Doctor Neha: I almost feel like back in the day when there were medicine men and medicine women in a village, we knew that half of healing was the relationship between you and your healer and the other half is what we prescribe and your body really doing a lot of the work. But I believe that relationships and how we communicate with each other and the trust that we build and the rapport is a big part of the healing.
Donna: I do have to tell the audience we had this interview set up a couple of weeks ago and you asked me to postpone, which was absolutely fine, of course. I loved the way you turned this, Neha. It was because you have a sick aunt and you wanted to not only spend time with her, but you said you also wanted to be present with her.
Doctor Neha: You know, I’d start by saying that the old me would have done the podcast from Halifax, Nova Scotia. My body would have physically been with my aunt, but I wouldn’t have been present with her. What I really mean by that is, if I am going to go see her because she has this diagnosis and I want to spend time with her, then the biggest gift I can give her is to clear my schedule. So I can talk to her, have tea with her, hear about her emotions, and hear about what she’s afraid of. It’s taken me a few years to actually understand that my physical body being somewhere is not enough.
Donna: Got it.
Doctor Neha: And my busyness doesn’t contribute to my level of importance. I used to unconsciously believe that busyness meant important, and I drove my life by other people’s agendas and what “needed” to get done. Now, it seems like I’ve started to create something I call double and triple vision. There’s me, and then there’s we—you and I had an agreement—and then there’s world, meaning what is the impact of how I show up with you and in the world. It’s like a camera lens: Sometimes I focus on the person and the background is blurry, and sometimes I can focus on the background and the person is blurry. I have to be clear about what I value so that when I need to focus on myself, even if I’ve made a commitment with you, then I need to refocus that lens and renegotiate that agreement while having double vision.
Donna: Right. Right.
Doctor Neha: It was wonderful. We sat together; we had chai together. She loves it. She loves to cook for us. I had brought her a Mother’s Day card. She’s actually my grandmother’s youngest sister, so she’s kind of like my great-aunt. She cooks great Indian food. That’s how she shows me love. But then what happened is her feet started throbbing. I took her this amazing shea butter cream, and I rubbed her feet and gave her a massage and talked to her. I went over her test results with her so that she could have the kind of attention she needed. She’s startled when she’s in the office with her doctor and she’s scared, so she doesn’t ask questions. But she can speak Hindi with me, and she can ask questions.
Donna: So much of that contributed to her quality of life. Who knows if it is supposed to contribute to her longevity?
Doctor Neha: I’m a firm believer in the power of relationships to help heal. Of course, physically, what is she getting to treat her physical self? But then we have to consider what are her emotions, what are her thoughts about how and if she will heal? What does she believe in? Then I think about the emotional and social connections that she has, as well as what does she value most and what makes every day worth living for her?
Doctor Neha: Those things, together, I feel create the comprehensive sense of wellness for someone with a [bad] diagnosis. It’s not as much about the quantity of their life as it is about what makes every day of their lives meaningful.
Donna: Right. And what makes your life meaningful?
Doctor Neha: The “we” part of it all. It’s like the dance. The “me” and the “we.” There’s no bigger gift than knowing ourselves so that when we enter into that dance, which can be somewhat complicated, that we know how to communicate and we know what to ask for.
Donna: Yes, I created something not long ago called The Six Pillars of Effective Communication. Pillar number one is know and own who you are, complete with all your strengths and complete with your vulnerabilities. Also complete with what you want, what you need. What is specific for you? Because your wants and your needs are solely yours. They’re not your sister’s; they’re not your mom’s; they’re not your best friend’s. You’re absolutely right.
Doctor Neha: We can’t assume that telepathically they will know what those are.
Donna: Right. First and foremost, you have to know them and guess them and own them.
Doctor Neha: Then be willing to say what I want. My favorite story is when a client said to me, “My husband should know that I love yellow roses. Why did he get me chocolate on Valentine’s Day?”
I said, “How should he have known?”
She said, “One time when we were walking through the farmer’s market, I said, ‘Look, Honey. Those are amazing yellow roses.'”
I thought to myself, Oh boy. “He’s not going to know. He may not get that and that’s okay.”
She said, “It doesn’t count if I have to tell him directly.” I thought that was one of the most interesting things to say because it’s we hint at things we want but don’t actually say them directly and yet expect that somebody will know it. We have no idea what was on his mind when she was saying, “I love yellow roses.”
Donna: It’s hard enough for us to retain all the information that crosses our desk, so how can we expect others to retain information that we kind of put by them. No, no, no, no—give the guy a break.
Doctor Neha: Then we tie it to being loved and whether we’re lovable and all sorts of things.
Donna: Right. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the relationships. We can have all the money in the world and at the end of the day, if our relationships are broken or they’re splintered or they’re just not right, that money means absolutely nothing.
Doctor Neha: That’s so true.
Leaving the drama to Hollywood,