The Heart of Psychiatric Holistic Health

Wishing Tree with Trolls

Wishing Tree with Trolls

The foundation of cultivating psychiatric holistic health is attending to the reality that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Western medicine treats the body as a piece of flesh to manipulate with pharmaceuticals and procedures, without any consideration or inclusion of the Sacred. The prevailing paradigm in the West, which divorces Spirit from Matter, is at the heart of our broken medical system as well as the crisis on the planet.

Our internal experience tells us that there is so much more to reality than what can be weighed, measured and replicated, but our cultural conditioning dominated by the scientific paradigm, tells us that is all there is. Most wisdom traditions maintain that though the physical body inexorably ages and eventually dies, that consciousness precedes physical form and continues to exist after the heart stops beating. That is why when we gaze in the mirror, it can be so astonishing to see an old face looking back at us, because we don’t feel at all the way we look. Consciousness has not changed much, but the body deteriorates. This discrepancy is one of the great mysteries of human existence.

Suzanne Giesemann, a former naval officer, who now serves as a talented evidential medium, uses the metaphor of a radio dial. You can turn it completely to the human side and feel terrified of aging and death, horrified by the relentless violence and hatred in the world, overwhelmed and heart broken by the devastating consequences of climate change and habitat destruction, or you can turn the dial to the spiritual side and get in touch with loving kindness, a feeling of freedom, expansiveness, peace and connection, that is independent of external circumstances. Both types of experience are continuously available to us. If you only tune into the spiritual side, you may forget to take care of your body and pay your taxes, but if you just tune into the human side, you may feel frightened, despairing and alone.

Our human condition is such that it’s much harder to remember that we are also spiritual beings and not only human beings. The knob is often dialed far over in the human direction. Life presents so many challenges that it is easy to feel overwhelmed and scared, and to reflexively fall into habitual patterns of negativity; the trance of self criticism, feelings of inadequacy, alienation and blaming others.

One of the ways to remind ourselves that we are both human and spiritual beings is through cultivating beauty, play and ordinary magic; seeing the Sacred in everything. The photo at the top of the page is of a pine tree in my garden that I recently hung with troll dolls and designated as a Wishing Tree. Last night I put a blackboard beside it with instructions about how to make a wish. Very shortly afterwards,  a group of teenagers went by and wrote the first wish.

Wishing Tree Guide

I will write out the instructions for wish making here. You do not need a Wishing Tree or blackboard. This practice cultivates  awareness that we are both human and spiritual beings, and allows for the union of Heaven and Earth at the heart center, the place in our bodies where these two primary energies combine.

Now that it is summer, it would be good to do this practice outside and barefoot.  This brief meditation is highly supportive to the immune system. Many people who consult with me are extremely stressed, which is clearly reflected in their gut health and globally compromised immunity. Do this practice regularly. Wish for all sorts of things, big and small. Saving the lions, elephants, polar bears, the coral reefs, glaciers and rain forests, as well as getting a seat on the subway when you are tired or a good parking spot when it’s pouring.


  • Root down into the Earth and draw up energy through the soles of your feet
  • Reach the crown of your head towards the heavens and imagine it opening and light pouring in
  • Drop your shoulders
  • Rest both of your hands on your heart and feel the warmth
  • Smile and close your eyes
  • Breathe deeply into your heart center
  • Make a wish
  • Give thanks
  • What could you do in your neighborhood to increase your community’s experience of pleasure and play? This is sacred activism on behalf of our planet, which is in dire need of everything which nourishes the soul and opens the heart. I am inviting you create something, and then share what you invented in the comments section. Include pictures. The word in French for heart is coeur, which means courage. Take a risk, and create something public and magical. These are challenging turbulent times of rapid change and transformation. We need make a conscious effort to cultivate a sense of community and joy.

    Another tactic to point the dial in the direction of Spirit is to listen to inspiring podcasts. Some of my favorites include Sounds True: Insights at the Edge, On Being, Tara Brach and Buddha at the Gas Pump. Yesterday I heard one that I loved so much, that I listened to it a second time. It was an interview by Tami Simon of Jack Kornfield, one of the original teachers who introduced Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. The podcast titled “Difficult Times and the Crystal of Liberation”, was the most recent offering from Sounds True: Insights from the Edge. Jack Kornfield is writing a book about Buddha’s instructions for hard times.  I felt a great sense of ease, peace, self-acceptance and open heartedness as I listened. It completely shifted my state, which had been anxious and harried when I began. May it cast the same spell upon you. The audio file is below.

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