Commentary and Reviews
Tom Oates shares his
Recovery: The Peace that Heals
An audio book by Tom
1998, Sacred Earth Productions, Seattle, Wash.
$24.95 (Available from the publisher at
877/835-0838 or www.healing-peace.com)
By Shirley Kiefer
Tom Oates is a fortunate person in
that he has come out on the other
side of CFIDS, considerably recovered, having learned a great deal about himself in the process. Fortunately
for us, he is articulate enough to share his insights, this time in an audio tape set that can be helpful
to those willing to engage in their own healing process.
Because that process is different for
each of us, as he concedes,
the tape is basically a guide for changing our attitudes about the process. He makes an important distinction
between two paradigms of healing: the "magic bullet" that brings an external cure vs. a holistic approach
that focuses on finding a new balance and healing into a new pattern of living.
He speaks of letting go of the struggle
to get well and instead relaxing
into the cultivation of peace, which can promote an alignment with healing. Stressing that his steps are
not a recipe for a cure, he views them as a resource to help people discover their own healing path and
their own steps.
The tapes are engaging because he begins
with stories of his own
life before CFIDS, describes his onset of illness in 1989 and eight stages of his recovery, interspersing
his insights with actual experiences in his life. He chooses interesting metaphors and stories to illustrate
his insights and includes pithy quotes from sources such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Lau Tsu, Thich Nhat Hanh and
Overall, his insights on going within
and opening up to one’s own
healing process are right on, as many of us have discovered. While inspirational and spiritual in nature,
they are not shallow optimism or heady theories. They are grounded in his own experience and thoughtful
Most of his suggestions would be universally
helpful. Some of his
specific strategies may not be useful to all. He advocates disconnecting from mass media for a time, particularly
TV, which he sees as reinforcing toxic fears and attitudes. That, however, is a personal choice (although
recent newscasts certainly validate it!), and some people may be helped by quality programming.
Of special interest to me were the
dreams he recounts to illuminate
how we can use our dreams for guidance and inspiration. Some are quite humorous and delightful! I, too,
have found my dreams helpful, but I did find it necessary to attend dream workshops and work with a therapist
before I could do that on my own. Most people need help in interpreting their dreams. But his examples
are good ones, and they open a window into that skill.
Oates is the artist/producer of a beautiful
videotape, "Cloud People"
(Summer 1995 Chronicle). This time his tool is his own voice sharing his journey. As with his
videotape, the listener is drawn into his journey and can emerge with a real sense of hope and some tools
to realize that hope.
The set includes four tapes, each 60
minutes. Perhaps the most valuable
approach would be to listen to small portions, digesting the insights one at a time.
Oates believes the tapes would be most
useful to people who have
been ill for at least two years and know the frustration of dealing with relapses. My own assessment is
that the first two tapes also would be appropriate for people newly diagnosed, who are wondering where
to turn for help. These are the tapes I wish I had had in the second year of my illness when I was so
discouraged by a terrible relapse. The third tape, which presents suggestions for reducing relapses, and
the fourth tape, which presents 12 steps for staying on the healing path, are good reminders to those
of us who are long-term veterans dealing mostly with occasional relapses. Whether these insights are new
to us or reminders of a process we tend to forget when stressed out, they can help to get us back on track.
The tapes could also be used by support
groups to listen to portions
and discuss afterward. Differences of opinion would certainly emerge, and much could be gained from discussion.
Overall, Tom Oates is an encouraging voice for all persons with CFIDS to help us tap into inner resources
that ultimately affect our healing journey.
Shirley Kiefer is a former librarian and a support group leader in Connecticut.