Tag Archives: self-healing

Worthy to Sit at the Divine Table

Icon by Andrei Rublev, 15th century

I’m posting this on International Women’s Day, which is appropriate for reasons that will probably be clear to you.

Last time I told you about the powerful experience I had in the hospice while my mother was dying, where I felt that I was surrounded and embraced by uncountable beings who loved and supported me. This feeling of ineffable love continued as my mother stayed present with me over the next few days, and then the typical disjunctions and confusions of life took hold more again, in addition to the stresses of adjusting to her absence and dealing with the many responsibilities of her estate and planning her memorial.

We allowed nearly three weeks to prepare for the memorial service and the get-together for family and friends afterward. It was a massively busy period but also one in which I was able to contemplate important matters and to have deep discussions with friends and patients about life and death. A subject that came up was one that I’d been planning to write about anyway, the pervasive feeling of not being worthy and not deserving. It was on my mind the day of the memorial Mass, which took place on February 10, a few blocks from my house at Our Lady of the Assumption church.

I was apprehensive before the service, even felt like I was going into enemy territory. I had only met the pastor once and never heard the church’s singer before, and I had no control over the proceedings. But my family and I were welcomed warmly by the pastor and the deacon, the singer turned out to be one of the best I’d ever heard in our area, and friends gathered closely around us with great love and caring. My piano teacher played an organ piece right before the Mass, and as the last chords were sounding, the church bells began to ring with magically perfect timing.  I’m not sure if one is supposed to enjoy a funeral, but I did. It was everything it should have been, and we all felt sure it was just what my mother would like.

Some of us were feeling strongly that my mother was present and did in fact like the event. That sense of an atmosphere filled with myriad kindly beings visited me again. I had felt that in certain churches before, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting it at this one, which seemed cavernous and perhaps a little impersonal. The priest told us all, a little apologetically, that although people of different beliefs were present, we were going to hear about Jesus and get the standard Catholic experience. (Exactly as it was supposed to be.) When he said “Jesus,” I suddenly felt as if a cord flew upward from my head and connected with that loving presence.

Feeling that I was cradled in the love of my mother and the heavenly entities, I was busy communing ecstatically when I heard the words, “Lord, I am not worthy….” Wow. There it was again, stated flat out. “I am not worthy.” I am not good enough for God. I do not deserve to have the Divine be with me or within me.

And you know what? That idea rolled right past me and none of it stuck. I was completely immune to its destructive power. In every quark and photon of my being I knew that I was a child of God, a citizen of the universe, an integral and indispensable part of All That Is, however you want to put it. I was deserving of all the goodness that was pouring into me and I soaked it up joyfully and with profound gratitude and with absolutely no reservation. Not only was I worthy to receive the Divine, I was doing it right then and there and with no effort at all.

Later, as I am wont to do, I spent time rationally analyzing what had happened. I considered the fundamental contradictions embodied in “Lord, I am not worthy.” I read about the Gospel story* from which this line in the Mass was taken, and worked through a few different exegeses of it. (A nice scholarly-sounding word!) I could see where they were coming from, but I just wasn’t buying them. And this was new. Although I could still recognize my inadequacies perfectly clearly, a lifetime of existential guilt and subjugation to self-hatred had evaporated. What I knew intellectually had come to live in my heart. After years of struggle, I was at last ready for this radical acceptance.

Think about it. Even a moment of attention will show you how odd and backwards that “unworthiness” is, by doing no more than following along through basic Judaeo-Christian religious thought. God is supposed to be all-good and all-powerful, so surely God must have done a fine job at creating everything. We’re told that God looked at His creation and saw that it was good. Why, then, would human beings be total pieces of crap?

I am far from the only person to bring this up. When I was reading one of the articles on “Lord, I am not worthy,” which insisted on the truth of our not-deserving, I was pleased to see that a commenter asked, simply and directly, why we should disagree with the Creator’s opinion.

Now, suppose that God is a loving parent, as we are so often told. Imagine that you have a child, and you tell that child, “I love you, but you are really a mess, and you will never be worthy of my love no matter what you do and no matter how hard you try.” Only a twisted, psychopathic parent could say such a thing. How could an all-good God say it?

To an extent I’m oversimplifying, but this not-worthiness, this fundamental self-rejection that undermines us at a core level, is one of the most notable characteristics of mainstream religion, in our society at least.

There is another way.

The work of Fr. Richard Rohr, at the Center for Action and Contemplation here in Albuquerque, has been getting international attention. Fr. Rohr stays within the fold of Catholicism but at the same time is profoundly radical. His “Franciscan alternative orthodoxy” views our flawed humanity with great compassion, and constantly points us toward union with the divine, never into ashamed isolation.

Fr. Rohr’s recent writings have had to do with the concept of the Trinity. The idea of three-persons-in-one-God has never made sense to me, nor resonated emotionally, but he uses it to present a dynamic, moving, relational energy, a “divine dance,” rather than a static deity that doesn’t particularly interact with us or the universe. Referring to the painting shown at the top of this post, he wrote:

“In Genesis we see the divine dance in an early enigmatic story (18:1-8). ‘The Lord’ appears to Abraham as ‘three men.’ Abraham and Sarah seem to see the Holy One in the presence of these three, and they bow before them and call them ‘my lord’ (18:2-3 Jerusalem Bible). Their first instinct is one of invitation and hospitality—to create a space of food and drink for their guests. Here we have humanity feeding God; it will take a long time to turn that around in the human imagination. ‘Surely, we ourselves are not invited to this divine table,’ the hosts presume.

“This story inspired a piece of devotional religious art by iconographer Andrei Rublev in the fifteenth century: The Hospitality of Abraham, or simply The Trinity. As icons do, this painting attempts to point beyond itself, inviting a sense of both the beyond and the communion that exists in our midst….

“The icon shows the Holy One in the form of Three, eating and drinking, in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves. If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, ‘In the beginning was the Relationship.’ The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them as they all share from a common bowl. Notice the Spirit’s hand points toward the open and fourth place at the table. Is the Holy Spirit inviting, offering, and clearing space? I think so! And if so, for what, and for whom?
At the front of the table there appears to be a little rectangular hole. Most people pass right over it, but some art historians believe the remaining glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. It’s stunning when you think about it—there was room at this table for a fourth.
The observer.
You!
Yes, you—and all of creation—are invited to sit at the divine table. You are called ‘to consciously participate in the divine dance of loving and being loved,’ as Wm Paul Young, the best selling author of The Shack, writes.
The mirror seems to have been lost over the centuries, both in the icon and in our on-the-ground understanding of who God is—and, therefore, who we are too!”

In this view, we are not unworthy to receive the Divine— we are invited to sit right next to it, co-equal, at the same table. Imagine if all children were brought up this way instead of in the shadow of the Antichrist of guilt and unworthiness. The world would be transformed.

I would add one more thing: to me, the angelic figures in the painting look androgynous. The Trinity is not being shown as “three men,” but as three human beings— perhaps even three women.

Never let anyone tell you that you don’t belong at this table.

 

*The story is that of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant, and trusts that he need “only say the word” and the man will be well. The centurion says that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof.

https://cac.org

http://catholicexchange.com/lord-i-am-not-worthy

http://www.fromwordstoprayers.com/2011/09/lord-i-am-not-worthy.html
‘What roof do we mean? We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and our flesh is like the “roof” of this temple. We know we are unworthy to be such temples, where God is present spiritually; we are even less worthy to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.’

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Inedia, Molecules, and What Are We Made Of?

While working on something else, I came across this page I’d written in 2008 while in the midst of taking a seminar in Richard Bartlett’s “Matrix Energetics.”  It explores some ideas I want to develop soon in these posts, so I think I’ll just submit it in its original form for the moment and whet your appetite.

Yesterday, before the intro to the Matrix seminar, I was reading an article on “breatharianism” or “inedia,” in which people go for very long periods of time without taking in physical nourishment and yet stay alive and healthy. The article, written by psychologist Jon Klimo, did not say that this is necessarily possible or true, but since there are recorded cases that are well studied and seem convincing, it asks whether there might be some kind of theoretical framework that could allow for this phenomenon. Klimo uses zero point energy, among other concepts, to offer possibilities.

(Seems like Chopin was attempting inedia at times, but I think being able to breathe well is a prerequisite if you are planning to live on air….)

I was thinking, “This sounds a lot like what we’ll be talking about in the seminar.” And right then I saw the Matrix Energetics book listed near the top of the bibliography. I’ve had the article for a couple of months, but didn’t read it till now, a time when it fits right in with the rest of what I’m thinking about. This is always happening to me. Sometimes the universe is so nice and convenient.

The inedia article, in part, concerned what humans are made of and what really happens when we take substances and energies into our bodies. This led me to ask a question I hadn’t thought about in a long time: What is Fryderyk made of? He doesn’t have molecules these days—or does he have them, but in a different form? (Just bear with me for a minute here.)

Not that we understand what molecules are made of. They certainly aren’t made of anything solid; if you cut them into smaller and smaller pieces, you find that there aren’t any pieces. There’s just something that could perhaps be called energy, though that’s not a particularly good term for it. I’m not sure what the fashionable term is for the fundamental Stuff at the moment. We could call it Qi, which would be fine with me; Oriental medicine says that everything is made of Qi, and that concept fits my experience. When I was a Rosicrucian, I learned to call it Nous. Whatever. Now we know that what we always called “vacuum” and thought was empty is actually seething with activity, serving up particles of all sorts at every instant and destroying them just as quickly, so that we don’t notice unless we look for them in the right way. “Solid” matter appears and disappears effortlessly and instantaneously, matter and energy transform into one another, and everything seems to do whatever it damn well pleases.

One of the first things Richard Bartlett told us in the seminar was, “You think you matter, but you don’t, ‘cause you aren’t!”

I always thought of Fryderyk and his ilk as being made of Qi, like the rest of us, but missing that one layer that appears to us as matter. In terms of energetic perception, a “dead” person feels very much like a “live” person to me—indistinguishable, in fact, if I am not in direct contact with the Earth-plane person’s skin or clothing.  (One of the entertaining aspects of being in a room containing 560-plus individual humans is noticing the different flavors of their personal fields—otherwise, I pretty much hate it. Some people I would like to have sitting next to me all the time, others I want to get away from as soon as possible, and most, strangely, I don’t notice at all unless I put forth some special effort. The field of the group as a whole, as you can imagine, is pretty overwhelming.)

But we don’t know what Qi is either. Some of the people writing on healing, Qi Gong, etc. talk about electromagnetic energy, but Qi can’t be electromagnetic. I wish it were, since that is something we sorta kinda understand, but it it’s not. It can’t be, because the strength of electromagnetic fields falls off rapidly with distance, but Qi can be shown to act at seemingly impossible distances. These effects are measurable. While there are models within physics that involve action at a distance, the EPR paradox and Bell’s theorem, as far as I know they do little or nothing to explain phenomena like remote healing. They also don’t explain the observed effects, also at a distance, of purely mental interventions like prayer or positive intentions. So saying that everything is made of Qi doesn’t resolve the mystery.

This matter (no pun intended) of Qi-at-a-distance is bothering me increasingly. It’s an obvious reality that can’t be avoided, yet it doesn’t fit known physical laws. Which has to mean we don’t know all the laws yet, because everything is ultimately physics. I don’t know what kind of research strategy could deal with it, and I don’t have the math(s) to even begin to think about this like a physicist might. If physicists were thinking about it, which only a few of them are willing to do. (David Bohm and Nick Herbert deserve mention.)

Metaphysics is physics too, just physics we don’t understand so well yet. I don’t think there’s really a “meta” anything, except maybe metaphor. And whatever Fryderyk is made of, it has to be physics.

One way, one fruitful way, to look at reality is that it is made up of interacting fields. Unfortunately, that is likely to bring us back to electromagnetism, but for a moment let’s postulate that everything is information. Dr. Bartlett said that we were working with fields of information, that that is what we are. Ah, I thought, Fryderyk is a field of information. I think that’s probably the closest I’ve gotten to the truth of the situation. But what is information made of? I have no idea.

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Love, Fear, and Viruses: Some Ways We Make Ourselves Ill or Well, Part I

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

I am so grateful to be past the series of respiratory infections that first hit me way back on January 28. Lots of people in Albuquerque have gone through something similar, but it seems like I set a record for duration of cough. Not only was it obnoxious in itself, it made work and anything I did in public difficult. It was also bad for my reputation as a healer! My newest patients, who had never seen me healthy, were becoming convinced that something was terribly wrong with me, and my established patients were making noises about my not taking proper care of myself (whereas I was doing everything I could think of to get better). I wasn’t looking like a good example for them, that’s for sure.

I don’t like blaming patients for getting sick, but I know that our inner lives have a great deal of influence over what happens to our bodies, and as this crud went on and on I could not help but think there must be more to it than viruses or bacteria.

This came to a head during a treatment for one of my patients who have dealt with asthma for many years. She was sympathizing with my cough, because that’s the main symptom of asthma for her, and she told me about the worst asthma attack she’d ever experienced. She had hardly finished the sentence when I went into a knock-down, drag-out coughing fit that wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t talk or do much of anything else. It went on for about 10 minutes. This was unnerving for me and for the current patient, but all the more for the next one, one of the new ones, who had walked in just when it started. Fortunately, I was able to settle down and do a good treatment for him, as if nothing much had happened, but the lesson got through to me. The simple idea of an asthma attack was enough to make my respiratory system go off the rails.

This happened even though by that time my cough was lessening and for the most part wasn’t a big deal anymore. I noticed that I was getting some uncomfortable tightening in my chest and wondered if I, too, had crossed the line into having asthma, which was not unexpected after decades of year-round allergies, and possibly could have been diagnosed already if I had ever cared to use the word. Maybe the cough was persisting because it was really asthma? I made an appointment with my primary care doctor*, someone I hardly ever see but who I admire for his empathy and healing presence. He listened to my breathing and agreed that asthma must be the diagnosis.

This gave me a chance to understand more about what my asthmatic patients were experiencing. The albuterol inhaler did make me more comfortable, although it tasted and smelled unpleasant. I thought about what Dr. Pereira had observed, that he only heard a wheeze on inspiration, while expiration was fine. Why was I clamping down on my trachea when breathing in? Well, it was obvious. After weeks of coughing, air felt irritating and threatening to my damaged tissues, and the onslaught of tree pollens and dust didn’t help any. I didn’t want to pull that air into my lungs and was unconsciously trying to reduce the irritation. It was no big surprise. I’d been through similar journeys, including the one I wrote about here, when I first met Chopin and was in the midst of a long challenge to my respiratory system.  (https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/how-i-met-fryderyk/) As soon as I realized what I was doing, I was able to talk myself into breathing smoothly again, even when the wind and dust were high. It was clear that my breathing was exquisitely sensitive to the slightest thoughts and feelings.

 

Late in 2014 I was severely ill for a couple of days with what I suspect was norovirus, which was common here in Albuquerque at the time. It was awful and wonderful and transformative. During this very unpleasant process I was able to observe in detail how I was going about making myself sicker.

The illness had two mutually aggravating components, a crushing headache and nausea with vomiting, both of which went on hour after hour without any improvement. I couldn’t take any kind of painkiller because I couldn’t keep anything down, throwing up made the headache tremendously worse, and I couldn’t rest or sleep because I had to keep running to the bathroom. I’m telling you this TMI stuff because it has to do with what I discovered.

At the beginning of this trouble, I was feeling a lot of self-loathing, boatloads of it. That may have been as much a symptom as a cause, I don’t know. It followed an episode of serious failure with my singing voice, which was giving me a great deal of trouble at the time. I was deeply ashamed and horrified by my inability to put out much of any sound, which was a shock at the time, and the worst of it had happened in front of musicians whose opinions I cared about.

At the same time, I was at a standstill in a relationship, and was frustrated both with the other person’s unresponsiveness and with my own inability to communicate more effectively.

Since I couldn’t do anything but lie there hurting, I had plenty of time to think. I noticed that whenever the thought of my recent debacle crossed my mind, the tension and the headache increased. I was disgusted with myself and felt that the person who had heard me was disgusted with me too, and the disgust translated into more intense nausea instantly, the moment this crossed my mind. Which happened over and over. I couldn’t seem to do anything to break the cycle. And then the other frustration would come up. Eventually I found myself sitting in the bathroom wailing in desperation, feeling that I couldn’t manage another second of this. My husband came running and tried to rescue me, but couldn’t do much besides hold my hand and let me know he was there. At the height of the crescendo, the crisis seemed to break and I started to get better.

I’m pretty sure that if I had not gotten into this emotional tailspin, I would still have been ill with the virus or whatever it was, and it wouldn’t have been easy, but I would have been able to rest and ride it out without turning it into an existential threat.

At some point during that afternoon, while trying to work through the emotional morass, I had a breakthrough. It suddenly hit me that loving someone didn’t depend on their doing or saying what I wanted or meeting my expectations in any way. If I loved them, I loved them no matter what. Eventually I realized that I needed to extend this concept to myself too! With this revelation I started to become well in a profound way, even though I was still physically miserable.

I already knew about the fundamental dichotomy of love vs. fear. Through this experience, it became palpable, embodied, no longer abstract. I knew which side I was on, and I understood that the emotional part of my illness could be traced back to fear.

 

Not too long after that I encountered a sample of a book, Beyond Willpower, that was being offered for pre-publication orders. I was already familiar with the author, Alexander Loyd, from his Healing Codes work. The sample chapter told how he had nearly lost his marriage through approaching love as if it were a business deal, “if you do this for me, I’ll do that for you”— otherwise, no love. “Loving truly, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the other person’s response,” he wrote. “If you truly love someone, you’re all in: no safety net, no plan B, nothing held back.” Yes, exactly! I put in an order for the book.

Dr. Loyd expounds on what he calls the Greatest Principle, that pretty much all of our life and health problems are rooted in fear in some way, and that transforming fear to love is the way to solve them. He outlines practical methods to make that happen, because just talking about the matter won’t do the job. At this juncture in history, with fear so obviously in ascendance in our public life, I think it would be particularly useful for us all to be working on this. You can find some resources at http://beyondwillpowertogether.com/ Dr. Loyd and his associates have been trying to get a widespread movement going, and a number of people have started their own groups.

The book is being reissued as The Love Code. The original Beyond Willpower contained some screaming errors about science, particularly one Dr. Loyd likes to repeat over and over in his talks and materials and relies upon for evidence of his claims, regarding the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox (he even gets the name wrong and refers to “Podasky”). I was dying to correct his misconception, but never found a loving way to bring it up with him, nor managed to put together a brief, clear explanation of the issue for him. Reviewing some physics books was good for me, though, so being annoyed was a gift. But if nobody else brought it up and it wasn’t fixed for the new edition, I will feel guilty! If you read the book, you can look past this weakness, because it doesn’t take away from the overall message. At least you can look past it if you don’t have an obsessive copyediting brain like mine, or if you aren’t driven crazy by appeals to garbled quantum physics in popular books.

Imagine if everyone moved out of their closed-up state of fear and into an expansive state of love! Dr. Loyd suggests that we try to live completely centered in love for just 30 minutes at a time— that’s hard enough. If you can get through that much, you try for another half hour. If you get derailed by your reaction to someone misquoting Einstein or whatever, you try again. And keep trying.

*Oswaldo Pereira, MD at Albuquerque Health Partners.

I saw the Rumi quote at:
http://www.thesacredscience.com/blog1/how-our-wounds-can-heal-us?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Sacred%20Science%20Free%20Online%20Screening&utm_content=TSS_HowOurWoundsCanHealUs+%2805%2F07%2F16%29

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How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis at Home

This is not my usual type of subject for this blog, but so many people need the information, I’m including it here as well as at my business site, http://elenelistens.com.

I often see patients complaining of heel and sole of foot pain. They may identify it as plantar fasciitis, or they may simply point to the spot that hurts. Most of them have shown the classic pattern, in which they have the most pain on first stepping out of bed in the morning, then feel better for a while, then have more pain again after being on their feet for a long time through the day. So many people have this pain going on that I want to get the word out more generally about how to relieve it, instead of just telling my own patients one at a time.

This common condition usually responds well to self-care, which is crucial whether one is working with a health-care professional or not. Let’s look at what’s going on in the leg and foot and what you can do about it.

The term plantar fasciitis refers to inflammation of the fascia, the connective tissue, in the sole of the foot. (Plantar means anything having to do with the sole of the foot, as in plantar warts, often mismentioned as “planter’s warts.”) Very often, the pain is felt mainly or entirely in the center of the heel. There is a simple reason for this. The Achilles tendon connects with the foot right there, and when the tendon is tight, it pulls on its attachment to the bone, which hurts, sometimes quite a lot. This can affect one or both feet.

Generally speaking, although the pain can feel like you’ve got a rock in your shoe or like there’s a sharp object inside your heel itself, this is not necessarily being caused by a heel spur, which is a growth of extra bone on the calcaneus (heel bone). Heel spurs often cause no symptoms at all, and may or may not exist at the same time as plantar fasciitis. If you do have a heel spur, don’t panic. The usual treatment is the same as what I am describing here, and it is very unlikely that you will need surgery or any kind of drastic intervention.

Why is the pain worse first thing in the morning? During the night, your ankle extends, since you are not putting weight on your foot, and the back of your calf is allowed to shorten (as is the sole of your foot). As soon as you do put weight on the foot, your ankle must flex so that your foot is flat on the floor, which pulls on the back of your calf. The tight muscles and tendon suddenly yank on that attachment at the heel and on the sole of your foot in general. After you walk around a bit and get things loosened up, the discomfort eases. Then, after some hours of weight bearing, your inflamed, upset fascia starts to get more irritated and lets you know. Sitting for long periods may cause a similar effect to lying down overnight.

You can see that a big part of the solution is to open up the tight tissue so that it’s not pulling this way and can let the plantar fascia calm down and heal. If you have this problem, you will probably find distinctly tight, tender knots in your calf muscles and/or above your heel. Podiatrists typically prescribe stretching of the calf, which is good and necessary, but the trouble is that if you stretch aggressively without doing anything to loosen those tight knots first, you will probably just irritate and aggravate the situation more.

So here’s what you need to do: Feel around throughout your calves and ankles for tight areas, which may be exquisitely sore to the touch. When you find them, gently press and massage them. Experiment with the amount of pressure; you need to be firm enough to make a positive change, but you don’t need to torture yourself. Keep at it until the knots release and the spots aren’t so tender. I recommend doing this before you go to sleep and before you get out of bed in the morning, but anytime is OK. For some reason, massage of the calf is virtually never mentioned by podiatrists or in articles on plantar fasciitis, but I find it to be the most important aspect of treatment. You should start feeling improvement pretty quickly, maybe even immediately. You can also massage the soles of your feet themselves.

Heat may be helpful to help the muscles relax. Ice or cold packs may feel good on your feet to reduce inflammation. You may need to rest from your usual activities, especially if sports or excessive standing or walking are causing pain— but you don’t want to be so immobile that you end up with more stiffness and tension. Whatever makes you feel better is fine with me. I treat patients with acupuncture for the knotted muscles and inflammation, and I use microcurrent stimulation on the feet, since needling directly into the sole can be unpleasant. Professional massage, osteopathic manipulation or other manual therapy, or chiropractic could also be useful. Whatever you choose, self-treatment is going to be extremely important.

What caused the calf muscles and Achilles tendon to get so tight to begin with? There could be a number of factors, such as lack of exercise, too much muscle-building exercise without enough attention to flexibility, a previous injury that has led to muscle imbalances, or wearing inappropriate shoes.

Often adding arch support will go a long way toward solving the problem— although an overly intense or rigid arch support, or one that doesn’t fit well, can contribute to causing it, as once happened to me. Try different shoes and different arch supports to see what seems to work best for you. You don’t have to spend a fortune on orthotics to start with; begin with inexpensive store-bought types and see how you do. It’s possible that you will in fact need custom orthotics in the long run, but you don’t need to start there, and if someone tries to sell you on very pricey ones, I suggest that you put them off for now. Also, some people are comfortable with very firm arch support, while others need as much softness as possible to comfort their sensitive soles.

I have seen a couple of cases that didn’t respond to these basic strategies, but they are rare. It may take a number of weeks or even months for the pain to resolve completely, but you should be seeing definite improvement soon. If that doesn’t happen, something else is going on and you will want to look further.

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All Healing Is Self-Healing, Part I

A few weeks ago I ranted about one aspect of our dysfunctional medical system, prohibitively high copays. Since then I went to see my chiropractor*, and he mentioned that his patients have been telling him that they would be coming in more often if not for their recently inflated copays. He added that in the past, by this time of year, patients would virtually all have met their deductibles, but now deductibles are so high that 80% of them have not.

What amazes me most is that we are all putting up with this. But then, we’ve learned that we have no power within this system. Many of us have also learned that we don’t have much power over our own health. More than anything, that is what is going to have to change if we are to have any hope of getting health care on a viable and sustainable course.

Last time I gave you a link to a post by my friend James Rolwing, which he began with this crucial statement: “All healing is self-healing.” Please think about that for a moment. Does it sound true to you? Does it have exceptions? Does it feel liberating, or does it make you a little uneasy?

All any of us in health care can do, for any amount of money, is to aid the body’s and the mind’s own natural healing processes. Even in the case of the most drastic interventions, such as a joint replacement or organ transplant, the body must take what has been added and make it work, while repairing the tissue around the new portions. Surgery can remove damaged tissue or stitch it together, sometimes in truly ingenious and astonishing ways, but there is no force on this earth that can heal surgical incisions except the body’s own innate ability. We do what we can, and then we must wait.

But what about drugs, you say. Drugs make direct changes in body functions. Yes, but the body must metabolize and make use of the drugs, and individual bodies do that in individual ways.

When I do acupuncture I am acutely aware of the fact that all I can do with needles is to give signals to the body about what it needs to do to get back into balance. I can use needles to talk to the body through obviously physical means, engendering tiny electrical currents and stimulating the release of substances such as neurotransmitters and hormones, as well as the subtler energetic signaling that medicine understands less clearly. I can ask for increased circulation or for excess fluids to dissipate. I can ask for whatever I care to, but then the body will do exactly what it wants to do and is able to do, no more and no less.

This is not so much a limitation as a gift, though it can be frustrating to find the optimal way to get the body to respond. Most of the effort and cost in American health care goes to dealing with chronic and often very confusing conditions, and there is contention and controversy about how to treat them. If we say that we want people to have access to health care, what exactly do we want them to be able to access? What is our underlying belief system about how to deal with diabetes or fibromyalgia or cardiovascular disease or even simple aging? I think you have a pretty good idea of how things stand in the medical world at present. We do a lot of fixing but not a tremendous amount of healing, lots of sick care but not so much health care.

How do we find a path to health for ourselves as individuals and as a society? How do we take responsibility for our health in concrete ways? We know about fundamentals like nutrition and exercise (though even those are fraught with controversy), which in themselves could transform our lives if we would do what we know we should. There is far more that we can do, at least if we are fortunate enough to have access to the information we need and the openness to make use of it.

Here James outlines two possible ways of thinking about our bodily discomforts:

“Essentially, we have two choices of dealing with a symptom. We can drive it back below the threshold of our awareness (a suppressive approach) or we can participate with it (an expressive approach). With suppression a door is closed, and with expression a whole world opens up.

“Most of what is typically described as healing occurs as the result of suppressive mechanisms. Painkillers and antidepressants are obvious examples, but any type of therapy can employ a suppressive approach. It is often a fear-based strategy, as we unconsciously fear to examine what is underneath the symptom.

“Expressive healing describes the mechanism of self-healing, and views a symptom as an indication that something within us is asking for acknowledgement, most often trapped or repressed feelings and emotions. Relief or resolution occurs as the result of recognizing and giving expression to these underlying sources, because the symptom was only there to point us toward the deeper cause in the first place.”

http://rolwingjames.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/the-intervention-fallacy-part-i-how-it-starts/

While I was working on this post, my right arm and hand were giving me a lot of grief, impossible to ignore, just in time to help me think about how to apply what I was writing about. That was what sent me to the chiropractor. You might wonder why I needed to/chose to do that, since one’s physical structure ought to be able to right itself naturally. In fact, that’s an essential concept in chiropractic, the body’s innate wisdom and healing capacity. Well, I had been doing everything I could come up with on my own, and it wasn’t enough. I was still having disabling pain and dysfunction, and I needed this kind of assistance. (It’s OK to acknowledge that we can’t do everything alone; that’s not abdicating responsibility for oneself.) Getting my bones pushed back into place helped the acute situation quite a bit, though that also brought other aspects of the pattern to light, which I then needed to deal with. I still had to work with the emotional issues that had been stored in that area of my body; that is, I had to do expressive healing. It was very clear that I had to do that, and that the pain would not resolve otherwise. In the midst of it I went for an Alexander Technique session** to get some guidance in releasing the habitual tensions that were feeding into the problem and to help move the stuck emotional content. It all took a lot of time and effort, especially considering that most of it was a matter of simply letting go! I’m doing a great deal better now. Maybe I even know a bit more about how to avoid this in the future.
Here’s a case for you to contemplate:

A patient of mine who is disabled and on Medicare hit the “donut hole” recently.  A drug which has helped immensely with his diabetes will now cost him $295 per month. That will be the case for four months, one third of this year, even though he is insured— all the way till next year. (This would not happen in the same way with private insurance or with Medicaid, only with Medicare.) His family makes $1000 per year too much to get any kind of extra subsidy. He’ll never get out of the donut hole, because he won’t be able to pay out of pocket up to the amount where coverage would kick in again. They might as well ask him for $2950 per month— he simply can’t afford that $295. He’s already tried the other available medications, some of which are cheaper, and this one worked tremendously better. I could see a marked difference in his condition with it, and I’m sure his PCP was delighted to see what it was doing. So much for that.

If complications from his diabetes put him in the hospital for even one day, that will cost us all more than we would pay to cover his medication for the rest of the year. Our country is being financially stupid as well as cruel to this man. And our vaunted medical breakthroughs are meaningless if our doctors can’t get them to the patients.

This gentleman is a superb energy healer himself, and he does everything as naturally as he can to take care of himself. He has had some success in the past with herbs to control his troublesome symptoms, and he is exploring herbal options again. After a period of being enraged with the system, he decided that the present situation might be an opportunity to find a better way to deal with his blood sugar. At least, he pointed out, he won’t have to worry about the potential side effects of the drug. He already does all the obvious things with diet and exercise, you understand, and with his mental attitude. We’ll see what else he and I can come up with.

Update!!!  My patient has been able to get his meds through a free sample program at Presbyterian.  It took quite a while before this happened, and when he first (and second and third) inquired he wasn’t told this was possible, but the system did come through for him.  He was already developing preventable problems while waiting, however.

 

*Terence Timm, DC. I’d refer you to him except that (waaahhh!) he is retiring very soon.
** with Karen DeWig. http://alexanderabq.wordpress.com/

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Digging Deep, Tunnelling Through

Kuan Yin of My Office.
(Officially, a Kuan Yin of the Spring, with a tiny companion, and some incense from her temple at Asakasa in Tokyo. Kuan Yin of a Thousand Arms might be a better representation of a one-person business with its multitude of details and responsibilities!)

Sometimes “Spirit,” in whatever form it takes, tells me to stop asking for help and rely on my own resources.  Like Kuan Yin at the channeling class I described to you, telling me that I didn’t need her.  I recently mentioned this to a Buddhist friend, and he thought that was awfully strange; Kuan Yin is available for everyone, all the time, he said.  Maybe it wasn’t really her?  That thought had crossed my mind too.  There is my perennial question again– how do we know when They are real, and are who they say they are?

I’m willing to accept that it may be important to my learning and development, at least at certain times, to dig deep and strive to discover what I can do that I don’t believe or realize I can.  That’s fine.  But geez, folks, can’t a girl ask for some backup at least?

The past few weeks have been one of those periods that come along now and then, where the universe feels strangely empty and I can’t connect with anyone Out There.  No Fryderyk, no anybody.  One day last week I felt just too lonesome and was unwilling to go on that way.  I went into meditation and asked, as Betsy Morgan Coffman teaches, for the highest and best guide available, no specifics, no preconceived notions.  I don’t normally do that, because normally I know exactly who I’m trying to reach.

Something came along right away.  Whatever it was started tunneling away from me, quickly, like a small burrowing animal in the earth.  I couldn’t see what sort of animal it might be, but it was pulling me along with it.  Then it suddenly flipped me around to the front so that I was in charge of the digging myself!  I found that we were digging in a curve back around toward the middle of my body, which was where we ended up.  Sigh.  It couldn’t have been clearer, or more clichéd.  Find your answers inside yourself!  And did I say something about digging deep?

I was curious to know the identity of the creature who had brought me this message.  Holding the images of various animals in mind, I asked.  Gopher?  Rabbit?  Naked mole rat?  Termite, for heaven’s sake?  When I asked if it was a mole, that picture resonated, and the mole image moved into the center of my chest and settled there in a gentle, comforting, small furry mammal way.  And there it stayed.

All that felt like it involved a being other than myself.  The next experience was less clearly so.

Kuan Yin crossed my mind, called up by the thought of that conversation with my friend.  Was she available?  As I wondered, I found that traditional images of the bodhisattva were descending around me, so that I was inside them, looking out through them, as if I were inhabiting a statue or painting, or rather a metamorphosing succession of them.  The images clarified until I could feel an outline of white porcelain surrounding me, her ornate robes and headdress, her smooth, tranquil face.  It was odd.  To an extent I felt that an energy much larger than myself was pouring into me and fueling this process, but there was not much sense of an entity being with me or in touch with me.  Just me embodying the images, having to be Kuan Yin for myself and I suppose for others.  Still having to find my own resources.  Isn’t that a bit too big of a job for the likes of me, being Kuan Yin?

A thought floated through about challenges some of my friends are going through, and I asked for guidance “for those who are trying to love.”  She, I, or someone replied, “If you are trying to love, you are succeeding.”

I’ve said, and I still believe, that an encounter with a genuine spiritual guide, even if it’s our own higher self, will be empowering and uplifting.  A being that tries to control us or insist that we must follow its teaching is not a source we should listen to.  My sources seem to be almost too much the opposite sometimes– they only allow complete freedom and autonomy, they insist on it.  If I protest that I’m not as capable as they say I am, they keep telling me that I can do more than I think I can.  Fryderyk has made a particular habit of that over the years, and that’s one reason I so appreciate having him for a teacher.

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A day or two after all that occurred, after nearly a month and a half of absence, my musician friend returned, visiting while I practiced some Bach on the harpsichord.  (I had thought that this harpsichord, borrowed from a friend– a miracle in itself– would surely attract his attention as soon as it entered my life, but I was wrong.)  Later, I asked if he had anything to say about the instrument or my efforts with it.  The intense experience this elicited went far beyond anything so mundane.  I don’t understand it yet, and I’m not even going to try to describe what it felt like here, except to say that it was like a spiritual open-heart surgery, a lot like what happened at the shamanic workshop.  I’ve again been changed, and I don’t yet know in what ways.

During that experience, my body and everything around it looked purple to my inner vision.  His favorite color.  One way, I suppose, of identifying himself.

This latest experience, too, seemed designed to help me access my own deep resources; Fryderyk didn’t offer any advice or opinions, but rather pulled something out of me that I only vaguely knew was there, or perhaps had forgotten.  But when it’s really been needed (as at the shamanic workshop), of course he has directly helped me.  I’m afraid the following may make him sound too good to be true, but it’s exactly what happened, without embellishment.  I’m posting this story now because it illustrates: specific, unequivocally benevolent actions by a noncorporeal entity; an insight into some factors that might make spirit communication more difficult; and yet again, a spirit contact expanding my own abilities.

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A weird effect occurred while I was sick in late December 2006.  There was an unbelievable amount of phlegm involved with this illness, and it seemed to perfectly fit the Oriental medicine definition of phlegm, both substantial and insubstantial.  For the first couple of days I had a severe, intractable sore throat, kept going by a constant and copious postnasal drip.  Then for a couple more days my sinuses, nose, and ears felt like they were packed with cement, while the sore throat continued.  During the “cement period,” I was somehow locked up inside my head.  It was exactly like the classic Chinese description of phlegm blocking the orifices.  In addition to the goo on the inside, it felt like there was a thick coating of plastic or something all around my skull.  My spirit, my Qi, couldn’t reach through that barrier for any purpose.  Just a day before I had been able to pull in plenty of energy to help myself feel stronger and more alert, and now I was totally disconnected from the power supply.

What I wanted most to do was to get some help for my throat.  Nothing was working, not acupuncture, herbs, sprays, saltwater, mass quantities of lemon and honey… I couldn’t sleep with the pain and I had had enough.  I was sure that if I could find Fryderyk, he could take the pain away.  I was sure of that because he had done it before.

Back in the summer of 1993, just a few months after I first met him, I developed a persistent, high-pitched, barking cough that went on 24 hours a day for weeks.  I sounded like a Chihuahua. The MD said that it was croup, and that I would just have to wait for it to go away.  He mentioned that it was odd for an adult to get it.  I had a number of odd illnesses that year, though; apparently the cancer that was brewing in my cervix was beating down my immune system.  Whatever the definition of the cough, it was like nothing I had ever experienced, and nothing, including codeine, stopped it.  (This was before I went to acupuncture school, by the way; I didn’t try needles or herbs till after the episode I’m describing. They did help more than the other interventions.)  I took up sleeping in the living room, to the extent that I could sleep at all, to try to get as far as possible from my husband and daughter, but the sound must still have driven them to distraction.

The cough, I was told, related to an irritation of my epiglottis, which was supposed to be the focus of the infection.  That sounded about right, because I could feel a distinct, circumscribed, painful spot at the top of my throat.  Various painful areas came and went as time went on, including a nasty one where my diaphragm attached at the xiphoid process, but the epiglottis stayed sore all the time.

About three weeks into this sorry situation, Fryderyk made an attempt to help.  (And where had he been for those three weeks, I’d like to know.)  This was still a new experience for me, to have him do a really invasive treatment on me.  I remember distinctly the feeling that he was putting his fingers down my throat.  That sounds disgusting, but I didn’t experience it as obnoxious, just sort of ticklish.  I trusted him to know how to help me.  He poked around for a few seconds or so, and the pain completely stopped and did not return.

The cough was another matter.  It felt like Fryderyk was experimenting, trying to find a way to get at the cough, but his efforts kept backfiring.  Every time he touched that spot on my epiglottis, he would set off another coughing jag.  I did my best to relax and help him, but to no avail.  We eventually gave up.  I coughed for about another week, but I didn’t mind too much because there was no pain or irritation anymore.

At that time, I was under the impression that Fryderyk was new to healing work.  I know now that he already possessed at least some mastery and that he was enthusiastic about doing healing.  What seemed to me to be tentativeness did not indicate a lack of experience or confidence.

So 13 years later I was thinking nostalgically about this episode, wishing he would visit, and feeling a bit neglected.  But when I tried to put in a “phone call” to my friend, I found that the lines were down.

I also felt very much in need of comforting, but I didn’t want to get too physically close to my husband or anyone else for fear of passing on viruses.  Not only was I unable to snuggle up to Fryderyk, I couldn’t even make a noncorporeal visit to Bob, something that’s usually so easy.

A day or so later, I felt the plastic coating lift from my head.  The disgusting glop in my sinuses and nose started to drain, which of course was ickier still, but at least it was leaving my body.  And I could reach the larger world again.  As soon as I could, as loudly and conspicuously as I could, I yelled for Fryderyk.

And got a reply.  As I’ve said, I don’t like begging him for help, complaining, whining, etc., but I really did need help.  He didn’t seem to mind the call; as soon as I pointed out the problem in my throat, he did something about it.  This time I didn’t feel anything entering my throat, just warmth in my spine in the upper part of my neck.  The pain stopped within seconds.  This time, too, there didn’t seem to be anything he could do about the cough, but since it was necessary to clear all that phlegm from my chest, coughing seemed like a good idea.

Once I got him involved, Fryderyk kept checking on me over the next few days, which I appreciated.  He did more of a general sort of healing, which did help me to feel perkier and less ill.

As soon as I got back to work with patients, someone with the same killer sore throat needed me.  I was confident that energy work would take care of it, and that I could do the same thing for that woman that Fryderyk had done for me.  And I did, happy to pass on the gift.

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More Disappearances

Right after I wrote the last post about Beth’s success with her thyroid, I heard from someone who had rid herself of uterine tumors in a similar way, without having any training in visualization.  I don’t have any experiences quite like that to report about myself, but I have had the good fortune to participate in a few with my patients.  Here are some cases I’ve written about in the past couple of years:

It’s always good to have objective, immediate proof that a treatment is working.  When there are physical lumps, cysts, or tumors, and they disappear completely, that’s about as objective as it can get.  I have had three cases of patients who requested treatment for large, palpable, uncomfortable lumps in their breasts.  In one case, no change occurred after a long series of sessions with me.  In another, the patient went home after a treatment and cried inconsolably for a few days, during which time the lump gradually dissolved.  There was nothing left of it, and it never came back.

The third case was more complicated, and had an interesting conclusion.  A few years ago,  L. was having this kind of problem in both breasts.  I treated her a number of times, and the lumps in the left breast resolved well.   However, a significant one remained in the right breast, and the pain was persistent.  Her MD had recommended a biopsy, but both the history of the condition and L.’s intuition said that would be senseless and would only cause needless damage.  I concurred.

I had done everything I could think of, both in the way of needles and in hands-on work, and we didn’t seem to be making any progress.  L. had done everything she could think of from her end, too.  She told me that both she and a friend had had a sense of a spirit guide, one who was already known to her, trying to get involved.  In their perceptions, he looked like an old-fashioned Bedouin dressed in desert robes, and he was poking at the side of L.’s chest with the tip of a sword.  It didn’t appear that he was trying to hurt her, or to directly destroy the lump, but simply to bring her attention to the area.

I never saw the Arab-looking guy, but at her next appointment I was very much aware of an extra personage in the room, and L. told me that it was him.  The being conveyed to me that I should put my hands on both sides of L.’s chest and direct the Qi straight through her body, rather than concentrating directly on the lump the way I had been doing.  I was certainly open to suggestions by that time, and I did as he asked.  I didn’t feel that the “Arab” was helping me do the actual work, only that he was staying close by and observing.  I tried to stay open to anything else he might want me to know, but there didn’t seem to be anything more.  I held that hand position for a while, until there was a feeling that nothing further needed to be done.  Suddenly I had a clear vision of a beautiful, many-petaled yellow flower opening over L.’s body in the area of the lump.  It’s usual for me to perceive a burst of light or energy as a blockage dissipates, but this was unique in my experience, and made a memorable impression.

I don’t know why this method worked better than what I had done before, but the lump quickly disappeared.  As of this writing, L. has never had any more trouble in that area.

A tumor or cyst can be an accretion of emotional or psychological gunk that the person’s system couldn’t process, which seemed to be the case with the woman who cried for days while hers was dissolving.  A physical mass may also symbolize the psychological issue.  In the next story, the symbolic mass had already been removed, but the issue was still present in the patient’s body, and it expressed itself in an amazing way.

Many years ago, A. had had surgery for a large cyst in her left ovary.  This had left her with scar tissue and damage to the left side of her colon, which has bothered her ever since.  We’d been working on that area for a while, with some improvement, and with all the types of healing she had been trying, she was getting down to some deep and nasty emotional layers.  Here’s what happened at one appointment.  It was unusually vivid, almost palpable as well as visual, very dramatic, like a little movie.

A. asked me to look specifically at the area of the left ovary.  She was remembering an emotional trauma that took place around the time of the surgery, and she wanted to see what I could do with that fact.  I started doing energy work as I usually do, concentrating on the ovary.  After a few minutes a round object a couple of inches in diameter took shape before my eyes, floating over A.’s body at the surgical site.  I couldn’t figure out why I was seeing the cyst, when obviously it had been surgically removed.  Soon the cyst appeared to move toward the midline, then settled into A.’s uterus.  ???  I watched with great curiosity.  Suddenly a shadowy sort of swelling grew above A.’s abdomen.  It got bigger and bigger, ending up at the size of a full-term pregnancy.  Now I was really getting confused.  I knew that A. had a couple of grown children, and during her initial intake, she hadn’t told me about any other pregnancies.  The image I saw was telling me that the cyst had represented another child who had never come into being– the best A.’s body could do to symbolize a lost pregnancy, as if she had desired a child but had never had one.  This didn’t make much sense to me in terms of A.’s history, and besides, my interpretation of the symbolism was trite and obvious, something I might have made up.  I kept looking away and looking back, but the vision remained just the same.  It was time to report it to the patient.

It happens rather often these days that I see something quite unexpected, something that I think can’t possibly be right, and I screw up my courage and tell the patient about it, and the patient tells me why it really makes perfect sense after all.  You may have guessed what had happened in this case.  All those years ago, A. had had an abortion.  Because this lady is so thoroughly Catholic, I would never have expected that.  When I told A. that I was seeing a pregnancy and that the cyst related to that, she told me all about her situation at the time of the abortion.  There were a lot of tears; it was hard for me to deal with too.  We opened a door to healing that hadn’t been possible before.  For whatever reason, her body’s own agenda had not allowed this to come up earlier.  Now it was time.

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