Notes from the Field: On Healing
Every so often, I catch a glimpse of 'the arc'. Not Noah's ark, or the arc of a rainbow (though every so often, I catch a glimpse of one of those too). I mean, the arc of my life; all the things that have transpired to lead me to where I am now. From this vantage point, while I can't see clearly into a magic ball, my potential and limitations are more visible. I have a sense of what is 'doable', and what doors are closed. As I make conscious choices in the present, I better understand the path, how to navigate the unknown, and even the unwanted (it's not always easy!). While none of us know what might happen in the future, one of the things we all share in common is uncertainty. With this uncertainty comes fear, as well as potential. While we are a culture acutely tuned into the fear, it is usually the potential itself that is more overwhelming than the fear; it is the potential for the unknown that holds us back, because a fear we know will always feel safer than something we can't concieve.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." Marianne Williamson
Healing, for me, is in understanding of the potential for each day in a concrete way and meeting it, adjusting to it as the day progresses, and accepting that my mind and body are not always in sync. Healing can happen most successfully when the mind steps out of the way and gives permission for the body to speak and make decisions. This is a major change to how I considered healing ten years ago, when my mind forced my body to keep up with outdated rules and disciplines that subjugated my body into 'doing' mode, long before it was ready. During that time, when I was supposed to be 'taking it easy', recovering from a liver transplant, my fear (the mind) propelled me forward physically, rather than listening to my body and deeper voice that knew better, that knew it would take an amount of time about as long as a piece of string to heal, to find wholeness.
We live in a world that asks for concrete answers and specific timelines; a world where time is money and money is power. It is this world that has conditioned our minds to do things before we are truly ready, to place material gains in front of our own capacity for wellness and wholism.
One aspect that comes with being threaded and re-threaded into the tapestry of modern medicine is that certain elements of a lifetime are revisited again, and again. As modern medicine is far from a holistic practice, from this lens, the important dates are of blood tests, diagnoses, operations and symptoms. Everything in-between or outside of those numbers, words and acronyms is generally deemed superfluous; the 'life' in-between the lines is but a side note in the countless lines of dictation. Yet is all that in-between stuff that makes a life; that makes a life worth living.
I have been out of the hospital 3 weeks. During this time, I have taken some long walks, stepped back onto my yoga mat, cooked many nourishing meals, said hello and waved goodbye to friends and family, and celebrated my son's thirteenth birthday. He is a reminder to me of miracles, the miracle of life seeking life. Born 2 months early at 1.9kg, he is now almost as tall as I am, and his knowledge has far surpassed what I will ever be capable of understanding. He is a reminder to me that miracles happen all the time, big and small. Life is a miracle.
Alongside all of this, at times I've also felt deeply tired. I've listened closely to my body and it's needs, and relied on people in a way that I never thought would be possible. The realisation that much of life's force is chaos, never moving only in one direction, has helped me adapt and be patient. I have come to realise that life is but an ocean of undulating waves of time, energy and space. Giving the mind permission to let go of old beliefs and ways of measuring progress and decline has been challenging and also freeing in this round of accepting myself as I am, as whole.
While technically speaking my physical body is more cyborg than whole as I was at birth, I have come to understand wholeness can mean many things. In the context of healing, for example, wholeness means to make sound, to overcome a wound. While my physical wounds haven't yet fully healed, something more fundamental to healing has – my mind. Rather than seeing myself as awkward, incomplete or broken, a lens familiar to me, and reinforced for many decades, I now experience my own system as being whole; even with certain organs missing and others borrowed, my body belongs to me and is complete. I am here to support it, to champion myself. This 'felt sense' of wholism is my own measure to what resonates for me as 'health'. It is an outlook I reinforce in my daily practices that include, but are not limited to: movement, meditation, breathing, diet and internal, conscious messaging.
And yet here I am, in a liminal space. My scars are fresh and I am still recalling and making connections through the last 5 weeks, or rather, decades of my life. Possibly most importantly, I've come to terms with the sense I have about life: that it is a sequential and progressive energy source seeking out balance, but more often than not, is in a evolving or declining phase of liminality.
I remember a time, some twenty years ago, that the idea of a life in balance sounded like something I needed; I sought this balance out every day by attending a yoga class (some would argue this is the purpose of yoga, Rolfing, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, and other therapeutic frameworks). While I had moments of experiencing balance, it never stuck around long enough to become my natural state. It was a state I could enter into as quickly as fall out of, a state itself of liminality. After almost thirty years of practice, my understanding of the balance I was craving has changed. I now understand that most of life is a negotiation in and out of balance, and that awareness of one's relationship to the balanced state is perhaps more important than being – and staying in – the balanced state itself. Balance, that could also be called 'perfect harmony', or equilibrium, seems to be a place that most of us are unable to rest in indefinitely. For, even those who believe themselves to be living in a perpetual life of balance, sooner or later experience hunger or thirst, physical signs of imbalance. When adding in things like taking risks, a defining principle of stretching ourselves in a growth phase, perpetual balance is out of the question. So, which is more important: staying in balance and ruling out experiencing life fully, or taking risks that include the discomfort of imbalance in growth potential? I'd say that a third option, one where life is lived through a lens of learned listening to one's whole system, with skillful knowledge and use of tools that aid in adapting and calibrating towards balance when life's circumstance and personal choice throws us off, is the point of practice (...of yoga, mindfulness, or whatever you call your conscious work in becoming more authentically you).
I spent years seeking balance, and finding it from time to time, only to be wildly thrown off, sometimes by my own actions, sometimes due to life circumstance. If only I had understood and accepted that balance is a place we move in and out of, that provides us with a lens of awareness to make 'better'choices, choices towards acceptance, happiness and compassion. I didn't yet understand that balance is a fluid, changing state, not fixed (afterall, nothing in life is...).
Life offers us moments of clarity, presence, acceptance and wonder, but nonetheless, as we move through time there are many variables that are under continual change, that get in the way of us experiencing those moments as anything other than fleeting. Understanding that balance is a place we continually move in and out of rather than attach to as a destination, provides us with an important tool to check in with ourselves. It's from this point of attunement and presence, that I'm playing in the field of where healing happens.