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Asking for what we need

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Dear MWHC family,

I hope these first weeks of January are life-giving, in the midst of inevitable challenges.

I already find that as I live into my Word, “Heal,” I am also living into its opposite – “Wound.” Still, it makes sense- how can we ever know the fullness of the light without acknowledging and addressing the shadow? How can we grow in our capacity to hold the glory if we haven’t been emptied in despair? Living into a word for the year means experiencing both the word and its opposite, and learning how to hold the tensions between the extremes in a centered and grounded way. So, don’t be discouraged if you have a word and for the first 9 (or 11.99) months you are assaulted by its opposite. That’s part of the growth. That’s why even just one word can be transformative. That’s why we often don’t want to settle on just one word – because it really is that hard.

But we don’t have to do it alone.

I send this out as a reminder: 1) I am here for you, and 2) I’m here in all my imperfection.

1. I am here for you.

This practice was created on a deep desire to offer health and wholeness founded on love. But love always invites, it doesn’t force. Love is always partnership, it’s not authoritative. Many people participate in this practice because of the recognition that I’m willing to have conversation and I’m willing to listen. You see yourself as a knowledgeable, experienced individual who knows what you need and wants personalized care that respects your opinions and self-understanding.

You want to get to the root cause, and I’m willing to go deep with you. And the depth doesn’t end at the biochemical imbalances – it doesn’t end at the right diet and exercise plan, and mix of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical offerings, and specialized testing.

It goes to the deep darkness of emotional and spiritual wounds that cut deep and still fester- wounds that the world acknowledges as traumatic, as well as the small cuts that have collected over a lifetime like paper cuts all over you.

And my tendency is always to go deep. Not that I’m a psychologist or psychiatrist or a counselor. But I know full well how suppressed hurt, avoidant tendencies, and disconnection of mind-body-spirit lead to unforgiveness, anger, and protective walls that lead to destructive choices, distant relationships, and a survival mode of living.

And I also know the freedom that’s possible when even one seemingly small wound is allowed to heal completely.

2. I’m here in all my imperfection.

Just like you, I’m navigating my understanding of what’s happening in this world and trying to find a balance between how to offer medical care in a world where physical touch is scary, and when the implications of spending longer than 15 minutes with a person in a small room could have potentially significant repercussions on myself, my staff, and my family.

Part of why I am writing to you more, with all these words, is the hope that when I write from this heart-felt space in me, that it offers you comfort and consolation. Even if you don’t always see me in person, you know I am here.

And integral to our relationship is my hope and belief that in keeping this practice small and allowing for multiple modes of communication, that you feel free to ask for what you need.

And that you will continue to ask for what you need until you receive it.

Just like you, when I’m “in the flow” and healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually, my capacity to be fully present and engage with you (and sometimes even anticipate your needs) is abundant.

And, as an Enneagram 9, when I’m stressed, I disconnect and am more emotionally distant. (That’s part of my healing work).

So if you reach out initially with modes like texting or Spruce messaging or emailing and you’re not getting your questions fully answered – simply have Randi set us up for a time to talk with a phone call or by Zoom. Or if you truly feel that you need an in-person appointment for an acute medical issue, then ask for it.

And if you notice that it’s time for a refill and you wonder if it’s time to have labs and a med check or an annual physical, ask.

So yes, I’m here to be a conventional physician, and an integrative provider, and finally a witness to your journey- all of it.

If you need me, I am here. I’m here in all my imperfection.

Ask for what you need. I will always do my best for you.

Peace, health, and wholeness,


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“The pulmonary system is primarily involved in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are vital to the production of the energy needed for metabolism at the cellular level. This process [is] known as respiration…” 

– Medical Conditions in the Athlete, 3rd edition, Flanagan and Cuppett

We often think of nourishment in relationship to food, yet the definition of nourishment is “the food OR OTHER SUBSTANCES necessary for growth, health, and good conditions.” 

At the most basic, we need oxygen for nourishment. So this begs the question – how fully do you breathe? Do you inhale fully to receive oxygen (which nourishes us), and exhale fully to release carbon dioxide (which contributes to free radical formation and oxidative stress)?

“Humans are “belly breathers,” and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air. “It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in air flowing into your lungs.” – American Lung Association

Respiration is  “vital to the production of the energy needed for metabolism” at the very building blocks of our bodies, our cells. The most common type of cell injury in clinical medicine is ischemic (through reduced blood flow, as in a stroke or heart attack) and hypoxic (reduced oxygen availability) (Robbins and Cotran, Pathologic Basis of Disease, 7th Ed).  Can you make oxygen fully available to your body if you are not taking full, deep breaths? 

When we injure our cells, we adversely affect processes like the Krebs cycle (the key to cellular respiration) which transforms fuel into energy. This one cycle includes 10 chemical reactions requiring multiple substrates, nutrients and cofactors (including stress-dependent B vitamins).

In a world where we are wound tight (tight shoulders and aching backs are dismissed as “normal” aches and pains), and we hold our breaths scurrying from one task to another trying to figuratively keep from drowning in the endless “to-do” and also hold our collective breath awaiting the next seemingly inevitable disaster, is it possible to take a full, deep breath in and out?

Over a lifetime, as our minds are increasingly  disconnected from our bodies through years of education, professional expectations, and relational overgiving, are you even aware of your breath?

So over the years, as increasing responsibilities weigh heavier upon us, as we tense and hold without releasing, as we breathe ever-more-and more-shallowly, we create an environment where oxygen becomes less available. A physical environment of chronic hypoxia. A physical state of chronic cell injury.  And over time, we suppress our ability to breathe fully and nourish ourselves at the most basic level. Is it any wonder we’re always tired?

So breathing, and specifically belly breathing, is fundamental to our physical nourishment.

 And attention to the belly also brings us to the body (belly)-centered intelligence trio of the Enneagram, types 8, 9, 1 (which I dub the types of passion (8), passivity (9) and perfection (1)).

Over the next few months of Embrace Grace, we will focus on breathing and these 3 enneagram types. 

Three months of attention to breathing, you may ask? 

Yes! No matter how good our “diet and exercise,” if we’re not breathing fully, we cannot be fully nourished, and we cannot fully live. 

(Sidenote: I was watching an anime series with my son, called “DemonSlayer”. After intense training, the final thing the hero had to learn in order to access his fullest capacity as a warrior was: Total Concentration Breathing. He had to learn to breathe fully all day, every day, while he slept and while he was awake, in order to increase his stamina, his energy, his reflexes, his mental focus, his strength, his power. The ultimate key to his success was his breath.) 

So, Yes! After how many decades of not fully breathing, imagine how 3 months of fully breathing will nourish you. 

When I “prescribe” medicine of any sort (supplements or prescription), I start with a 3 month trial to determine its full effects. The most fundamental medicine we take for granted: oxygen.

So, for the next 3 months, let’s sit with our bodies and learn to breathe again for physical transformation, and let’s pay attention to the body-intelligence centers of the Enneagram for spiritual transformation.

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I had heard of Centering Prayer, but was strongly encouraged (gently forced?) to regularly engage in the practice when I started the Living School last year. I had some misgivings, because while I have a dedicated morning practice (1 hour when I’m tired, 2 hours ideally, and up to 5 hours on some truly incredible mornings) filled with journaling, sacred reading, meditation, petitionary prayer and inspired creation; the one thing that is NOT included is REST.

“I’m not made for rest, I’m made for Fierce High Service,” I muttered to God. “I’m a physician and I have to take care of patients! I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an entrepreneur, a creator, I have things to do!”

And I love how God is so good and the Spirit replied, “OK, do it your way.” (Oh, free will!)

So I continued to get up and work during my morning practice, and work at work, and work at home until I fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

And then the COVID and George Floyd and elections came, and uncertainty piled upon the work, with no clear end. 

And I continued to work during my morning practice but with increasing uncertainty, and work at work with increasing uncertainty, and work at home with increasing uncertainty until I fell into an exhausted, increasingly restless sleep. 

And since my word for 2020 is Transform, I knew that the falling apart had to come before the re-creation, so I tried to make the falling apart pieces of uncertain work and restless sleep fit into a comprehensible new creation. But the pieces wouldn’t fit quite right, because the falling apart never stopped long enough.

And I muttered to God, “Can’t you stop the falling apart now so I can create something new?”

And God is so good, and the Spirit whispered, “Will you rest in Me, so I can love you? Will you surrender 20 minutes when you wake and before you sleep to Me, and receive the gift of not having to do anything, be anything, prove anything, control anything? In the midst of all the falling apart outside, will you let your heart rest in Mine, allow Me to hold you in My Love? And in the safety of My Love, will you bear witness to the something new that I’m creating from all the falling apart pieces of all the lives in all the world?”

It took until these last 2 weeks of December, but I’m more consistently getting that first 20 minutes of Rest in.  I’m still wrestling with the idea, though. Rest, then work, then rest before I go to sleep? It’s such an unfamiliar rhythm. When work, then work, then work before I collapse has been what I’ve always known.

But God is so good, because something is starting to happen in even the small shift in rhythm to rest, then work, then work before sleep. There’s this idea that’s emerging regarding my 2021 Word of the Year, Heal. And the idea is to allow Healing through Rest … Resting and being held in Grace, Resting and hearing the invitation to participate in the *Divine Dance of the Trinity, Resting and bearing witness to the continuous self-emptying of a limitless, loving God into a multitude of expressions in the created world. 

Resting and recognizing that I’m not in control, I’ll never be in control, and I don’t have to be. Control is about manipulation and power plays. Control rejects Grace.

In a Grace-filled world, it’s about surrender and love play. That’s the Gospel, the Good News!! The invitation we are all given! Believe it! Receive it! Embrace it!

In a Grace-filled world,  I’m called Beloved, I’m invited to Be Loved, and I’m called to Be Love. 

It’s that simple. And still, it’s the journey of a lifetime.

Peace, health, & wholeness – Arlene

* read Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr; or The Shack by William Paul Young


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My thoughts are consumed by You – discerning what You desire of me to do in the world, and witnessing what You are doing unto me in every moment. Constant reminders that You are utterly incomprehensible in Your infinitude, yet You are endlessly understandable through the experience of Your intimate creation (oh, Holy Mystery!).

So how do I resolve the disconnect between what I intend and how I act?Shared words with nuanced meanings received differently, become foreign languages that can tear us apart and the fabric of the One Reality of You that is in all, with all, through all. We desperately want connection, and yet we often push it away in favor of control.

Some nights, I cling to the Rosary as I fall asleep, praying for the desire to offer heart-felt trust and surrender to Your Mystery as Mary did, when it is so much easier to cling to mental certitude and control. It’s a tangible centering and tethering in the midst of uncertainty. Even without words, if it’s simply a holding, and a groaning, and an exhale of my powerlessness… I think that’s ok with You, because you know exactly what I mean, and You know I’m giving it all to You.

Because, most of the time, I really don’t want to seek You everywhere, in everything, with everyone, in every moment. I want to remain attached to what I know and what I think I know.Do I really need a new heart, must a steadfast spirit really be renewed in me? Can I just give up and give in and go along with the crowd, and You give me everything I want right now- which, frankly, is to be all-knowing and all-powerful?

And there’s the rub. I want to be God-like without Being like God. I want to consume (My will, not Yours) rather than be consummated (surrender myself fully and receive You fully).I can’t… I simply can’t desire surrender on my own- my God, how I need You in it! I need You as I walk between worlds – grounded in the human reality of time and space, even as I expand into Your Reality of timelessness and spaciousness.

Throughout the day, there are so many words… words made flesh – manifested through the acts of speaking, writing, reading, hearing. I am inundated with words. They wash over and through me – and some are caught in me – they stick, then play within me… like a note played on a string, vibrating until it comes to rest. Words like abundance, fierce, freedom, courage, embrace, transform, heal. Particular words form patterns, and like notes play, repeat, and reverberate through me. And the patterns in my life become the song of my life, which becomes the meaning of my life.

So I pray always for the desire to seek You everywhere, in everything, with everyone, in every moment so that all of my life – the whole euphony and cacophony of my song- becomes a love offering. This is my chance to compose my “Hallelujah” song as part of an eternal hymn of thanksgiving. During this particular time and in this particular place, I am gifted one opportunity to live, and am provided countless opportunities to surrender and to experience Your consummate Love.

Create in me a clean heart that embraces You with every inhale, allowing You to nourish and restore me.

Renew in me a steadfast spirit that surrenders to You with every exhale, allowing me to participate in the nourishment and restoration of the world.

Gentle reminder: upcoming Transform Webinar

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Next Friday-Sunday 12/6-12/8, 6-9pm, we will be gathering at the Harrisonburg space to watch a webinar on faster EFT (emotional freedom technique), a technique that incorporates energy meridians and affirmations for health.

Never heard of tapping? That’s ok!
Don’t know that you can come all 3 days? That’s ok, too!

Learn a little (or a lot).
Hang out a little (or a lot).

Spend time in safe and sacred space (because that means a lot!!)

This program on your own is over $200. Come spend time with us for $10 (MWHC members) or $20 (non-members) – just call or text us at 540-416-9656.

Peace, health, and wholeness. Arlene McCain



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“I am creative.”

I woke up with those words in my mind, and shook my head in disbelief. What? I’m no artist, no poet, no musician. Creative?

Yet there were the words, that had come up in the half-awake moments where the secrets of dreams meet the light of reality.

So, this morning, with my coffee energizing my mind, my candle focusing my attention, and my journal and pen open to receiving inspired guidance, I asked the question, “Am I creative?”

“create” = to bring (something) in to existence

“creator” = a person/thing that brings something into existence

“creative” = marked by the ability or power to create

Therefore, if I am creative, then I am a person marked by the power to bring something into existence.

And, if I am a child of God, then I am also called to be a co-creator. This means that I have been brought into existence by God and marked by the power to participate with God in the purposeful bringing of something into existence.

What is that something?

Matthew 22:36-39 “Master, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Love. Over and over again, the call is to Love.
The return is to love.
Know Love. Offer Love. Receive Love.

But HOW? How do we do this?

Romans 12:6 “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them…”

We each have unique gifts freely given to us by God, and we are called to share them with the world.

Grace: the free and unmerited favor of God.

Do we Embrace Grace?
Do we accept willingly & enthusiastically, and hold close, the promise that we are free, we are worthy, and we are loved?

If we say YES, or even desire in some secret, scared part of us to say yes… then in fact, WE ARE ALL CREATIVE.

We have all been marked by the power to create and purposefully bring into the world the one thing that the greatest commandment, the second commandment, and the new commandment all say to do: LOVE.

Interested in exploring EMBRACING GRACE further?
Consider the Embrace Grace project that McCain Whole Health Care will be offering starting January 24, 2019.

Interested in reading more posts like these, that offer Soul Care?
Consider joining our Facebook group, SOUL-stice, a space where we stay still with our souls and reflect upon who we’re Be-ing as we’re Do-ing.

Embrace Grace 2019

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MWHC Metanoia Project


This project is an 11- month Embrace of Grace
(the free and unmerited favor of God, who is Love)

We will explore what it means to love God, Self, and Neighbor with all our hearts and minds and bodies, through

  • A participation in the Dance of Desire & Delight with Divine Love (Richard Rohr)
  • The intentional removal of barriers to Love within ourselves (Rumi)
  • The integration of our Inner and Outer Selves (Parker Palmer)


Information Session
Open to all! Registration required
Monday, Jan 21, 2019: 10 -11 am

For Participants
Jan-Sept: 4thThursdays: 6-8 pm
Oct/Nov: TBD (individual & group retreat)


Jan-Sep: 1589 Port Republic Road, Suite 1, Harrisonburg (pending space requirements)
Oct/Nov: TBD


Jan-Sep: included for members, $150/month for non-members
Oct/Nov: additional cost for retreats (TBD)


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Fierce: “showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity”

In 2013, I started partnering with Christina Kunkle, a resilience coach who opened my eyes to amazing possibility. With her, I identified my CORE VALUE OFFER – “Fierce High Service.”

Fast forward 5 years later, after graduation from a transformative health coaching program through the Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota, I received this soul-stirring gift from Karen Lawson, Deb Olson, and Theresa Nutt.

What a blessing, these women committed to changing the world by supporting the hearts & voices of others who want to offer their best selves to create deep and lasting change in the world.

These amazing women, coaches, friends have walked the walk with me these years. They have held the space for me to speak my Truth, to live into my Fierceness, and to take a leap of Faith into my 2018 Word of the Year, COURAGE, with its original meaning – “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

What is your Core Value Offer?
What is your Word of the Year?
Who holds the space for you to speak your mind by telling all your heart?

Peace, health, & wholeness – Arlene


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“Be not afraid to live your faith. Be not afraid of branching out into the unknown. Be not afraid of the world’s view of failure. And be not afraid to alter your life’s mission.”- John Abbate

What is the mission of McCain Whole Health Care?
To empower clients by providing ongoing, personal, whole health care as a direct primary care physician who incorporates integrative health coaching and holistic healing practices. Additionally, to hold the space for physicians to fully answer their call to high service through the creative art of medicine. I partner with individuals as they discern personal motivations for healthy change and passionately support their inspired progress towards a thriving life.


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“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” – David Whyte

McCain Whole Health Care Vision: To invite individuals to clarify, then manifest a vision for whole health that inspires them live boldly and live fully.

What you pay attention to, grows.

McCain Whole Health Care membership includes personalized Wellbeing Programs tailored to your health goals. We are focused on “both/and.” Both Family Medicine and MORE! Details to come!