10 Dec Healing is a challenge!
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ―
I am going to confess something – for most of my physiotherapy career I have tried to heal everyone I treated. A naive and lofty goal but one that I came to see was misguided and set me up for years of discouragement and discontent. Through my own struggles I have learned that a person can only heal themselves and all I can be to others is a teacher/guide or assistant that helps clear some blockages so the client can continue on their own journey towards their own healing.
Sometimes I have observed that people do not always want to be healed, sometimes they like to hold onto their physical issues etc for varying reasons, mostly unconscious to even themselves, but none-the-less visible/audible to the observant trained eye/ear. I am not trying to shame anyone or judge anyone. We all heal at our own pace and in our own time and in our own way. We have to be ready. Sometimes a terrible injury or illness forces us to confront these underlying issues.
Over the years as a physiotherapist, I have treated many people for various physical ailments. What I have long observed is that often when people talk to you as you treat them, you can hear from their words, the real reason or root cause of their presenting physical issue. Of course, sometimes a physical injury is just a physical injury…but often a physical injury can be stemming from or linked with some other issue e.g. emotional upsets, work dramas, family dramas etc.I observed these things but as I was not trained in dealing with issues outside of physiotherapy I did not intervene. But it did influence how I read and researched total health.
Rarely are people aware of the connection of one stress to the other. Sometimes people don’t want to learn of the connections, possibly because it might take some effort to make necessary changes and cause them fear to face these changes. It is scary to face fear and make changes, even when the current situation is stressful and unpleasant. The unknown is scary and the devil you know is at least able to be known. Often people are happy to keep coming back to therapists time after time with relapses, content with their thinking that their problem is only physical. But there are other possibilities that people can explore when they are ready….it may not cure their physical problem or illness but it may help relieve their suffering in the long term.
Thankfully research is showing us how this is possible and how the body and mind are really inseparable. We need positive and negative stressors but the balance needs to be in equilibrium otherwise we suffer an illness or injury.
External events (physical, social & environmental) act upon us, as equally do the internal stressors (thoughts, emotions & pain)…these stressors then can effect any or all of the systems including musculo-skeletal; digestive; nervous; immune; cardiovascular in a positive or negative way.
If these stressors are habitually dealt with in a repeated automatic way they can form automatic reactions (negative/positive) in our subconscious and thus effect our autonomic nervous system.
If we are having more negative stress than positive then the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system fires up along with the adrenal and cortisol hormones. Activities like, over working, too much exercise – volume or intensity, over eating, poor diet, drugs & alcohol, cigarettes, relationship issues etc can cause us to have symptoms like an increased heart rate & or arrhythmias or high blood pressure, poor sleep, chronic pains, anxiety, panic, inflammation etc. This can have a negative impact on our immune system over the long term and can lead to cancers, autoimmune diseases, burnout, depression etc.
Of course positive stressors and ways to get the parasympatetic nervous working well and in balance with the sympathetic system can help to bring us back into health. Mindfulness meditation is one way to do this, so we can be aware of how our thoughts, emotions, sensations are affecting our body and mind. Good balanced nutrition(today’s diet has so much sugar and processed foods which are toxic for our bodies), sleeping enough and having adequate balanced exercise is also important. As is dealing with life issues that may be impacting on our life e.g past traumas, bad relationships at home or at work, loneliness. Some of these life issues may require the assistance of a counsellor or psychologist to help guide a person through to the other side of the issues.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the well known Buddhist & mindfulness teacher writes in his book ‘Peace of Mind’ ,”If you are sad, anxious, or lonely, you may think you need to fix or change something in your mind. If your shoulders are tight, if your back aches, you may think you just need a doctor to help fix that area of your body. But the key to happiness is being fully integrated in body and mind. Much of our suffering comes from an unnecessary division of mind versus matter. We think that there’s something wrong with our minds or something wrong with our bodies and that we need to fix or heal that one, separate thing. But it is impossible to remove mind from body or body from mind. They are two manifestations of the same thing.”…..
“If we can’t be in touch with our bodies, we can’t really be in touch with our minds. Body and mind are two sides of the same coin; we can’t separate them. When the mind is wandering around outside, we don’t really know what’s happening within the mind or the body. We don’t know how to embrace our worry, sadness and anger, so we cover up our alienation with consumption: reading magazines, listening to music, watching videos, drinking wine, taking drugs or eating when we’re not hungry. We eat in order to forget. When we eat, we think we can forget our suffering, our sadness, our worry and we eat too much. Humans are sick today because they are out of touch with their bodies and they can’t be in touch with their minds. How then is it possible to be in touch with the source of health, Mother Earth? If you can be in touch with your body, you have an opportunity to be in touch with Mother Earth, your source.”
I have learned by listening and observing my patients that the body-mind are linked as one. I also know this from my own experiences. If we are not in balance with ourselves, how can we be in balance for others or even make great decisions for the good of the world? I am finding more and more books discussing this topic of mind-body medicine, so hopefully body-mind medicine will be the norm one day.
Lissa Rankin, is a physician and author who writes in her book, ‘Mind Over Medicine’, “Almost every illness is either caused or exacerbated by triggering of the stress response, which happens in the body but starts in the mind. While you can mitigate some of the stress response without understanding what’s triggering it, you’re better off digging deep and diagnosing the root cause of what is triggering those stress responses in the first place. If you are engaging in stress-relieving activities, such as meditation, creative expression, sex, or exercise, but you are not alleviating the source of the stress, you’re not optimising your body’s chance for cure. If, however, you can heal the problem from the root and stop the stress response at its origin, you’re much more likely to wind up cured.”……
“Illness offers us a precious opportunity to investigate our lives without judgment, diagnose the root cause of what might be contributing to our illness, realign ourselves spiritually and do what we can to make our bodies ripe for miracles. When viewed with compassion and without judgment, illness can be a potent opportunity for personal growth and spiritual awakening.”
My work as a physiotherapist has changed a lot over the years. I use my manual therapy skills and techniques to help unblock areas of the body that are not moving well. Moving and exercise has also been proven to help in improving health of the body-mind. In some cases exercise/s alone may heal a physical condition. There are many ways to achieve healing and it is up to the individual to listen to their own body-mind and determine which set of treatment paths are for them.
I am now also teaching Mindfulness Meditation which helps us to get in tune with our body-mind. Meditation is great at helping us to slowly/suddenly awaken to how our thoughts and our how our past issues can still be affecting us now. Meditation can help heal these issues but at times people may also require other professional help like a nutritionist, medical practitioner or psychologist/counsellor to address the root cause of their illness or injury. Health practitioners should be viewed as a patient’s/client’s support team. Healing is always possible but a cure may not be.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book, ‘Full Catastrophe Living’, “While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or find someone who can, it is possible for us to heal ourselves – to learn to live with and work with the conditions that present themselves in the present moment. Healing implies the possibility that we can relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. As we have seen, this comes from practicing such basic skills as entering and dwelling in the open spaciousness of awareness, itself associated with deep physiological and psychological relaxation, as well as with the possibility of seeing our fears and limitations and vulnerability within that larger embrace. In even brief moments of stillness , you may come to realise that you are already whole, already complete in your being, even if your body has cancer or heart disease or AIDS or pain, even if you don’t know how long you will live or what will happen to you.”…
“Life only unfolds in moments. The healing power of mindfulness lies in living each of those moments as fully as we can, accepting it as it is as we open to what comes next – in the next moment of now.
Paradoxically, this shift in orientation and in awareness has the power to transform everything.”
When you are ready you can be relieved to know that there are many health professionals around to help support you on your journey to wellness, but the driver will always be yourself. It takes courage and faith to take the journey but it is road worth traveling, even though there are bound to be many pot holes and challenges to overcome. Good luck!
‘It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.’