Ep. 122: Discovering Your Innate Power for Self Healing with Dr. Charley Cropley
Today we have another Learn From Our Elders series, where Robyn has curated people who are 65+ and still contributing massively to their own body of work, and to the planet. Dr. Cropley graduated from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1979. He has been a practicing Naturopathic doctor, teacher and author in the Boulder/Denver area for the last 35 years. Dr. Cropley teaches his “students” to heal all manner of health problems by strengthening their skill and self-control in four areas: wholesome nutrition, strengthening exercise, positive thinking, and developing honest, caring relationships. His students learn how to master their illnesses by mastering themselves. Self-healing comes not from being self-critical or through force and self-coercion, but through wisdom, kindness, compassion and love.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Connect with and learn more about Dr. Cropley
Schedule a consultation
Online Course, “A Course in Self-Healing”
Robyn: Hi there. It’s Robyn Openshaw. I’m the Green Smoothie Girl and Welcome back to my show called Vibe where we talk about all things vibrational frequency. How can we raise ours? How can we metabolize negatives in our lives to put them in our rear view mirror? How can we be both emotionally and physically healthier? And as you know, if you’ve been paying any attention since our 100th episode, we are learning from people who are 65 plus and are still doing great work, are still committed to contributing to the community, to their families, to their own body of work. They’re not couch surfing.
And today to that end I want to introduce you to Dr. Charles Cropley. He is a naturopathic doctor and he’s a teacher, university professor and he practices in the Boulder, Colorado area since 1979. For four of the last six years he’s been voted the best alternative health care provider in Boulder. That’s pretty big deal because I have several friends who are holistic practitioners in Boulder and there’s a lot of interest in holistic medicine, biological medicine, functional medicine, whatever you want to call it, in that part of the country. It’s a very, very progressive part of the country. And he lectures a lot at colleges of naturopathic medicine. He was actually recommended to us. I didn’t know him, but he was recommended to us, when I put a call out to several hundred of my colleagues on a private Facebook page, and I said, hey, who do you know who you really admire, who is 65 or older? And he was nominated by my colleagues.
He leads courses and retreats. He’s author of two books and many published journal Articles, and so I’m interested for us to learn from him. And not only a little bit about what he’s learned in 65 years of life and I guarantee you when someone is at the top of his game professionally, especially in functional medicine and they’re 65 years old and still sharp and productive, there’s stuff they know that we don’t know, right? If you are not 65 plus, if you’re 40 or you’re 50 and you’re listening to this, think about it. The reason we want to listen to our elders is there’s 15 or 25 or whatever years, worth of incredible wisdom that they have gained that we don’t have. And I think that that’s part of being a high vibration person is being so excited to learn more because there’s always more, right?
Even subjects that I feel like I’m pretty knowledgeable in, I keep realizing the deeper I get into that, like we could take yoga as an example. The deeper I get into the practice of yoga, the more I realize how much there is to know and I think that’s exciting. I mean you could be stressed out by that and feel like you never know anything about anything, but the point is I am loving learning from these folks who are 65 and older because I feel like they are an international treasure and that I want to know what is in their mind and their heart.
So I’m excited about Dr. Cropley because he deals with chronic and acute health problems, but he uses what he calls naturopathic behavioral medicine. So there’s a lot of mental health stuff in here. There’s a lot of spirit, mind, body connection, which we’ve come to expect, right? From our naturopathic physicians, that’s why we go to them. We don’t want them to reduce us to a set of organs. So I’m excited to introduce you to Doctor Charley Cropley.
So Welcome to the Vibe show Doctor Charley Copley.
Dr. Cropley: Thank you Robyn.
Robyn: Well I asked you to be on the show even though you and I have not met before and I wasn’t familiar with your work, because some of my colleagues nominated you as someone who’s doing great things. And as we got on the show right before we started recording, I was telling you that the reason I want to interview our elders and ask people who are still going strong, mentally sharp, contributing at 65 plus is that if there’s one thing that’s clear to me, it’s that you know, a lot of things we don’t know and we just want to get as much of your wisdom as we can.
And you said, wow, How old are you Robyn? How do you know that? And I said, well, because my 51 year old self is so dramatically different than my 41 year old self that it makes me wonder what I could become, the depth of character, wisdom, knowledge, stuff to share with the world and my family. What will I have when I’m 61? And you said, and I’d love to ask you about this, you said, I’m really glad you know that because what I’ve learned in the last four years is completely mind blowing and life changing. Can you talk about the experiences you’ve had at the age of 72 just since you were 65 that have radically changed you?
Dr. Cropley: The essence of the experience that is growing in me in recent years, that I was telling you is so moving to me and inspiring to me and that I’m so grateful for is, an understanding and a direct experience of my self-healing capabilities.
Robyn: Talk about that quantum leap. How did you go from 68 to 72 what things in your life happened in your professional life that you’ve learned that make you a bigger contributor? Your life is bigger, your depth of wisdom is deeper.
Dr. Cropley: This is the continued and ever accelerating evolution of my own growth as a human being and the curve has moved upward into a much steeper curve in about the last four years. One of the things that contributed to it was that I severely fractured my right ankle. I was rock climbing and I fell and exploded my ankle, had two surgeries on it and a couple of plates and 10 pins put in it. In that process, it awakened me more, and intensified my need to apply everything that I understood of healing.
So for example, through movement, I began there in a crawling position on all fours, to say, I want to move my body. I’ve been in shape and loved movement through my entire life. And so I just needed to adapt that to being on all fours. Then, I could gradually put my injured foot on the ground with almost no weight on it. So I learned to be on all fours caring for this injured part of myself. The discovery in here is that we all are possessed of a genius, of an intelligence, a wisdom, for self-healing. And so this injury has been teaching me how to wield my innate wisdom and my innate power for healing.
Let me tell you a little just about the way I’ve approached illness throughout my life really and how I work with patients, is that I ask my patients to interpret their health problems as their body, speaking to them, asking them to examine four behaviors that they do. The ways they eat, the ways they move, the ways they think and the ways that they relate. Then, teaching people how to then develop more skillful actions or behaviors in each of those areas depending on which ones are most contributing to their illness.
I learned in the last four years my lifelong spirituality awakened to the understanding that I love myself, I want the best for myself, and that the ways that I am able to bring about better behavior in myself is by being kinder to myself. Love and this caring empowers my ability to change my behaviors. It is the power that heals them. And by changing my behaviors, as you know, it brings about healing in our physical body and in our minds and in our relationships.
Robyn: So when you talk about how our behavior impinges on or even causes our pathologies, our illnesses, and I know this is the fundamental part of how you work with patients and you lecture on this subject, it’s an entire sort of modus operandi and in treating patients. You’re mostly talking about how so many of our behaviors, are self-punishing, like we think that if I’m hard on myself and I beat myself up and I scold myself, I deny myself things, I speak harshly to myself, like I would never talk to one of my children or never talk to someone else, that that will somehow cause us to stop doing the negative thing that leads to negative consequences. And you’re saying that doesn’t work? Is that what I hear?
Dr. Cropley: I’m saying that doesn’t work. And many people don’t know that but are very self-critical and they’re aware that they are overly critical of themselves, judgmental, condemning of themselves, and that this critic comes on board. So working to heal that. Again, the core principle is, that what heals is kindness. The expression of that is one of compassionate listening and speaking.
So I teach people to speak to their critic. I’ll describe. So I would listen to my critic, and say, tell me what do you have to say here? But I listen to my critic and he goes, “You know, you stupid so and so. What kind of a wimp are you? You can’t make these simple changes in the ways that you eat. And you know this is costing you, health and vitality. You suck dude, and you deserve…” On and on like that. And then I say to him, “What is it that you’re trying to bring about? Why are you doing this?” And he goes, “I’m doing this because I care about you. Because you’re so stupid, you’re going to bring about problems for us here. I am not going to let it happen.”
And I go, Whoa, this is interesting. This part of myself that has unconsciously caused me such suffering through my life. I’m listening to this guy and what he’s saying and looking at me is saying, I’m on your side, dude. I am trying to help you out. I’m trying to keep you from hurting yourself. That means that this critic is me trying to take care of myself. And then in understanding that the nature of this critic is kindness, trying to help me out. Now that I see that what I’m trying to do is take care of myself. Now when I feel myself criticizing myself, I can pause and listen and go, I’m trying to take care of myself. And I can make the voice much more kind. I can make it something that I can hear more. It becomes the voice of kindness.
And also the other part is I can call on my critic. Instead of my critic being an unconscious compulsive form of self-talk that seems to afflict me and that I have no control over, I now have a critic that I’ll go, hey, I want to hear from you. Give me thoughts on what I’m doing here in my career? And he will criticize what I’m doing and I can take that in and listen to it and put it to good use. So whereas before, my critic had the microphone all the time and had the bright lights on him. Now through listening compassionately to him and understanding him. He now sits in my inner circle of personas, different personas, and he is no longer the dominant voice and I am able to call on him and put him to good use.
Robyn: Interesting. So I know that you teach about the suffering self and the healing self. Do we all have that duality in ourselves and what do we do with that? Tell me more.
Dr. Cropley: I begin with people right where they are. They come to me because they’re suffering, right? And I teach that we are at war within ourselves or we are conflicted within ourselves. So for example, we’re conflicted in our desire. A person will desire to heal their asthma or their migraine headaches and at the same time desire to eat extra amount of sweets. Those two desires are in conflict and they struggle to do what’s right. They find themselves compelled against their better sense and against their will to engage in self injurious behaviors that prevent them from healing their migraines or their asthma. We are all in conflict with ourselves. That is one.
There’s two sides of the conflict, right? There’s the one who wants to begin a program of regular exercise to heal their MS and there’s a side of themselves that can’t get themselves out of bed in the morning to exercise. There’s a third, what I’ll say a persona, which is the witness and the knower of this conflict. The you who looks on and is aware of, wow, I’m doing great and I’m loving it. I exercised three times this week, I’m feeling really good. And you are also aware of the side that is feeling, dejected and eating more sweets and feeling bad because they haven’t exercised in two weeks now and they’re hating themselves.
And there’s a witness who remains the same silent witness of when things are going good and when things are not going good. And that witness has a nature to it. And that nature is kindness. And by being kind as I described previously of being kind to my self-critic, we come to understand ourselves and we are by that means able to heal these conflicting desires within ourselves that are the cause of our self-injurious behaviors, and hence our illnesses and suffering.
Robyn: Interesting. I want to go to a little bit to you personally. Really fun question, I’ve been asking all of our elders in this series. What would you say, if you could go back as your 72 year old self right now, what would you go back and say to your 32 year old self? Things that you wish that you had figured out sooner? Things that you think would serve you really well if you had just had that kind of depth and life experience earlier.
Dr. Cropley: I would say to him, Charley, go for it. Truly go for it. Believe in yourself. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by fear. The world is waiting for you. Give yourself. Like, go for it. Go for what you want. That’s what I would say because I feel that that is what has most held me back, is fear and self-doubt, which is a form of fear.
Robyn: Beautiful. What else?
Dr. Cropley: I wouldn’t have been so codependent and people pleasing and wish I could have spoken my mind clearly, this is me, rather than saying what I think people wanted to hear. I really wish I would have trained myself in music. And, adventure, while I’ve had a fair amount of it, I would have liked to have built more adventure into my life. Yeah, those are some,
Robyn: Well, thank you for being authentic with us and sharing that. I think we probably all have life regrets, but I don’t even know if it has to be regret so much as to just look back and see what, it’s kind of a fun little exercise to look back and see what you’d go back and, and if you could learn it the sooner. We’re enjoying collecting answers from our elders of the answers to this same question and noticing the similarities in the themes.
Tell us about where people can learn more about you. I know you’ve published two books. Where are you on social media? Tell us a little about your books before we go.
Dr. Cropley: I’m on Facebook. Yes. I’m not much on Instagram right now and I don’t do Twitter. But Facebook, you can find me there. My website I think is the best resource for me: charleycropley.com And the thing that most enthuses me right now is that I have an eight session course that I call “A Course in Self-Healing” and it consists of eight videos. It’s an online course, it consists of eight videos and then there are eight conference calls that take place over a period of eight weeks. And it’s a series of eight therapeutic conversations that I have with my patients, I also do the same course with my patients in person that awakens a person to their self-healing power. And shows them how to wield their power so that they particularly are able to master their behaviors, their ways of eating, their movements, their self-talk, their thinking, their emotions and their relationships with others. And they find their own caring and own kindness that enables them to change their behaviors and bring about dramatic improvement in their health. And that’s what most excites me.
Robyn: I love it. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. You’ve had a really long, interesting career. And I just appreciate everything that you’re doing to make the world better.
Dr. Cropley: Robyn, thank you so much. And I appreciate you including me in your show.