I just got back from doing a workshop with my friend Patch Adams and the School for Designing a Society, at the University of Illinois. It was a five-day intensive on redesigning the health-care system and brought together people who had a stake in healthcare. There were participants from 11 countries including college students, medical and nursing students, clowns, nurses, doctors, patients, architects, scientists, public health activists, lawyers, musicians and artists.

All of them were creative out-of the-box thinkers who believe the critical element in the word healthcare is care. There were four days of presentations, exercises, clowning, making music and dancing. We spent late nights in pubs and ice cream parlors, talking about how we sustain our spirit and continue to be a voice in changing the way healthcare is delivered; it was intense.

The most transcendent moment, however, was during a clown trip to a nursing home. When you’re with Patch, you clown. He believes it’s the best way of connecting with people across cultures and helps alleviate human suffering. Patch visits the sickest, most isolated and devastated members of society and reaches out to touch them lovingly. We visited some nursing homes in downtown Urbana; I found myself on an Alzheimer’s unit, dancing with a demented lady in a bicycle helmet.

When the door to the locked Alzheimer’s unit was opened she greeted me. A toothless old woman in a sweat suit wearing a bicycle helmet and drooling, she tried to get out the door. Since I stood in the way, she began pushing me backwards, but she was small and so, instead, we stood there holding hands. In the background, I heard another clown playing Home on the Range on a mandolin and suddenly found myself dancing with her. Around we went, and she forgot about trying to get out. She smiled a beautiful, toothless grin, and said the only words I heard her utter the whole time we were together, “I can dance.”

In that transcendent moment I understood my design of healing healthcare; find somebody to dance with, and let them drool on you.

Last Mask of the Authentic Healer

Nov 30– Dec. 2, 2007
Franciscan Renewal Center, Phoenix, AZ
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“This unique, experiential workshop is designed for healers and
those who are interested in expanding their therapeutic repertoire.
In the language of ritual and ceremony, we will explore the many
ways you can magnify your healing power.
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