speaking articles schlagbytes about products contact

Last Man Standing is Sitting

November 23rd, 2015

I may be the last man standing who has never owned a cell phone or hand-held computer device. For years I have railed against these Instruments because instead of the promise that they would free us to pursue more leisure/fun activities, they have actually enslaved us. We are never more than an arms length away from our smart phones; we don’t talk to each other at the dinner table anymore; instant accessibility has made it impossible to be where we are, because with every ring, beep, or vibration, we are invited to interrupt whatever we’re doing to be someplace other than where we are.

I am not a technophobe; I depend on my computer for business, but at the end of the day I shut it down and leave my office. I stuck to my guns and refused to be seduced by its conveniences; until several weeks ago…that’s when my world changed. Upon returning from Guatemala several weeks ago my computer died. For 2 weeks it was in a chronic state of repair and I was unable to work. I was frantic, incapacitated, felt so helpless I got angry I became anxious and depressed.

So last Sunday I bought the iPhone 6 S so I can stay in business if my computer fails in the future.  Now the question is, can I not become seduced by its magic. I feel like a Star Fleet officer talking to the cosmos, I have instantaneous access to my business; it’s a flashlight so I can now read menus in dark restaurants; dictate messages, take pictures, make videos, get directions, and a sweet woman’s voice answers any question and supplies references.

The last man standing is now sitting; as I write I’m talking to my granddaughter while actually looking at her… I’m hoping I can turn it off.


Clowning with PTSD

November 3rd, 2015

I’ve just returned from Guatemala and the first ever Patch Adams/Gesundheit! clown trip comprised exclusively of disabled war veterans. 10 Veterans  (six men and four women ranging from their late 20s to late 60s) all suffering from PTSD sustained in wars from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf wars, agreed to become clowns for a week to see it’s potential impact on their illness.

Patch brought along 10 Gesundheit! Clowns as staff, and they had prepped the Vets about what they’d be doing, and creating a clown costume, but we only met face-to-face when we arrived in Guatemala City. The first night we had an introductory circle, and the folowing morning an introductory clown workshop. In spite of their uncertainties and trepidation, the Vets opened themselves to the experience.

Dressed up, they visited locked institutions, hospitals, orphanages, schools, and marketplaces; saw severely disabled people (both young and old), and sang, performed puppetry, played games, pushed wheelchairs,  and departed from their ordinary realities to be fully in the moment.

Twice a day we piled into our bus to go to each venue, and had time to talk to each other. From day to day you could see their growing ease at making immediate, openhearted connections, and by the end of the week every participant had opened themselves to places within that for a long time they had closed their hearts to. For me it was an awakening experience as well; I have never spent that much time with war veterans and it allowed me to see them and their suffering in a new light.

The experience proved what we all know to be true, that love, caring, compassion is good for us at the cellular level, explainable by biochemical and neural mechanisms that activate the brains pleasure centers. Whatever its biological underpinnings, the fact is that doing this work eases suffering, our own as well.

We’ll see what the long-term impact of this experience will be on  these Vets, but the trip reminded me that the greatest act of revolution in contemporary life is to be able to come to every day with joy. Let your clown out Relatives, because it will make you feel good and lighten your load.

PS: if you want to see how clowns can create a healing community support the clown town healing fast that will take place in Phoenix in February 2016 check it out on the website clowntownhealingfest.com and be sure to take a “red-nose selfie” which you can find on the bottom of the homepage.


11781750_10156208374400344_4234990811075439331_n Day2_Clown Group_Psych_11Oct2015 Day4_Patch and Carl2_Neurologico_14Oct2015 Day6_Antigua Hilltop_Vets__16Oct2015

Goose Egg to Gold

October 12th, 2015

I’ve been spending most of my time this year making a dream come true. The Clown Town Healing Fest is going to take place in Phoenix Arizona, February 26-28, 2016. My friend Patch Adams MD and I, along with many clown friends will mobilize the city’s healthcare resources to inspire people to live healthier lives.

From doctors, to therapists and support groups of every description, all these resources will tell their stories to inspire people to get well before they get sick. This is the first practical demonstration of the important cultural shift in healthcare delivery from an interventional model to one that focuses on prevention.

Sharing this vision has been easy; raising the money to pull this off has been more challenging. I recruited two friends, my “Golden Geese” to reach out and solicit donations because I hate asking for money; to me it smacks of neediness, helplessness, and begging. The Golden Geese said they’d be happy to do it; they cared for me, and it was an important event that would bring our community together in healing. The fact that it was a 501(c)(3) profit and the donations were tax-deductible made it a no-brainer.

A beautifully packaged solicitation letter was sent and I waited for the money to roll in. Alas, it didn’t, the Geese were slow to follow up, and it became clear to me that if my dream was ever going to materialize I was going to have to ask directly; the thought of it made my mouth dry and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.

Amazingly, it was easier than I had anticipated, because I wasn’t asking for myself but something I passionately believed in. I didn’t feel cheap or moneygrubbing, I felt good and friends felt good about helping me. It was a revolutionary awakening for me.

For years I’ve gotten away with thinking that my knowledge, my ability to conceptualize and tell the story, was enough to inspire others to execute the vision. It turns out that if you want to achieve vision, execution is more important than knowledge. So I changed, and acknowledged that the way it is, is not the way it was, and if I wanted to make my dream a reality I had to act differently to make it happen…t’s a great life lesson.

From goose egg to gold, the dream is happening, and I’m asking you friends and relatives, to dip into your cookie jar and go to clowntownhealingfest.com and make a donation of any amount to help us make this paradigm shifting dream a reality. Any donation will let you take a ‘selfie’ with a red nose and you’ll join us in this red nose revolution that heals in community.

Welcome Home

September 14th, 2015

These last weeks’ have been intense for me. I am in the midst of making the Clown Town Healing Fest happen. This inaugural event promotes health and healing in community, and has reminded me once again of my organizational inadequacies and my intolerance of bureaucracy’s. It takes so long to get things done, and to have to depend on others to follow through makes my skin crawl.

My personal frustrations were intensified by what was happening around me in these last weeks. There is a phantom sniper skulking around the major freeway through town randomly shooting at vehicles. In the last couple of weeks there been eleven incidents and people are as focused on the overpasses as they are on the roads. There are always the conspiracy theorists churning paranoid fears that this is of a government plot to take away the right to bear arms. It’s enough to make you shake your head in disbelief.

Then there is Donald Trump who is leading the polls as a serious Presidential candidate. I can’t imagine this insufferable, narcissistic blowhard representing America and its principles, to the world.

Then the problem of refugees seeking asylum, it’s an overwhelming global problem. In Europe alone, hundreds of thousands of refugees have arrived this year and thousands have died trying to get there. They have left countries terrorized by war and dissention; they have been harassed and rejected as countries struggle to absorb them. Then I saw a picture of a Syrian family who’d been on the road for months, a young German woman greeted these strangers upon their arrival at Munich’s central railroad station with a sign that read Welcome Home, offered them a hot drink, and gave their child a teddy bear.

That act of kindness restored my equilibrium… put my misery in perspective, and restored and my faith in the potential for our shared humanity. Thank you.

To my Jewish relatives, I wish you a Happy New Year 5776, may it be a year of peace, health and welcome homes.

The Language of the Great Spirit

August 24th, 2015

I’ve just returned from my annual clown trip to Iquitos Peru, with Patch Adams and 100 clowns from all over the world to participate in an international healthcare project in an impoverished community.

The clowns come from different countries, backgrounds, ages, education, jobs, but we come together here and become one tribe. We gather in welcome, hugging, dancing, and chanting we initiate ourselves into a community that does healing work 12 hours a day.

For the last seven years I have participated because… I am reminded of the parts of me I like best… and because it gives me hope for humanity. The experience is always transformative, and sometimes it’s transcendent; those are moments when you’re moved beyond ordinary consciousness, so present that every cell in your body feels alive, and feeling one with the cosmos.

I made a home visit to a middle aged woman I saw in one of our mental health Street clinics last year. She was so suicidal I thought she needed to be hospitalized, but of course there are none for poor patients. She made a “no-suicide” contract with me and promised to see me again at the next street clinic.

When she arrived, it was with her two daughters, and all shared a story of profound mental and physical abuse. We made a real connection, we don’t have drugs, and instead I gifted each with a sacred amulet and a blessing.

This year, I asked our clinic coordinator if she could find them again, and it took awhile; they had left the abusive home and were in their own “house”; a wooden platform lashed to an abandoned water tower, partially covered with a tin roof. I brought along some nonperishable grocery items and we sat and talked. They are happy to be living together, feeling good and getting by. They showed me their amulets I’d given them, and when it was time to leave we hugged amidst tears. They thanked me repeatedly, and it had far less to do with the groceries I’d brought, than it did for having remembered the specialness of our connection. In that moment I felt our shared humanity.

Such a moment happened again on the final day after returning to our hotel following the closing parade. This spectacular farewell is always an electric high, and the clowns were dancing, singing, and drumming in the plaza in front of the hotel. I went in to take a shower, and they were still going strong when I got out. I walked to the balcony window, and looking down joined in the movement. Suddenly, without any signal, everyone turned around, looked up at me and began chanting; in that transcendent moment understood that we are the language of the Great Spirit.

11866431_10155991868255014_8560718516513169841_n 11870725_10153053108596361_5663106357178362871_n 11895988_10153111304342406_1912409746690803789_n

21st Century Cures Act

August 3rd, 2015

In May 2015, the 21st Century Cures Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives. It has a lovely ring doesn’t it? I mean who could be against Cures, and indeed the House Committee approved it unanimously. Its goal is to promote the development and speeding the approval of new drugs and medical devices.

This bill is championed by the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and device industries (collectively Big Pharma) who want to encourage the use of “shorter or smaller clinical trials” to accelerate approval of their new products. The underlying premise of the bill is that the current process is too slow and inefficient, but that is simply not true.

The fact is, more than two thirds of new drugs are approved on the basis of studies lasting six months or less. A third of new drugs are currently approved on the basis of a single pivotal trial, the median size of which is just 760 patients (flimsy scientific evidence), and there is no proof that they work any better than the ones they are replacing. We also don’t know anything about their long-term side effects because they haven’t been around long enough.

What we can predict with absolute certainty is a slick marketing campaign promoting these new, improved, updated (but basically similar) versions of their products, and that they will cost more than the current inventory.

We do not need shorter or smaller clinical trials; we need bigger and longer ones. The 21st Century Cures Act is not about curing at all; it’s a sales promotion strategy. Let us instead fund the NIH (whose budget has been stagnant for years) and give them enough to fund independent research (not Big Pharma sponsored research), and create more efficient ways to disseminate those results. Don’t pass this bill.

Putting Maggie Down

July 19th, 2015

I just spent a glorious week disconnecting from my ordinary workaday world and escaped to paradise… northern Lake Kootenay in the Canadian Rockies.  I was there with my wife and dear family friends staying in a gorgeous mountain home where our major decisions were whether we had wine and hors d’oeuvres before or after the bocce-ball game, or what garden greens to pick for that evening’s meal.

Along with the house came with three big dogs, including Maggie, a 20 year old Black Lab mix nearing the end of her life. She was virtually immobile, spent the day sleeping only getting up to eat, drink or relieve herself. She struggled to get up, moaning in obvious discomfort. Watching her, filled me with pain and I thought I would’ve put her down long ago, but the family said she was eating, drinking, surrounded by love, and they didn’t want to hasten her demise.

Seeing her every day made me reflect on what is a good death, and I think it’s dying at home surrounded by loving family. As a dog we could relieve Maggies’ suffering but that’s not an option for humans. We seem unable to end the current epidemic of unnecessary end-of-life suffering in people who are dying. Our technology allows us to subject people to unending tortures that may fend off death, but that do not restore health.

Let’s stop fighting for maximum longevity and start providing a good death for people; to live at home for as long as you can with pain managed, support, kindness, and surrounded by love; not a prolonged struggle in a hospital surrounded by doctors, nurses and machines.

How is that going to happen? We need less interventional care and more palliative care doctors, and we need to pay them more. Medicare pays meagerly for palliative care, but they will pay over $100,000 for open heart surgery on a patient who may be too fragile to survive it; they will pay an oncologist a 4.3% markup on drugs they administer (some costing more than $10,000 per dose) but they will not reimburse hospice without first requiring patients to forgo whatever other treatments they are currently on.

Finally, watching Maggie’s struggle, reminds me that all life is relational; stay connected to those you love in life and in death… leave an emotional legacy that includes witnessing death at home and dying with dignity.

DSCN1148 DSCN1152 DSCN1156

Grateful Dead: Fare Thee Well

July 5th, 2015

It’s been 50 years since the Grateful Dead have been making music, and this was going to be their last gig. The Fare Thee Well concert was scheduled for the 4th of July weekend in Chicago, as a long time fan, I sent away for tickets in the usual Dead fashion paying up front, mailing it in a colorful envelope with an added plea to give this old man one more chance to hear the music live; I didn’t get picked.

Ticket demand was so overwhelming that they scheduled 2 more appearances closer to their San Francisco home on the weekend before. I followed the same routine and didn’t get picked again…but lots of tickets became available at the end, and got a plane ticket and hotel room and went up for the night.

I’m wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt in the lobby of the hotel and a tall, husky, bearded, heavily-accented, younger man comes over to me and asks me if I’m going to the concert, and that I can catch a ride with him.  Jussi, is a 42-year-old father, record producer, from Finland who has loved the Dead’s music but never attended a live concert.

We talked on the way down, about music and history, an intimate conversation punctuated by the awareness that he was going to his first concert, and I to my last. When we got to the parking lot I put on my old piano hat, clown nose and a Grateful Dead mask tied onto the back of my head. Together, Jossi, and I wandered the lot which is different nowadays; the food selections are less gourmet inspired and the baked goodies unavailable, but the vibe is the same, that sense of family, and the buzz of anticipation.

At the gate, everyone got a long-stemmed red rose, a postcard with a picture of Jerry on it and an empty play-list on the back that you could fill-in. I didn’t know anyone around me, but it’s a Dead concert, all-inclusive, and everybody dancing. Although Jerry Garcia the former lead guitarist has been dead for 20 years, his place was filled by Trey Anastasio, the lead guitarist of the band Phish, and he was absolutely sensational. The crowd was rocking, the big screen flashed on Bill Walton and the crowd roared.

The sun was setting, and suddenly a brilliant rainbow appeared over the stadium, and slowly everyone looked skyward. I stood in wide-mouthed awe, and felt Jerry looking down saying to us all, Fare Thee Well.

Looking around at this community of shared spirit feeling grateful to this rainbow warrior of peace and creative possibilities, and thinking what a legacy you’ve left behind.

DSCN1085 DSCN1093 IMG_20150627_203312 DSCN1079 DSCN1080

In Over My Head

June 23rd, 2015

As often as I ramble about being in the moment and that the way it was is not the way it is. Talking about it has always been a lot easier than doing it. I’m in over my head with the Clown Town Healing Fest (CTHF). Organizing this inaugural event (clowntownhealingfest.com) is getting overwhelming; I’m in over my head and need help.

I’m a good ideas, I can share the vision with passion but it’s the organizational work I’ve always had difficulty with, the following through, managing the details, dealing with endless bureaucracies, that stuff actually makes my skin crawl.

But asking for help has never been easy for me; it’s hard for me to acknowledge my neediness. It’s not that I don’t feel it it’s just that I don’t like being reminded of it; so my style is to hope somebody recognizes my neediness without having to ask to have my needs met more directly.

The CTHF is getting bigger; I have so many plates twirling in the air that it’s waking me up in the middle of the night. In my distress, I asked all kinds of people to help me. Friends old and new made it easy, whether or not they shared the vision; they shared the joy of my purpose and passion in making it happen. I felt neither ashamed nor embarrassed in acknowledging my overwhelm, quite the contrary… my friends thanked me for giving them an opportunity to help me make my dream happen.

This whole experience has allowed me to create a new ending to that old dysfunctional story of how to face my neediness. It couldn’t come at a better time because age tames the ego, you either acknowledge your slowing capacities or you live miserably.

I want to say thank you to all of you who’ve joined me on this road for helping me to look again at the old landscape and be able to see it with new eyes. I resolve not to wait until I’m drowning before I reach out next time. Your truth will set you free and it’s a blessing not only to those who ask but also for those who respond.

Join me on this healing journey and check out the Clown Town Healing Fest

Making It Happen

June 8th, 2015

It’s happening, our dream is coming true. The Clown Town Healing Fest will happen in downtown Phoenix at the Civic Space Park December 4 – 6, 2015. This is a practical demonstration of how to promote health and healing in community, and help shift our culture from a healthcare delivery model of intervention to one that focuses on prevention.

The Turtle Island Project and the Gesundheit! Institute (both 501c3 non-profits) has been spreading the message of community and preventive health for decades. This is the first time we will come together to bring this paradigm-shifting event to an American city. Clowns will mobilize the healing resources in Phoenix, Arizona, that will include dentists, nurses, and doctors, along with movement/music/dance/narrative/exercise/massage/and pet therapists. Included will be transcultural healers, environmentalists, nutritionists, meditators, and support groups of every description. All these healthcare resources will be telling their stories, demonstrating, educating, and inspiring people to becoming active participants in staying healthy.

Patch Adams MD and I are long-time friends; we have worked and clowned together all over the world. Help these two, aging, Hippie doctors actualize their vision. Go to clowntownhealingfest.com see what we’re doing and make a donation, volunteer, become an exhibitor, if you’re a healthcare professional attend the Clown Healing Workshop.

We are making it happen, and I say thank you.

For All My Relations, Mi Takuye Oyacin.

Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., CPAE is a psychiatrist, author, and professional keynote speaker. He is an authority in the science of psychoneuroimmunology mind, body, spirit medicine and speaks about health and wellness, healing, leadership and authenticity . He has delivered motivational keynote speeches to corporate and business clients around the world.