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SandpileModel for MindBodyHealth

Martha Stark, MD

Founder / CEO, SynergyMed for MindBodyHealth

Integrating Traditional and Nontraditional Solutions


Specializing in Innovative Treatment Strategies

for Chronic Psychiatric and Medical Conditions

Cutting-edge Synthesis of Traditional and

Nontraditional Approaches to MindBodyHealth

Comprehensive Consultation and

Strategic Solutions for Persistent Problems

Collaborative Strategizing to Customize Interventions

and Optimize Therapeutic Results


I use the "sandpile model" to demonstrate the cumulative impact
over time of environmental stressors on our bodies.

I believe it to be an elegant visual metaphor for how we are continuously
refashioning ourselves at ever-higher levels of resilience and adaptive capacity 


Interestingly, the grains of sand being added to a gradually evolving
sandpile are the occasion for both its disruption and its repair.

Not only do the grains of sand being added precipitate partial collapse
of the sandpile but also they become the means by which the sandpile will
then be able to build itself back up  each time at a new level of homeostasis.

The system will therefore have been able not only to manage
the impact of the stress but also to benefit from that stress.



profound appreciation for the absolute uniqueness of each individual

expertise in, and dedication to, working with those who have already consulted numerous
healthcare specialists but suffer still and are desperate for answers and relief

recognition of psychiatric and medical symptoms as but the outward manifestation
of underlying vulnerability, dysfunction, imbalance, blockage, and hypersensitivity –

the investigative focus always on "hidden causes"
     and the contribution of genetic and epigenetic / environmental risk factors

attunement to the complex interdependence of mind and body
and to the flow of information and energy
throughout the extensive network of channels constituting the MindBodyMatrix

targeting underlying dysfunction with individualized therapies
designed to restore the resilience of a compromised matrix
by revitalizing its capacity to cope with stress – 

     adaptive capacity the matrix must have in order to process and integrate
     the potentially devastating impact of the myriad of environmental stressors
     to which it is being continuously exposed –

          epigenetic stressors that take the form of "too much bad" and "too little good"



lighten the load – to correct for toxicities ("presence of bad")
replenish the reserves – to correct for deficiencies ("absence of good")
facilitate the flow – to restore the system's intrinsic orderedness and natural biorhythms

     challenging (whenever possible) and supporting (whenever necessary) –
     to jumpstart the system's innate ability to renew itself
therapeutic induction of healing cycles of disruption and repair,
defensive collapse and adaptive reconstitution
at ever-higher levels of integration, balance, and harmony

the sandpile model – developed by chaos theorists – is a wonderful visual metaphor
for the cumulative impact, over time, of environmental stressors on open systems

     the grains of sand being steadily added to the gradually evolving sandpile
     are the occasion for both its disruption and its repair
          not only do the grains of sand being added
          precipitate partial collapse of the sandpile
          but also they become the means by which
          the sandpile will be able to build itself back up –
               every time at a new level of homeostasis

so too the MindBodyMatrix is continuously refashioning itself
at ever-higher levels of complexity and integration –
not just "in spite of" stressful input from the outside but "by way of" that input

     more specifically, with respect to the paradoxical impact
     of environmental stressors on the living system,
     the noted 16th century Swiss physician Paracelsus is reputed to have said that

     the difference between a poison and a medication is the dosage thereof
     and, I would add, the system's capacity – a function of its underlying resilience –
     to process, integrate, and adapt to the impact of that stressor
     in other words, stressful input is inherently neither bad (poison) nor good (medication) –

     rather, the dosage of the stressor, the underlying adaptability of the system,
     and the "intimate edge" (1992, Darlene Ehrenberg, THE INTIMATE EDGE)
     between stressor and system will determine whether the system,
     in response to the environmental input,
     devolves from partial to total disorganization
     or evolves to ever more complex levels of organization and dynamic balance

But it will be how well the MindBodyMatrix is able to process and integrate its impact –
psychologically, physiologically, and energetically – that will make of it
either a growth-disrupting (sandpile-disorganizing) event
or a growth-promoting (sandpile-reorganizing) opportunity
     either one that catapults the system into further decline
     or one that prompts transformation and renewal
so whether the primary target is mind or body
and the clinical manifestation therefore psychiatric or medical,
the critical issue will be the ability of the MindBodyMatrix
to handle stress through adaptation
in truth, stress impacts the MindBodyMatrix in three ways – the Goldilocks principle –
too much stress – traumatic stress – will be
too overwhelming for the system  to process and integrate,
triggering instead defensive collapse
too little stress will provide
too little impetus for transformation and growth,
serving instead simply to reinforce the (dysfunctional) status quo of the system

but just the right amount of stress – to which I refer as "optimal stress" – will offer
just the right combination of challenge and support needed ultimately
to induce, after the initial disruption, eventual reconstitution of the system
at a higher level of complex orderedness and integrated coherence

          the system will therefore have been able
          not only to "manage" the impact of the stressful input
          but also to "benefit" from that impact

          in other words, if the interface between stressor and system
          is such that the stressor is able to provoke recovery within the system,
          then what would have been poison becomes medication –
          what would have constituted toxic input becomes therapeutic input –
          what would have been deemed traumatic stress becomes optimal stress –
          and what would have overwhelmed becomes transformative

in essence, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger

I am speaking here to the therapeutic use of stress to provoke recovery
by activating the body's innate ability to heal itself


We speak of psychiatric disorders / diseases and of medical disorders / diseases

but whether the primary involvement is of mind or of body,
"dis-order" (disrupted orderedness within the MindBodyMatrix)
and "dis-ease" (disrupted ease of flow within the MindBodyMatrix)
are implicated in the generation of both psychiatric and medical problems

the journey from disorder and disease to health and vitality – from illness to wellness –
requires that the system's infrastructure be "ordered" and "fluid"

targeted treatments that correct for internal toxicities and deficiencies
will revitalize the system's resilience, adaptability, and capacity to cope with stress –

          by reinstating the intrinsic orderedness of the system
          and thereby facilitating the ease of flow
          of regulatory information and vibratory energy throughout its expanse

in essence, ongoing lightening of the load and replenishing of the reserves
will provide the stressful input needed – optimal stress – to fuel
recursive cycles of disruption and repair,
defensive collapse and adaptive reconstitution at ever-higher levels of synergy –

          the rhythms of mind and body now synchronized and in harmonic resonance

customized therapies that offer just the right mix of challenge and support
will indeed optimize overall MindBodyHealth –

          restore the system's homeostatic balance,
          reinforce its regulatory capacity, reinstate its ability to cope with stress,
          relax the mind, rejuvenate the body, revitalize the soul,
          raise consciousness to a new level, rekindle hope,
          and revive the capacity to experience gratitude, serenity, and joy


Martha Stark, MD ~ Founder / CEO, SynergyMed for MindBodyHealth

 Integrating Traditional and Nontraditional Solutions
    ...where benefit exceeds expectation

Specializing in Innovative Treatment Strategies
for Chronic Psychiatric and Medical Conditions

Pursuing the path to self-healing is a demanding venture,
one that requires tremendous courage and infinite patience

I would consider it a privilege and a pleasure to be allowed
to accompany you on your journey back to MindBodyHealth
My hope is that I will be able to make that journey
a little less difficult for you – and, perhaps, a little less lonely –

Chronic illness offers both challenge and opportunity –
to reintegrate in a way that leads to profound healing and transcendence

In the words of Hemingway,
"The world breaks everyone; but, in the end,
people are stronger at the broken places."​

If a bone is fractured and then heals,
the area of the break will be stronger than the surrounding bone
and will not again easily break.

Are we, too, not stronger at our broken places?

And is there not a certain beauty in brokenness,
a beauty never achieved by things unbroken?

And do we not acquire an enduring strength from surviving adversity and
hardship and mastering disappointment and heartbreak?

And, then, when we finally rise above it,
do we not rise up in quiet triumph, even if only we notice?

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