When you think of healing, what comes to mind? What is healing for you? Time in nature, acupuncture treatments, a nourishing meal, maybe a good cry or conversation with a friend? All these things can be healing. Yet, when we talk about health and medicine, what comes to mind then? Exercise, diet, cholesterol numbers, test results. There's a bit of a disconnect between what our culture tends to focus on in the realm of health and medicine and what we can actually use or experience to facilitate healing.
And why is this?
Because we have been indoctrinated with the idea that medicine is simply the treatment of the physical body. That's why when you go to the doctor, they run lots of tests, look at the numbers and prescribe you medication. Rarely do they ask you about your stress level or what's going on in your life. There are exceptions of course, but its not the norm in the medical world. Yet healing is so much bigger than the physical body, and people are beginning to wake up to this fact. Healing, true healing, occurs on many levels. But to understand this, you have to take into account the multi-dimensional nature of being a human, which is rarely how we think of ourselves.
Human beings are so much more complex than we tend to think about. Aside from the miracle of all the intricate physical processes that must be minutely coordinated and balanced from a physiological perspective, our functioning is affected by many, many factors. Have you ever realized this? Our thinking affects how our bodies function, our emotions definitely do as well, our environment does, the season, the weather, also our genetics, also our inherited beliefs and behavior patterns. Also, the electro-magnetic field of the earth, the energy of others and the phases of the moon. I could go on, but you must be getting the idea. We are complicated beings and there is so much that can influence how we think, feel and function! And to address true health, we need to be aware of the influence these factors have on our being. Below, I will outline just a few of the main factors that influence health, beyond the physical dimension.
We are all immersed in our world of mental chatter all day, every day. What does that have to do with healing, you might ask? Well, it turns out that our thoughts have a lot of influence over what happens in our body, how we feel and how happy we are. Most of us know that practicing gratitude will make us feel more grateful, for example, or that focusing on the positive will help us to see the things in our life that are going right. This is one way thoughts can affect our general feelings and emotions. It is also true, however, that thoughts we have about our bodies and our life circumstances have a lot of effect on our health as well. There are many ways this can show up.
As an example, if you have negative thoughts about some part of your body, maybe because of issues with self-esteem, or maybe as a reaction to discomfort or pain, it is likely that over time, you will begin to experience a physical complaint or worsening of symptoms in that area. It really makes sense if you think about it. If you are constantly beaming negative energy towards something, how can it thrive? Imagine you had a child that you were constantly thinking something negative about (you are ugly or stupid, for example). Even if you never said those thoughts out loud, your child would certainly feel the energy of those statements and suffer as a result. Likely your behavior towards the child would also be altered in response to those mental loops. How are you treating yourself and what are your thoughts about your body? If this is the problem underlying a symptom you are experiencing, medicines and physical treatments can only be so effective.
As another example, our thoughts about our life and circumstances greatly affect our physical health. These thoughts often reflect internalized beliefs that don't allow us to succeed because we don't think we deserve it or don't think its possible. Constantly thinking things like "I don't have enough", "I can't do that because I don't have the money/time/energy", " I will always be lonely/poor/alone", etc. will greatly affect your health, and even the length of your life! This is the power of the mental dimension. These kinds of thoughts are often accompanied by strong emotions, which is another very important aspect of health.
Have you ever noticed having a physical sensation of an emotional feeling in the body? Like a sinking feeling when you've been let down or disappointed, a fiery sensation when you are angry or a tightening up when you are scared, hurt or confused? This is because our emotions very literally affect our physiology. Emotions themselves are not tangible, yet they affect our physical being greatly all the way down to the neurotransmitters. Healing very necessarily requires a consideration of the emotional dimension, which is a key aspect of our overall well-being and health. There's been a lot of focus within the health world about stress and how it affects the body, however, this is only one piece of the puzzle. EVERY emotion we have affects our health and the longer and deeper we hold it, the greater its effect. Anger, sadness, self-doubt, self-hatred, jealousy, envy, etc, all negatively effect not only our experience of life, but also the functioning of our bodies in a major way. In the same way, happiness, joy, trust, excitement and gratitude all generally affect us positively, promoting health and well-being. Of course, emotions are deeply intertwined with how the body is functioning overall, so sometimes these emotions can show up as a result of something physical occurring in the body (for example, auto-immune disease leading to depression, or emotional swings that occur due to hormonal transitions). But it is often over-looked that physical symptoms can also show up as a result of emotions, especially stagnant ones that are held over time. For example, I've seen many patients with intense auto-immune conditions that hold strong feelings of self-rejection, neglect or hatred. Knowing that an auto-immune condition occurs when the immune system attacks the body's own tissues, this kind of makes sense, no? I also knew someone who was holding in a lot of anger and was afraid to express it. She began to experience intense heart-burn that nothing would help. After expressing her feelings, guess what? No more heart burn.
Let me be clear here that I am not in any way placing blame on the person for their own symptoms. I am not suggesting that we should all be in perfect control of our emotions by any means. What I want to bring to light here is that if you are trying to get better, it is important to examine these patterns, find healthy ways of dealing with, releasing, and recreating them. We are often unaware of many of the ways we are impeding our own healing process. This is where a skilled healer and some deep self-reflection can come in quite handy!
Next we move to a slightly less tangible, but no less important dimension of health: energy.
And how about energy? As has been shown by science and long known by metaphysical practitioners, the body has a field of energy that pervades and surrounds it, extending out several inches, if not feet. Often referred to as the aura, this is what allows you to feel when something enters your space or someone walks into a room even if you can't see them. We all have the ability to sense your own and other's field of energy, though we are often not aware of it. Think about when you are around someone in a stormy mood - it is hard to stay upbeat because your energy is affected by theirs. Or if you are in a place that feels off or unpleasant to you, sometimes without any obvious/tangible reason, this can bring you down, sometimes without you even being conscious of it. Now imagine you are stuck in that kind of feeling often, maybe even daily: a hostile work environment or an uncomfortable living situation, for example. How will that affect you? Probably on many levels: energetic first, then it spreads - emotional, mental, physical.
Another way you might notice the effects of energy, maybe in a more positive way is through a connection with nature. Why is it so soothing to take a walk in the woods or sit by a river or ocean? Its not feeding you in a physical sense. Its not able to share supportive comments with you. And yet, there is an undeniable effect when we connect with nature - the result of an energetic exchange that occurs when we are immersed in the natural world.
Our energy field is constantly reacting and adjusting to our environment, thoughts, attitudes, habits, choices and emotions. Because it is purely energetic it can change very quickly and adapt to new circumstances. It is very limited, however, by the way that we think and feel, by the beliefs and stories we carry and by our emotional state, and these limitations have quite important implications for our health. In Chinese medicine, it is understood that energy is like the template by which our physical bodies are made. Energy comes first, and matter is then created in its wake. If there is limitation, damage, constriction, or weakness in our energy field, then this will inevitably manifest in our physical being. Working on the energy field and becoming aware of the energy that affects and influences us on a day-to-day basis, then, also becomes very important in regards to health and healing.
Perhaps even less tangible, recognized and understood, our health can also be greatly affected by the spiritual. We all carry inside us an ethereal self that is beyond our physical being, that allows us to connect with other life, our higher self and source energy, whatever name you give it. When we are not connected with our highest and truest self or we are not living according to our purpose, we are often given the message through physical disease or discomfort. How often do we keep ourselves trapped in circumstances we are unhappy with or we know are not right because we don't believe anything else is possible? Doing this is akin to ignoring your spiritual mandate. And guess what? There are emotional and physical ramifications for it. As an example, imagine working a job you hate, day after day, year after year, simply because you know it pays the bills. Guess what? Your health will suffer! It could show up as minor discomfort in the beginning, but often progresses to mental/emotional imbalance and/or a serious disease if you refuse to make the changes you need to in order to be spiritually fulfilled. Think of the big money CEO's that die suddenly of a heart attack. They were likely ignoring the calling of their heart, focusing instead on financial gain. If you are not in alignment, eventually your body is going to give you the message that what you're doing is not working, that you need to do something more meaningful, more joyful or more in congruence with your higher self to experience health. We spend a lot of time living from a place of fear: fear that we will not be supported, not be safe, not be healthy. What happens when you shift that and live from a place of trust? It requires a lot of faith, but opens up a lot of possibility, and is the key to living a fulfilled, joyful and healthy existence.
Phew, this is a lot to think about in regards to health! The amazing thing though is that this list could go on and on. The truth is that life is a never-ending healing journey, and just when you think you've gotten through one challenge, another appears. Think of it as an invitation to endless self-discovery! Our beings are so deep and complex and our bodies are amazing processors of all kinds of different information. Your relationship to and understanding of your body can give you deep insight into the many layers of your truest self. Use it!
Body as Barometer
Looking at health from a multi-dimensional perspective, you can see how the physical body serves as a barometer and alarm system that lets us know when things are out of whack within AND beyond the physical realm. As you begin to look at discomfort and disease as messages, you can gain great insight into the ways your life is not oriented towards health, balance and wellness. Sometimes it might only require a simple change. But sometimes, your body is letting you know that it is time for an overhaul, physically, emotionally, energetically or spiritually. And often, as these dimensions all affect each other, they are all entangled. Symptoms represent a dysfunction on multiple levels. For example, if you are addicted to an unhealthy behavior (physical level) but your addiction is caused by feelings of depression (emotional level) but your depression is caused by a lack of fulfillment in your life (spiritual level), and the imprint of all of this is held in your energy field (energetic level), then its going to take multiple approaches to effectively address the multi-dimensional nature of the problem.
Another thing about symptoms is that they can sometimes be misleading. Once you understand how multi-layered you are, then you can begin to see that symptoms can also be signs of transition or transformation, or even, sometimes, of healing. As we do our healing work, things begin to unravel, and it takes awhile for the physical body to catch up with changes occurring on other levels. As these changes sift through our layers of being, they can cause upheaval, unrest or disturbance, often showing up as fatigue and pain. Sometimes things have to be stirred up in order to reorder according to the new program. It may be a sign you are healing! Of course, you must know yourself and what's going on in your life well to distinguish when this is happening, but it is a good thing to hold in your awareness. If nothing else, it may help keep you from jumping to catastrophic conclusions about every symptom you experience. Think about it in the context of your life and see if it makes sense.
So what does multi-dimensional healing look like? It could look a lot of different ways, but the foundational feature is that it considers these different levels of being when addressing a symptom or problem. It is holistic, viewing the person within the context of their life and development as a physically, emotionally, spiritually evolving being. It encourages not only healing of the body, but a deepening of the relationship with and understanding of one's own unique body, history and circumstances and encourages personal growth and expression of and appreciation for the deep, authentic self. It is challenging, empowering and transformational. Can this type of healing be found in one place? Unlikely. Think of this kind of healing as a journey, an unraveling even, where piece-by-piece, treatment-by-treatment, thought-by-thought, moment-by moment you begin to unwind the layers that you've accumulated throughout your life, shedding what you no longer need and replacing it with clean, clear energy and light. It is an ongoing practice, but one that can provide great fulfillment and lead you to a life filled with joy, on every level.
In my own work, I have found it increasingly important to broaden the breadth and depth of my treatments, to facilitate this journey for my patients. I use a number of different modalities in order to address symptoms and problems from multiple perspectives. My aim is not only to alleviate suffering and pain, but to also encourage growth, self-reflection and personal empowerment. My practice is still evolving as my understanding of healing deepens and I am excited about where it is taking me. I feel I am not only helping patients, but assisting in the evolution of human consciousness and through encouraging change and transformation, helping create the world I wish to see.
Many Blessings on your path of healing!