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Mitchell May on The Healing Life
Excerpted from the October 1999 issue of Whole Life Times Where Medicine Stops, Miracles Begin
“What causes the most suffering for people is that they don’t know how to inhabit their current experience.” —Mitchell May
“I don’t call myself a healer,” Mitchell says, matter-of-factly. “I feel very uncomfortable with that, quite honestly.” Yet his is the quintessential healer’s journey. A horrible accident. A near death experience. A miraculous healing. Apprenticeship to the healer. His story is powerful and unquestionably authentic, scientifically documented by one of the most prestigious medical centers in the world.
And May himself is a master storyteller. He tells his story on radio and television shows, as well as in workshops around the country where he leads groups of people to explore for themselves the state of consciousness in which he believes healing takes place. “It’s like riding a bicycle,” he insists. “You can be told about how it is. But what you need is to get on the bike, fall down a few times, feel really wobbly, maybe have training wheels. Once you get it, you just ride.”
If the earnest, ingenuous tenor of May’s delivery doesn’t get you, the gripping content of his story, laced with references to which any spirituality-seeking baby boomer can instantly relate, surely will. A subtle, translucent radiance animates his expressive features as he speaks, telling a tale that is by turns hilarious, gripping and deeply moving.
The Accident: Something Bigger
In 1972, Mitchell May and four friends were tooling along in a Volkswagen van on their way to a bluegrass concert in Tennessee. The bearded, long-haired, 21-year-old May was passing a peanut butter and honey sandwich (presumably on whole grain bread) over the back seat when he had a sudden “ominous premonition of a large car hitting us head on,” as he described it to Dr. Morton Walker in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. “When I quickly faced the front, I saw the same scene of the car coming straight at us.” May threw the young woman sitting next to him over the seat toward the back of the van just as a blue Dodge crashed into them, “exactly at the spot where I was sitting.” The impact sent May feet first through the front of the van. It took a rescue crew 45 minutes to extract him from the compacted metal wreck. By the time they cut him out, his punctured lungs had collapsed and his heart had stopped beating. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Somehow, the rescue team got his heart to start beating again. It stopped once more at the emergency room of a rural Tennessee hospital and again was restarted with electrical stimulation. With almost no vital signs, May hovered near death and sank into a coma that lasted a week.
Waking up was perhaps worse than dying because it was accompanied by causalgia, a flowery-sounding word that describes a poorly understood medical condition in which damaged, exposed nerves create a state of intense, unrelenting pain that even narcotics cannot touch. Mitchell’s left leg was broken in six places. His right leg was basically shattered, with no fewer than 40 fractures between hip and toes. Three inches of bone and nerve tissue were missing altogether, torn away in the crash.
On the national TV program Sightings, Edgar Dawson, MD, who a short time later would serve as May’s orthopedic surgeon, observed, “The skin of Mitchell’s leg from just below the knee to the ankle was gone, and there was just bare bone hanging out with no muscle or skin over it. His leg was grossly infected. There was green material oozing out of holes in the bone.” May’s brother said it looked as if a pride of lions had been gnawing on it. According to Dr. Dawson, “Mitchell’s leg was gone. There was no hope of saving it.” Yet, slipping in and out of consciousness, the young man refused to allow the doctors to amputate, despite pain “so tremendous that it felt like many dentists were drilling simultaneously on raw nerves sticking out of a hundred dental cavities.”
After being transferred from the rural hospital to intensive care at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Hospital, metal plates were implanted to hold Mitchell’s leg together. Infection set in and raged through his body as his overtaxed immune system was unable to oppose deadly colonies of staphylococcus, pseudomonas and other pathogenic bacteria. When osteomyelitic septicemia, a form of blood poisoning that had started in his right leg spread to his left leg, cell walls began to rupture throughout his tissues. Eyes, ears, kidneys and vital organs began to shut down. Added to the constant agony of the causalgia, May was now experiencing high fevers, chills, headaches, severe nausea and diarrhea. Because of the progression of the infection, the doctors now thought that it would be necessary to remove both his legs and that he would probably be blind, deaf, and without kidney function for the rest of his life. Still, he refused to allow the amputation.
May was moved to UCLA Medical Center where his father was on staff, and the medical community continued to push for amputation. Seventy doctors concurred that amputation was the only way to end the agonizing pain and contain the rampant infection before it consumed the patient entirely. Irate heads of medical departments investigated the possibility of a court order to force the obstinate May to cooperate. Why was he so stubborn? “Just stupid, I guess,” he jokingly told Stephanie Hiller in a 1997 Yoga Journal article, but he then continued with characteristic earnestness. “It was not just the leg! It was my life! Did I want to take responsibility, or did I want the priesthood – the doctors, the drugs, and the fear – to dictate my experience?” He also reported having an out-of-body experience in which three “presences” told him, “If you die, the seed that was planted in you will never bloom.” The UCLA doctors, however, were unimpressed by May’s attempts to explain his refusal. A psychiatrist was called in. May was given Thorazine and scheduled for an amputation.
According to May, the stage for the spiritual struggle that ensued had been set years before the car accident that changed the course of his life. “I was looking for something bigger than me in my life,” he says now in retrospect. “I think we all are. I think that’s the call to wanting to be in love –that it’s bigger than we are, that the love will be bigger than our pain.
“I was in excruciating psychological and emotional pain in my late teens and early 20s. I hitchhiked around the country in search of myself. I felt such a separation from the divine, and yet I longed for it. I tried to meditate. I tried all of those right things, but I wasn’t hooking up. I had my moments. But I knew, when I was being utterly honest with myself, I wasn’t hooking up. I was in search of something larger but hadn’t found it.
“Who would have thought that having 40 broken bones and being told you’ll never walk, and a leg or two will be amputated, and you probably won’t see or hear again, and your immune system is shot, and you’re going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, would be that something bigger?” May asks, with a tone of awed irony. “That’s bigger than a 21-year-old can handle, bigger than almost any human being can handle on his own. It was bigger than the doctors. The only way they knew how to deal with it was to take my legs off. “And I didn’t know how to inhabit that experience. That’s what causes the most suffering for people, is that they don’t know how to inhabit their current experience. But that’s where the mystery is. People think they want to get out of their lives. No! To inhabit the entire experience that’s happening, that is where the juice is. That is where the essence is. That is where the power is. Not in how to get out of there.”
As a mother, I shudder to imagine how May’s parents must have felt as they stayed by their son’s side throughout the long ordeal. His weight had dropped from 146 to under 90 pounds, and his broken and emaciated body was continuously wracked with unbearable pain. Mitchell’s mother, Lorraine May, finally approached Thelma Moss, PhD, who was head of the parapsychology research laboratory at UCLA, for help in easing her son’s suffering. “I was very skeptical,” she admitted on the Sightings TV program, “but I was desperate.”
Help came in the form of Jack Gray, a healer whose abilities had been demonstrated consistently through repeated tests in the university’s program. Knowing May to be near death, Gray agreed to work with him on an experimental basis. May, now in a body cast, didn’t know what to expect when told he’d be meeting a healer.
“I’m in intensive care and 70 doctors have seen my case and said, ‘You will never walk. Your immune system will never regenerate. You must have one leg for sure amputated. Your kidneys will not function again properly. The kind of pain you have, there’s no treatment for.’ And in walks a 65-year-old healer in a polyester leisure suit — no degrees; he’s just himself — and he says, ‘Nope, that’s not how it is. Let me tell you how it is.’
Shown are two fingertips, one of a healer and the other belonging to a person requiring healing. The healer has made himself ready to transfer healing energy to his client. The “ball of energy” seen is the healer’s finger and the oval is that patient’s finger aura.
“He touches me on the forehead, and he says, ‘Mitchell, you are made in the image and likeness of God. Everything you will ever need is within you. We just need to wake it up. Everything you need to regenerate bone, muscle, nerve, tissue, anything and everything in your life, it’s all in you, encoded. Just wake it up.’
“And I got it. For about a second. Then I went, ‘Yeah, but how come you’re wearing polyester and not purple robes? And how come you’ve got a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes in your pocket, man?’ He didn’t fit the picture. If I hadn’t been so desperate, I would have totally dismissed him as a geek.”
Shown is the Kirlian photograph of a healer’s fingertip while he is in a healing state of consciousness after meditation. Notice the beautiful and enlarged emanations around the fingertip as well as the unique energy or light patterns inside the finger pad.
Gray immediately impressed May by walking around his right leg and tracing the energy field that extended outward from it. No one had understood why Mitchell cried out with pain whenever doctors or nurses came within six inches of his right leg. Energy fields and auras were then unheard of, not part of the common vernacular as they are today.
“He would come in at 6 pm and stay till six in the morning, and then go back to work,” May recalls. “It was like he was on fire, all the time.” After the third night, Mitchell’s pain disappeared. “Everything else was the same, the infection, the fractures; there were no physiological changes, but the pain was gone,” he recounted in Yoga Journal. Slowly, the healer channeled May’s stubbornness into the healing process. How?
May believes the key was “not accepting the prevailing story of the authority that said I couldn’t heal. Had I accepted that, I wouldn’t be walking today. I wouldn’t be able to see. I would be in chronic, unrelenting pain. But I wouldn’t accept the story that I couldn’t heal.”
We all have a story, Mitchell insists. “Most of us don’t know where we received our stories, but merely accept them,” he observed in the Townsend Letter. “To improve your circumstances, the first step is to identify your story. By observing your life, whatever isn’t working is the place where you can start changing your story. Begin to imagine your life the way you want it to be and act on that imagination. As a kid, I loved ‘kick the can.’ When I was unable to walk and wore casts that supposedly were causing atrophy in my legs, in my imagination I played kick the can. Not just in my mind. I let my kinesthetic body actually feel the kicking.”
After years of intensive work with Jack, Mitchell had regained his health and the full use of his legs, which, according to the doctors, was medically impossible. Looking at X-rays, UCLA’s Dr. Dawson turned to him and noted, “I never would have believed it possible, but you have reformed an ankle bone.” Nerves, tissue and skin had been regenerated. Today, Mitchell May not only walks, but also runs, hikes and backpacks in the remote desert surrounding his home near Moab, Utah.
“When I finally asked Jack how he knew I would make it, when the circumstances were so impossible, he said the first prerequisite was that I fought him all the way. I was rebellious. What does that do for the New Age idea that you need calm and peace? It was because I said ‘F— you!’ that he knew there was a good chance, if he could redirect that energy so that it wasn’t just reactivity.”
Three months into the healing process, Mitchell May became, at Gray’s invitation, the healer’s long-awaited apprentice. In the process, May says, “He kicked my butt. Any belief system I had that wasn’t based on direct experience, he pulled out from under me. It was a heavy curriculum, and any unfinished business was fair game. Any habits that weren’t conscious had either to be broken or become conscious. Things like, for seven months, part of my training was that I could not use the words ‘I,’ ‘me,’ or ‘my.’ Try that! Try to realize how many things you claim you are, unconsciously.
“When we say our thoughts make us sick, that’s too superficial. Yes, our thoughts have a vast influence on our life. But it’s the unconscious part that has the greatest impact. The goal is to become conscious, so that there’s less and less unconscious.” He has little patience with those who attempt to oversimplify the healing process, or fail to walk their talk in this regard, especially spiritual teachers who “get up on stage and talk about these wonderful spiritual truths, and they ain’t living it! They do more harm in giving people false images. Telling people not to have negative thoughts. Big deal! If negative thoughts killed us, we’d all be dead. Teach people how to use their negative thoughts, and where they come from. Don’t make them afraid of their own minds.
“The thing I find unappetizing about much of New Age is that they want to put a value on that ‘something bigger’ that we’re all seeking, as if finding it through a guru is somehow better than finding it through cancer. Who cares? If anything takes you to a bigger place, yes! Use what your life is. There are other ways of bringing meaning into your life besides material attainment. A BMW is not a gold star from God.
“I feel an immense responsibility to what Jack gave me,” May says. “He gave me himself.” After seven years, Gray let Mitchell know that his work was done, and he would soon be gone. He died shortly thereafter. But, according to May, “When someone truly gives you something of himself, it transcends all time.” He still feels the presence of his teacher.
Life after Jack
After returning to school, getting his license as a psychotherapist, May studied nutrition to better understand the biochemical needs of the body. Out of this grew The Synergy Company.
“At a certain point,” he says, “I felt I had reached a plateau. My life was abundant, but I didn’t feel like I was growing. I felt like I was avoiding something I was afraid of. I didn’t want to deal with all the negativity I felt in the world and in my emotions. I didn’t want to deal with what came up in intimate relationships.
“I don’t call myself a healer, but that’s sort of what happened in the public eye. Projections come to you, that you’re all-knowing, all-wise, that you can heal anybody or anything. They’re beautiful projections, but it felt like an entrapment. If I had discouraging thoughts, I’d think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ If I got a cold, ‘How can I have a cold, I’m supposed to be a healer!’ If I couldn’t afford to buy something, ‘Why do I still have the level of consciousness that won’t allow that?’ The judgments get subtler and subtler.
“When I noticed that, I realized I needed to go where I was afraid. I saw what I needed, and what the planet needed from my small vision, what part I could play in the world. It’s business. The community of business has more impact on the health and happiness of all life forms than any other thing I know. Decisions are made daily by individuals and corporations that will affect people’s lives and their grandchildren’s. And generally, they’re still being made on the basis of greed and power.”
May had been experimenting with a nutritional supplement that would support the body not only physically, but energetically as well, literally mixing it up in his kitchen sink. Word spread, and soon he found himself creating a company.“ Among our products, we have many dozens of ingredients that come from all over the world. Making sure that every aspect of every one of those meets what I would call integrity has relevance for me. Everything matters. That’s the challenge of consciousness.”
Mitchell sees his products, and his company, as a living manifestation of healing consciousness. Kirlian photographs support his contention that the stringent care taken in sourcing, formulating and packaging his supplement ensures that the consumer is getting a product that is pulsing with living energy. But beyond the product itself is the way he manages his business.
Before even breaking ground on his new manufacturing facility, volunteers for the National Park Service were called in to remove and relocate indigenous plants on the building site. For the many pains taken to make the facility energy efficient and Earth safe, The Synergy Company won Utah’s Excellence in Manufacturing Award for Environmental Consciousness, rising above more than 4,000 other applicants. The company also channels profits to help support a wide range of environmental and social initiatives.
Asked what is most difficult for him about the brave new world of business, May responds, “The lack of honesty. People not keeping their agreements. Keeping an agreement is one of the most powerful resources we have. It will transform our lives.
“We all have an opportunity to tell the truth every day, and we often make the choice not to go for it. And in making that choice, we just let life leak right out of us. Jack was there to say ‘No more leaking.’” If you want to go for the whole thing, you don’t get to pick and choose. It’s very simple, really. It works the same in healing and in business. It’s truth that heals, truth that opens us up. Telling and living the truth creates magic.”