“A starving and pregnant tigress comes upon a flock of goats and pounces on them with such fervor that she brings about the birth of her little one, as well as her own death. The goats scatter, but soon come back to find the newborn tiger by the side of its dead mother.
The goats adopt the baby tiger and it grows up believing it is a goat. He learns to bleat and eat grass, but the trouble is that grass doesn’t nourish tigers well, and he grows into a weak and miserable member of his own species.
One day, a large male tiger pounces on the flock and the goats scatter. The young tiger, not being a goat, remains standing there. The big male is surprised to find a young tiger living with goats, and when he enquired into it, the young one simply says, “Maaaa.” Mortified, the old tiger swats him back and forth a couple of times, but the only response coming forth was more bleating and grass nibbling.
The old tiger brings the young one to a pond and makes him look at his own reflection for the first time. He leans over and points out to him, “See, you look like me. You’re not a goat. You are a tiger, like me. Be like me!” He then brings the young tiger to his den and shows him bloody chunks of gazelle meat from a recent hunt. Taking a big chunk, he says “Open up and eat this!” “Oh no, I’m a vegetarian,” says the little one. But the old tiger would not take no for an answer, and shoves a piece of red meat down the little one’s throat, causing him to gag a little. Now the real tiger food is in his gut, getting into his blood. Spontaneously, the young one gives a tiger-like stretch, and then a small little tiger roar.
“Now you’ve got it! Now go into the forest and eat tiger food!” says the big one.
Is there something larger than our ego that wants to come through, to demand authenticity and genuineness in the way we live? Are we to cruise onwards toward that inevitable ending, that certain exit on terms that were assumed and purchased for the first half? The second half of life is not a chronological issue, but a psychological one, in which we question what values and paradigms we are living by.
This is a question for each of us, whatever stage of life we’re in – are we tigers living as goats? If the answer is in the affirmative, then a second question – what is good tiger food? In other words, if we are not living as we ought to be, activating our fullest potentials, then what must we do, what would nourish us towards that?”
This is one of my favorite stories from India retold by the late Joseph Campbell. This story tells the truth about the dangers of what can happen when we adapt to our environment at the cost of our true self. When we believe our adapted self is our true self, we stop living out of our true nature. Adaptation is a survival skill yet at a certain point in our life it actually works against us. We must never adapt at the cost of our true nature.
Our larger culture does not support living authentically. Adapting to normalized values is what is expected of us. Every culture is made up of the collective values which are generally of a lower frequency than what our Soul resonates with. But we fear being banished, rejected or exiled by the collective if we don’t adapt to them. Throughout history, people have adapted to patriarchal rule, injustice, corruption, and materialism. “Fame and fortune,” are goals people aspire to, but these goals have no meaning for our Soul. Our adaptations skew our values away from what is real to what is not real, normalizing unhealthy ways of living that overtime, result in a lack of meaning and soul-loss. This happens when we mistake our adapted (goat) self for our true (tiger) self.
If we miss the opportunity to live from our real self during the first half, we are given another chance in the middle of our life. At this juncture, our psyche shifts and demands we begin living from a more authentic place. If we are living out of our ‘goat’ nature by adapting to be accepted, to survive, or even to belong we are compromising the best parts of us. Our feeling function informs us of this through symptoms of mind and body that emerge. Depression, anxiety, and sheer meaninglessness are common ones. We may have trouble sleeping, feel lonely, sad, or isolated. My medical practice is overflowing with people who are seeking the skills to reorient their lives to align with their authentic values. When they do, their symptoms heal.
Years ago, when I worked for corporate health care, hospital administrators informed me that I was dispensable, I had to be a ‘team player,’ generate mega-profit by keeping my patient’s sick and dependent, and if I didn’t adapt to this value system, I would be considered a traitor, an outcaste, a ‘trouble maker’. They character assassinated me when I refused to comply. It was their last ditch attempt to force me to prostitute myself, but rather than betray the sanctity of my vocation, I surrendered the golden handcuffs and ventured out into our community to create an ethical and integrity based model of medicine. While in the corporate system, my patients were actually healing and hospitalizations were reduced, health care costs were significantly lowered. This was a threat to the ‘value’ system of hospital administrators. I realized that healthy patients were a conflict of interest for the hospitals profit margin. Even though I was hired to practice ‘wellness,’ administrators serving the corporate value system were unhappy when it worked. They merely viewed me as a pawn for capturing market share. Wellness and integrative medicine was never their true intent.
At the young age of 36, I left corporate medicine and never looked back.
Physicians working for corporate medicine today have an exceedingly high suicide rate , currently a 100-fold higher for male physicians than the general population, and 400-fold higher for female physicians.
Corporate medicine does not care. Physicians are dispensable and simply cogs in the corporate wheel. They are a means for generating profit through patients at the cost of the sanctity of medicine. Sickness and disease are expected to be managed for generating profit. Healing reduces revenue, and is discouraged.
Physicians who have adapted to this system are like the tiger living among goats in our story. If we are to reawaken the soul of medicine, we must recognize our true calling, as well as our true nature. Money and patriarchy are never worth losing ourselves for. Integrity and healing must return as core values in medicine. Serving the true vocation versus profit (at all costs) is what is needed to restore meaning for physicians and medicine at large. The courage to embody this is what will eventually heal health care.
The way that corporate medicine conditions physicians to adapt is much like the way our collective culture conditions each of us. It takes courage, insight and a dedicated effort to unhook ourselves from collective values and align with our true nature. It requires personal sacrifice, yet the rewards of living this way are abundant priceless. Living from authenticity restores health, self-respect and self-worth, and not surprisingly prevents chronic diseases of our mind and body.
I encourage you to reflect on whether the path of discovering and aligning with your true nature could be your commitment this year. You never know what gifts you will find along the way, and getting to know yourself authentically is truly the greatest gift of all.
©January2023, July2016 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife (2nd Edition), Medial Press, 2014. Dr. Kumar is currently accepting new patients. Call 262.695.5311 for an appointment, either virtual or in-person for those free of symptoms.