[Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., psychiatrist, formerly on the faculty of the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, in 1975 founded The Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, California, a nonprofit organization to provide health education for young people facing life-threatening illness. All services at the Center are rendered free of charge. In 1979 he authored To Give is to Receive: Mini Course for Healing Relationships and Bringing About Peace of Mind, and Love is Letting Go of Fear, on which principles he lectures throughout the United States. We share with our readers the major portion of a conversation with Dr. Jampolsky held on June 1, 1981, at his Center. — Ed.]
GFK — We appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. We wanted to share with our readers something of the important work you are doing for the children and also for their parents.
Jampolsky — There is a significant passage in Isaiah that says: "and a little child shall lead them" — this is what it is all about. These children are demonstrating spiritual principles that have been around a long time, and are being presented now so that they have practical application to today's life. It is not just a matter of catastrophic illness, but rather the truth of the very principles that Jesus taught.
GFK — Love, "perfect love casteth. out fear." I have just read your paperback, Love is Letting Go of Fear. How do you effect this total change of attitude from the inside out? If a boy or girl has cancer and is way down in the depths, how do you help that child face the reality of the situation in a constructive way?
Jampolsky — I guess it goes back to my own struggles for personal transformation, when back in 1975 I recognized, in an instant, that although I had never been on any spiritual pathway or had an special desire to experience God, that that was really what I was here for; that where I was going was to the heart of God, and that what I was was the essence of love, and what I had to do was to listen to that inner voice of God. At our Center we are here to heal our minds. We are not here to change people, or cure diseases, or even help people live longer. We have one single goal and that is to find peace of mind, peace of God. Our task is to create an environment where there is unconditional love, which means total acceptance — not wanting to change another person. We are just trying the change the thoughts that we put in our minds. We feel that our minds are made up essentially of god-thoughts and love-thoughts, and that a kind of shortcircuiting occurs when we have either attack thoughts or defensive thoughts, and so we are doing our best to learn how not to have that type of thoughts.
We have set up an environment where children are our teachers. We are on an equal basis where love is interchanged; we are all there to do the same thing: to let go of fear through the vehicle of love. We do this through learning that, no matter how much pain you have, if you take one instant and totally give to another person your love, during that one instant you will not experience pain or sickness; you will not perceive yourself as having pain. We find that when children and adults experience one such instant, and can recognize that instant in an eternity, we can then put two instants together, and soon put a day together.
I define love as total absence of fear and health as inner peace; so healing too is letting go of fear. This is quite different from the medical model where you are trying to change bodies. Although many children are not certain of living longer — and they may not necessarily live longer because of what we are doing — for sure they and their families are more at peace because they are getting rid of their fears. One 12-year-old summed it up: "Live life to the fullest. This minute is this minute. The disease doesn't own you; you own the disease."
GFK — This is splendid: you are transforming the whole trend of their approach; instead of going down with them into a dark hole of despair, you are helping them let the light through.
Jampolsky — We are saying that what we see isn't real; what's real is what you don't see with your physical eyes. There's a cartoon that says: "Let's look at a person's light, not his lampshade." The lampshade is the body, the disease, and what it may or may not do. And so I do my best to see everyone in Christ's light. Now I am not always doing that; at times I misperceive and may think that someone is attacking me. But I try, as consistently as I can, not to interpret, not to make deductions, not to analyze, but simply to see everyone as loving and, if they are fearful, as giving us a call for help, for love.
GFK — The idea of "letting go of fear" seems to me cardinal. Wasn't it Marie Curie who said, "there's nothing to be feared; it is only to be understood"? Hers was more of an intellectual approach, and yours isn't intellectual, it's right from the heart.
Jampolsky — Ours is not intellectual; it is totally experiential; it is letting go of our investment in material goals. We need to recognize that our past belief system isn't working. The world's belief system is to try to get as much as you can and hold on to it. That doesn't really work; we have to go inside to find God.
GFK — How do you go about this? Do you start with the children or with their parents?
Jampolsky — On a typical Wednesday night, you will find at our Center about 20 kids, ages 5 to 15; here in this office you will see their brothers and sisters; in my home five minutes away will be the parents. Everything is free. We never have charged a fee for services. My time has always been volunteered. It is a matter really of trust. Money has been coming in in miraculous ways.
GFK — That just emphasizes the fact that people down deep are loving, are altruistic. Would you talk a little about visualization, positive, active imagination? In our experience, we have found this to be a two-edged sword: it can be used for very personal and selfish ends which can result in great harm. Your motivation is clearly altruistic, but how do you get this ideal over so as to keep your work on a pure and unselfish level?
Jampolsky — Perhaps I can give you an example. Recently Hugh Prather, a well-known author, and I were in Atlanta consulting with the parents and the agency concerned over the children who have been kidnapped and murdered there. A woman working in the agency had a child with sickle-cell anemia in the hospital; he was in terrible pain and wanted to die. We were asked to see him. What Hugh and I do is pray ahead of time for guidance, and the answer came not to make getting rid of the pain the main thing; to realize we were there to share peace. What came through to me was to ask the boy what he enjoys most when he is well. "I like to play pool" (billiards). So I suggested he could, with his mind, and with his eyes closed, actually play a game of pool with Hugh and myself (he could teach Hugh how to play as he went along), and that as the balls went into the pockets his fear and pain would disappear — if he put all of his attention into the game.
The next morning we went to the agency, and there was the boy! He had worked on playing pool during the night and all his pain had gone, to the surprise of the doctors and nurses who told us that with this kind of spasm usually it takes about three weeks for the pain to subside. This is just one example of that kind of imagery. Imagery isn't changing the body as much as it is helping a person drop his anxieties and allow peace to come through; it's letting go of the past and the future and making the present count.
We now have a telephone network where kids can help each other; this boy from Atlanta has been on the phone around the country talking to others who have real problems, such as leukemia. It's exciting to see people who are lonely and isolated helping each other through a love network; it's beautiful to see what can happen with very little money. We have started a number of other centers around the country — about 30 — and it is all done on a volunteer basis. The whole thing is self-help on a spiritual level; really it's a shifting of the consciousness. People have begun to recognize we just couldn't go on the way we were heading, and that we had to find another way; to me that way is going back and having faith in God.
GFK — Faith in God — for the Christian, the Jew, and the Moslem, of course; but you don't have only children of those faiths. How do you broaden your approach, say, for the Chinese or the Hindu?
Jampolsky — First, we are not here to impose our belief system on anybody; we see people from all religions. Second, the principle we follow is this: although it may be impossible for there to be a universal theology, not only is it possible, but it is absolutely necessary that we have a universal experience.
GFK. — That's it — and universal love.
Jampolsky — That is what we are after: to recognize that the biggest problem facing humanity is that we are living in a world where death is our main fear. When you learn to let go of the feeling that death is more real than life, all other problems seem minor. So we first have a spiritual base — which doesn't mean a religious attachment — it means that we are more than this body and mind, and that the essence of our being is God's love. That is not a material thing that you can see or touch; it is something that is real.
GFK — So it doesn't matter what your theology or particular spiritual heritage is?
Jampolsky — No, you don't even have to believe in God for it to work. But it's not something you can prove on a scientific basis. As you know, for scientists what is true is what you can measure and replicate. But I think what is true is what you can't see and measure. You can't measure the world of love.
GFK — How do you help people handle their fears?
Jampolsky — You look right at the fears and then you see them as not real, and you choose love instead of fear. We have five main principles here: to realize there has to be another way; to choose peace rather than conflict; to choose love rather than fear; to be a love-finder rather than a fault-finder; to be a love-giver rather than a love-seeker. When you can do all that, then you will be at peace with yourself, and a natural follow-up state is joy. So when our children make a transition — that is how we conceive of death — rather than having everyone sad, we have a celebration of life.
Recently we had a celebration for a boy whose parents were not religious. When we went to the family home afterwards many came up to us and said: "We went to the service with our children with trepidation, thinking it was going to be very sad, and we found it was very joyful" — we were not seeing death as finite; we were looking at life as eternal.
We had one six-week period where there were eight deaths right here. But, as I said, we don't see the physical body as real; we see it as a costume. I think children can be very close to spiritual truths. One bright kid said: "Look, as long as you're breathing, you're here to do a service of God, and that is to help other people; so as long as you are breathing, even if you have cancer and your body is all riddled up with it, you can be joyful and happy." Most of our children have had a very peaceful transition.
What is real doesn't change; the only thing that is changeless is God's love, because it has no beginning and no ending, it is eternal. This physical world that we call real is actually illusory in that everything we see with our physical eyes and ears undergoes change. Our job is to remind ourselves that if we are seeing other people with the eyes and consciousness of love, we are not really dealing with the physical universe at that point. What we are all becoming is the light of the world — joining as one light so that we can be where we have always been, in the heart of God. I think we are all here to be messengers of God, each of us, if you will, "doing our thing." You have a magazine that is helping thousands of people — that is your assignment. My assignment is a little different, but the goal is the same.
GFK — It is a beautiful work you are doing with these children and their parents. But the whole world needs this idea.
Jampolsky — The world is getting it. We were on TV recently, on 60 Minutes where 60 million people heard these children. Tonight I'm going to the University of California at Davis and will be taking two children and talking there to 300 students. Yesterday there was a large symposium in San Francisco on "Death and Dying," and I had a child from Atlanta and a little child from here teaching how death concepts are seen through a child's eye. The consciousness of a lot of people is being changed, just by my getting out of the way and letting the children teach. Working with children is a beautiful way of learning how to be consistent in one's life, in what you think, say, and do. Most of us can say nice words, but our thoughts might be quite different.
GFK — Does your Center use any of the regular modern cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation?
Jampolsky — Ours is a Center for Attitudinal Healing, which means it is an educational center; we don't use any medical treatment whatsoever — absolutely no treatment of any kind. Almost all of our children are involved in a medical model where they are seeing doctors and undergoing chemotherapy or X-ray therapy. Our work is a supplement to the medical model, not a substitute.
GFK — Aren't some doctors beginning to recognize you?
Jampolsky — More and more a shift is going on in the consciousness of the medical fraternity; particularly within the last two years there has been tremendous gain in acceptance of our work, and many hospitals are utilizing our methods. We have been in the Sloan-Kettering Institute, Columbia University, Baylor Medical School, University of California, Los Angeles. The American Medical Association is coming out next week with an article on us, and we will be in Family Circle magazine on July 21st. We make clear that we are not talking about medical models where healing means changing the body, getting rid of a cold, or of cancer; that what we are meaning by healing is letting go of fear.
Another Center like this one is being started by one of the Stanford oncologists who has been positively influenced by our work.
GFK --You are going back to the original sense of the word: healing, health, meaning "wholeness."
Jampolsky — Absolutely. Nothing from our past perceptions is whole; everyone is seeing things differently based on a limited perception. But when you are joined in love, joined with another totally in love or in prayer, you are experiencing wholeness at that point. Healing is wholeness, absolutely.
GFK — Usually with cancer there is so much suffering which is not only physical, but psychological and mental as well. If a person has a philosophy to live by, this helps no end. But what about these parents? Are any of them questioning the reason for this? Are they searching for a philosophy or a religious belief that will give them an explanation why their son or daughter should be afflicted?
Jampolsky — Most parents go through a why-stage, where they are very angry at the world, at the doctors, at everything — even God. People in Atlanta went through all this too — the anger, and "why is this happening to me?" This is a transitory phase. What we try to do is to create an atmosphere where parents can help each other; as this comes about, the why-questions begin to disappear and instead they want to be helpful to someone else. I find that many parents are opened up by their child's spiritual being. Oftentimes children who come from non-religious families are choosing to pray; they are choosing to say: "Hey, I don't have to hang on to the past or to the future; I just want to see this thing through for whatever time there is." A parent begins then to pick up that attitude from his child. We are finding that parents are shifting their consciousness and becoming beautiful teachers, and that all we need to do as workers here is to be consistent in sharing — not advice, but love. When we are loving, we are seeing the light in the children and parents we are working with: we identify not with their pain, but with their love. I really believe that giving and receiving are one in truth. Isn't this what life and love are all about?
(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 1981. Copyright © 1981 by Theosophical University Press)