Light up the flame within

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An Introduction of this center written by the Founder

Thank you for visiting this site. I am Dr. Helen Shih, founder of the "Light Within" and "Flow-of-Light Natural Health". I want to share with you some of my background: how I opened this center, what has inspired me and can help you as well. This is a simplified version of my journey that I hope can inspire you as well in your path.

1. Childhood

      I grew up in Beijing, China, at the end of the Chinese "Culture Revolution", which marked the darkest time in the modern Chinese history. Exactly how dark was it? My childhood memories were all dark grey and dark blue in colors, because people at that time only wore cloths of those colors. As a child, I was sensitive and introvert, trying to shield myself and escape from the surrounding gloominess. The only exception nature. Nature is forever colorful and joyful, no matter how terrible the human world is. Maybe because of this experience, I developed a sensitivity and connection with nature and a deep appreciation of it. We used to play in the patches of rice fields by the foothill of the west mountains of Beijing. At that time, the land was still green and pristine with clear water canals flowing through miles and miles of beautiful royal gardens built by the Chinese emperors in the old time. 

      Ancient Chinese were very peaceful, gentle, and loving people who respected and treasured nature. In fact, the philosophy and the way of living can be captured in one phrase of 4 characters in Chinese, "天人合一” (pronounced as "Tian Ren He Yi",meaning "Heaven and Man become one"). This was essentially how they lived and the destination of their spiritual attainment. Much of the Buddhist and Daoist scriptures focus on the teachings and practices with this essence. 

      But all of these were thrown away in the recent history of China. As an attempt to defend herself against European colonization and match up with the race of industrialization, China swept away the culture roots and traditions in the "New China Movement" that lasted from the beginning of the 1800's till the modern time, including the horrendous "Culture Revolution”. People believed that the reason why they were bullied and invaded was because of lack of technology and industry in the East. As a result of this movement, young students like myself were taught to abandon our "inferior" Chinese tradition, compete for "modernization", and go through years of schools which were westernized training copied strictly from the Russian system. Even today, western media continues to bash China, from economy to pollution, from human right to government. However, I hope people will eventually realize that the West has a lot to do with how China becomes today, as a result of the past colonization and aggressive development in the recent years (By no means I am defending China, but I wish people will stop finger pointing, instead reflect upon their own deeds and responsibilities).  

     I would consider my parents to be among the first generation in the new China to be "westernized". They were both physicists in the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing. Because of the research work in the international scientific community, they had a few opportunities to interact with the west when I grew up. Although China was extremely isolated and was cut off from the rest of the world at that time (1960-1970's), their work helped open a tiny gap from which I could take a peek of the outside world. I became interested in western philosophy and culture thanks to this rare exposure. In fact, among the very limited few things we knew about the west, there were two ladies' names which were introduced to China in 1980's. One is Helen Keller, from which I picked my English name. The other is Marie Curie, who was the source of inspiration for my scientific work later on.

     Yet even with two scientists working in Beijing, our family, like many others, struggled on the border line of starvation and poverty, because of the economic situation back at that time. My parents salaries combined together were about ¥60 a month, which was equivalent to about $10. But as a child, I never felt we were lacking or miserable, except we rarely had any toys, books, or new clothes. The western suburb of Beijing was also pristine and beautiful (at least 40-50 years ago) with miles of gorgeous royal gardens, green mountains and rice patties. Nature was my refuge and had planted a seed deep inside me that later on would become a full fruition (you can read about this from Houston Sierra Club, where I committed to the environment advocacy work).    

2. Education

     In late 1980's, I started college in China (Tsinghua, 清华大学, the "MIT" of China). My field of study was in Biomedical Engineering, following my parents' footstep. My father was a well-known physicist and one of the pioneers started this professional field in China in 1970's-1980's. But soon afterwards, the democracy movement broke out where young students including myself went on streets, demanding transparency and openness in the government. The idea of equality and justice seemed to be so appealing to the passionate young minds in China at that time.  Since middle-school age, I have been thinking of visiting the "free country" of America and experiencing what it is like. But it took about 10 years of hard work to prepare my study and other resources needed to actualize this dream, partially because we were so poor that going abroad to study was simply impossible but merely a fantasy. 

     At the time of graduation, I was able to secure very competitive scholarships to pursue a PhD study in America. Even today, I am very appreciative of this honor and generous gift I received, which provided the basic need for me to continue my education. Like a young fledgling, I was ready to spread my wings and experience something completely new and different. With a few hundred dollars in my pocket, two suitcases, and a one-way ticket (we could not afford the two-way fare), I left home, leaving my father appalled and my mom heartbroken. That was my first long-trip taken away from home and my first airplane ride (people at that time rarely had means to travel anywhere). It flew all the way to the other side of the Earth that was completely foreign and unknown to us. My mother thought she would loose me forever in the wild west, which turned out to be partially true. 

    I studied medical radiation physics and biomedical imaging in the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, subsequently. The process was lengthy and strenuous. At many points it put me under severe stress and tests as I was away from home by myself and had to struggle alone in a foreign country. Not only I had to adapt to a new environment in which everything was alien to me, but also I had to learn to survive with a bare minimum income as a graduate student. For example, the lowest international calling rate was about $3/min to China, so the maximum duration I could afford was about 10 min/month to talk to my parents. I ended up religiously writing one letter a month to my mom, which took 2 weeks to get there and 2 weeks for her letter to come back. That's how we communicated. Every poor immigrant coming to this country understands what it is like, especially young foreign students. Unfortunately, the austerity is often not being publicized and appreciated by the lucky ones born in this country. 

    In addition, my graduate work and PhD thesis research were also very difficult and challenging, as we were at the cutting edge of making major technological breakthroughs in the fields of radiology and radiation therapy. It was like an arduous marathon with hurdles in every step of the way. But with persistence and dedicated effort, sometimes "divine revelation" of scientific insights (I will write these stories later), I managed to succeed and in fact became one of the most accomplished students upon graduation. I also completed a postdoctoral residency training in Radiation Oncology at Mayo Clinic. This is where I met my colleague and spouse Dr. Raja, who grew up in South India, and came to Mayo for his graduate training. The mutual support, companionship, and intellectual stimulation were instrumental for us both to succeed in our profession and in personal life (Dr. Raja is also a very accomplished medical physicist in Magnetic Resonance Imaging and clinical research). 

3. A Woman in Physics

     After spending 6 years and 7 winters in the snowy but beautiful Minnesota, I was offered a position as a faculty and assistant professor, in one of the largest cancer centers in the country (the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas). I became the only woman faculty in the Department of Radiation Physics at that time, working with some of the most brilliant physicists and physicians in the field. Together, we made significant progress developing new technologies and bringing them into clinical practice. The rigor in academic training has brought me a new level of understanding of physics and human health from a scientific point of view. I was heavily involved with the clinic, research, and teaching in the cancer center for about 11 years, coordinating several important developmental projects in the department.

   However, as a busy professor, life started to get really tough when we wanted to raise a family and have children. In the meantime, there was something deeply unsettling growing in me, accumulating over the years, as healthcare institutions becoming increasingly corporate-like and profit driven. Sitting in the ivory tower of the academics, many of us were caught in nauseating competitions for research grants, paper cranking and ladder climbing. Some of the papers we wrote, in hindsight, had little to do with real clinical impact but for a job promotion needed. That's the problem I see in academic medicine - a great deal of knowledge and research investment made are not translating into what patients receive and what public can benefit. The gap between what the academicians are leading to in cutting edge research and what the public know or do in the society is growing larger and larger. This trend is still continuing even today and is becoming a hurdle in American public health.

    A series of events, coincident, or life-changing moments happened one after another around 2000-2004, which eventually made me decide to leave academic medicine at the peak of my career (I will write these interesting encountering later). Perhaps this was the way how one's destiny unfolds by the mysterious power of the nature. But it was certainly not an easy decision to make, as I was well accomplished and recognized in my professional field. Letting go of what I have worked very hard to achieve and a six-figure salary was a challenge I had to face, both mentally and financially. It took me quite sometime to reach that transition point and completed the transferring of responsibilities I had in the department. But eventually I made a commitment to move on and switch into a brand new direction. At that time, I often felt I dived into a fathomless black hole without knowing where I was heading too, being thrust into a state of total loss or emptiness. 

    What had propelled me to make such a drastic change? Well first, I became a devoted yoga practitioner and a Buddhist student, at the same time, a mother of two young children. The stress of working long hours in hospitals and intense academic routine seemed to be incompatible with what I need to do and pursue further. I was deeply ingrained in Hinduism, Buddhist psychology, and Zen meditation, thanks to my connection with the eastern heritage and personal interest in understanding the greater scope of health and the deeper meaning of diseases. 

   Secondly, I was influenced by my father who was also a medical physicist and entrepreneur in China. He led the first team of Chinese physicists and engineers visiting the U.S. in their training and collaboration. They made a successful progress in introducing the modern technology of medical imaging to China (which included ultrasound, CT, and MRI systems). Afterwards, he started his own research and development in infrared imaging as a way to assess human body and its health conditions. Because of his scientific work, he traveled world wide. Every time he visited us in Houston and the cancer center where I worked, he would shake his head and provoke me, "Instead of aggressively treating cancer, both expensive and with severe side-effects, why not put your effort in preventing the cancer!" I knew he was 100% right, yet it took me many years to make that transition. 

   After leaving the cancer center, I started to help my father in his new endeavor. He and his business partner started a new wellness center in Houston. We worked together on a new technique in infrared imaging and a new concept called "health environment". I served as a health consultant and director in the wellness center taking care of the daily operation. At the same time, I was involved in the study and development of the infrared imaging applications. This technology has a great potential to be used in traditional Chinese medicine, holistic health, and eventually mainstream medicine. However, apart from the medical barriers and political hurdles along the way to bring this technology forward, the science behind it, was also extremely complex and intriguing. 

4. Stumbling into Holistic Medicine

    As I spent hours and hours of experimenting and observing infrared images, I was puzzled by the mysteries of the life force hidden beneath these moving and flickering images, alive and changing constantly with people's thoughts, emotions, and physiological conditions. We had many research projects conducted in China from which hundreds of thousands of images were saved and studied. It became more clear and clear to me that there was something else that was driving the changes of the images and thermodynamics of the body than what the convention medicine has believed and taught. A window of light came in, inviting me to step into this mystery, which was partially revealed in the Yoga and Buddhist teachings, as well as Chinese medicine in the ancient time. To pursue this further, I started to explore the non-orthodox way of scientific study and experiments, which in fact got me "stumbled" into the field of holistic medicine. 

    There were times that the images and what I have observed simply could not be analyzed and understood with the methods currently available in academic medicine. Though I was one of the experts in my professional field, I felt the deep sense of frustration and being confined by the tools and knowledge of what we have. In fact, there was a period of time that I fell into a depression - it felt like a dark hell without any help or hope. I was stepping into an unknown field with little prior knowledge or established methods of analysis. In addition, the family duties and the needs of raising the children also pulled me aside and took a significant chunk of energy (I found repeatedly that raising children is far more challenging than dealing with complicated computers and physics problems which are at least manageable in predictable ways). 

    Again, it was through dedication, commitment, and divine intervention (which came in during the "darkest nights of the soul"), that pulled me out of the difficulty. I had to learn to open up the intuitive side of myself to balance the over-developed logical and rational side to understand the science behind these intriguing images. I also had to come up with creative ways to experiment the imaging process and data analyses. To deepen my understanding, I had to collaborate with people who are born with extraordinary gift in seeing things behind the physical veil and boundary. Since the tool of infrared imaging was essentially a stepping stone for me to enter into the field of holistic medicine, I ended up working with a few accomplished medical intuitives (you can google this term if you are not familiar with it). My "scientific mind" and skepticism led me to test their abilities and validity of what they revealed. I was convinced in the end (which was not a so easy task for a stubborn physicist like myself), that there are things that we are not able to see with our physical eyes or with our existing scientific instruments, and there are more mysteries waiting to be uncovered.

5. Into the Healing 

    The doors and windows seemed to pop open left and right afterwards. I met many teachers, healers, and gurus in the field, traveled to many places, from Asia, Africa, to South America. I often brought the instrument of the infrared imaging with myself, in scanning and testing the effects of healing, observing the changes in myself and others. I also studied a wide variety of healing art and available techniques, including Reiki, acupuncture, and other new-age systems. The scientific part and the spiritual side of me became more balanced and integrated. In fact, at one point when I was obsessed with measuring and testing the data, I heard a loud voice inside of me, asking "Does science serve God, or does God serves science?" The question provoked me to start a lengthy yet rewarding exploration of the relationship between spirituality and science. In fact, I encourage all my colleagues working in science and soul friends likewise to seek and find the answers themselves. But for me, it became clear and clear as I was moving along the path, that what has been taught in scientific investigations and what has been passed on in all the sacred traditions have something in common. We share one root of humanity and one source of knowledge which is called the "Truth". 

    I also met medical doctors and scientists like myself who are interested in understanding the secrets of the human health and how the life energy works in the "human energy field" - a concept that depicts the life field that exists to sustain our body-mind-spirit, connecting all of us and the web of life on the planet and beyond. We live and breathe in this "life field" that is like an ocean of energy intertwined together (some also called it a "web of life"). I realized that what I was observing and experimenting with the infrared imaging was essentially an electromagnetic window or "an energy band" from which we can get a glimpse of the dynamics of this life field at work. In fact, the frontier of physics research is about to understand the nature of this energy field and how it is related to our consciousness.

6. Destiny Unfold     

    Accompanying the scientific exploration, my spiritual journey has truly begun to grow in fruition. I started to become more intuitive and opened up my innate capability of connecting to nature, to people, and to see things we normally do not sense in the physical world. I called this the "X-ray vision of the soul". Many people are born with this ability, but it lays dormant or being denied in our mundane human world. I also started to blend and balance the analytical and academic part of me with the artist and intuitive side of me. It is a more fulfilling state to be in when I become more whole and harmonious with who I am in essence. When we live with only one side of us, life feels like canoeing on the river with only one pedal, or walking with only one foot. This imbalance is in fact, the cause of many of the health problems we are experiencing in the society.

    To share with others the knowledge and skills in holistic health, I opened my own practice which was called the "Flow-of-Light Natural Health", after transitioning the wellness center my father started.  It then became clear to me that my life mission is to help people realign themselves with the greater path of the nature or the "Dao" (道), as what we say in Chinese.  In 2012, I received the public recognition as an established holistic health practitioner in the U.S. It was a major year of changes and transitions for many people (you can read an article I wrote about the "Earth Transition: A Polarity Shift", and how it is impacting us and our society). In the same year, I also met a few important teachers and healers who helped me open up more to the Universe Consciousness and build stronger connection with the healing field. From 2012-2015, I devoted myself to an in-depth meditation study which eventually led me experience the state of oneness with the Universe (returning to the Dao), and be able to live in this state on a more permanent/sustainable basis. Many people experience this altered state of consciousness under certain circumstances, such as in deep meditation or in breathtaking nature. 

    You may wonder what is it like to be connected to the sacred source of the Universe? Well, it feels like being plugged into a "power outlet" or fountain head of infinite wisdom, energy, love, and patience. The truth is, we are connected to this source all the time. We are receiving endless energy and love all the time. But under the distortion and blockage of our human mind, in addition to the collective imprinting of the society, we cannot see this love and feel it. Instead, we are locked in our own illusion and limited beliefs, fighting for minute things that brings destruction to both ourselves and to the nature. Our spiritual path and in fact healing are about removing these unhealthy patterns, especially those which do not serve us but confine us. Our common path is about to continue to let our heart and soul be purified and expanded, until we fully become one with the Great Nature. 


7. Public Advocacy - From Dao to the Earth

   I have met many spiritual friends along the path, with whom I share desires and passion in seeking the Truth and returning to God. I have also seen a common tendency, that people prefer to sit in meditation, or find solitude, away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. In fact, I myself have gone through that phase as well. Indeed, the human world is messy and heavy, often filled with chaos and miseries. Many of us just don’t want to see it or get involved in it. Recently, I encountered a new term called “Spiritual Bypass”, which describes the phenomenon in the spiritual community and the inclination of this passive avoidance or escapism from the real world.

   But if there is anything spiritual, it is about bringing the true happiness and spirit of service back to the people, so they can benefit from what we have learned and gained in perspective and wisdom. Since the time I left the academic track, I have been engaged in public advocacy, teaching and preaching the principles and practices of holistic health. It is a hard work, as most people do not understand the importance of maintaining the health and even how to do this. In addition, our healthcare system does not follow a “health”-care, but a “disease”-care model. People rarely go to doctors when they are healthy. In hindsight, I realized that what I did over the years was to join the force with thousands of other health advocates in the so-called “wellness revolution” movement, in helping people adopt a different way of seeing health. Therefore, as of today, there is such a positive surge of health coaches, holistic practitioners, and wellness awareness in the community. Even major medical centers and hospitals, have started to adopt alternative medicine and other holistic approaches openly in the practice, which was extremely rare 20 years ago.

    My work in holistic medicine also helped me see the connection between our personal health and the environmental health on a global scale. In fact, one day when I was working in my office, I had an aha moment about the term of “health environment” my father and I were using in describing the microscopic environment of our body-mind-spirit entity. I had the sudden insight that this environment has its macroscopic counterpart which includes everything on the planet. Our personal health is our environmental health, our environmental health is our personal health, the two are in fact the same. Unless we can keep our environment clean, we will be forever subjective to the pollution and damages we are bringing to the nature. Since then, I also became actively engaged in environmental advocacy, joining other Earth helpers in protecting the precious nature we have. Recently, the environmental advocacy work also led me help more people to become civically active and engaged in the political process. Politics is spirituality. Spirituality is in politics. The two are not separated.

8. Conclusions

    As you may be aware of, we are not just humans, but spirits living in the human body - the product of billions of years of evolution on the Earth. However, humanity at this time is under a serious threat from over-development and industrialization. These can be seen from the opulent use of material goods without giving much considerations to the nature world. In many ways, humans are becoming "Cancer of the Earth". The way we live, the way we consume, and the way we exploit other animals and plants on the planet are extremely detrimental to every being in the life field or the ecosystem. This itself has not only given rise to the environmental crisis in the natural world, but also has brought mass destruction to ourselves.

    With the sharp rise of mental healthy problems, physical diseases, and social-emotional stress we are facing, it seems humanity is indeed receiving the "karma" we have brought to our environment. If there is nothing done to turn this fast-moving train from its track of self-destruction, we will be experiencing more and more calamities and eventually destruction of the planet. Perhaps that is why many brave souls and healers are coming to the Earth at this time, to alarm us, to wake up more people. The core of spirituality is about fully embracing the human value we have in common and bringing that to the front line of everything we do: from Dao back to the Earth, helping people in every meaningful way we could. That’s what Christ and Buddha have taught and practiced throughout their life.

    I want to conclude with the essence of Dao summarized in "天人合一“: meaning men must become one with the Divine, so he/she can enter heaven, for which peace and harmony exist. Otherwise, he is forever an enemy of himself, enemy of others and nature. The secret of Dao - the Truth of the Universe and the sacred way of living, is about helping us return to the wholeness and return to our home.  I hope everyone of us will learn and grow to merge with the Dao and become part of ALL THAT IS. 

     May your journey be blessed with health and vitality, peace and harmony, joy and wisdom.


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