I am writing today to address some misconceptions we all tend to have around healing: what it is, what it looks like, what it feels like. Here's the thing: we tend to think that healing equals feeling better. Sometimes, however, healing requires feeling worse, sometimes it involves chaos, breaking down and disturbance. Sometimes to really heal, we have to go deep into the dark and it's not until we emerge on the other side that we realize we've been healed. I can say that as a healer, I always want my patients to leave feeling better than when they came in. Partly, I just want to alleviate people's suffering, and partly I know it is unlikely they will recognize the possible benefits of feeling worse. This is how it happens though sometimes - a healing can cause more distress. So before you go worrying about why this or that symptom isn't getting better, why you can't get over old traumas or mental loops, why new issues pop up just when you think you're making progress, lets look at some of the surprising ways healing works and how it can unexpectedly show up in our lives.
Healing is not a linear phenomenon.
While we tend to come from the place of thinking about healing as a linear process, feeling bad - straight line - feeling better, it is anything but. It's more like a spiral, with some blockades and diversions, and maybe a few snare traps along the way. Just when you think you've gotten over something, it reappears. You get worse when you think you should be getting better. No matter what you try, nothing is helping!!! You keep re-experiencing the same symptoms over and over. Often, our bodies need to keep coming back to a symptom or problem to try and heal it, bring our attention to it, and/or to clear it from the body. Read on and I hope by the end of the article, you will have a better understanding of why things happen like this. And, hopefully, you will avoid falling into hopelessness, frustration and despair when your healing journey takes you on a diversion or throws you around a loop in it's spiral course.
Healing comes in disguise.
Sometimes healing shows up in strange places. Its certainly not limited to our experience with doctors, healers and therapists. Sometimes a crisis, life-changing event or trauma are the things we need most to push us onto our path of healing. When we experience negative events, it is easy to get caught up in the "how could this happen, my life is ruined?" mindset. Believe me, I've been there. But often these experiences have a deeper significance that we can't see in the moment. I have so often heard the story of healers who came to their path through a health crisis that they recovered from with some alternative modality that they then go on to practice as their life's work. At the time, the healing crisis may have seemed like the end of the world, but it was just what they needed to find the work they are most passionate about. A serious illness doesn't look like healing, but in a larger sense, that's just what it provided. Healing in disguise.
Healing involves lessons.
Which brings me to my next point - healing often involves lessons, and sometimes they are ones we'd rather not learn, at least not the way they are presented in our lives. Challenge comes in all forms and it is often a powerful teacher and healer. That person you can't stand, the job you hate, the relationship that is so hard for you, life circumstances that aren't to your liking, challenges to your physical health - its all there to teach you something and help you on your path to wholeness. The less we react and get caught up in negative thought patterns, the more we can see what these things are trying to show us. This is an important part of our inner work and it is also one of the biggest challenges we face as humans. It is useful to reflect on this in any situation that is causing you distress. What lessons or messages are being offered here? What in my life might I be ignoring or refusing to accept? As difficult as it is, this is where the true healing can begin. Life is sending you messages all the time. If you ignore them they just keep getting louder and louder until you finally give them the attention they've been asking for. Try to start listening sooner.
Healing is messy.
So if healing is not linear and shows up in unexpected and challenging situations, turns out, it is often a messy process. Healing comes through chaos and disruption, through change and unrest. It is easy to get complacent or set in our ways without realizing it. Then something comes along to shake things up, to change our ways of thinking and being in order to help us continue on in a new way, to help us stay on our path, to help us make needed changes when the time comes. We spend so much time resisting, being stubborn, freaking out, being in fear or anger and finding all the reasons why what's happening is not ok. What if you could just say, "hmmm, this is not what I would have chosen, but lets just see what happens". Or, "maybe this chaos is happening for a reason". In our current times, this is a very useful practice. And by not getting into major reactive modes, we spare our bodies and minds an incredible amount of wear-and-tear. Approached from this perspective, once things settle out, you might be surprised at the outcomes, for both you and for the situation as a whole.
Healing involves more than just the body.
In our western world, the tendency is to think of physical symptoms as being discrete experiences, unrelated to our minds, emotions or spirits. But nothing could be further from the truth. In my opinion, a majority of physical health problems have their root in the mental/emotional/spiritual realm. When a symptom arises, it is often a message that something in our lives is not working. A circumstance, relationship, habit, belief or thought pattern. Once you start tuning in to your body, you will start to see how this is true. So sometimes, that symptom you can't get rid of in spite of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements, is because you need to stop bottling up your anger, quit you job, stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your body, or heal that outmoded belief you picked up from your family or culture. Healing these kinds of things can require going deep and exploring thoughts and beliefs you may not even be aware of in your normal conscious life. But the pay-off is great and often, this is just what is needed before a physical problem can truly resolve.
Healing sometimes looks like a crisis.
Here's a funny thing about healing: sometimes it requires getting worse before getting better. In medicine, this is known as the healing crisis, and it refers to when our bodies are suddenly trying to unload a bunch of toxins and our systems of elimination can't keep up. This causes uncomfortable and sometimes dramatic symptoms in the body. I have seen that this kind of reaction can occur with mental/emotional/spiritual work as well, and it can look a lot of different ways. I've noticed that in times of transitions, transformations and upgrades, our bodies often have to re-experience symptoms in order to release them and also to catch up with what's happening on the emotional/spiritual plane. This can sometimes make us feel like we are going backwards, but in reality, its like we're clearing out the sludge so that we can come out lighter on the other side. It can be very frustrating when you are in the midst of it, but keeping a positive mindset helps immensely. And it is important to be aware that this is how things sometimes work; otherwise, the progress made might be missed completely. So if you've been working through something, don't despair if things don't improve right away. Stay clear on the vision of what you are working towards, and chances are, improvement will come on the far side of challenge and set-back.
Recognizing healing in your life requires an expanded perspective.
Next time you start freaking out about a symptom, a situation, an upheaval in your life or body, take a pause. What is the larger perspective here? Could this be healing in disguise? Could my symptom be actually a sign of healing instead of dis-ease? What is the message here? There is so much to be learned by doing this! And this is a powerful way to fast-track your healing process and stress a lot less along the way, which, by the way, is good for your health:). I might also mention here that intention is a powerful thing. Intend that you are on a healing path, keep putting in the effort, making the needed changes, and be clear about what you want to resolve. Also, ask for help, be it from the earthly or spiritual plane. Make progress your mindset and worry less about what is happening in your physical reality. Don't ignore it, mind you - listen to and take care of your body by all means!! Just don't let it throw you off mentally and emotionally when you have to take another trip around the spiral. If you can do this, I guarantee the results you will see in your healing process, as well as your experience of it, will be greatly improved.
Many blessings on your healing journey!
We are living through unprecedented times. A few months ago, I never would have believed a societal shut-down like the one we are experiencing would have been possible. But here we are. And with all the fear and unknowns raging around, it is harder than ever to maintain any bit of balance in our lives.
Yet, it is precisely at this time that I feel it is most important to be balanced, perhaps more than ever before. There are four main reasons why: 1. to protect health (more on that later), 2. to begin transmuting the fear into something positive, 3. to take advantage of the benefits this time is affording us, and 4. to aid in creating the best possible outcome for ourselves and our planet.
Let me explain, both why and how.
As many of you probably know, we have two main branches of our nervous system - sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is the one known as "fight-or-flight", its our emergency response system. When you are afraid for your survival, stressed, worried, and feeling out of control, you are likely in sympathetic mode most of the time. This system was designed to work in short intervals, to allow us to deal with immediate dangers and threats. When it is activated for prolonged periods, as is often the case in our modern lifestyles, this carries a number of negative ramifications for your body as a whole. A prime consideration in this time specifically is that when you are in sympathetic mode, the functioning of your immune system is severely impaired. So, the more fear you are carrying around getting sick, around life circumstances, around what is happening in the world, the greater the degree of immune impairment and the more vulnerable you are. Break the cycle. You don't have to be living in fear! We'll talk more about how to do that later on.
Let's take a moment to acknowledge the collective aspect of our culture. Every emotion we have has an energy to it. You can tell/feel when someone around you is angry, sad, or joyful without them having to speak, yes? So imagine a room full of people, all feeling strong anger, sadness or joy. How would that feel. Pretty intense! Now multiply that by millions. In our world right now, there are so many people feeling fear, sadness, worry, disempowerment. That energy cloud is huge and it envelops all of us. This is one of the reasons why many of us have been feeling so emotional and rocked by waves that we can't see but can definitely feel. It is important at this time to be aware of how the collective energy is affecting you. It is possible to clear this energy from your body and even to change it, which is what I would encourage you to do, both for your own health and for the well-being of society as a whole. Yes, stay home, yes wear your mask in the store. AND, help change the energy. Feel gratitude, find joy. Its ok to have fun, laugh and be thankful, even during difficult and serious times. As you stop contributing to the cloud of negative energies, you help to transform the situation for everyone in a beautiful and positive way.
Think about the benefits
I would also like to point out the benefits of recent life-shifts, on both a personal and societal level, and the opportunity it provides us if we can view it in that lens. When was the last time we slowed down? How many of us have had the opportunity to be home, be with our loved ones and maybe do things we feel we never have "time" for? As a society we are always in go-go-go mode. Time is always in short supply and self-care, connection and appreciation for the home and family are often not at the top of the priority list. This time many of us have now is such an important opportunity to really look at and reassess how we are living our lives. Is it feeding us? What is truly necessary and what do we do just out of habit, routine or feelings of expectation or obligation? As we think about these things, it may become very apparent that shifts are needed. Shifts that prioritize, health, family, and connection. This is so needed in our culture, for individuals, for society and for the health of our planet.
So, considering all this, let's talk about outcomes. Can you imagine, what if there was actually a positive overall outcome to this situation? What if people were able to step out of their fear and into an empowered place of hope, love, support and connection? What if people, families and communities began to prioritize health, balance, and sanity over work, obligation, and the drive for more? Just imagine how that would change our world, our economy, our environment and the challenges we face as a species. Structures would begin to pop up that actually support personal wellness, the environment, and the family. Physical and mental health would be improved, relationships would be improved, people might be happy. Imagine. Yes, there will be sadness, grief, and loss that come along with all that. It is not all sun and flowers. But let's give some focus to the positive aspect of things rather than focusing only on fear. Put some energy into the positives and I guarantee it will benefit you and everyone else as well.
Now comes the how. How do you escape all the fear and begin to bring in a more positive outlook and perspective? There are so many techniques out there, but outlined below are a variety of suggestions that I have personally found to be effective. Most importantly, experiment and find what works for you. Tune in to your body and feel, how does this thing I just did affect me? Do I feel calmer, more uplifted? Do I feel deeper in chaos? Then, limit what leads to chaos (like turning down the volume on it), and increase what leads to calm, joy, peace (turn it UP). Pretty soon and with awareness, the balance will start to shift and you can feed yourself that which leads to stability, positivity and empowerment.
Suggestion #1: Connect with nature
If there's one thing I would suggest over anything else, it is this. Spend time outdoors if at all possible, preferably in someplace with plants, trees and water. There is little that is more grounding and calming to the body, especially if you can be in direct contact with the earth or water (think bare feet or sitting directly on the ground). Forest, beach, river. They hold such healing power and pull us out of the chaos in our minds. Also, being outdoors often means moving (walking, hiking, running, etc.), which is also extremely beneficial for the body and mind and can be invaluable in processing difficult emotions.
Suggestion #2: Make time for stillness
This is another very beneficial practice, and one that is easy to never get around to actually doing. Find space and time in your day to just be, undisturbed and quiet. Though your mind may be busy, try to release attachment to any chatter and let it float on by. Find some guided meditations if this is difficult for you. There are many great apps and other resources out there to support you in this. Though our culture often does not recognize or honor it, we all hold great wisdom inside ourselves. The only way we can access this is by getting our minds to be quiet enough to hear it. Take time also to tap in to how you are really feeling, instead of what you are being influenced by. Check in with what your fears and concerns are and reflect on how realistic or grounded they are. Can you let go of some of the worries you are carrying around?
Suggestion #3: Nourish the body
Both for your physical health, as well as your emotional balance, it is important to connect with and care for the body. This includes things like eating a nourishing diet, using appropriate balancing and strengthening herbs and supplements, practicing good self-care and getting good rest. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is good for everyone, however, an abundance of organic vegetables, good fats and healthy protein is always helpful. Nourishing the body goes way beyond diet though. Listening to your body and responding to its needs is very important at this time, and will help you get more in touch with your own empowered guidance and wisdom. This could mean sleeping long nights, taking extra time to rest, journal or just space out, getting good exercise, stretching or taking a long bath. Whatever it is that feeds you, truly and deeply, do it!
Herbal medicines can also be very helpful in staying calm, grounded and feeling strong. There is so much information out there about this, but at this time, I think rhodiola, cordyceps and astragalus are particularly useful for dealing with stress, supporting the lungs and immune system, and strengthening the body.
Suggestion #4: Limit your intake of media and find positive ways to connect with others
The greatest contributor to the fear we are all feeling is the media. While you can definitely stay abreast of current events, limit it to that and avoid taking in more than necessary. Also, be aware of who you interact with and what their attitudes and opinions are. If the people around you are in panic mode, it will be much harder for you to stay centered. Try to connect with people who have a more grounded and positive take about things and make an effort to expose yourself to this attitude whenever possible. Again, don't take this as avoiding or hiding from what's happening in the world, but rather taking charge and bringing more balance into your perspective of it. Staying connected with others is definitely important in this time, as we all spend more time at home. Just be aware of who and what you are choosing to be influenced by.
Suggestion #5: Cultivate trust
If there is one word that has the possibility to transform your life more than any other, I would suggest it is this: TRUST. Can you imagine what it would feel like to trust your life: trust that you will be taken care of, trust that things are working out just as they are supposed to, trust that things are happening for a reason even if we can't see it. Trust your body to take care of you, trust the universe to bring you what you need, trust that you are being offered an opportunity, if only you can be open to it. Maybe this will sound dreamy or foolhardy to you, but I can say that if you live with this perspective, life will never be the same. When you trust, there is no longer worry. And what good does worrying do us anyway? It has many negative effects, but what does it give us? It may be really hard to stop worrying if it is an ingrained habit for you, but maybe, at least sometimes you can start trusting. Worry then will naturally disappear. Try this out! When a worry comes up, try shifting to trust and see how it feels. For me it a very different and immediately noticeable change in my body and energy.
In the end, we all have a lot more influence over our experiences than we tend to recognize or take responsibility for. We often have the idea that things just happen to us, like a leaf being swept along in a stream. The way to become more empowered is to take charge of our perspective, even very consciously molding and crafting it, so that our experience of it is more positive and enjoyable and our outlook more optimistic. Two people can experience the very same event but have very different viewpoints about how it went and what its significance was. So, view life as a struggle or an opportunity? See challenge as difficulty or as opportunity for growth? See only suffering, or recognize the gift that comes with it? Though it is not always easy, these are the questions I encourage you to reflect on, at least some of the time. And in so doing, you change your experience of your life and help shift the energy in the world to a more positive place. I hope these reflections and suggestions have been helpful and allow you to take greater charge of your experience in these challenging times. Wishing you much love and great joy on your journey!
Though sometimes seen as two distinct systems in the body, there is a very intimate link between the energetic workings of the body and the emotional state. Many ancient cultures recognized and systematized this connection - the chakras and the Chinese organ systems being prime examples. This is why receiving energetic bodywork, such as Reiki, is particularly effective at calming, regulating and harmonizing the emotions. Smoothing the energy flow and calming the emotions also has the additional benefit of strongly harmonizing and balancing the physiology of the body, creating greater health and increased resilience.
There are many ways to understand how energy moves in and around the body. While most people pay little attention to how it works, the effects of problems in this flow can be easily identified and recognized - pain, stuck emotions, even serious health issues like cancer all have an energetic component to them. This is the main target of therapies like acupuncture, where the disruptions in energy flow are identified and manipulated with the insertion of acupuncture needles. Energetic therapies like Reiki and Craniosacral also identify and treat disruptions in the body's energy and flow, but do it in a gentler, less invasive way that affects the body on an even subtler level. The energies these therapies target animate tissues and hold the imprints of thoughts and emotion, which is why working at this level can greatly affect our emotional state as well as the functioning of body tissues.
Just as feelings affect the energy field, the state of the body's energy is also affected by how we are feeling. The more pent-up, frustrating or negative emotions we have, the more disordered, disrupted and stagnant our energy field becomes. If these issues aren't tended to, physical discomfort and disease result. In modern life, stress, trauma, feelings of lack and negative self-talk all run rampant in our day-to-day lives. Slowing down is challenging and positivity and optimism can be hard to maintain. Working on energy brings one into a deep state of relaxation and allows the acceptance, release and flow needed to flush out the system, let go of emotional looping, and return to a stable state. This in turn supports the body's overall function, including strengthening immunity, supporting the nourish and repair systems and encouraging rest and rejuvenation.
As I've come to be more aware of how energy and emotion affect my body, I have developed a much deeper appreciation for what energy work can do for overall health and wellness. I used to always want to receive therapeutic bodywork only, not really understanding the power of subtler modalities. After beginning to practice Reiki myself, I saw what it could do: fewer tantrums from my kids, less pain in my body, emotional calming when I felt caught up in a whirlwind of emotion, and deep, deep relaxation. It is now a primary tool I use in both my personal life and in my practice.
Energy and emotion are intimate partners in our lives and bodies, and, as a pair, are incredibly influential in our overall health, wellness and ability to cope with life. In these challenging times, energetic healing is a powerful ally that can be used to help restore balance to the body and mind, as well as contributing to the health and balance of the world as a whole.