What is my problem, and how did I get here?
is is an open-ended question if there ever was one. Hold the mockery and ridicule please.
Sometime in my teenage years, I became obsessed with finding the source of tension and strain in my body. Childhood pictures reveal something that caused me to constantly slump, with no rear-end to speak of. Never smiling, with perineal allergies and frequent sore throats, I was always the smallest kid in class.
When I was 45, a doctor who helped me more than anyone, told me that I might have been hit in the back between the ages of four and seven. This conditioned the development of my spine and rib cage so that it was a bit sunken and hollow. I began a long journey of chronic pain starting in my late teens. I was drawn to a career healthcare out of self-preservation as much as and intellectual curiosity or any sense of altruism.
For a longtime, my focus was on muscles, joints and fascia, the connective tissue matrix within which everything is embedded. Later, I studied the intricacies of the cranial system and organ manipulation. A turning point came twelve years ago, when I was confronted with the reality of the meridians of acupuncture and an energetic anatomy underlying the physical, largely unknown in the West. There seemed to exist an overarching regulation by the network of meridians on the function of the physical body. This was made abundantly clear to me by two men.
The first was Isaam Nemeh, MD, an eccentric physician, spiritual healer and electrical engineer who used energetic modalities in his office including his own inventions, treating patients into the wee hours of the morning every night. Every two weeks he would hold healing masses in various churches in the Catholic Diocese of Northeastern Ohio around Cleveland. There, he wouldn’t require any gadgetry, simply using his prayerful intention, and perhaps that of the crowd, to deliver to parishioners what occasionally seemed like miracles. There were always at least 500-1000 congregants in attendance. He appeared on local television often and even Dr Mehmet Oz’s television show once. His explanations to me were a combination of theological, medical and physiologic concepts but his favorite method in his practice involved electroacupuncture.
Grandmaster Sam Tam of Vancouver, BC was born into a medical family. His father was a physician in Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Army and had to escape China’s communist take-over by fleeing first to Taiwan, and later to Hong Kong. Wherever his family went, Master Tam was trained by extraordinary teachers of martial arts. They passed him around like a child prodigy after each exhausting their knowledge with him. At 65, he retired and began teaching tai chi and related arts fulltime, quickly developing a worldwide following and travel schedule that would wear out a man half his age.
He would use his mastery of the internal martial arts to throw me flying through the air or lock my joints and nervous system in occasionally frightening but never harmful ways. Some of his older students would fly him around the world for personal healings although he had no formal medical training. I recall an older gentleman coming over to have Master Tam straighten out his garbled speech. I later learned that he was one of the millionaire immigrants fleeing the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong from British rule in 1997. The man had suffered a stroke. Master Tam would bounce him off of his padded wall in the basement using his energy through the medium of tai chi whenever his speech became garbled.
Dr. Nemeh told me how I had most likely been injured between the ages of four and seven, suffering a blow to my back. The subsequent warping of my spine and rib cage development explained my pain, poor energy, stomach reflux, arm and hand problems threatening my career. He showed me graphic read-outs of the effect on my heart by measuring electrical activity in the meridians which concerned him.
At one time, I had been injured at an osteopathic conference by an ill-conceived treatment involving manual pressure on the cranium. For a year and one half I suffered a mild but constant anxiety. Being a resident physician at the time, I took samples of the medicine Zoloft for six weeks, but it changed nothing. One year before I met Dr Herb Miller, an osteopathic practitioner famous for his ability with our cranial work. I decided to seek his consultation for a family member and began a ten-year training relationship at his offices in Indianapolis. The first time he put his hands on me he described the mechanics of my cranial problem and he said, “someone had done it to me”. After five of his treatments, I was relieved of the anxiety, insomnia and neck tension from the iatrogenic manipulation earlier. However, after many years, the problem resurfaced, this time in the form of panic attacks. By then Dr Miller had retired and Dr Nemeh was consulted. He said, “Oh, that is the worst. It comes from the middle back”. One treatment resolved them. I was forced to conclude that I had a great deal to learn, beyond what my osteopathic training could provide.
After 14 treatments from Dr Nemeh, I had to readjust all the mirrors in my car. He had taken such a severe kink from my spine, that I was an inch and half taller! I am still a full inch taller on most days. He had gotten me out of trouble and I finally studied acupuncture. So, in 2008 I was had become a reasonably comfortable and healthy middle-aged man. I had also been practicing what I understood of energy cultivation and meditation for 18 years. This had helped me tremendously, gaining intuitive insight and healing ability that was a direct result of my own effort. However, this was nowhere near where Master Tam could bring me.
After ten years of training with him I can truly say I have great energy and strength in a completely different dimension than that of my peers and colleagues. This occurred due to diligent application of what he taught his students, including qigong and tai chi with various weapons and partner practices. However, the most important change occurred on my first visit to Vancouver when he leaned over a coffee shop table and touched my wrist. I felt my body inflate like a balloon. The buoyancy and lightness were a revelation. From that moment my energy level dramatically improved.
No words accompanied this act, and I believe his most important transmissions never occurred through verbal instruction. This is the true nature of this kind of heritage. It is an example of something that occurs through energy transmission rather than what can be understood through books or the internet. Master Tam would sit with his back to us working on his computer listening to the sound of our efforts as we practiced bouncing each other off of the padded wall. Then he would spring from his chair correcting our mechanics and understanding as if he was standing next to us carefully observing our actions. When we taught the cranial work for 15 years at the college in Philadelphia I could stand at the lectern and make observations from across the room. I would intervene if the students were going to injure each other as they learned the cranial work by practicing upon each other. It is the difference between knowledge and information. It requires a teacher. It requires presence or showing up. I could not receive these health benefits, skills or understanding without the highly personal and generous engagement of these particular men. In the traditions I have followed, whether osteopathy or Chinese internal arts, touch facilitates this transmission.
Whenever we meet in the office or class, this is the point. My goal is to help you through expressing the heritages I have been privileged to receive, combined with whatever talents and understanding I bring to our encounter. Whether they realize it or not, this is what my colleagues in medicine also provide. What percentage of healing effect can be ascribed to a drug, a manipulation, even a surgical procedure? As illustrated by our scientific studies, far less than we are encouraged to believe. Whether we get better or not depends as much on factors we don’t understand, as those we make the object of our attention and study. I hope you will agree with me, nothing is as it seems just below the surface.