Joshua Phillips, 44, outside his office

Dan Duggan recommended Joshua to me. Joshua is a naturopathic physician and the clinical director at Hawthorn Healing Arts, which he founded with his wife. We agreed to meet there and found a quiet spot to chat. It seemed to me that we went from complete strangers to friends in the moment we met and our conversation was filled with a rare sense of familiarity. Joshua was so warm and giving of his time. I continue to be so pleased with these interactions as people keep making space for these interviews and offering their genuine and caring perspective. 

Who are you?

I am Joshua Phillips. 

Where do you come from?

Well, I was born in Michigan and grew up mostly in Southern California with a three-year diversion to southern Germany, where I lived for middle school years. When I was in California - kind of between dad's place in Colorado and my mom's place in Southern California. Only child of a single mother, for the most part, was my growing up experience. Yeah, moved around a lot. College was sort of all over the place after high school - a year in Colorado, a year in Northern California, a semester break to ski Lake Tahoe that turned into three years (big smile) before moving up to Portland. And I've been in the Northwest now for over 20 years. 

What brought you here to Bend?

Really I guess, sort of the promise of a certain lifestyle is what drew me to Bend. I met my now wife in the naturopathic college in Portland. She was studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine and me, naturopathic medicine. And in our second year, third year maybe, spring break we took a road trip and decided we were gonna look for the town that we would move to after graduating from the program. We went to Sand Point, Idaho, which strangely I had a weird dream about the other night - of someone trying to convince me to move to Sand Point, Idaho - which I haven't thought about in 15 years. And we went to Bellingham, Washington, which was another on the top ten list. And we had a strange experience in Bellingham. And it's kind of funny because every time I've been back to Bellingham since, I love it. And I love sailing. And I love the ocean. So it seemed almost like a no-brainer that I would be in a coastal town, but everything that happened in Bellingham was just like a no. I had a buddy who had given me the phone number of a mutual friend who invited us to dinner and we showed up there and he dashed out the door, said he'd be back in 15 minutes - he forgot something at the store. As soon as he left, this vicious pitbull comes out of the back room, corners my wife and I in the kitchen - we are literally on the counter of his kitchen for 45 minutes (laughs), waiting for this guy to get back. And he's like, Oh, sorry. She's fine, don't worry about it. Everything that happened in Bellingham - it was just like No, no no, not your town. Get out of here. So we came and visited Bend - and we had been to Bend, you know, come down from Portland for ski trips and what not - and everything about Bend was just the opposite. It was a yes for us. You know, I'm an outdoors person. I love skiing and mountain biking. So, for me, if I look back on my life the last 20 years, I've kind of located myself near ski areas and recreation towns. So that's a big drive for me. Yeah, so Chelsea and I decided to move to Bend right after school and found a hole-in-the-wall office to throw a sign up on the front door and that's kind of how we got rolling. 

We own the business together. We have been in a number of different offices - we've been in Bend for about 14 years now. Hawthorn, as it is now, was something I had kind of been dreaming of for a while. We had largely been in our own private office or maybe there was a massage therapist that shared a room or something, but I'd always wanted to be more in community with other practitioners and have a group practice with folks with different types of training but all sort of under the umbrella of holistic medicine. And I also wanted to have a classroom space where there was a place for people to gather in groups. It's funny, talking about that Tribe book and realizing, you know, how motivated I am by that mentality. I think that's been brewing under the surface for a long time. So anyways, we wanted to have a place with a classroom where we could do educational programs and workshops for folks and then have a small kind of retail offering in the front. So, this was born of that idea about seven years ago. Chelsea and I took this on and started kind of bringing this group together that we now have today. 

What does community mean to you?

Yeah (sighs). Yeah, community is so much about connection. It's so much about, I guess, finding a sense of brotherhood among people that maybe are different from me - that maybe aren't in the bubble of holistic physicians. You know, sometimes my wife and I will say that we realize from certain moments or events just so how we really have this worldview - we really have this idea about who we are - particularly living in a place like Bend, which is also its own kind of arena of thought forms. So I think community is when people can come together and be appreciative of each other's differences. Sort of recognize many different political beliefs, social ideals, personal values and morals, and yet still find common ground. Still find the thread of humanity that really weaves us all together. Because I think there's something underlying - something fundamental and foundational - that few people would disagree on. So, for me, community is when people can come together with that kind of acceptance and tolerance for one another. And I think ultimately what that really does is it galvanizes and it creates... not only does it create tolerance and acceptance, but it actually sort of elevates each individual to another place within themselves when people gather in a way of community. 

Yeah. There's probably more I could say about that (laughs). And I'm obviously influenced by this book that I'm reading right now, but I think it's not just something that is important or worth striving for, but I think it might be crucial for our survival. And, I notice for myself, I can withdraw in my own mind and my own thoughts and my own work and find myself walking through days and weeks where I'm around a lot of people, but I don't feel like I'm really connecting. And I notice that, you know, there was an equinox gathering that we went to the other night. And it was small - I didn't really want to go, I wasn't feeling social. But as soon as I got there I realized the value of being with this group of people and probably especially when I didn't want to go and I would rather squirrel away and do my own thing. It feels to me like it's crucial for well-being, for my level of contentment and happiness, to be proactive and take active steps to be in community - to create community in whatever way makes sense. Obviously that ties into my drive to create a center that's a group practice and has community inherently in it. 

What do you appreciate most about this community?

I guess I could just speak to the community of Bend or Central Oregon that we're in. Or I could talk about my office, which I have a lot to say about, as well. You know, you could stereotype and kind of categorize people - there's folks that fit the frame of the athletic crowd who come to Bend because of the athletic lifestyle. You know, maybe young families or people of a certain economic status. And then you've got a community of folks that seems like they've been here forever, maybe they're more sort of the salt of the earth or the farming or ranching contingency of the area. And a lot of people that move here with a lot of money and retire - sort of the more glitzy contingency, the Porsche and Audi crowd, I don't know. I think the thing that I notice that's a unique thing about this community is that you could sit down at the bar at Deschutes Brewery and be sitting next to people from all of those different contingencies and social backgrounds with different life stories. Maybe one guy on one side of you is trying to figure out how to pay his power bill that month and the guy next to him is investing in million-dollar properties. And there seems to be kind of a an egalitarian vibe - at least in that context - where everyone can shoot the breeze about the same thing and talk about skiing at Mt. Bachelor or talking about world events. That's something that I've noticed and I don't know how accurate that is - maybe it's my optimistic hopefulness that that's really happening (laughs), but that's been my experience. There seems to be a willingness for... I don't know... classism doesn't exist maybe as much as it does in bigger cities. That's one thing I like about this community. 

Do you have thoughts regarding Bend's growth?

You know, of course I have thoughts - I'm a lot less polarized and engaged in at as some of those editorials that are always flying through the paper. I moved here 14 years ago, roughly, and there's a vibe about Bend that was there then that is still here now - that really doesn't feel like it's changed that much to me. I live in the same house that we bought when we moved here 14 years ago. So maybe that's part of it, too, is that I've really been rooted in the same little neighborhood, in the same little house, and maybe haven't been as engaged with the hole real estate transaction thing. In one sense, I understand where people are coming from with the frustration and endless sort of finger-pointing at wealthy Californians who are coming up here. I just haven't had the experience of feeling like there's a disrespect or there's a flagrant sort of abuse of a beautiful town in any certain way. It speaks for itself, it's human nature. If they're living in a place that has grown tiresome for some reason and they see another beautiful place that looks more attractive and they've got the means to go there, of course they're going to! And so would I - I did! So can I harbor ill feelings towards people who want to move up to Bend and buy a nice house and retire? You know, it makes perfect sense to me. I think a town like Bend will continue to grow. How that's handled in terms of infrastructure and city planning and all of that is kind of beyond me. There's moments where I've grumbled in mid-summer traffic on Greenwood or Newport Avenue, you know it's like, Wow, this really does feel different than 10 years ago. But it seems kind of fleeting and it seems not to be the rule of every day. So, yeah, the growth of Bend - it feels natural to me and it feels sensible and who wouldn't want to live here? I don't harbor some of the frustration that I think a lot of people seem to. 

What do you wish for the future?

Wow. Hmmmm. That's a big question. Well, there's all the wishes for myself. There's the wishes for my family. And those are kind of a constant conversation with my wife and kids and my inner dialogue and, for that reason, aren't super interesting (laughs) to talk about. It's sort of a well-worn path. I guess it's more interesting to talk about what I want for the future of humanity and the future of our existence on planet Earth. You know, I've never been one to worry too much about planet Earth. People talk a lot about saving the oceans and saving the mountains and so forth, which of course is a noble cause. But I am pretty confident that the world's gonna take care of itself and we should really take care of ourselves and probably by doing so in more of a holistic and sustainable way we'll also be taking care of the Earth. I think it's our own survival on planet Earth that's at jeopardy, if anything, based on how we're treating our environment. My wish for the future is that it seems like maybe there's a tipping point at which enough of humanity reaches sort of an understanding about how to move through a lifetime - how to behave as an individual and how to behave in community, how to behave as nations - that not only is taking care of individual needs, but is also leaning towards seeing the whole in every action. Seeing the community, seeing the town you live in, the state that you live in, the nation that you live in - and sort of I guess gauging one's actions and desires based on not just individual gain and profit and affluence, but also for the welfare of the whole - the whole organism. I think that there's individuals who are already there, families who have been there, maybe certain groups of people or certain communities that have been there. Maybe there's a tipping point when enough people start to gain a certain kind of awareness or conscientiousness about their actions and the way that they live that it hits some tipping point where all of the forces that many of us feel are destructive and self-serving and short-lived and short-sited... that maybe you hit some (What is it the 100th Monkey phenomenon or something like that?) point at which there's enough momentum or enough sort of inner awareness of how we walk in this world that it's more of the norm - it's more of what we would call mainstream. Maybe a lot of the things I believe in are more alternative or sideline at this point, but despite the language that you use or what you call different movements or ideology, I think again there's a common thread that's woven through the middle of it that makes sense to most people. I guess that's my hope for the future - is that somehow humanity, one step at a time, starts walking in that direction as opposed towards a direction which is sort of destined for implosion and self-destruction. 

And, obviously, my chosen path or one of my chosen paths has been through holistic medicine. I really believe that the path of holistic medicine, just inherent in it's name holistic, is that we're seeing that mind, consciousness, thought, the function of the liver, the gallbladder, and how we breathe and move are all connected and are all one very intricate organism. I had the opportunity, actually, to do a talk - the Environmental Center had one of their Green Drinks and we hosted it a year or two ago - and I was charged with giving a little talk about how what we do adds to the environmental movement. And it was really easy for me and I was really excited to share with this group of people that I really believe that as people heal themselves in a holistic way and recognize that when uncomfortable symptoms come up in our bodies or we get a disease process, that it's rarely a mistake. It's usually the correct thing for the body to do given a certain set of circumstances - the way we eat, the way we don't care of ourselves maybe, many other things - that many times when we get sick there's a good reason for it. And when you approach a disease or an imbalance in the body in that way, we're given an opportunity to learn something about ourselves - to learn how to create an environment, internally and externally in our lives, that are more conducive in allowing for the body to heal itself. I think when people approach illness or being proactive about their health from that standpoint that a healing process starts to occur that not only allows you to be more in touch with yourself and understand your body and your mind in more depth, but also your environment and to be more connected with your environment. From a certain perspective, someone who undertakes a holistic healing path in earnest will naturally become inclined to become an environmentalist to some extent. Because that relationship, really, is inseparable.