Expo West keynote speaker Jane Seymour is a familiar face to anyone who has turned on the television or ventured out to the movies in the past three decades. She?s been a Bond girl in Live and Let Die, won both an Emmy and a pair of Golden Globes for her work on the small screen, and been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She?s the author of four books, the mother of six children, a celebrated painter and a renowned humanitarian.
Seymour is probably best-known for her long-running portrayal of Dr. Michaela Quinn on the hit show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. But her experience with alternative therapies and complementary medicine goes much deeper than fiction. She has worked closely with the National Foundation for Alternative Medicine, serving as chair of the organization?s International Committee on Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and has hosted a 14-part PBS series titled Healthy Living, which explored a variety of healing modalities including nutrition, exercise, yoga and alternative cancer therapies.
Seymour?s interest in different healing modalities began when her father, a family physician in England, was diagnosed with bone cancer. Though he never practiced alternative medicine, he agreed to try nontraditional therapies when Western medicine could do nothing more for him. ?When he said, ?I?d like to try this,? the whole family was astounded,? Seymour says.
The treatment involved a variety of modalities combined with psychotherapy. ?He unleashed a lot of things he?d held in his heart, and that was a huge healing in itself,? Seymour says. ?Just before he died, he told me his only regret was that he hadn?t come across alternative medicine earlier. He felt that if he?d been able to combine it with and complement what he knew in Western medicine and surgery along with the alternative practices used on him, he could have been the kind of doctor he really wanted to be.?
Seymour?s support for alternative medicine is just part of a larger notion of wellness. ?I am a great believer that when you go out and try to help other people, it helps you. It heals you.? This idea has been the impetus for her own involvement in many charitable organizations. She has helped the American Red Cross raise money for children?s health care in developing countries; she has served as the international ambassador of Childhelp USA, an organization dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse; and she is active in City Hearts, an organization that involves at-risk youth in the performing and visual arts.
Seymour co-starred with actor Christopher Reeves in the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, and they have remained close friends. Since Reeve?s paralysis caused by a horseback-riding accident, Seymour has helped raise money for the American Paralysis Association.
It?s difficult to imagine where she finds the time for so much giving, with her busy film and television schedule and a family that includes 8-year-old twin boys. Seymour says the urge to help others is something she learned from her Dutch-born mother. ?My mother is a great humanitarian. She survived in a concentration camp in Indonesia for three and a half years during World War II. I often speak to her about how she survived. She says, ?Well, darling, I looked after other people. There were always others worse off than me, and when I took care of others without expecting anything in return, my problems diminished.??
Seymour believes these values are at the core of what it means to be fully alive. Much of her message at public speaking engagements focuses on how each of us can change the way we interact with others. Seymour believes that even small gestures of kindness and connection can have big repercussions.
?One of the biggest tragedies in our society is indifference and apathy,? she says. ?I really speak to people about the fact that everyone can do something. You may not be able to change the entire world, or change who the president is, or whether or not we?re at war, but you can do a huge amount just among the small circle of people you run into. There are lots of people in your community that you can hugely help, and they will literally pay it forward; they will go out and help other people too.?
Seymour finds that homeopathic remedies are one of the keys to keeping herself and her family healthy. Her youngest children, she says, were low-birth-weight twins and had a variety of ear, nose and throat problems as a result. When the mainstream program of antibiotics failed to help, Seymour sought out a naturopath who combined homeopathy and other therapies for the twins. ?They did brilliantly on it,? Seymour says. ?After that, they didn?t need to go to the doctor.?
Seymour sees physical, mental and spiritual wellness as being intertwined.
?I?m into complementary medicine,? she says. ?There?s nothing to beat the MRI machines and some of the amazing science that is available to us; but on the other hand, alternative therapists actually listen to the patient and hear what they?re trying to say. They use their empathy, and thus they can come across things that Western medicine misses when they?re giving a million tests.?
This notion of balance—between self and others, science and intuition, body and spirit—informs Seymour?s outlook on all aspects of life, from her family to her career and humanitarian endeavors. Clearly, it also informs her view of what medicine can be, and should be.
?What is my speech about? I think it?s about balance, about being in tune with your body and mind and spirit, and really listening to what your body is telling you,? Seymour says. ?So often, you just take an aspirin or a painkiller, but if you stop for a moment and listen to your body, your body quite often can heal things itself. This is a huge part of medicine, and it?s a part that?s missing now more than ever.?
Jane Seymour will speak on Saturday, March 6, at 9 a.m. in Room 204.
Mitchell Clute is a freelance writer, poet and musician in Crestone, Colo.
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