Sometimes the chain of events in one’s life seem in retrospect the most perfectly planned and played out chorus of a Grammy award-winning song. However, while these scenes are unfolding, it is most often difficult to discern what is really going on or for that matter, the true importance and future ramifications of these at first seemingly random and disconnected series of events.
This was the case for me just recently. I had just finished a long day teaching a course on the new paradigm of treating heel pain (specifically plantar fasciopathy) and one of the attendees came up to me at the end of the day and said: “Thanks so much. Now you have really screwed me up.” He actually used slightly different verbiage, more the type one hears after hooking a drive into the woods after birdieing the previous hole, but you get the point.
I asked him what he meant. Well, he said, “With what you presented today, I now have to readjust not only what I thought the whole deal with heel pain was all about but I need to figure out how to explain it to my patients.”
I shrugged and kept listening. This was coming from a very well trained podiatric surgeon, whom I greatly admire. I knew of his work personally. “I have to now go back to clinic and change how I discuss things with the patients, and get out of my routine of telling them it’s caused by too much tension and we do this, this and this.”
At this point, I did what all great mentors do: suggested we go to the bar and imbibe some truth serum (this batch happened to be composed by a great cabernet). By the way, all mentors can be great (even if it is only in their own minds) if both mentor and mentee swallow enough liquid truth. Now if you are thinking a mentee is the endangered animal swimming around in the shallow waters of Florida getting cut up by boat propellers, go flip on the Discovery Channel and close your damn laptop right now.
We sat in the bar (man, it would be much better to say the classroom or lecture hall or something else, but sometimes any venue can be the arena of true enlightenment and most of the time drinking in those spots only gets you a call from the dean) and swirled our wines. After a few sips, I could see his eyes light up and a smile filled his face. “Am I the only one who has come up to you with this?” he inquired.
“Nah, I hear it nearly every time I teach this course,” I assured him.
“Where did you get all this stuff from?” he asked.
Now I wanted to toy with him a little. I tipped my glass, gave a prolonged stare at the inky opacity of the ambrosia and deliberately paused for what seemed an interminable amount of time. I spoke just before he was ready to call 911, thinking I just stroked out. “The Great Eastern Sun,” I whispered. Whispering can do a couple of things in a conversation and one of them is to create intrigue. He started wiggling like a large mouth bass on a top water bait. Oh, did I have him now.
“’The Great Eastern Sun?’ What the hell is that?” he barked back at me. Great, I had just gotten the response that I was fishing for. I mustered every megabyte of memory in my worn-out mind thinking about how David Carradine would play this role in an episode of Kung Fu, and kept hearing the name “weed hopper” echo around inside my cranium.
“Yes,” I said. “When you rise in the morning and you see the sunrise and those beautiful rays of light coming toward you, that is the Great Eastern Sun, and those are beams of truth. You can choose to admire them as they are just beautiful and think nothing more of them.” By this time, I had to call the librarian (that is code for the bartender) over and have more truth serum delivered. “Or you can look at those gorgeous beams, really take meaning from them and discover them for what they really are.”
Now I was losing him so I had to set the hook quickly or I would never land this one. “Those beams of light are the literature. Every morning, I get up and see which ones are shining at me with new information that I can translate into clinical practice. Over the last 15 years, my retinas have been virtually scorched by all the “beams” that I have embraced.
He peered down at my MacBook Air, which was sitting on the dais (again, code for “high top bar table”) and nodded with a smile. Pointing right at it, he started shaking his head in affirmation that he finally got it. “That is your Great Eastern Sun,” he stated.
“Yes it is, my friend and it shines every morning at the beginning of my day,” I confirmed.
“OK then, tell me about the two most important beams of light that have scorched your retinas,” he said using my words.
While clearing my throat, the two quickly came to mind. “The first I said was one for which I can’t recall the author or even the year it was written but it was about Shambhala Warriorism, and the second was Lemont’s article in 2003.”1
“I know about Lemont’s article (for about six hours by now) as it shook up the paradigm of plantar fasciitis but what the hell, I didn’t know you were a fighter or Kung Fu dude,” he shot back.
“No my good man. I am not a fighter at all. Basically, the essence of Shambhala Warriorism is ‘open-mindedness.’ Now that was the beam of light for me because when I finished my residency, I knew everything and I was unable to even read something that differed from my preconceptions. A true state of intellectual imprisonment,” I told him.
“Yeah, I get that, man. We are so products of our ‘training’ that it can take awhile to get out of the trench, if ever,” he agreed.
Now we were both smiling and laughing like the time I super glued shut the locker of one of the most problematic surgeons at our surgery center. “Here is the deal,” I said, sounding like Ross Perot. “Read everything you can that has even remote relevance to what we do with an open, embracing mind, trying to dig out a nugget now and then that will help the patient. This is the type of stuff that gives you the juice and sets you free.”
For the record, we closed the library down that night with erudite chatter and mind numbing intellectual discoveries.