David Montgomery is my dad, which means that this should be a uniquely credible review. After all I’m one of a select few who’s been exposed to a lifetime of his unpublished, unwritten work, giving me the edge on understanding its context. In fact, I was even with him when he was writing the book. It was last summer and we were secluded away in the woods of Northern California. I was on my biannual total breakdown from taxi driving and he was about to retire from a long career as traditional medical healer and plotting his new life as nontraditional love healer. For several weeks we stayed in a remote cabin with no TV, internet, or phone – the right conditions to go insane in the good productive way which actually used to just be sane. There was nothing else to do but converse, go outdoors, read, and do a lot of writing. I used the opportunity to take another crack at my elusive future novel, The Reality Traveler, and he started writing his first ever ‘self help’ book.
Dad has been strongly interested in the genre since I was a teenager. That was when he was suddenly called upon to go on a Vision Quest in the mountains of Utah. There he fasted for days and spoke with the spirits of nature and had what he described as his first moment of genuine self love. When he returned there was a new gentleness to him, he smiled more often, and he and my mom started reading every book on personal growth they could find. The Power of Now, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Byron Katy, Brene Brown, The Four Agreements, The Secret, Abraham. Any manual, text, or treatise on yoga, vegan diets, shamanism, heartwork, and generally reaching your maximum potential. I couldn’t get into it at first. I was more drawn to suicidal rock stars, misanthropic authors, and anything that seemed key to understanding cultural outsiders. I guess you reach an age when you’ve been so influenced by your parents you just want to have your own influences for better or worse. But eventually I came around to appreciating what they were so passionately consuming. Maybe I’ve learned enough now about the people who don’t like themselves. I’m getting more interested in learning from the people who actually do.
Dad was an OBGYN baby doctor for 33 years and his book draws on this experience to reimagine the way we approach wellness. One of the main premises is how conventional medicine focuses on negatives, health problems and how to fight them. He believes real wellness is achieved, however, by positively focusing on loving self-care. Like instead of thinking what we can do to prevent getting cancer or to beat it once we get it, what if we think about how to live a more joyful and satisfying life which would avoid the unnecessary stress that compromises the immune system and leads to such illness in the first place? Another of the book’s premises is directed toward caretakers (healthcare or personal) who have a tendency to burn out giving everything to others while neglecting their own needs. Dad asserts the more whole and self-loving the caretakers are, the better their caretaking will be.
The book is relevant to beyond just the obvious healthcare professionals. In this modern culture with its relentless pressure to succeed and fit in or even just keep up, nearly all of us are probably suffering from a lack of self care. Dad provides us with thorough explanations of how we struggle with this, its origins within us, and steps we can take to grow beyond it. It may seem at first to be a daunting lifelong task, and it is to some extent, yet the book observes how even a single moment of self care can be beneficial. Things like kindness, mindfulness, questioning, clarity with yourself about intentions and desires, and acceptance of feelings are all obtainable on the scale of a moment. The idea then is that they can become more and more habitual until it’s a lifestyle that brings you to your highest level of wellbeing.
One of Dad’s main passions has always been nature and it’s not surprising he recognizes it as a central tenet of his path to wellness. I’ve always had a mixed relationship with the outdoors. I feel safe behind walls and air conditioning and artificial light. There are so many flies and mosquitos out there. Yet as I get older I see it as more and more of a salvation. One of the highlights of our California trip was when Dad and I set out to find a mysterious heartshaped lake he’d heard only whispers about. The search had us climbing up behind a steep rock face and soon we were tired and disoriented. It was getting late in the afternoon, but we decided to give ourselves another fifteen minutes to find it before heading home. It wasn’t long after the lake revealed itself clear blue and as heartshaped as imagined. I couldn’t help feeling like it had been generated by the Gods just for us at that moment. We’d earned it out of our faith and reverence to the natural world and we were the only ones who had ever seen it or would ever see it again. The only thing to do was to undress, dive in and let its waters cover our whole bodies. We took a couple pictures to prove it had actually existed, one with a giant mountain in the distance and the clear sky reflecting in the pool became the cover photo for the book. It was one of those experiences which act as an instant reset to all the bullshit that came before it.
For seven years the schedule and stress of driving a cab wrecked havoc on my body and mind. Anxiety, depression, pain, digestion troubles. I thought I was just supposed to be tougher and take it. It wasn’t until the trip with Dad and him playing with these ideas out loud that I realized not only was it okay to take better care of myself, but possibly even life-and-death necessary. When I came back from the trip I vowed not to return to my job and instead find something that was more aligned with self-love. I started teaching writing and got into a relationship and my body feels better than it has in years. Although I’m still working on old negative patterns, the ideas of Dad’s book were responsible for me making a very clear step forward to my own wellness.
The spirit of Loving to Heal is like our heartlake hike. During our best moments we know these magical, healthful, and ecstatic places exist and can be accessed with the right faith and perseverance. It is so easy however to let the world convince you otherwise. We’re convinced of ideas that life is just about trudging thru, trying to acquire enough material to feel secure, you’re supposed to suffer, you’re not supposed to want anything greater, it’s supposed to suck, there is no magic. You have to find ways to remind yourself of the other way. We probably know deep down the truth of many of Dad’s ideas, we just need a chance to revisit them and feel at least for a moment that there’s hope they are the right ideas and they are do-able. Dad’s book is a way for all of us to do this. I highly encourage you, whether you’re a healthcare professional, spiritual guru, seeker, poet, or just regular human being doing your best to get your one and only life right, to consider using this book as a tool on your quest for wellness.
Visit Dad’s site at lovingtoheal.com
You can order the book here.
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