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From the Townsend Letter
July 2007


Healing with Homeopathy:
The Qualities of the Rare Physician: Part 2
by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP and Robert Ullman, ND, DHANP

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Part one

This is the second of a two-part series, inspired by the recent memorial services for Dr.
William Mitchell, loved and respected naturopathic physician, teacher, and co-founder of Bastyr University. The testimonials at the two memorial services were memorable, as was the realization that it remains with the rest of us to carry forward the torch of natural medicine. The qualities that made Bill such an unforgettable doctor, mentor, and educator can serve all of us who endeavor to be physicians and healers.

The Ability to Bring Out the Best in Others
Many of those close to Bill expressed, through many examples, how Bill succeeded in teaching or encouraging them to reach their own potentials in ways they would have not thought possible. Whether it was arresting oneself on an icy slope after a brief five-minute lesson only moments earlier, being called upon to teach a yoga class for the first time when Bill could not be present, or being called by inspiration to write an article totally different from the norm, as we are now. One young woman explained exuberantly how, whenever she was around Bill, her heart, spontaneously and inexplicably, opened to all of those with whom she came into contact. Bill brought out latent healing abilities that his students never imagined possible. Whether it was generosity of spirit, depth of soul, augmented physical stamina, or just plain enjoyment, Bill was a master of coaxing it out of those who met him in such a subtle but sure way.

Give Spirit Options
Bill had a way of opening up to possibilities not yet imagined or envisioned. If one approach didn't pan out, another did. This was as true in experimenting with therapeutics for a particular patient as it was for saving naturopathic medical schools from financial collapse. There was a certain infectious fluidity of style that Bill exemplified in every aspect of his life. It came from Bill's relentless conviction that, somehow, everything would work out for the best. And he was able to convince others of this truth as well. He did this with college presidents, suffering patients, and, on the last day of his life, with the mother of his son, Noah. As Roberta shared at the service, she and Bill were led, the last morning of his life, into the room where the body of their youngest son, Noah, lay. Noah had died suddenly that morning, and Bill and Roberta had but a few precious moments left to spend with his body. Instead of blaming God or questioning, "Why Noah? Why me?", Bill remarked to Roberta that it was a good day for Jesus. At that very moment, one that no parent anywhere ever wants to face, Bill accepted his son's death as the divine will for his family. "Giving spirit options" meant that there were many ways in which grace might unfold—if not in one way, then another. This eliminated resistance and allowed for infinite possibilities. No one would have imagined that Bill would have died of a heart attack within hours of his son's death, yet it was clearly the option that spirit took.

We are not saying that Bill's life was necessarily easy—far from it in certain aspects—but it often seemed that way. He had such a relaxed, calm, easy style of speaking and interacting. It's odd, as we consider it, that a man who had such a zest for life and intensity, on the one hand, could have been so easeful on the other. But so it was with Bill, a man of some contradictions. Effortless, in Bill's case, by no means meant that he was slow-paced, even though, when he was with you, it felt like he had all the time in the world. In fact, Bill hiked so quickly that he far outdistanced the pack, so much so that no companion could keep up with him. (Funny that we heard the very same description, the other day, of Dr. Bastyr's pace during mountain hikes.) Even though Bill might be engaging in a remarkably taxing activity, physically, mentally, emotionally, he just seemed relaxed and at ease.

Even though he knew more about the wisdom and practice of naturopathic medicine that anyone else alive today, Bill was amazingly humble. His style of teaching and sharing was to try things out and see if they worked and to welcome anyone else's ideas, regardless of their credentials or experience or point of view. Bill always made you feel like he could just as easily learn from you as you from him. There was nothing pretentious or arrogant about Bill. It just wasn't in him to be that way.

A Voracious Appetite
Bill loved, loved, loved to eat…. and to eat a lot. Maybe almost as much as Dr. Bastyr. Class hikes to mountains started off with the ritual of meeting at the infamous pie rendezvous in Marysville. In fact, Bill was an avid pie-maker in the final years of his life and left a luscious apple pie in the frig which was eaten, posthumously, by his family following his death. Bill shocked many a naturopathic purist with his predilection for good, old-fashioned hamburgers. Maybe Bill's love and lust for food was what made him invite the rest of us to sample this or that herb, savor a yummy piece of pie, or taste of the awesome beauty of nature on those backpacking trips.

Bill was not one to judge others for their actions. He understood that we all make mistakes and, in fact, that they are necessary to learn and to grow. A close friend – a student, with Judyth, in the second class of Bastyr, from 1979 to 1983 – told us a precious story about Bill's ability to look the other way. At the time, some of our classes were held at a local community college, where we had access to microscopes and other amenities that the college could not yet afford. My friend and, at that time, sister student, was young and innocent. She lived in co-housing not too far from school where she happened to have a near-empty pond in her backyard, which was quite lonely for the few goldfish it contained. Another partner in crime, also in our class, happened to mention that there was a fish pond on the upper floor of the community college overflowing with this very kind of fish. And so it was that one day after class, armed with coat hangers and homemade fish nets improvised from panty hose, they sneaked upstairs to the pond after class. Rolling up their pant legs, poised to snag a few fortunate or unfortunate fishies, depending on the point of view, they'd just begun when, lo and behold, there appeared Bill. "Hi there," he casually remarked. "Whatcha doin?" "Oh, nothing," they replied sheepishly, not knowing whether to feel guilty or terrified. "Oh, okay." Bill answered, with a knowing look. They were, as my friend put it, busted. Not a word of reproach, just a telling expression. That was Bill.

Spiritual Universality
There was many a day when Bill attended morning mass, so some might consider him a Catholic. He taught yoga for over twenty years, which would could suggest a connection with Hinduism. Bill demonstrated tremendous respect for Native American rituals and knowledge, particularly in the world of herbs. In a way he was a Shaman. After the auto accident resulting in the death of a Vietnamese mother, Bill dedicated himself to understanding Buddhism. He was a universalist. Filled with respect for all spiritual traditions, Bill was able to communicate and celebrate God and spirit beyond any one religion or text. Bill's religion was surely that of the boundless love available to one and all sentient beings.

Unconditional Love
If we could say just one thing about Bill—the single quality that we would most like to embody ourselves and that is so special in a doctor or any human being—it is unconditional love: the ability to give from the depth of one's heart, loving without holding back, and expecting nothing in return; the simplicity of opening one's heart just because that is all there is to do; love with no expectations, underlying motives, or need for anything in return. Bill did this with all of us so graciously, so palpably. This is, above all, what we will miss. Bill gave his love to the animate and the inanimate, with such simplicity yet such clarity of intention, for this is truly what Bill's life was all about.

If one genuinely believes that all works out for the best and that only love exists, there is nothing to do but to surrender. Bill understood that all too well. Those who knew him well shared that Bill yearned to be used to the greatest degree possible and offered himself up consciously with this in mind. Dr. Dirk Powell shared with us, at the Friday night memorial service, an amusing Bill story. Having just remarked to Dirk that Bill wanted anything that came between him and God to be revealed and released, the two of them returned to find Bill's car stereo stolen, Initially, Bill was not so happy about this turn of events, but he recognized that having his cord of attachment to his stereo so swiftly cut was actually an answer to his prayer. He chose not to replace it, allowing the dangling cords to be a reminder of his promise to hold nothing back from God. Bill grasped fully, through the lessons of the fatal car accident and its aftermath, that he was being asked to rip open his heart as the answer to his prayer. For to love and surrender fully, nothing can be held back. And, in the end, as with Bill, even our earthly bodies are surrendered.

We are filled with gratitude for all that Bill taught us and continues to teach us. May we all follow in the footsteps of Bill, and of Dr. Bastyr, to exemplify all of these precious qualities as best we can. All is well.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic physicians, board certified in homeopathy. Judyth graduated from Bastyr University in 1983 in the second class to graduate from the school. Bob received his ND in 1981 from The National College of Naturopathic Medicine (the first two years of which were held in Wichita, KS and the second two in Portland, OR. Their books include: A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Prozac Free, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family, Whole Woman Homeopathy, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages-Stories of Enlightenment. They teach and lecture internationally and practice at The Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They treat patients by phone and video conference as well as in person, and can be reached by telephone at 425-774-5599 or by fax at 425-670-0319. Their websites are and


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