By Dr. Stew Bittman
Lake Tahoe, CA: Several years ago, I wrote an essay dealing with the doubts I was having about my doubts. I realized then that most of the things I had previously doubted had become tangible parts of my belief system. I realized, too, that my faith in chiropractic principles had allowed me to overcome those doubts. And all this forced me to question my remaining doubts. Well, the subject of doubts has come up again recently, big time. And now I see, without a doubt, that I no longer have doubts about my doubts. The doubts have been replaced with a calm acceptance: my doubts will probably always be there, but they continue to hold less and less power over me. Doubtless you are confused at this point, and I will attempt to explain.
It all started several weekends ago when I went down to Life West to speak and teach. Just as at all the colleges, at Life West doubts breed like rabbits. Nearly everyone I spoke with, regardless of their background or experience in chiropractic, regardless of the miracles they had heard of or had experienced thru chiropractic, was at least partially choked with doubts. Even those students that have devoted themselves to remaining steeped in the philosophy were in some state of fear. And who can blame them? There are simply too many people telling them all the things they can't and shouldn't do. Beyond that, they happen to be part of profession in which good news, at least in the political arena, is a tad rare. Even if they were to peek over their anatomy and biochemistry texts for a moment to catch a glimpse of the chiropractic world "out there", they are likely to be greeted with a depressing array of egos and infighting. This is particularly sad because we as chiropractors should be the last people to allow doubts to keep us from living our highest visions.
Well, the rest of the world is a pretty good Petri dish for cultivating fear, too, and when I returned home the doubts swirled around me like snowflakes in a stiff wind (maybe those really were snowflakes... we've had plenty of those, too). We went to the Unity church and the minister, normally a rock of principle and faith, spent 25 minutes relating the doubts she had been having about the impact of her efforts in the community. In communicating with several chiropractors in the week following, I heard a litany of doubts ranging from the worries of new graduates to the nearly lost visions of 18 and 30-year practitioners. My brother, nearing his 50th birthday, doubted his very purpose for being. Everywhere I turned, doubts were flying in my face like pies in a Three Stooges episode. I knew there was a lesson for me somewhere in all this. What was this mirroring? Someone told me that Mercury was in retrograde during this time period, but somehow that didn't quite explain it.
Just around the time I started congratulating myself for staying anchored within this storm of doubts, I realized that doubts had begun to surface in my own thinking. Doubts about some people, doubts about the future, doubts about my own impact (a common and oft-repeated refrain in my head); stuff like that. And yet I stayed awake enough to not take the bait and get hooked by these doubts. I recognized them for what they were: simply the result of my brain's annoying and relentless tendency toward focusing on what's wrong. Or potentially wrong. That, along with my brain's incredible ability to fabricate flowing sagas of bullshit out of the most innocent of circumstances, is a doubt factory in the making. I wanted no part on the assembly line. I opted for gratitude instead.
Then I got an email from one of the people I'd been having doubts about. My friend Trace, who came from my practice and went to Life Chiropractic College West, had graduated in December. He will hopefully be working with me, as soon as he can extricate himself from the minefields of National Boards. I hadn't heard from him in a long time (thus the doubts). He wrote that he had been in Oregon with his mom, who was diagnosed last year with multiple myeloma. She was given a year or so to live. Trace went up there dying to get his hands on her, knowing in his heart that adjustments would help. The problem was she had fractured 3 ribs swinging a golf club, and was not about to let Trace anywhere near her brittle bones, even if he could somehow overcome the 3 and 1/2 years of fear he had just graduated from in order to try. Amazingly, Trace remembered what he claims he had learned from me (in his words): "clear your head, come from a place of love, be a clean, hollow bone so God can flow thru you and do Her job, be an instrument for God, and don't worry about where to put your hands or what to do because you're not doing it anyway." Wow.
When Trace saw his mom, he gave her a big, gentle bear hug, and found his hands on his mom's spine. He then, without her knowing what was happening (or him, for that matter), began moving his hands and sending energy and he could feel "things were happening." He made sure to give her at least 3 or 4 of these bear hugs every day for several weeks. He knew something had changed. And last week Trace's mom was told she was in complete remission. I am honored if I taught that to you, Trace, but much more than that, I am immensely proud you were able to overcome your doubts so you could share the miracle of your gift.
Yes, there is so much that isn't wrong, and when I focus on those things, doubts vanish. And one of the sweetest things that isn't wrong is that if, tomorrow, I was stripped of my office, my staff, my leaders in chiropractic, even my legal right to call myself a chiropractor, I would still have my gift. A gift that can lift people up. A gift that can provide a beacon on the path of wholeness. A priceless gift that comes thru my hands, my words, and most importantly, my vision. And if my doubts and I are destined to remain strange bedfellows, I am confident that I will never allow them to pull the covers over the head of that vision.
(On the wall of Mother Teresa's 1st children's ashram)
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered... love them anyway.
If you do good people will accuse you of ulterior motives... do good anyway.
If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies... succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow... do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable... be honest and frank anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs... fight for some underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight... build anyway.
People who need help may attack you for helping them... help people anyway.
No matter what you do or what you give, someone will not be happy with it... give your best anyway.
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Dr. Stew Bittman is a chiropractor practicing in South Lake Tahoe, California.