31 Oct What To Look For And How To See It (And why this has anything to do with the Art of Medicine)
What To Look For And How To See It
(And why this has anything to do with the Art of Medicine)
By Dr. Claudia Welch
“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler
I recently finished writing my second book, The Four Qualities of Effective Physicians.
Towards the end of the process, while there were not exactly beads of blood on my forehead, I did feel a bit like I was wringing out my brain onto the page (er…keyboard). My eyes felt a bit like those cartoon black and white spinning spiral lollypop eyes.
But I loved writing this book. It made me much more attentive (sometimes…not as often as would be ideal maybe) to, among other things, the question of how to look and how this influences the effects we have on others: people, plants, animals, the world in general.
Spending the last year teasing the unconscious into consciousness, writing this book, using Ayurveda as a framework from which to explore that experience both doctor and patient can enjoy when a doctor-patient relationship feels powerfully good, I have become convinced that we can more consciously learn how to become medicine. By, “we” –even though I wrote the book most obviously for practitioners of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)—I mean anyone—any of us who wishes to cultivate a state of being that is most likely to be beneficial to others around us. “Others” being, plants and animals as well as patients and our fellow men in general.
I think part of how we can cultivate such a state of being is through considering what we look for and how we see it.
I’m in Costa Rica now. Here are some examples of what I mean, in this neighborhood of the world:
- If you want to find bats, don’t look for bats. Look for bits of big tropical leaves that have been bent down in a certain configuration. The bats bend the leaves to create their hidden house. If you look for bats, you wont find them. If you look for the de(re?)formed leaf structures, you will. Or you will be more likely to.
- If you want to find monkeys, don’t look for monkeys. Look for falling leaves or listen for rustling leaves and branches in the tree canopy. If you look for monkeys you may not find them. If you look for falling leaves and listen for rustling branches, you will probably have better success.
- If you want to find ants, look for acacia trees, etc. etc. etc.
- If you want to find the extremely venomous pit viper, “Fer-de-lance” really all you need to do is walk out your door. At least that was the case for us. But I digress.
In Costa Rica, guided nature tours are common affairs. Walk through Manuel Antonio park, for example, and it is common to see groups of people gathered around a guide’s monster telephoto lens—trained on some large or small flora or fauna specimen that nobody but the guide spotted. It could be a tiny insect on a leaf 10 yards away crowded by tropical, gaudy foliage. Or a large sloth a couple stories up, (what else) sleeping. More than once I heard someone exclaim something along the lines of, “How can you see that? I wouldn’t see that in a hundred years!”
How indeed. These guides have spent years learning what to search for and how to find what they want to see. They’ve spent years in this environment. Millennia evolving to pay attention to crawling things. They’ve received tips from elders and guides before them. It has become ordinary for them to see the tiny insect amongst the lush and concealing tropical foliage. But their ordinary is our extraordinary.
We train—consciously or unconsciously—for what we look for and what we see. What we look for and see shapes our experience. If—and I would say this is a truism in Eastern thought—our prana (life force) follows our focus or attention, then we feed what we focus on. We nourish what we see. Or even look for. And so what we look for and see also influences what we look at.
The guides looking for bugs and other natural specimens are feeding them. How? The tourism industry in Costa Rica is booming because people like looking for—and seeing—these specimens. Their appreciation and attention is protecting these specimens. Costa Rica has something like 26% of their land in preservation. We nourish that upon which we focus, whether it is bugs, sloths, fear, goodness, or whatever..
Like the guides with the bugs and sloths, we nourish what we look for in our relationships. If we look for the bad, we feed it. If we look for the good in our patients—or parents, children, partners, friends, colleagues, doctors, acquaintances and enemies for that matter—we feed that good. Alex Haley said, “Find the good and praise it!” When we train our attention on the good, it changes, protects, and nourishes the good, and the host of the good.
This might not be easy. Like it’s not easy to see the tiny insect engulfed in flora. A person’s disease or disposition might be screaming anything but goodness. But it’s got to be in there and it might be for the highest good of all of us, to look for it. At least that is what my guru told me.
More about this and how it relates to medicine and relationships…in the book.
Thank you for being there.