Sometimes I am not sure what is meant when people talk about healing. So when I decided to try and write this piece I looked it up on wikipedia where it says: Healing – literally meaning to make whole – is the process of the restoration of health to an unbalanced, diseased or damaged organism. And here is what it says in my Webster’s comprehensive dictionary: Heal – 1) to restore to health or soundness; make healthy again; cure. 2) To bring about the remedy or cure of, as a wound or disease. 3) To remedy, repair, or counteract, as a quarrel, breach etc. 4) To free from sin, grief, worry etc.; purify: to heal the spirit – v.i. 5) To become well or sound.
Now it looks to me as if I need to understand and accept the duality of being healthy and being unhealthy which I am not sure I truly can… But for the sake of this piece of writing let us say, that there are processes that facilitate our minds and bodies to move from states of pain to states of less pain, from damage to undamaged, from unease to pleasure or peace, from ill-being to well-being. And that those processes are called healing. I guess we can also think of them as transforming, recovering, curing, restoring, regenerating, mending, changing or fixing.
That out of the way I will get started on what I actually wanted to say.
It is believed in different circles and faiths that spontaneous healing is possible – healing that does not happen from human medical interference but by divine forces or God’s grace. Amongst many others there is a group that I find quite interesting. It is an international gathering of people called Bruno Gröening’s Circle of Friends who do work on volunteer and donation basis to inform people about healing as well as collect documentation of healing that occurs. Below is a short description of their work but more information can be found on their website.
“The Bruno Groening Circle of Friends is an informal gathering of people who have recognised the value of Bruno Groening’s teachings. These are passed on in hundreds of groups which meet around the world. Instruction is given for the proper physical and mental attitude necessary for the absorption of Divine power. The ”healing stream”, which is clearly perceptible in the body, gives help and healing, even in cases of chronic, degenerative and serious organic illnesses.”
Stories of spontaneous healings have been told for thousands of years – maybe even longer. I do believe that healing can happen in ways that science and medicine cannot explain with their views on life and the world.
A question that intrigues me is, that if healing from pain, illness and distress is possible, then why does it not happen more?
I know that within myself there are intense contradicting forces. Parts of me long for peace of mind, a pain-free, energised body and strong health without inflictions like asthma, allergies, stomach problems, muscle tension, flues, inflammations and injuries. But there are also parts of me that hold pain and illness in great reverence. These parts fully believe that pain is a natural human condition and also something we need in order to learn. Caught between these contradicting parts I do not expect myself to have all my maladies spontaneously healed and then live a long and healthy life…
At the moment I am finding myself very inspired and excited about Stephen Donaldson’s three triologies about Thomas Covenant – again, as I went through this excitement some years ago as well. In the 7th book “Runes of the Earth” there are some interesting reflections on healing and I will just share some short excerpts to give a general sense of what I want to reflect on:
“Anele’s hands trembled as he studied the Staff, and his blind gaze seemed to ache with yearning (…) How much recrimination and self-loathing had he suffered before he had fallen into madness?
The touch of the Staff might heal him as well.
In a small voice he murmured unsteadily: ‘I am unworthy of such astonishment. The day has not come yet when I may be whole’ His throat closed on a sob. When he has swallowed it he whispered: ‘Until that time, I must remain as I am.’
For a while, Linden could not stop her tears. The day had not yet come – she believed him; there was no falsehood in him. But the thought that he needed to remain as he was hurt her more than she could express. With the Staff she possessed the power to impose any healing that he might require. Yet he refused her. He was not ready – or his circumstances were not”
(p.467 – 468, Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson)
Here it seems as if there is much more to healing than just the act of itself; closing a wound, expelling illnesses from the body or mending a fragmented mind. That healing does not only affect the person healed but also the surroundings; we are presented with the idea that circumstances can be ready for healing as well, or not. That healing is not only about one person’s willingness and readiness but also about the bigger picture and deeper consequences for everyone involved.
In a cure-oriented society it may be hard to understand and accept that some people do not want healing. It may be even harder to grasp that there could be a deeper -even unconscious – personal or collective need for somebody not to heal and remain in pain or disabled. Most people within care and treatment professions are oriented towards helping, easing or stopping suffering; personally I think we need to talk more about the problems with involuntary treatment and artificial elongations of lives. The main character in the book mentioned above is a physician dedicated to helping others and following her journey of trying to see beyond the old man’s madness and refusal to be healed is fascinating:
“She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. ‘Look at him,’ she told Liand. ‘He’s choosing to be this way.’ His madness, like his blindness, was necessary to him still. ‘If I try to heal him, he’ll fight me. And maybe he is right. He certainly has the right.’ “
(p.468, Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson)
The idea that we might need pain and illness for reasons we cannot yet comprehend can ease some of my personal frustrations a bit. Both as someone who regularly experiences physical pain and emotional distress as well as someone who cares about others and feel the urgency for relief from pain around me. I have times where I am completely overwhelmed by a sense of meaninglessness and of disillusionment with the state of the world. I rage against the forces – divine or human – that does not allow healing to happen where it seems so needed. But it helps me to read things like the book mentioned above, following a character’s journey towards greater understanding of the complexity of life. It can help me to connect with a part of me that humbly says: “What do I really know? And who am I to judge? How can I with my limited perceptions understand what is truly needed in the world?”
This does not mean that I stop caring or yearning to see change – or that I do not think I need to take action where I feel able. But I try to remember that all I can really do is focus on the here and now, do my best to honour my own values and trust that if I try my best, healing will happen when and where the people and circumstances are ripe and ready for the deep change that healing might be.