Then Story: Business coordinator
Now Story: Naturopathic doctor, Founder, Pure Renewal Retreats
Curb Moments: A tumor and a dreary Seattle Winter
Maui? Napa? Sayulita, Mexico? Who wouldn’t envy a profession that included work in these destination vacation spots. Credit two Off the Curb moments; a tumor when she was 23 and one exceptionally dreary Seattle winter for flashlighting the way to Dr. Lynn Von Schneidau’s career which includes not only running a naturopathic medical practice, but also leading transformational healing retreats in some of the world’s most beautiful places.
You started your career in the business department of a technology company, how did you make the transition to what you are doing now?
When I was in my early twenties, I felt like I was on the right track. I was fresh out of school and excited about starting my career in the corporate world. However, soon after I started, I began to have physical symptoms. At times I experienced pain so debilitating I could barely walk from my front door to my car. Later on, I learned the pain was caused by endometrial tumors. The only two treatment options offered by conventional medicine were pharmaceutical drugs: (narcotics for the pain as well as male hormones to suppress the symptoms) and surgery to cut the nerves in my back and remove the tumors.
The orthodox medical treatment (narcotics for the pain and two surgeries) only made my symptoms worse. Scheduled for a third surgery at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, I was told this next surgery would cauterize the tumors, take out my appendix “because I didn’t need it”; cut the nerves in my back; and potentially result in a hysterectomy (with or without my consent) should they find something “they” didn’t like. With the potential outcome of not being able to have children and a 50/50 chance of reducing my pain, I asked my mother about an alternative clinic in Mexico where she had once been a patient. She connected me with Charlotte Gerson. In an hour and a half conversation with Charlotte Gerson, the daughter of the founder of the Gerson Clinic, I received more information about my condition, as well as the drugs I had previously been given and their effect on my liver than I had in years of information from numerous previous doctors. I went to Mexico where I underwent a rigorous detoxification and nutritional treatment approach under the direction of Charlotte Gerson. Charlotte believed that the body can truly heal itself if given the right conditions which included removing toxins and impediments to health, establishing the right mindset, and adding optimum nutrients and enzymes. The Treatment at her clinic was hard; I was there for 3 weeks and continued the therapy for another year on my own with the help of my mom, but it ended up being miraculous in two ways. First, while in Mexico, I felt my tumors dissolve and, in time, the crippling pain melt away. Secondly, I saw the power of the body to heal itself and knew the illness and my choice to go to Mexico for alternative medicine were precursors to my life and career path. I needed to become a doctor to share this information with people who were ill and not being helped in the conventional medicine system in the states.
Because of the Gerson Therapy, I completely healed and went on to have three amazing kids. Thank goodness for my mom! The Gerson Therapy allowed me to see the power of the body to heal itself if you take away the impediments to health and give it the nutrition it needs to heal and thrive.
After I healed, I went to a therapeutic massage school to learn more about how the body works and how to reduce stress. I got married, started a family and worked in a health resort giving massages there when my kids were little. I knew all along after going to the Gerson Clinic I wanted to be a Naturopath, but it was not until I discovered Bastyr, the only accredited Naturopathic school in the country, that I knew it was the right place to get my Doctorate. I applied and got accepted to Bastyr in Seattle. With my husband and 3 kids ages 1, 3 and 4 we moved from Vail to Seattle . After graduating from Bastyr, (deleted sentence) – I opened my own practice within other integrated clinics and eventually opened a practice in Seattle with a lake view as a sole practitioner
Which you have now…
Right. Today I teach people about taking responsibility for their own health and educate them about all the ways to do it. Everyone’s life story is different. Emotions, thoughts, traumas, nutrition, exposure to toxins…there are so many things that can affect someone’s life and well being. People come to me with everything from serious diseases to minor ailments. (Omit Obviously)It can be tough but it’s also a great joy to spend time with my patients, build strong relationships with them, and of course see their health improve.
Forbes’ Traveler calls the Haramara Retreat in Sayulita Mexico “one of the 10 best retreats” and you get to go there fairly regularly for work, how did you pull that off?
Well I guess a big curb moment can be blamed on the terrible weather we have in Seattle! One year it was really harsh. It was one of the rainiest winters ever and I’d just really had it with the dark dreary weather. It was weighing me down and all I wanted to do was escape to somewhere sunny. I think change often happens from a place of pain and that was certainly the case. I needed a break. I started thinking about how I could get out of Seattle for a vacation and where I would go and who would be fun to bring with me and it was kind of fun to brainstorm about it. I imagined being able to do what I loved as a Naturopath – helping patients heal themselves but in a better climate. I pictured teaching participants and patients how to be healthy in sunny beautiful places in the world. I wanted to utilize the current treatments I was using daily with my patients based on the the personal healing I learned years ago at the Gerson Clinic in beautiful sunny places far removed from the stress and poor nutritional and lifestyle habits. This initial idea evolved into the reality of actually running my Pure Renewal Retreats which is how I get to work in Sayulita. We spend a week sharing tools and resources for transforming physical, emotional, and spiritual well- being. Every time I walk into the yoga palapa there overlooking the ocean I stop and say ‘wow, this is my job!’
It took me some starts and stops but the more I refined my direction and vision and the more I told people about it, the more it all started to fall into place; the right things happened. For example, I was talking to someone about wanting to do a retreat in Mexico and she said the owner of Haramara was a good friend of hers. I went to a retreat at Haramara and by the end of that retreat I had met the owner Sajeela and booked my first retreat. I returned in 3 months and led my first retreat at Haramara in where I am doing most of my retreats and it couldn’t be a more magical place and ideal location.
We have a section on our blog called Feeding the Meter intended to offer insights to keep moving forward even when you can’t yet jump the curb. I’m curious if you have any advice for this?
Well I have conversations all the time with my patients about this. Taking time out from everyday experiences to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t is important. For me, obviously I do this through the retreats, but on a daily basis when I’m feeling stuck, I hop on an Elliptical trainer and spend a few moments consciously visualizing what I want to be different. And, more than that, I think about whether my time is currently spent supporting that vision. Sometimes a patient will be stressed and will want to quit his or her job on the spot and try something new, but I tell them to make some small steps first. I might suggest they pick out some photos or look at some pictures that represent exactly how they want their life to be and look at them every morning and when they do, they often will see their energy shift in the right direction.
For more about Dr. Lynn and her retreats visit www.purerenewal.com