The Formative Years

Dr. Weil talks about his early years after graduating from Harvard Medical School, when he took stock of his life and developed his lifelong passion as a healer.

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Video transcript: The Formative Years

I spent a year getting my life together. Really, this was when I was 28. Changed a lot of things — I stopped eating meat, started doing yoga, started practicing meditation, spent time outdoors, spent time in the wilderness, and began learning about Native American culture in medicine. Lot of changes and it was also during that year that I wrote my first book, The Natural Mind.
Because one thing you talk about at Harvard was, you were really disappointed with the state of modern American medical education. It wasn’t what you expected it to be. First of all, it was very disconnected from nature and given my background with medicinal plants, you know, I could really see that disconnection. I didn’t learn anything about preventing illness. I didn’t learn anything about health and healing, and it seemed to me that the main business of a physician should be to teach people how to be healthy and stay healthy. And, in addition, the methods that I was taught to use bothered me. It just seemed to me that too much harm was caused by them, particularly the use of strong pharmaceutical drugs.
And did you have the sense that there really wasn’t an overarching philosophy to it; it was a lot of disconnected facts? I noticed yes, I mean, there seemed to be not a lot of connection. It was just a massive amount of information that was presented and not much attempt to integrate the information, not teach general principles about the human body and the nature of health, the nature of illness. I had a sense that there must be another way of doing things, but I didn’t know what it was.
Now, you started young, at a young age, traveling and there was a period in your life, I remember you told me, where you thought you almost couldn’t stop traveling. You were travelling and traveling and traveling. What was that period about? What did you learn and why did you travel so much? Well I got a fellowship from a wonderful organization called The Institute of Current World Affairs that enabled me to travel around the world, look at other cultures, healing practices, altered states of consciousness, psychoactive plants, and medicinal plants. It was great, and I spent a lot of time in Latin America, some in Africa, some in Asia. And, you know I was a real vagabond during that period; I didn’t have a home. But, it was out of all those experiences that I collected a great deal of information that has entered into my subsequent work and practice.

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