There are so many ways to look at the healing process. There are common elements that characterize healing and at the same time, it is a very personal process and experience.
Healing can be exhausting.
Things can feel worse before they feel better.
Healing is a holistic process – all aspects of the human experience are involved.
We can either support our healing process or work against it.
Making Healing Tangible
When we encounter a physical illness or injury – perhaps, we have a bad cold or fall down and break a bone – much of our focus will be on the physical nature of healing.
We increase our fluid intake, we rest more, take some time off work, rest the injured limb – follow the physician’s guidance.
What else happens during this physical healing time? I wonder if you notice that something shifts on other levels while you nurture yourself physically. Are you aware of certain emotions arising – certain thoughts – ideas that emerge as your body repairs?
It is common that as our physical energy wanes or is challenged, we will see similar shifts in our emotional and mental energy. Maybe, you just can’t focus, you become aware of sadness or fear on some level. I often think that these shifts on the emotional or mental levels have taken place before we experience the dis-ease or illness in the physical realm. What do you think?
Most of us can relate to the kind of experience I have described here when we encounter our own common illnesses and injuries. But, what about the more serious stuff: the chronic health condition, the mental health challenge, and the grief that won’t let go? I believe these experiences contain an even greater opportunity for healing that often goes unnoticed.
The Hidden Healing
When I worked with people after they had experienced a traumatic brain injury, I was very much struck by the role of spiritual healing. Now, I’m not talking about an evangelical experience – hand to the forehead “you have been healed” scenario. I’m not talking necessarily about any specific practices that people engaged in from a religious perspective.
I am referring to the deeper healing that seemed to occur (or not) following the initial physiological healing of the brain. I am talking about the kind of healing that went beyond developing new cognitive strategies to manage daily activities. No this was a healing that surpassed the initial emotional challenges that a major life change inevitably presents – not only for the individual who has been injured, but also for everyone who loves them.
This spiritual healing was not readily visible. There was no scientific evidence. But it was felt.
Here are some of the qualities that emerged as spiritual in nature:
This level of healing is characterized as an emergence of self – the discovery of what is true and real at the core regardless of the physical evidence. I witnessed people gain access to the truth of who they are without all the labels, roles and societal statuses that had previously defined their identity. I saw people step into a deeper and truer sense of their humanity with a greater capacity for the expression of their spirit and soul. This kind of transformative healing creates a space for authentic living.
This has nothing to do with liking the situation and everything to do with the recognition that like it or not – it simply is. Acceptance is the release of resistance to circumstances as they are – a willingness to give up the fight against what is happening in a way that evokes personal power. I saw people who learned how to gather their resources to move forward in the creation of a new life – a new way – as opposed to bucking against the current flow of their life, namely the devastation that was left in the wake of their injury. This acceptance was the place where it became possible to look at all that was still available – or all that became available – following the trauma.
Resiliency and Hope
As access to acceptance and the potential for transformation becomes available, there is also a greater capacity for resiliency and hope. As the past is released, the present becomes the point of power. The focus shifts from how I can change what has happened to how can I take what I have discovered within me to create a brighter future. Seeing excitement in the eyes of people whose entire lives had been altered connected me to my personal stores of optimism and courage.
As we move through the process of grief with all of its anger, frustration, denial and wishful thinking, we learn to be gentle with ourselves. As gentleness arises from within, there is a greater capacity for self-love and self-compassion allowing for other possibilities to come into view. From this place, there is a deeper ability to experience gratitude for our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly – in ways that increase the value we perceive in our experiences and the value we place on ourselves. Watching another claim their renewed freedom as a result of integrating their experience was inspirational and life affirming.
Attend to your body and mind during times of healing, and give equal attention to your heart and soul. This is the space where you will know you have healed.
Have you ever experienced in your own life or witnessed in another’s the spiritual qualities of healing discussed here? I’d love to hear about your experience.