Healing is so much more than getting rid of a disease or condition we are living with. True healing is finding a sense of well-being and peace within our lives as a whole — spiritual, emotional, mental, relational, and physical — and learning to live fully with or without a condition or disease.
I remember working in an AIDS clinic before the current cocktail of medications were available. At the time, AIDS was thought to be incurable, a certain death. Each day I saw a steady client list of both men and women, most of whom are no longer alive. It was in that clinic where I began to ask, “What is healing?”
These men and women were some of the most cheerful, loving, and kind people I’ve worked with. They were choosing to continue living, fully engaged. They told stories of places they’d been, family and friends they’d made peace with, and the parties and gatherings they attended or hosted. Each week, they would come for their acupuncture, herbs, and shiatsu. They continued to go to the gym or their yoga classes. They were generous with compliments, gifts, and lively conversation. They were always gracious, kind, and grateful. At first glance, no one would guess that they were living with an incurable disease.
In conversation with many of them, I learned that healing on the deepest level is an inner experience. Even though their disease wasn’t going away and their death was imminent, they healed on many other levels of living. It was through them that I learned the true meaning of healing as a state of being fully engaged and present in life. They taught me about reaching out to community, making amends, being grateful for another day, and keeping dreams alive as long as there is breath.
When we find ourselves challenged, finding a new normal is a first step. A new normal is one in which life continues to be a fulfilling journey with a chronic condition, disease, or even disability. I see a client who is disabled from an accident several years ago. He is severely limited in the use of the left side of his body. He comes to see me regularly and is eager to continue his healing journey with a team of practitioners that work toward continued healing. It is likely that he will never have full use of his arm and his leg may always need a brace to walk, yet he is on a healing journey and learning what a new normal looks like. He has said many times that he feels healthier than he has ever been in his life because of his disability. He talks about his lifestyle changes ranging from healthy food, regular exercise with a fitness specialist, massage, acupuncture, a positive attitude, and mindfulness as he learns to navigate his new way of being. He makes choices every day to view life as a positive experience. He now feels his disability is a source of strength and resilience.
In Oriental Medicine, I use the term right relationship as the goal for healing. The body is seen as a series of energy channels (meridians), each with its specific functions that help to maintain homeostasis. As we live life through the seasons, through our work, family, emotional and physical stresses, our body falls out of right relationship with one or more channels of energy falling out of balance with the others. Acupuncture, with its function of moving energy, and herbal formulas aim to re-calibrate and invite the meridians back into right relationship with each other. Once back in right relationship within, we feel better, more resilient, and we experience more energy. We can then better manage our particular challenges with a sense of being on course.
Our health and healing are much like flying an airplane or driving a vehicle. We are never totally on course, we make progress to our destination by making continuous corrections with the steering wheel until we reach our destination. So it is with our inner balance or right relationship. Living life pulls us in different directions, by making ongoing corrections in our self-care, practicing those activities that feed our well-being, and knowing that our health is a fluctuating experience we find our way.
We can be involved in deep healing right now, today. We don’t need to be sick or in pain to be healing. For today, we can begin to discover what healing is for us and be better prepared when challenges do arise.
As a healthcare practitioner with a passion for finding happiness, meaning, and purpose, I believe healing is an experience along a continuum of well-being and living life fully. My wish for myself and those I work with is that we all find healing now. I am committed to continuing to ask the questions, “What is healing?” and “How do you find your own healing, with or without a disease or chronic condition?”
Some practices that, for me are foundational for my own inner healing are gratitude, kindness, and appreciation. I, also, choose to live my life feeding my soul, my emotional self, and my physical self through exercise, meditation, and writing daily in a journal. I attempt to live fully engaged and doing those things that allow me to experience flow and aliveness. I nurture my relationships and reach out to community. I feed my intellect with ongoing learning and asking important questions. Consider which practices you could begin to do to encourage your own healing, even if your health is not currently challenged.