Jessica Bean, ND, CDWF
I went through much of my life as an ardent perfectionist and over-achiever. I was forever pushing myself so that even when I was doing something I loved, I felt an overwhelming pressure to perform. There was little if any time to simply be present and enjoy the moment. My to-do lists were endless, and though I made some healthy changes, I always put reshaping fundamental patterns (like perfectionism) on the far side of the next big project, only to find there was invariably another distracting responsibility waiting on the other side to get between me and deeper healing.
My wake-up call came when debilitating health problems forced me to take several months entirely off from working. I got somewhat better, but without addressing the deeper patterns it wasn’t long before I was as busy and stressed as ever, only now my health was barely at 50%. More months passed before I began to realize that that I no longer liked my life: I was still in a lot of pain, and I was continually crushed under a multitude of responsibilities with little time for joy, creativity or connection. I was finally ready to heed the wake-up call, and I decided to reach out to an old mentor, begin work with a counselor, and renew my spiritual practice. My mentor told me that it was “time to work on my perfectionism,” and recommended a book called Daring Greatly by an author who was new to me, Brené Brown, PhD.
Six weeks later I was in regular counseling and had flown through all three of Brené’s books. I found that they resonated powerfully with my experience – through her research I was finally able to name the root of my unhealthy patterns: shame was running my life. I set impossible expectations of myself and then beat myself up for not meeting them – my inner critic was overpowering the more positive voices within me. I was so physically depleted and so afraid of vulnerability that my genuine self was hidden from all but my partner and a few close friends.
Just as positive shifts within were beginning, I learned that my marriage of more than a decade was no longer sound. In my own emotional and physical distress, I had not been able to see how much my partner, the person I had loved most, was also struggling. How much my actions and priorities were profoundly out of alignment with my core values came into stark focus. I had placed my responsibilities as teacher and doctor above everything else in my life, including my relationships with myself, my body, my partner, family, friends, community, creativity, play, nature and Spirit. While those two responsibilities are deeply important to me, I had fallen out of balance by not also honoring all else that I hold dear.
Even as I began a painful struggle to try to rebuild from the damage to my marriage, I committed to live in greater integrity with my values. Soon a breakthrough came for my physical health and my outlook when I experienced a soul retrieval, a powerful shamanic healing ceremony. This proved to be a turning point for my physical symptoms and also helped me to renew my gratitude and joy. This healing combined with daily meditations and prayers established a strong spiritual foundation in my life.
Meanwhile I began to reach out and form vulnerable friendships and connect to new communities. I learned to say “no” at work and to ask for help rather than trying to do it all myself. I reconnected with my creativity and with the joy and wonder of the natural world. I finally began to build trust in my authentic self and to genuinely love myself. With time it became clear that the paths of my husband and I were diverging. I am very grateful that I had built foundations of support in my inner and outer relationships that allowed me to stay present with my grief and to end the relationship with compassion for both of us.
Through this journey I discovered that at the core of my experience is my relationship with myself. As I have healed this central relationship, all of the other aspects of my life have been positively impacted. It has become clear that no matter how much we may be loved by others, it can never take the place of loving ourselves. I have cultivated a life where there is so much more joy, connection, love, gentleness and spaciousness than I had ever known in the past, and as I have grown in my ability to hear my body’s needs, I have become physically healthier than I have been in years. The me that existed before these shifts saw many of my life-draining patterns as simply a part of who I was, and I would not have believed that this fundamental reshaping of my life was possible. I am very grateful to have learned first hand that we are capable of deep changes and also that personal growth is not something that we simply check off an internal list – we are continually learning and growing and changing, and perfection is not the goal.
Highlights of My Training & Experience
For those who are curious as to what else I was up to during all those (achievement-oriented) years, here are some highlights:
- Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong: Went from small-town Connecticut to the opposite side of the globe to complete the International Baccalaureate alongside students from over 50 countries and discovered a deep delight in learning from the stories and cultures of others. Broadened my tutoring and teaching roles that had formally begun in high school.
- University of Connecticut: Explored my curiosity about languages and cultures and graduated summa cum laude with degrees in Psychology & Linguistics and in Chinese Language & Culture, with study abroad in Beijing, China. Continued teaching and tutoring in earnest, primarily in English as a second language (ESL), SAT and GRE. Completed training & apprenticeship to become a Reiki Master-Teacher.
- Portland Community College: Completed science prerequisites for the naturopathic medicine program while keeping up a busy schedule of teaching and tutoring in a wide range of subjects: ESL, writing, math, biology, anatomy, chemistry, organic chemistry, SAT, GRE and LSAT.
- Bastyr University Part I: Completed a 5-year program in naturopathic medicine with extensive elective training, including massage therapy (licensed LMP prior to ND license); year-long internship at Emerald City Clinic; extensive coursework in craniosacral therapy and visceral manipulation; venture grant abroad in Quito, Ecuador, including rounds in area hospitals; and roles as a tutor and teaching assistant. Content-editor for Naturopathic Approach to Visceral Manipulation: Vol 1 by Ron Mariotti, ND.
- Bastyr Center for Natural Health: Completed intensive 1-year residency in naturopathic family practice primary care, including solo and supervisory shifts on site and throughout the greater Puget Sound area.
- Bastyr University Part II: Active adjunct faculty since January of 2011 teaching courses in Clinical Skills, Integrative Case Studies, Grand Rounds, Anatomy & Physiology, Human Physiology, and Biochemistry. Active role in the revision of the naturopathic medical curriculum launched in fall 2012.
- Sundust Oracle Institute: Completed 3-year program in shamanic healing practices and ceremonialist work with Char Sundust in spring of 2015 including an additional year-long training in leadership and mentoring. Have assisted the training of new students each year since completing my own training.
- Daring Way™ & Rising Strong™: Completed training and consultation hours to become a certified facilitator in the curriculum created by Brené Brown, PhD and other researchers and pioneers at the Daring Way™ in the fall of 2014. Completed training for the Rising Strong™ curriculum when it was launched in 2015.
I have a special affinity for the naturopathic principle of docere – to teach – from which the word “doctor” is derived. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to helping others to learn. Throughout my schooling, from childhood to graduate school, my classmates would seek me out to help them clarify and deepen their understanding in a wide variety of subjects. I have been teaching and tutoring in formal roles for over 20 years, and I have a deep passion for empowering others through education. I am grateful to have brought that passion to higher education since 2011 at Bastyr University, where I have supported the learning of hundreds of aspiring healers. I believe that by understanding more about how your body works and learning how to discern the messages from your body, heart and spirit, you can find a more balanced, healthy and joyful way of living.
If you don’t find me teaching, learning or with a client, you will most likely find me being captivated by nature, spending time with people I love, working with my hands making shamanic tools and jewelry, experimenting with new spices and flavors in the kitchen, connecting with my body through yoga, diving into sci-fi and fantasy stories or being inspired by music from a myriad of genres.