An Introduction To “Physician Heal Thyself:
A Doctor’s Journey From Medicine To Miracles”
When I entered an accelerated medical program right out of high school, I was just 17 years old. I felt this burning desire to marry the science of biomedicine with the spirit of true service. Medicine was a calling that I had to answer. There was simply no other choice.
Did you feel this way too when you chose to become a doctor? Do you still feel this passion for medicine today that you felt as a young medical student? Or perhaps now, many years or even decades later, do you feel disillusioned, perhaps disenfranchised, and maybe even disgusted with the state of medical practice? With the rise in physician burnout and many physicians choosing to leave medicine all together, many of us might be questioning our initial choice to become a doctor.
This brings me to my very first book which I recently self-published, Physician, Heal Thyself: A Doctor’s Journey from Medicine to Miracles (A mindful approach to healing based on teachings of A Course in Miracles.)
Physician, Heal Thyself is my exploration of the bridge between Western medicine and spirituality from my vantage point as a traditionally trained medical doctor. Drawing from my personal and clinical experiences along with scientific research, I share a clear explanation of the basic principles of A Course in Miracles, long regarded a classic among modern spiritual teachings. My book also offers simple, expansive, and effective tools for healing.
Here’s how my book begins:
“During the summer following my high school junior year, almost a year before I would enter an accelerated medical school program, I experienced a profound mystical experience while visiting my native India. It was what Abraham Maslow would have referred to as a peak experience, when time stands still and all barriers between me and other simply dissolve. In that moment, I experienced a sense of completeness and wholeness in which nothing was lacking and there was no need for me to do anything.
When I returned to the States, I found myself immersed in the maze of medical school applications, SATs, and college essays. Wherever I turned, the voices I heard all seemed to demand that to survive in this world, I needed to make something of myself. Being just as I was—well, that simply was not enough!
Eventually I yielded to this worldly pressure and enrolled in medical school. Yet something about this path never seemed right. I had so many questions that were not being answered in my medical school training: What is healing? How can we support healing? What are the obstacles to healing? What is the role of a doctor in healing? What is my purpose in becoming a doctor?” 1
My friend, Dr. Marlene Wust-Smith, who asked me to write this article, felt inspired to start Physician Outlook because she feels a strong desire to create a safe space where we can each find our answers to these questions. I believe at some level all of us as physicians seek to answer such questions using the framework that resonates most for us. We might feel drawn to lobby for changes in the sociopolitical aspects influencing access to health care. Or we believe strongly that fundamental shifts are required in medical student education, associated costs, student loans, and debt. Perhaps we are adamant that cutting medical expenses at the risk of delivering substandard health care simply cannot be a viable option.
Through my book, Physician, Heal Thyself: A Doctor’s Journey from Medicine to Miracles, I share the answers I have discovered. But my book is not about sweeping health care reforms or external ways to dramatically change anything about our health care landscape. Rather, my book is a clear, systematic roadmap for the inward journey that I believe we are all being called to take so that the broken health care system that we try so desperately to fix with all sort of Band-Aid approaches can be healed - but from the inside out. I wrote my book because I felt inspired to share this profound message with all those who feel ready for a radically new way to see themselves, their patients, and their role in medicine and healing.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, Lao Tzu, wisely shared the following:
“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.” 2
Before we can heal our health-care system, we need to turn inwards and heal ourselves. Not just our bodies but also our minds and hearts – specifically, our perception of ourselves, and the world around us which includes hospitals, patients, pharmaceutical companies, health care administrators, nurses, and all other health care practitioners. If we are to heal, we must first experience peace of mind and inner happiness on a consistent basis- not just when we take off time to vacation in Bermuda or some other distant tourist spot.
In my book, I share how as a young medical student I intuitively knew that healing lay beyond the body. Yet all I seemed to learn during medical school was just about the body! I recall how whatever joy, love, and wonder I felt for healing faded away as I listened daily to lectures about organs, tissues, cellular processes, and biochemical pathways, and the body’s deterioration, disease, dying, and eventual death.
“I felt like I was living two lives. As a medical student and later resident, I was being trained to constantly look outside to figure out which patient factors needed to be manipulated, such as diet, medications, surgery, and exercise, to achieve optimal health. Yet deep within, whenever I was outside of the confines of medicine, I felt a desire to simply let go of all need to control anything and just give myself over to a life devoted to meditation, prayer, and spiritual exploration.
To resolve this conflict, I began to study many different complementary and alternative health modalities. I discovered that most of these healing systems spoke more to the inner psychosocial and spiritual aspects of healing. Often when I should have been studying for exams during medical school, I began to hang out at the self-help and alternative healing sections of my local bookstores and library. Voraciously I read books by Deepak Chopra, MD, Bernie Siegel, MD, Louise Hay, Edward Bach, MD, Shakti Gawain, and others. I attended their workshops and seminars and tried to share this with my medical school friends—most of whom thought I was crazy! I even traveled to India and Nepal, so I could explore yoga and meditation as well as Ayurveda. All these experiences helped me to nurture my vision of a more expansive healing system that viewed each of us as much more than a soup of biochemical reactions and neurological pathways.” 3
Eventually, after graduating from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC and completing my pediatric residency at NY Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, I felt inspired to create an integrative medical practice where I worked with children and adults facing complex medical and mental health issues. I shared homeopathy, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, and Reiki with them. I found that in cases where the traditional medical model failed to help, many responded favorably to these alternative modalities.
However, I would not fully understand what true healing was until I found myself unexpectedly spiraling into a state of deep sadness following a falling out with a dear friend. At the same time, I was facing a personal illness that eventually resulted in chronic pain. Despite all my training in traditional and alternative medicine therapies, nothing seemed to heal my pain. I felt helpless and powerless. It was during this time that I found myself reaching for a book titled A Course in Miracles (ACIM). I was already somewhat familiar with ACIM from my regular forays into the healing and spirituality sections of my neighborhood bookstores as a young medical student. However, while the words of ACIM were comforting, the book felt remote to my life. But now, in the midst of emotional and physical pain, the Course felt like my most trusted friend and advisor.
“Like soft moonlight that soothes as it shines, the Course drew me out of my depression and taught me about the healing power of forgiveness. As I devoted myself to practicing the teachings of the Course and joining with other Course students and teachers, the light I had been constantly shining on my physical discomfort and emotional turmoil turned inward to the source of my pain, which lay in my perceptions, inside my mind.
I became more interested in discovering what was blocking my peace and joy from within, instead of constantly searching outside for relief in the form of some temporary Band-Aid. Instead of changing what I saw, I committed to change how I was seeing. Gradually, my physical pain disappeared, and this truly was a miracle. Yet I realized that this physical shift was simply a reflection of the deep healing inside my mind, and this was the true miracle.” 4
When I healed from my pain, I realized with complete certainty that the most powerful source of healing lies within our own minds- in our perception, awareness, and attitude. This profound understanding impelled me to create Coaching for Inner Peace - a simple, elegant, inclusive, and expansive approach to healing that I was searching for ever since I was a young medical student. I am so excited to share this with you all in my very first book!
Coaching for Inner Peace is rooted in science, specifically in cutting edge research in quantum physics, the stress response, the placebo effect, and neuroplasticity. I also draw from the teachings of world spiritual traditions with the aim to share simple yet profound tools and practices for healing; these include mindfulness, prayer, meditation, chanting, listening to the still small voice within our hearts, choosing love over fear, forgiveness, gratitude, being clear about our purpose, connecting with our desire for healing and peace, and joining with our mighty companions.
My goal is that we experience consistent joy and peace, which I firmly believe is our birthright. It is from this space that all healing emanates. I invite you to open to an inward journey to inner peace and stable joy while you negotiate whatever challenge you face. Perhaps you can share this approach with your patients, and this can grow to include your family and community. Maybe this will be something that expands to include our larger society along with our health care system.
But for now, the most important task you can do is to heal yourself. Amazingly, this is the most profound gift you can give to others as well.
Physician, Heal Thyself: A Doctor’s Journey from Medicine to Miracles is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions. If you want to learn more about me and my work, please visit coachingforinnerpeace.com
1. Khaneja, Seema. Physician, Heal Thyself: A Doctor’s Journey from Medicine to Miracles (A mindful approach to healing based on teachings of A Course in Miracles)
3. Khaneja, Seema. Physician, Heal Thyself