Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Gathering of Flowers

In the foreword to Healers on Healing, Dr. W. Brugh Joy tells us the word anthology means "a gathering of flowers." 
Editors Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield gathered these essays to affirm alternative approaches to healing, asking teachers from various perspectives to help define the golden thread that unites all healing methods.

Below are some representative insights:
Rachel Naomi Remen created The Healer's Art, an innovative curriculum for medical students on reintegrating the heart and soul into contemporary medicine and restoring its integrity as a calling and a work of healing. She's a model of the Wounded Healer archetype, describing the two people in a healing relationship as peers, both wounded and both with healing capacity. "I don't believe one person heals another. I believe we invite the other person into a healing relationship. You may feel lost, frightened, trapped. My woundedness allows me to find you and be with you in a way that's nonjudgmental."
Richard Moss has taught about conscious relationship for more than thirty years. "When I was a traditional physician," he wrote, "I was content to regard healing as the restoration of health. But today I know healing is far more than a return to a former condition. True healing means drawing the circle of our being larger and becoming more inclusive, more capable of loving. In this sense, healing is not for the sick alone, but for all humankind." Describing healing as "a mystery," he continues: "In the end, healing must be a ceaseless process of relationship and rediscovery, moment by moment. The more we 'know' about healing, the more we are simultaneously carried toward something unknowable. For this reason all healing is in essence spiritual."

Joan Borysenko, psychologist and Harvard Medical School trained cell biologist, says healing is the rediscovery of who we are and who we've always been. "The message that underlies healing is simple yet radical: We are already whole... Underneath our fears and worries, unaffected by the many layers of our conditioning and actions, is a peaceful core. The work of healing is peeling away the barriers of fear that keep us unaware of our true nature of love, peace, and rich interconnection with the web of life."  

Jack Schwartza pioneer in holistic health research and education, saw disease as a stagnant state where we hold back energy that can be released when we align ourselves with the process of transformation. The disease label creates "an attitude that constricts our life energy's flow, as if an enemy is attacking us from outside." He asked that healers be mapmakers or guides who walk alongside clients, showing them how to overcome the fear of change and release their own power.  

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, noted worldwide for her work in death, dying, and transition, believed people who are ill are often blocked by guilt, shame, or ambivalence. Once we learn to love and trust ourselves the spiritual dimension begins to open up and we're ready for healing. She also believed healing occurs at more than an individual level because each of us is "connected through a vast network of relationships to innumerable other people and creatures on the planet."  

Hugh Prather, crisis therapist, columnist, and minister, believed it's a mistaken assumption that healing necessarily means a physical improvement and it's not up to us to prejudge the form of healing for a given person. Nor is it helpful to judge ourselves or others for being ill. "The pronouncement that cancer is caused by an inability to love, or that colds are signs of lack of joy, or that AIDS is the manifestation of sinful-mindedness would not be made in the first place if we had not already judged illness as wrong."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

An Interpretation of the Meaning of "Crisis"

Years ago my  tai chi teacher said these Chinese characters represent Crisis, the top character a symbol for Danger, the bottom character a symbol for Opportunity

Countering this interpretation as "inaccurate pseudo-profundity" is Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Adhering to what he describes as a realistic approach, Mair is concerned that "Adopting a feel-good attitude toward adversity... "lulls people into welcoming crises as unstable situations from which they can benefit."  

But Mair's rational approach is only one part of the human equation. Growing emotionally and spiritually from crisis is not the same as a "feel-good attitude" and certainly doesn't mean we should welcome traumatic circumstances. But difficult or life-threatening situations do provide an opening for growth.
Many people I've coached who've undergone bankruptcy, cancer, or divorce have said, though temporarily debilitating and fraught with fear and pain, the events stopped the treadmill they were on and forced them to look at what really matters in a relatively short lifetime.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Dark Night of the Soul

"The Abyss was the place of transformation for the mystics. In its depths shone the illumination of the 'divine dark,' where divinity revealed itself. Dionysius the Areopagite even speaks of God as the 'Divine Darkness' and sees darkness as the secret dwelling place of God.

Dark Night of the Soul
"Another of the great mystics, St. John of the Cross, speaks of the 'secret stair' by which one descends in the dark night to meet the Beloved the way the soul journeys into union with God. But prior to that union of ecstatic rapture with the Beloved comes the Dark Night of the Soul, that painful period of privation when one feels imprisoned in The Abyss...

"Evelyn Underhill, in her classic study of mysticism, describes this as follows:
Psychologically, then, the 'Dark Night of the Soul' is due to the double fact of the exhaustion of an old state, and the growth toward a new state of consciousness. It is a 'growing pain' in the organic process of the self's attainment of the Absolute. The great mystics, creative geniuses in the realm of character, have known instinctively how to turn these psychic disturbances to spiritual profit...
For the great mystics, such periods of chaos and misery often lasted months or even years before the new and higher state of spirituality is reached; often the dark side is experienced before the possibility of the new is apprehended... Heroism is required to endure and not succumb to the danger and the pain. The mystical journey is neither rational nor linear.
Linda Schierse Leonard, "The Dark Night of the Soul,"
Chapter 7 in Sacred Sorrows, pp. 51-52