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The Mysterious Element of Healing

By Sheryl Paul
March 07, 2014



We work hard to heal and then we notice that there's a mysterious element that facilitates the process, if only we reach out our hand.



IMG_3664We’re wired to heal. We’re meant to touch down into and live from our place of wholeness. We are, in fact, already whole, and much of the healing process is about learning to reconnect to our intrinsic wholeness. We long to heal, to know joy and fulfillment on a daily basis, to settle into a place of inner solidity where we can weather life’s storms with equanimity, and it’s this longing that guides us to seek out people who may be able to light the way. If you’re here, it’s probably because something inside of you is seeking relief from your anxiety or pain. That something is your innate desire to heal, the knowledge that life is meant to be more than this.

It’s hard work, this healing business. And yet I’ve noticed a pattern in my clients who deeply commit to doing their inner work and learning about what it means to be loving to themselves: After a certain amount of journaling, crying, counseling, exercising, eating well, and mindfulness (yes, it’s hard work!), an integration occurs and suddenly it’s not quite so hard anymore.

Some of these clients  - but certainly not all – carry religious and/or spiritual beliefs that include calling out in prayer to a divine source. So alongside the hard work, they have a prayer practice where they consciously and actively ask for help, where the working stops and they take their hands off the wheel for a moment. “Please help me,” is often heard as a whisper or a scream when someone is in the agony of their own death experience, shedding the habits, beliefs, and behaviors that have grown like an encrusted coral of protection around their hearts but are no longer serving them. They work, they toil, they suffer, and in those moments of truly open-hearted prayer, they surrender and let go.

They have then opened a space for something else to come and to tend to their broken heart. In Jungian psychology we call it the healing function of the psyche. A more scientific approach would refer to it as the integration of the mind. I like to think of it as grace.

By grace I mean an element outside of our conscious effort that assists our lives. I mean the breath between the tension, the moments when our eyes are opened to the utter beauty and perfection that inform the world and we know, deeply know in our bodies, that everything is okay. Suddenly the pain isn’t quite so painful. We feel that something or someone else has arrived to share our burden. A poem emerges that fills us with the numinous. We listen to music in a stripped down place of rawness that invites us to receive the rhythm and melodies into every crevice of soul. We reach out in need to a friend and she actually answers the phone. A text of hope arrives just when the despair feels like too much to bear.

So there’s “on-the-spot” grace that helps us over the bumps in the daily road, and then there’s a broad-stroked grace that enters when a certain amount of work has been done.

For those who are uncomfortable with the word “grace”, Daniel Siegel, M.D., offers a similar explanation from a brain perspective for this element of healing that enters after a certain amount of hard work has been done:

“A cascade of positive effects seems to emerge spontaneously when integration has been initiated. It’s like the old physics idea of pushing a ball up a hill to get it rolling down the other side. It takes considerable effort and deliberate attention to move  beyond the initial engrained, nonintegrated state – to push the ball up the hill. This is the intentional work of change. But ultimately the emerging mind takes its natural course toward integration, and the ball flows effortlessly down the valley of coherence. Integration is the mind’s natural state.”

Again, we are wired for wholeness and integration. Several decades ago Carl Jung said that every challenge and symptom are the soul inviting us toward our natural state of wholeness. Dr. Siegel’s years of study of the brain’s neuroplasticity now scientifically proves the same thing. I’m not sure it matters whether we’re talking about soul or mind or the invisibles, the equation seems to be the same: Put in the hard work and something else will come to offer you a hand.

We are meant to heal. We are meant to feel balance and fulfillment. We are meant to live with a hum of rightness instead of the undercurrent of anxiety that pervades so many people’s lives. If you’re willing to do the work and climb up the steep mountain- practicing mindfulness, journaling, nourishing your body with clean, healthy foods, singing, dancing, or whatever calls to you - a healing principle inside of you will assist you the rest of way until one day you realize that it’s not so hard after all. And then you may even start to soar.



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