I spent last weekend with the Expanding Inward team (expandinginward.com) exploring the depths of the underworld, having intricate conversations around healing and the possibility that anything can be healed. Anything? Really? What about incurable diseases, lost limbs, changes that forever shift the structure of a being…? What about wounds embedded so deeply in our psyche that we have constructed entire identities around them?
Laurie Dietrich talked about pets – about three-legged dogs and dogs with the lions share of their jaw missing. She talked about how they don’t worry about what the rest of the world is thinking – they just adapt to the new normal and go on, happily, with life. Adapt to the new normal. Hmmmmmm. Not restored to some previous, preferred condition, but experiencing and adapting to the new normal.
Everything I am about to say was either said during the weekend, or sparked a thought that sparked another thought, or is a connection I made from my experience to what we talked about this weekend. I don’t know how much of it is mine, ours, theirs…..
Before we can begin the conversation about healing, I need for us to make some agreements about the words we will be using.
Healing – The word heal has connections to Old English, Dutch, and Germanic words that connect it also to the word whole. Healing is a mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical process that can happen regardless of the availability of a cure.
Cure – This word has roots that mean “take care of”. It is often used to mean the reversal of an illness. As it was explained this weekend – it is often some pill, remedy, or treatment that is applied from an outside source that takes one back to the same condition they were before. I liken cure to the Devil card in Tarot. The shortcut, the bargain, the way I avoid doing my part and the agreements I make to get what I want without doing so.
Wound – a change in structural integrity.
Integrity – the state of being whole, entire, undiminished. I can’t think about integrity without thinking about steel, without thinking about purity. Not purity like being without sin, but purity like being exactly that which you are.
The 5 Truths of Healing
1. I can’t see integrity or woundedness.
I can’t look at steel and judge its integrity. Nor can I look at my outsides and judge my own (or anyone else’s!!) integrity or wounds. To determine the integrity of steel there must be testing – sometimes destructive testing.
2. When I focus on or am attached to what healing looks like, I am actually still focused on the wound itself or the situation that created the wound – and, in essence, looking for a cure.
It was said during the weekend “if this thing you want healed so badly isn’t healed yet, it’s because you want something else, more” There would be something I would need to give up if I really wanted healing. Through the work of the weekend I realized that a whole lot of what I came to believe needed to be relinquished was based on my idea of what healing would look like. I will do this very hard work and on the other side I will be able to realize the image I have for myself. I knew exactly what healing would look like. I was still looking for that deal with the devil – I will give up this, and in return I will get that.
3. Healing doesn’t look like anything.
Healing is an inside job. It is the work of the underworld. Things that can be seen are external – things of the world of daylight. The side-effects of healing may become visible, but they are only symptoms. They are symbols. Healing itself doesn’t look like anything.
4. Healing may or may not feel good, or even different, especially at first. In fact, it may be awkward and look clumsy.
Think about the three-legged dog learning to walk again, or the dog with most of his bottom jaw missing learning to eat again. It’s ok if I’m awkward, clumsy, or don’t feel good – that’s not how healing is verified.
5. Like everything, woundedness and healing are an illusion, a story.
This one makes me think of the Moon card in Tarot, and what Cynthea Jones taught me about distinguishing what’s real from what’s not: “It’s all an illusion,” she said. “Pick the one you like best and live it real.” When I cling to the story of my wound, or the event that I believe created the wound – I live being wounded in to reality. When I focus on the story of healing, I live being whole in to reality. There’s no judgement. Just like there’s no judgement if you prefer comedy or horror films – just pick the one you like and enjoy the show.
There was a great shift in power this weekend when I changed my story from “I have a wounded core sense of self and core worth” to “I have this idea that I have a wounded core sense of self and core worth”. I’m not wounded. I’m not broken.
I am still working on really integrating this with an incurable medical condition. That condition is not going away – and somehow I can be whole anyway. I believe that is true, and I will live it in to reality.