I’ve been thinking a lot about healing lately. I am taking 7Song’s Herbal First Aid class remotely, and dawnings of understanding about the body’s capacity to heal are beginning to break through. To heal the body, I’ve learned, you clear away anything that might be interfering with the body, and then allow it to heal itself. The antimicrobial and sedative and carminative herbs we prescribe do not, per se, heal the body. They relieve symptoms, help deal with invaders and optimize healing conditions, yes–but it is the body that heals.
And since we are beings of mind/body/spirit…not just one or the other, but all, always…it is also so with healing the spirit. Heartbreak and grief and emotional exhaustion can’t be “fixed”. Healing is not something you add to your routine like a bandaid. Healing, for the heart, is just as it is for the body. You remove everything that is impeding it. It is already there.
I think about this in terms of my young motherhood. There was little sleep, there was screaming and crying and utter exhaustion, there were ceaseless cycles of not-having-enough-hands, there were impossible gordian knots of chaos that seemed interminable. And then, suddenly, about a year ago, I realized that this part was over. I’m still not sure when it happened, but somehow, at some point, my children learned to bathe and feed and dress themselves, and to walk around without impaling themselves on butterknives or hurling themselves over cliffs, and there were, all at once, moments of serenity between the gordian knots of chaos. I did not have to learn that serenity. It was always there, simply waiting for its chance to emerge.
And I believe this is the human condition. It is interesting to think of God/Goddess/Spirit/Tao/Universal Intelligence as a young mother, marshaling the growth of this immature, spirited baby species, utterly exhausted by us. It pleases me to think of it this way because then I can believe that our evolution is not meant to be a slow, steady progression toward “good” and “right” and “balance”—because, if it were, there is no evidence that we are progressing at all! Perhaps it is instead this chaos of fits and starts—exhaustion and misery and impossible complication—and then, suddenly, moments of clarity and peace, of deep understanding and beauty. And then the swan dive back into the chaos. (Because I don’t for a moment imagine I’m out of the woods. Teenage years start in T minus 5 x 365 x 24 hours). If this is so, then there is hope for us. There have been these moments of deep beauty and understanding and there will be again, the chaos of war and genocide and genetic engineering and sex trafficking notwithstanding. We don’t inch toward perfection. Perfection is already there, and from time to time we manage to peel away the outer circumstances concealing it.
We circled up on Monday and shared, as usual, first our names and then one word to describe ourselves at this moment. I am always amazed by the articulations: overjoyed. frazzled. overcome. happy. grieving. in my center. nervous. giving it a shot. healing. frantic. healing.
Using the word “healing” as a focal point, we settled in for a long, slow yoga practice. We noticed what parts of our bodies responded to the word “healing” and what emotions it elicited. We did a lot of cyclical movement, hip circles and knee circles and shoulder circles and circles of the head and ribs. We checked in with our center by doing cat/cows in forearm plank position. We spent long moments in child’s pose, compressing the third eye, scanning the body for areas of tightness and coldness and pain, using the breath to melt them down and open. Yoga is wonderful for asking the questions of the body that a good herbalist would ask of the patient. What is going on in the body? Does this hurt? Do you feel cold or warm? What moves easily? What feels stuck? I love my yoga practice for reliably peeling away one of the layers between me and healing, that layer of disconnection with my body.
Then we ate some of the 756 leftover scones from the herbal high tea (slight miscalculation. Sorry Molly) and sipped tea while I discussed the next exercise. I like to call it “The Two-Year-Old.” You sit facing your partner and ask them “What hurts?” and they answer. When their words slow or stop, you ask “Why?” They answer again, and you continue to ask “Why?” for five minutes. Have a pillow ready so that if they try to punch you in the face you can protect yourself. I’m kind of kidding, a little. But kind of not.
Then you ask your partner: “What do you want?” and allow them to answer. When their words slow or stop, ask “Why?” and continue as before. Go for five minutes. Then switch and have your partner ask you both questions.
Getting to “Why” is fascinating for so many reasons. For one thing, you get to discover what makes you angry—usually just past that point of anger and annoyance is a very interesting insight. For another, you get to discover the similarities between what you most want in this world and what has most hurt you. You get to see that what you really want is inextricably tied in with what needs healing in you, because what hurts us in the world, what feels painful or isolating or deeply wrong, is what we are strongly called to fix or make right. I have found that my deepest pleasures in life have been the moments when I can prevent someone from being wounded in the ways I was wounded, or create circumstances that bring joy and connection where I once felt alone or isolated. I know that this is my work, and my healing process. As I peel away the layers of misunderstanding and pain and rote behavior that keep me hurting, I heal both myself and my world. Not by “fixing” anything. Just by revealing the beauty that was already there.
I feel another “Permaculture and Parenting” article coming on, about removing limiting factors. I so love this principle, that the perfect ecosystem is already there if you just set it up, get out of the way, and let it thrive. That miracles happen in Zone Zero and Zone Five. That you always leave a little wilderness as example and seedbank. That the chaos is part of it all.
- Nora Yelles-Young: Healing Ancient Wounds. 20 Steps to Clearing and Healing (goldenageofgaia.com)
- Inner Healing: Your Body is the Tool (omtimes.com)
- Your body wants to heal – but will you let it? (inspiredoc.com)
- Freedom to Heal (americankabuki.blogspot.com)
- Healing (kirstio.wordpress.com)