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Articles    H2'ed 2/12/10

The Miracle of Peacefulness

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This problem of self-blame is rampant in our culture. Doctors ask me if I don't encourage people to feel worse if they don't get well. I respond that my first task is to help them abandon the concept of blame. I aim to nurture compassion and loving kindness. I understand that people are always doing the best they can, given what they have learned (beliefs and experience) and what resources are available to them (income, social class, education). No one would intentionally give herself cancer. No one would purposefully give herself AIDS. No one would press a button to destroy her kidneys, except for the most desperately suicidal, and even they are still doing the best possible given their beliefs and resources.

People do not make mistakes; they make unsuccessful attempts to heal. Even the antisocial criminal is struggling, however unconsciously, to heal some aspect of his or her life, perhaps to steal back the love he or she was never given.

An example brings these concepts alive within a unique human being, and shows some of the ways I help people find peacefulness. Ursula was a 47-year-old woman healing uterine fibroids and migraine headaches. Through our work together, her fibroids had dramatically shrunk and her headaches were almost gone. She came to the session I want to describe, abruptly different, feeling drained and wanting to give up. Suddenly, she was having fantasies of dying in her sleep. During the past week, her 16-year-old daughter had spent a night of intense retching after getting terribly drunk at her birthday party. Her son had been arrested for assault. One of her psychotherapy clients had killed himself. Her younger boyfriend had declared his inability to make a commitment because she was too old. Business was falling off and she worried about money. A major client had bounced a check on her and hadn't yet replaced it. Finally, she felt as if she was coming down with a major sinus infection, or at least a bad cold.

Ursula looked absolutely drained. I suggested she lie down with her head to the north so that her brain was closer to wisdom (comes from the direction of the north on the medicine wheel), and that I do energy/body work with her. I began by placing my right hand on the sinus areas above her eyes. My left hand roamed above her body, several inches out of contact, feeling her energy field. All of her energy felt subdued, as if she had contracted her soul into a small ball inside her heart the only area that felt normal (In Chinese Medicine, the heart is the seat of the soul).

Energy healing is hard to describe with words, and some readers will doubt its very existence, imagining that my mind fabricates the feelings and sensations of moving my hand through and above another person's energy field. Science, I would say, is catching up with this, and studies are appearing to demonstrate the validity of these phenomena. Nevertheless, for our purposes in this book, their validity isn't as important as how people respond to the process of therapy.

As my left hand moved above Ursula's body, I felt her energy slowly increasing. I imagined moving healing energy through my right hand and into her sinuses. Having been raised "hybrid Christian," I sometimes imagine when I am working in this way, that the Christ Spirit, or Christ Consciousness, moves through my hand, rearranging molecules and structures in the person's body, thereby creating the healing. I feel comforted by the connections of this feeling with my childhood visions of Christ, even though I understood that my grandmother's version was not basic Christianity. Nevertheless, as I read Christian mystics (Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Matthew Fox, Thomas Merton), I realized that my Christ was their Christ, a higher principle of love and consciousness of all humanity (what my grandmother called the chief spirit of the humans), who heals by mere thought or glance. I felt this healing energy coursing through my right hand into her sinus area. I can't always make this happen on demand, so it's an honor and a privileged when it does.

On impulse, I began to talk to Ursula about stepping back and looking at her life the way angels would see her. "How would they see me?" she asked, genuinely puzzled, turning her head on the blue naugahide of the massage table to peer at me. She was sweating at the edge of her short, brown hair. The setting sun was still bright against the white wall.

"They see you as exquisitely precious and lovely beyond belief," I answered. "They see your life as a beautiful work of art, whether you heal or not, whether you live another day or not, whether you solve any of your problems or not, whether your children succeed or not, whether your clients live or die, pay or don't pay. You and your life are art in their dimension, and no human life is bad art. Even the most sordid life is appreciated and honored there. Their joy in you, your suffering and pain, your happiness and pleasure, is so complete, that you need not do one more thing for them to love you passionately forever." Street lights were beginning to flicker on outside the window.

"How do you know this?" she said. I could see people crossing the street at the corner by Carnegie Hall.

I sheepishly replied, "I've had some conversations with them." Here's where I find myself walking on thin ice. My brief conversations with angels have been among the most profound, peak experiences of my life. Though some would argue that these experiences are just imagined, I think not, because they have always changed me for the better. They gave me more compassion, more kindness, more love for humanity, more flexibility, more tolerance, and more willingness to accept and forgive the foibles of others. They made me a better human being and a better doctor. If imaginary, I need more of these fantasies, and wish I could produce them on demand. In distinction, the visions of psychotic patients, imagined or real, are definitely not angelic, for theirs aggravate their fear and deepen their suffering. The signs of Shelley's steakhouse reflected red against the opposite graying wall.

"One of my most powerful experiences," I continued, "happened during midnight mass on Christmas Eve in a wooden, Catholic Church in South Burlington, Vermont. The choir was singing the Hallelujah Chorus. I looked at the window above the cross, and saw an angel outside, seemingly hanging in space, wings folded behind him. Then feelings and words exploded inside my mind. (Others have reported similar experiences.)

"'We have to be careful when we talk to you,' he said, "for even a small part of the love we feel for you would destroy your nervous system. We have to give you very small doses of what we feel or we would hurt you.' I sensed the potential for pain even in the ecstasy of that contact. He proceeded to explain, or rather, give me an instantaneous understanding that surpassed what is possible with words or pictures, of their view of us -- of us as works of arts, of their dimension as holding a kind of gallery in which each of our lives can be seen in its entirety as a multi-dimensional structure, a dimension outside of time in which beginning and end are present together.

"I try to communicate that vision directly or indirectly to my patients. I try to teach them to love themselves at least a small part of how an angel would love them. So maybe we could just begin to imagine that level of unconditional love. Humor me, and play with imagining that everything about your life is exquisitely perfect just the way it is."

I did have other perspectives on Ursula's life problems. I knew that her daughter was a very bright, athletic, straight-A student in a difficult private school. I knew that her son had fought back from a bitter depression in which he had almost killed himself, and was doing quite well. I had heard the story of his "assault" and felt certain the charges would be dropped. I had met her boyfriend, and believed she would be happier without him. He was self-centered and unable to care for her in the manner she deserved. I knew she was a very good therapist. We had talked about her patient at length when he was still alive, and I knew she had done everything possible. He had actually died in a psychiatric hospital, relieving her of any liability or even culpability for his demise in the eyes of established psychiatry. She had done everything correctly in the conventional sense of psychotherapy. She had just not saved him, as she had so desperately wanted to do. That was why she blamed herself for this death that had happened only days before. Therefore, I could afford to focus on unconditional love, self-forgiveness, and loving kindness. As we did, her energy field grew stronger and stronger. Her nose seemed less stuffy. She breathed easier.

I finished by rubbing points on her neck and skull that are related to sinus problems. I had felt blockage in the movement of energy at these areas. Then I used a technique called craniosacral therapy in which subtle pressure is applied to the cranial bones to make shifts so that energy (and spinal fluid inside) can flow more smoothly. Her breathing deepened. Her body relaxed. She felt more calm and peaceful. She was ready to continue the work we were doing on shrinking her uterine fibroid* and eliminating the remainder of her migraine pain. *See my paper on alternative treatment of uterine fibroids.

I was encouraging Ursula to lovingly see herself as perfect. She could only do so by letting go of self-blame. Eliminating self-blame is so different from the individualistic concept of some "New Age" approaches that tell people, "you created your illness, now get over it." From this limited understanding of the complexity of health and disease, people feel like failures if they can't heal their cancer (for example). The complexity of health and healing is phenomenal, and means that our small minds can't control (or even begin to imagine) the myriad of forces involved in making us sick or making us well. But everyone is capable of some degree of personal and spiritual transformation, and even of imagining the possibility of angelic intervention and miraculous healing. These are possible, but not something to feel guilty about if not achieved.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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