Where Intention Goes, Energy Flows — Hanifa Menen’s Grief Philosophy
by Ryan Hook | August 24, 2020, updated 26 days ago
Hanifa Menen spent 21 years as a naturopathic doctor before “awakening” to her calling as a grief recovery and brain-retraining coach. These kinds of shifts often seem dramatic, but it’s not out of character for Menen, who describes herself as a “go-getter” and entered university while still a teenager.
Menen began her BSc in neuropsychology at the University of Alberta at the age of 15, and later studied health sciences at McMaster University, but it was her brother’s chronic health issues that would guide her future career. With Western medicine unable to provide any answers for his failing health, Menen and her family turned to an Ayurvedic clinic in India—taking her brother there for treatment in 1990.
While in India, Menen discovered a type of medicine she had never seen before. Of the various treatments being offered, she was especially drawn to pulse diagnosis, which is practiced in both Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine. Inspired, she looked into health and wellness programs in Canada, and stumbled upon a four year course at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, which included Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.
Once trained, Menen began working as a naturopathic doctor and now owns and operates both the Menen Centre for Optimum Health, and the Canadian Integrative Cancer Centre in Ontario.
Her career has taken a turn in recent years however, with Menen deciding to focus more on health coaching. This shift was inspired by personal experiences, she says–
My practice was becoming ego-fulfilling. I remember talking to patients who were pushing themselves to work long hours even though a chronic illness diagnosis suggested this was not ideal [just] because their pay and benefits were good. I would ask my clients “who is holding your golden handcuffs?” And then I looked at myself and thought, ‘well, who is holding my golden handcuffs?’
After giving it some thought, Menen realized she wasn’t holding onto salary and benefits but rather she was holding on to pride in her status as a naturopathic doctor—despite knowing that the title alone wouldn’t empower her clients. This realization prompted her to explore mindfulness, meditation, and the work of Eckhart Tolle.
“Tolle said, ’the true self does not have or need any title; it just is.’ At that point, my biggest attachment was my title as a naturopathic doctor. My patients looked at me like I was supposed to heal them, which fed my ego as I loved watching many heal, but my true self wanted most to be the guide [and] facilitator to empower patients to heal themselves.”
Menen believes that healing happens when there is a perfect interplay between the patient, the practitioner, and a higher power, yet the title of ‘doctor’ often implies that the doctor alone is the healer. Menen notes–
I was offering my service of empowering patients. Not my products, my treatments, my role from a ‘doctor-knows-best’ perspective—which does not empower patients. It’s about showing patients [and] clients that they have the power to heal.
Menen’s personal insights are what lead her to become a grief recovery and brain retraining coach. Regarding her grief recovery practice, she says– “Sometimes people feel like they can overcome limiting thoughts and feelings on their own, mentally. But oftentimes if they do not actually do this, difficult life experiences are often re-lived and repeated.”
Grief is a natural response to loss—often due to the loss of a loved one—but can also come with the loss of a job, a pet, one’s health, or safety. It can be a highly individual experience with triggers that last for as little or as much time as necessary. Menen says the best way to tackle grief is head on, and adds–
Most people don’t think of working through their grief until it is significantly affecting their day-to-day experience. People can choose not to see things clearly for a very long time. When patients/clients are ready to work with grief, working with a practitioner who focuses on the healing and learning that comes from grief experiences is often transformational. It usually takes someone else to see and notice details that are often missed, to help prevent the pattern of re-living similar and painful grief experiences, and to move towards healthy and joyful life experiences.
Menen helps her clients by guiding them through this process and says– “It’s nothing magical, it’s just taking the time to understand, support, process, and complete the grief.”
She rounds out her practice with brain retraining, which uses the brain’s neuroplasticity to form new neural connections—
It’s not just about talking about grief or limiting thought patterns, it’s about learning from them. It’s about retraining your conscious and unconscious thoughts to encourage and shape the experiences that manifest in one’s life. It’s about finding the root of the limiting belief.
Brain retraining is not hard, she explains, it just needs to be consistent for results. Menen lives by the philosophy of, “Where intention goes, energy flows.”
Ryan Hook is a writer, photographer, musician, and spoken word poet. Born in St.Albert and living in Edmonton, Alberta, his mission is to bring Sound and Story. He has worked as a music journalist for Vue Weekly, BeatRoute, and Exclaim! as well as been a published short story writer. When he's not writing he is an accomplished songwriter and recording artist for his band, Baby Boy and the Earthly Delights. Whether it's writing, music, or travelling, he bides by the philosophy that life is a playground and nothing is off limits.