Being in the medical profession and as a proponent of holistic care, I frequently come across various misconceptions of what “healing” actually entails. “Holistic” refers to “holism”, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles”. This means that a “holistic” approach to healing is to consider the “whole” person – the mind, the body, and everything that “makes up” that person.
Interestingly, when we begin to define who we are, it becomes a dilemma to find what really “makes up” this entity we think we are. With a little bit of discernment, we can come to realize that our bodies do not define us. Prodding further will reveal that our achievements, wealth, life events (that is, the story of “me”) do not really define us either. And if we push a bit further, the definition of what makes up this “I” will reveal itself to be a conglomeration of beliefs. All beliefs revolve around how the world and I “should” be, and all beliefs are based on what we have learned through our own life experiences (memory), including what we have been taught at home, school, community, religious organizations and leaders, media and so on. Most of us never question these beliefs, and never ask if any of the “shoulds” are really true. And so we live our lives in continuous conflict: what the world or “I” “should be” versus what it is. The voice in the head provides a running commentary – “I should be happier, thinner, healthier, wealthier…” “I should not do this because it goes against my belief..” “He/she/they should be doing this, or should not be doing this..” “This should not be happening to me because I am such a good person..” and on and on and on.. We live and die this way, as slaves to our unexamined beliefs.
In the face of a medical diagnosis, everything that we do conventionally to “heal” stems from a sense of conflict. The “fight against” cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and so on that form the basis of funding organizations, research as well as therapeutic modalities is based on the premise that a person or population “should not” have the particular disease because of an imagined state where the person or population would be happier without it. However, we look at persons and populations without the specific disease and they seem no happier for the lack of it, for they have some other “should not” that keeps them unhappy. The entire language encompassing the management of disease is one of war – to “beat, destroy, conquer..” the xyz disease. The basis of all conflict, be it internal or external is fear. While the fear of death may seem like the “ultimate” fear, often we fear loss of our beliefs even more than death. The attachment to beliefs can be so pivotal to our existence that we find ourselves willing to die to protect them. And so we die holding on to the suffocating pain of fear, unforgiving of ourselves and others,and unwilling to question what we so ardently believe in, right to the very end. In this toxic milieu of internal war, disease sprouts and thrives, ravaging the body and weakening the mind.
The purport of healing holistically is to find and work on the root cause of an ailment. Thus, working on the body alone does not result in healing (it results in “treatment”, a word with a different connotation – the use of an agent, procedure, or regimen, such as a drug, surgery, or exercise, in an attempt to cure or mitigate a disease, condition, or injury according to Webster). Working on the energy body alone does not work either. For true healing to occur, what lies behind both the energy and physical bodies must be addressed. And that which lies behind it all is the conglomeration of beliefs that make up the “I”. This conglomeration of I-ness drives all our habitual ways of thinking and acting. These patterns are so deeply ingrained that we seem to be pushed by the power of habit to run along these grooves, helplessly reacting in habitual ways to everything that arises in our experience. For true healing to occur, we must become willing to change our habitual ways at any cost (even at the cost of losing all those precious beliefs). However, this willingness to change radically does not arise spontaneously for all of us. Often, an external push is needed to jar us out of the deep grooves of habit. A disease is one such push (the others being tragic loss or life event). Thus, all diseases and afflictions are absolute gifts of Grace, for they present us with the opportunities to stop the mind’s ceaseless activity and take stock of who we think we are. A “dis-ease” is an accurate signal that current patterns of thoughts, emotions and behaviors are not serving us, the whole organism to be at “ease”. If we change how we view disease, everything about it changes – our relationship with it, our response to treatment, and that elusive thing, healing.
When we stop viewing disease as an enemy and instead begin to examine what it is pointing to, there is an internal shift from fear to acceptance to love. Fear of the unknown (the effects of disease, death) is replaced by the spaciousness of allowing the disease to show us what we need to see. Paradoxically, surrender to the disease results in deep healing of the wounds of self-loathing, rage, terror and grief that resulted in the disease in the first place. This does not mean that we will be miraculously cured of the disease – that may or may not happen. To surrender is to give up the fight, regardless of what the outcome will be. We don’t surrender with the intent to win – that is merely conflict in disguise. We surrender to surrender, with no hidden agendas.
As soon as we stop fighting, we realize that we were fighting non-existent demons in a non-existent dream. As soon as we stop resisting the disease, we realize that it does not matter – for who we are cannot die. As soon as healing happens, we realize that cure is optional.
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