I want to take a closer look at what healing is, or what we think it is. Often we believe that healing means cured. Specifically, that the physical body is healed, cured, made well again. That does happen. I have seen it occur in traditional medicine and with alternative medicine or healing. But what about the times that the body is not made well? In order to better understand when this happens, we must shift our perspective on healing.
Healing does not always mean that the body becomes well. Sounds a bit confusing, right? How is that possible? I think the answer is that we are not just our bodies. I believe that we are body, which includes our mind and emotions, and that we are also spirit, which I think resides in the heart. This becomes important if we understand the teaching that the mind, body and spirit work to be whole.
If this philosophy is true that the mind, body and spirit work to become whole and unbroken, then it becomes clear that illness in the body may be a way to offer the spirit, the emotions, or the mind an opportunity to heal. Rather than only seeing the physical body as requiring healing, we can begin to explore other aspects of ourselves that are also out of balance and seeking health.
I would venture to say that most of us were not taught to attend to the wellness of our whole self. For that reason, when the physical body is ill, we should begin to pay attention. Our bodies have a way of awakening us to some aspect that is out of balance within us. If there is something wrong with our body, we must take care of it.
Many times we ignore our body’s first call to pay attention. Why is that, do you suppose? We know that things must be cared for, and still we put it off. Yet the message is clear; there is something here that is asking for our attention and care. Is it because we are just too busy in our complicated lives to stop and listen?
If we do not nurture our spirit, our emotions and our mind, they enter into imbalance. This is the beginning of the need for healing. The wounds in those spaces seek healing. We fear looking at these past hurts, but they will continue to send messages and offer us opportunities for that restorative work to be done.
When that healing does not happen, illness will often manifest in the physical body. Remember, the mind, body, emotions and spirit all work to be whole and healthy. This interdependent relationship will do whatever it takes to heal all aspects of the self. I think that is why healing does not always occur in the physical body. It may be that other parts of the self must be healed before the body can become whole.
This has happened in my own life. Many years ago, I began having pain in my chest, specifically in my heart. The doctors checked me out and ran all kinds of tests, but they could not find anything, I am thankful to say. So the pain went on. It would happen often: nothing I was doing was taking it away. One day, I decided to take a step back and look at what else might be happening with me.
At the time, I was working as a case manager for women and children who had experienced domestic violence. Every day I saw people who had been beaten up and terrorized by the person closest to them who told them they loved them. In my personal life, I was also witnessing family and friends who were suffering. They were choosing to continue behaviors and patterns that upheld their suffering even though they knew ways to be healthier and happier.
I did not allow myself to express the emotions I was having around these issues. Messages were sent to me from the different aspects of myself, but I ignored them. For example, I had a dream in which someone’s heart was ripped out and was screaming and crying. I went back to that dream the day I decided to look deeper at what was happening with me. I learned that the pain in my heart was really the unexpressed emotion within me about what was happening all around me.
I had to grieve for all the people who had been hurt by those claiming to love them. I also had to let people go who persisted in their choices that caused them to suffer. I had to give myself space to express my emotions. I began to listen to my heart and made the decision to embrace the way I wanted to live. That included seeing beauty, offering gratitude for all that life offers, and really living and enjoying life.
My intention is not to question or judge another’s physical illness; I only wish to convey an alternative perspective on some of the many forms that healing can take. I still am committed to helping others along the way while still honoring their path. It is really important to respect other people’s journeys on the odyssey of life. If we are lucky, we are gifted the opportunity to walk beside one another on the path and share our selves and our beauty for a while. But we can never know another’s journey completely.
Each of us intuitively knows what aspects of our selves require healing. Let us open to the many forms of healing. Our challenge is taking the time to listen to those parts that make us whole. We honor ourselves more fully by doing so. Listen with your whole self.
Shelly O’Connell is an author, artist and speaker engaging people in the discovery of their own wisdom. She holds a Master of Divinity with a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science. Shelly has an extensive background in women’s advocacy, Native American Spirituality, and has prepared for Unitarian Universalist ministry. Combining the spiritual realm with the sphere of the psyche, Ms. O’Connell offers workshops, teachings and books that uplift and celebrate each individual and the gifts they have to offer. To connect with Shelly for additional information, visit shellyoconnell.com.
This article by Shelly O’Connell, M.Div., is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is printed here with the author’s permission.