Almost everyone who undertakes a true spiritual path will discover that a profound personal healing is a necessary part of his or her spiritual process. When this need is acknowledged, spiritual practice can be directed to bring such healing to body, heart and mind. This is not a new notion. Since ancient times, spiritual practice has been described as a process of healing.
There was a time in my life when I became clearly over – burdened with too much activity. Much of it unfortunately self generated, which somehow seemed to express a deep desire within me to find identity, recognition and status in the world at large. I remember clearly feeling that if somehow I wasn’t doing at least three things at once I was under – achieving. But increasingly, and not surprisingly, I became estranged from this world because I came to realize that all the activity I was engaged with was slowly damaging my health. And so I made the important decision to turn my life around and concentrate my energies on pursuing a simple existence imbibed with Buddhist spiritual values that I had come to recognize and accept as offering me a saner way forward into the world of samsara.
One early message that I received from my almost blind connection and involvement with a ‘ busy life ‘ was that over – stretching myself to achieve more did not necessarily make me more. In fact it somehow made me less because it prevented me from asking deeper, spiritual questions that could re – define and enlarge my life for the better. This busy, busy life that I led provided me with so many distractions that I was unable ‘ see ‘ an alternative way of being in the world – an alternative way of living.
I was not unusual, for we live in an age that celebrates activity and busyness, that regards growth and expansion in a positive light, regardless of their intrinsic merit. So much it seems is now measured, analysed, quantified for its ‘ performance ‘, its financial ‘ value ‘. The economics of money and markets permeates our everyday world and assert themselves as if they were the only things that mattered. Production, marketing, distribution, selling – all busyness. We seem to fill our world with busyness, almost falling over each other in our busyness; on trains, buses and motorways we seek out busyness wherever it resides, and for what?
” There is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do
well what is not worth doing at all.”
The legend of Sisyphus represents the burden of labour and I have identified with this legend on a number of occasions in my life. The stone that Sisyphus was compelled to push continuously up the mountain symbolized, for me, the many obligations, responsibilities and expectations that I had to carry at various times when I could least manage them.
Through my engagement with endless activity I felt as if my body had sometimes entered a war zone where wounds were sustained in long physical struggles yet I continued to reassure myself that everything was OK, that I was coping, but I wasn’t really. Our bodies are, in one sense, our first responsibility and I came to deeply appreciate this reality, thankfully before ill health had managed to take a stronghold.
Healing is a process of developing wholeness in our lives, with our lives, for our lives. Many consider it part of an on – going, regular ‘ practice ‘ that encompasses all that moves us forward to peace, calmness and serenity. There are many different routes into healing: traditional and complimentary medicine, psychotherapy, yoga, thi chi, meditation, prayer, affirmation, creative visualization; and any of these can be incorporated into our lives to further our reparation, to deepen our healing. But the very first stage in this process that we need to engage with is the act of recognition itself. We must come to acknowledge to ourselves that something is wrong in our lives that is making us unhappy and holding us back.
Healing is an invitation to take up personal responsibility for ourselves. We all get hurt at times, that’s how life is but how we deal with that hurt is another thing altogether. The challenge presented to us therefore is to seek out imaginative, creative responses to deal with our pain effectively, rather than just reacting in negative ways that keep us blindly attached to it.
Healing asks us to cultivate openness, patience, forgiveness and love in order to move beyond our immediate suffering into a place of possible reconciliation. And no one else can do it for us, we are our own healers, our own physicians. Healing is a gift that we have to give to ourselves. It can never be imposed on us by others.
However, if we are living our lives fully opened, fully attending, with an accepting heart, then all is to be gained. Everything, including our pain and suffering, can start to transform for the better.
One trap that we must avoid at all costs is the adoption of a ‘ victim ‘ mentality that keeps us locked in a cycle of hurt and resentment, unable to move off into a different and better existence. Continuously reacting to people and situations in a habitual, compulsive manner could be interpreted as a subtle form of enslavement, keeping us away from a better life, a healed life. Unfortunately though, we do seem to build up, at times, a staggering tolerance to our self – imposed hurt and pain, carrying them around in our bodies and minds, attaching to them with an almost fond regard as if they were cherished possessions. Letting go allows for a letting in, the letting in of a new way of being. The question then that we have to ask ourselves is: ” Are we deserving enough? ”
Time heals. A common enough expression that many use in cliche fashion nevertheless, in reality, its fundamental truth remains. I can still recall a news report, many years ago, on a fire that had devastated an entire forest in Australia. Many environmental concerns were voiced at the time, some in an alarmist way stating that the destruction was total and irreparable. Slowly, however, amongst all the charred remains of a forest that had stood for centuries; small, green shoots started to appear….
Colossal damage had been caused by the fire but eventually it was overcome.by nature’s process of reparation which started to grow another forest. The conditions of rebirth were situated in the soil all the time, just awaiting cultivation and similarly the conditions for our restoration, our wholeness, lies in our hearts and minds awaiting activation.
Pain and suffering inevitably accompanies us on our path through life. In one sense if there is no pain and suffering then there is no real feeling of what life consists of in all its richly textured, positive and negative complexity. So once we accept this reality, and leave behind all false notions of a pain free life, then we can move forward.
Healing is simply a choice we make, a choice between taking up the reins of empowerment in adjusting to life’s adversities and thus going forward with our lives or a choice we make to allow these adversities to hold us back in a process of disempowerment.
What way will you choose ?