Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Broken Heart, A Thousand Arms

Dear Alumni Friends,

While it is a sad time on campus these days, rest assured that life goes on as usual. There is laughter in the halls, and stress in the library (it’s midterms week), and Bastyr students in all disciplines are moving forward in their education with energy and commitment. Valentine’s Day is being well celebrated – last week the Development department and contributing BU employees raised $5,000 in an auction to benefit the student scholarship fund; and this week we are hosting the now-traditional V-Day activities to help stop violence against women. The bookstore is offering a sale with special low prices for gift items featuring the colors red or pink, and there’s chocolate pretty much everywhere.

Dr. Mitchell would have liked this – to see the University bustling with such energy and life. His vision for Bastyr was huge and vital – its core lay in his love and knowledge of naturopathic medicine and plants, but it went way beyond that, imagining a whole wide world in which people could and would feel better and be happier because genuine healers were available to them – many of them educated and trained at Bastyr.

I was lucky to be a personal friend – an easy occurrence, really, he was such an open guy. Our friendship began over sushi after his yoga classes. We would often talk about Bastyr. He would tell me, with no little passion (trying to instill his conviction in me, I imagine) that he thought the alumni were the heart and soul of the Bastyr community. And not just NDs – he wanted to see everyone succeed and prosper. You may not know that besides teaching plant medicine and advanced therapeutics, Bill taught Reflexology, and he had a deep desire to study Chinese Herbal Medicine - though I must say when he talked about this I could see his eyes look inward, as if he was studying some internal calendar, wondering just when in the world he would have time for that.

Sadly, Bill had even less time than he imagined. His heart broke and he left us - heart broken, too, but not despairing. I am reminded of a story from the Tibetan tradition and since Bill loved to share wisdom through stories, I want to share it with you.

“Once upon a time” there lived a man named Avalokiteshvara, who had the deep intention to benefit all sentient beings. When he first developed this commitment, Avalokiteshvara proceeded with great energy and inspiration to do all that he could to help, but after a while he became very discouraged. There were so many many beings in need! What could one person do? Realizing his own limitations, Avalokiteshvara despaired. Tears rose to his eyes with the force of a torrent, his compassion was so deep and helpless. He cried so much that his heart broke and his body shattered into a thousand pieces. Seeing this, Buddha, in his infinite compassion for this kind fellow who meant so well, blessed Avalokiteshvara to live again, turning the shattered fragments of his body into a thousand helpful arms, each with an eye of wisdom in the palm.

You, Graduates of Bastyr University, are the thousand strong, wise arms of our dear heartbroken Dr. Mitchell, and of the other great healers and teachers who have shaped and continue to shape Bastyr. Indeed, you are 2,500 strong now, with your numbers growing fast, each of you in your own way holding the promise of a gentler, healing world. He lives on in each of you.

In closing, here is an excerpt from a chapter Dr. Mitchell wrote for The Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine textbook (Copyright 2006), being compiled now under the leadership of Executive Editor, Pamela Snider, ND ’82.

Another modality in medicine, and one that is particularly important in naturopathic medicine, is the human modality itself. I refer to this as the application of “people and organizations” to the patient. Giving the patient people, or groups of people, contains within itself a healing power. This may seem obvious to us, but we seldom prescribe people as a medicine or modality. In the practice of naturopathic medicine, as I view it, I often refer patients to a yoga class, not only for the exercise, a well recognized modality, but for the interaction of the patient to people who are also seeking wellness. People are each others’ medicine in the ideal world. - William A. Mitchell, ND

Dear Alumni, thank you for all that you do and will do to bring benefit to our ailing world. Take care of yourselves.

Connie Moffit, Director of Alumni Communications
February 14, 2007