While doing research for a writing project, I happened upon some inspiring thoughts that I’d like to share: thoughts on sickness and on healing. What follows are some of these words of wisdom, along with my reflections, and a few suggestions on how you might apply these notions in your daily lives.
“All sickness is homesickness.” This comes from Dianne Connelly1, a scholar and practitioner of Five Element Acupuncture, who has written a book on illness, healing and living. She writes: “All sickness is homesickness; homesick for ourselves, and for each other….It is a call home to the ground of being…our call to come home.”
Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.2, a physician with spiritual leanings, suggests that for Westerners without a spiritual framework or practice, illness can be a “form of meditation: an opportunity to become quiet, to reflect, and reevaluate our lives.”
Reflecting upon these two perspectives, I’ll offer that illness can be an opportunity to find our way back home. And that “home” is where we find what I call Absolute Health. And Absolute Health is simply peace of mind. And peace of mind is where we need to be to heal whatever ails us, health-wise and even otherwise.
From Ted Kaptchuk, O.M.D.,3 a scholar of traditional Chinese medicine: “Genuine healing is a journey….into a broken and hurt self…. an opportunity to uncover the truth of who we really are….”
The etymology of “heal” comes from the Anglo-Saxon root meaning “whole.” I like to think of healing as a returning home to a state of wholeness. Not that we are ever not whole. But we may not feel whole. We may feel broken, incomplete, in need of mending. Healing is that process that return us to wholeness, that mends us of our brokenness, and that brings to that place of Absolute Health – to peace of mind.
Healing may be a return to the physical body or it may be a departure from it. But from a place of peace it always comes and to a place of peace it always delivers us.
Applying these notions in our daily lives
Lovely, prosaic and poetic as these notions may seem, they may feel difficult to apply given the practical realities of our daily lives.
What follows are several suggestions, little experiments you can try on your own – ways to be with sickness and ways to find healing – all paths to finding your way home.
- First, experiment with being in the moment. Perhaps easy to say, easy to read, yet perhaps hard to practice. Experiment with this notion. Be in this very moment as you read these words. Not in the next moment, not in the past moment. Not in your thoughts of the future, your worries or reflections of the past. Just be here in this moment. And the easiest, fastest and most powerful tool we have to experience the present moment is the breath.
- Abdominal breathing. Practice belly breathing. And cultivate this way of breathing throughout the day. It’s how we turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the system that’s needed for rest, repair, rejuvenation and healing. See my article series on breathing for more details.1
- Experiment with meditation. Anyone can meditate. Meditation isn’t about not having thoughts or quieting the monkey mind. It’s just another experience of being in the moment. With our thoughts. With our monkey mind. Take a class. Try guided meditation. Here’s a link to a few: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/guided-meditations.
- Try journaling. This can be a helpful way to slow down and be present with what’s going on for you. Write off the top of your head whatever you are thinking and feeling. Then try writing about your dreams and desires. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t let any circumstances of your present life inhibit you: finances, relationships, health concerns, work, geography. Write in the present tense as if you have these dreams and desires now.
- Be intimate with yourself. Love, accept and cherish yourself unconditionally – your blemishes, your fears, your insecurities, your anxieties, your upsets. Accept and cherish them all. Be gentle with yourself as you would with a child or a beloved pet. Be even more gentle with yourself. Delete the “shoulds” from your vocabulary.
- Feed your inner child. Dialogue with a picture of yourself as a young child, real or imagined. Ask the little one what he or she is needing. Try to give yourself some of that. And, speaking of children, take time to watch them play. Feel their spontaneity, their lack of self-consciousness. Breathe in some of that. Experiment with being a little childlike, a little bit, every day.
- Experiment with faith. Experiment with surrendering. If you’re a non-believer, then pretend. Pretend that you are not in charge. Experiment with surrendering to something greater than yourself, even if it’s just the weather.
- And, consider that this very moment, whatever is going on for you, is perfect, no matter what. No matter what is your mental/emotional/physical state. Don’t try to change it, resist it, make it go away or make something come to you.
If you are dealing with feelings that are difficult, find more suggestions in my series Emotions and Your Health.5 If you are suffering acutely, physically and/or emotionally, seek the support and guidance of practitioners/resources with whom you feel comfortable.
And if my suggestions feel challenging, or even unreasonable, suspend your disbelief. Start with a couple of inhalations and exhalations, with your eyes closed, devices off, in a place where you can just be, and be quiet. And just see what happens.
Being still, being here now. This is the way to find your path home, to wholeness. To Absolute Health. To peace of mind.
References and Suggestions for Further Reading
1Connelly, Dianne M. All Sickness is Home Sickness. Columbia: Traditional Acupuncture Institute, 1993.
2Carlson, Richard and Shield, Benjamin (eds.) Healers on Healing. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1989.
3Kaptchuk, Ted. The Web that Has No Weaver. New York: Congdon and Weed, Inc., 1983
4The Omnipotent Power of Breath
5Emotions and Your Health