we are as we manifest physically in this third dimensional existence. If our morphogenetic consciousness matrix is dysfunctional in any way, so will be its physical outcomes on our cellular make up and physical functions. In this way, the field of our consciousness can dictate the physical form and cellular expression of our illness.

So many of the stories of illness I have heard begin with a single psycho-emotional "wounding" event or with multiple wounding experiences over time that carry within them the same general theme of trauma and dysfunction. We all appear to have our own individual experience(s) of wounding. However, many if not most of our woundings involve primary archetypal themes shared by all of us in our "collective unconscious," as famously described by the psychologist, Carl Jung. We experience wounding as some form of a violation to our intrinsic and authentic sense of who we are as a conscious individual and to our intrinsic expectation and understanding of what it means to love and to be loved and valued as an individual. We feel and experience this wound deep in the consciousness matrix of our being as it breaks the fundamental relationships that form the fabric of our human existence. As a result, "our intrinsic, authentic sense of self is plunged into the experience of annihilation and nonbeing."


Excerpted from FORTY years of SACRED SPACE by Patrick Donovan. Copyright © 2013 Dr. Patrick Donovan. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface, xiii,
Acknowledgements, xvii,
Chapter 1: To Be Known, 1,
Chapter 2: Living the Prime Directive, 16,
Chapter 3: The One Thing, 29,
Chapter 4: Spaces, 42,
Chapter 5: The Burning Ground, 51,
Chapter 6: Fear and the Old Prayer, 64,
Chapter 7: Celling Our Stories, 79,
Chapter 8: Fiction or Nonfiction, 98,
Chapter 9: The Hero You Mythed Was You, 112,
Chapter 10: The Sovereignty of Self, 125,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews