“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion”~ Buddha.
I have always loved the science of anatomy and physiology. When I was in my teens, my sister gave me an illustrated textbook which sparked my imagination. It is difficult to imagine what is going on beneath our skin, the constant activity of weird looking organs and systems; factories that beat and churn, manufacture and filter 24/7. She knew I wanted to be a nurse, and understanding the body is one part of that journey.
Nurses work within the science based field of medicine, and our education is based on what is known as the biomedical model. We have to have an understanding of how human beings operate at a very basic and cellular level, to try to grasp what happens in illness, what medicines do, how organs respond. But it was early in my career I recognized that there was something more, something within, a vital sign that we could not measure or see, that dictated outcomes. I witnessed the impact of the mind on health, as two men were told their prognosis. One man was young, with a very short time to live as he had an aggressive form of leukemia. The other man was older, with a different kind of leukemia, one which responded well to treatment. The young man refused to accept his diagnosis, he had too much to live for, and after receiving his treatment, he set off with his family in search of healing. Although he died a year or two later, it was much longer than the doctors had predicted.
The older man heard the word ‘leukemia’ and was dead within six weeks. I had often heard the saying ‘the mind kills and the mind cures’ but that lesson has stayed with me longer than many of those I heard in the classroom. Over the years I have seen the power of the human spirit to overcome tremendous challenges and find healing, while the doctors search in vain for a cure.
That lesson learned so long ago has continued to haunt me. How can we find a way to healing? Do we need medicine to get there? Florence Nightingale herself said that the role of the nurse is to place a patient in the best condition for nature to take its course. I have witnessed the healing capacity of love and compassion. I have seen how a moment where one person honestly listens to another can be a gift of empowerment. There are many studies which demonstrate the power of things other than medicine to bring about relief from pain, to ease distressing symptoms. So many people in the USA seek alternative therapies (whether it is instead of or as well as going to their doctor) that the National Institute of Health set up a department to monitor and study these modalities. In fact they even changed the name recently to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, as they strive to integrate the alternative into mainstream medicine.
The scientist in me still loves the amazing facts of the body, still strives to understand empirically how and why things work. But the artist at the heart of me loves to see the evidence of a person defying the odds, using inner strength to overcome and transcend adversity to evolve into a stronger, more whole individual. And so I am on a journey to try to understand this, this ability of healing to take place. What are the interventions that promote it? What are the actions that can bring about healing?
Some of us seek solitude, or practice meditation to free our mind from the clutter and unnecessary noise that can generate distressing thoughts. Some of us find healing in prayer and rituals. For others, it is the act of doing for another, of dedicating our lives to the needs of others that can bring us a feeling of wholeness. It may be an act of giving thanks, of stopping to appreciate all that life has given us. It may be a practice, a commitment to keeping our body healthy through nutritious diet and exercise. There are those who rely on the remedies of their childhood, while others are faithful to medicines and regimes prescribed by their healthcare practitioners.
Whatever it is, I would love to hear from you. What is it that you do to promote healing (whether the wounds are physicial, emotional or spiritual)? We are all connected, and the health of each person impacts another. We have seen the effects of an unhealthy society, a society badly in need of healing. We have abused Mother Earth, and continue to do so, and she is showing signs of terrible ill-health.
On this Friday morning, I hope you are feeling whole and healthy, and if not, I hope you are identifying those things that keep you whole. May you have a fantastic weekend, and recognize all of the blessings around you.
One Love Family!