Let me ask you, what healing do you seek?
As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I talk to people about their aches and pains, their injuries, their digestion. We talk about their anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes or allergies, and I try to help. And yes, the medicine does help with these things.
The deeper question is, what does each of us really seek in terms of healing? What is the deepest longing in one’s own being? Is it to get rid of your hot flashes and knee pain, or are you looking for something else?
I think we are each looking for an existential balm, a kind of transcendental salve that will soothe our wounds and bring peace to our minds. So when people walk into my clinic, or come to our meditation centre, I meet them with the view that we’re all really seeking healing from occlusions, blocks, and constrictions of the mind.
And if you’re worried that your body is left out of this equation, it’s a two-for-one deal. Mind and body are one, a unified consciousness. In other words, you experience your body in your mind.
Heal your mind, then, – and expand your consciousness – and your body comes along for a much more easeful ride, despite still being subject to death, decay, and impermanence. And the interesting thing is that it works both ways – when we change the body, we also change the mind.
This brings me to how I’ve found Dharma practice to be indispensable, because it works on the mind as well as the body. And so with Dharma practice we get catalysts for change at both ends of the spectrum.
What support for healing have I found in Dharma practice?
1) Vision, Refuge
There’s no place like home…and there’s nothing that supports this journey of Great Healing as what we call “refuge”. Our refuge is what we put our first, what we turn to when things turn difficult. To “take refuge” then is to trust the transcendental rather than transitory objects, like our bodies, relationships, or possessions.
When we do this and make choices with our refuge in the right place, the universe supports us because we are walking our path of healing.
To maintain this refuge, I’ve found it indispensable to have a teacher, a community, and a set of time-tested tools to guide one on the hero’s journey. The confidence this brings is pure gold. We can do it because we see others doing it and others still who have already done it. It gives us the strength to walk the path. We can see the goal, have something to work toward, giving us a vision that gives pure life force to a human being.
This very physical part of the foundation practice is a great example of how physical healing can happen. Prostrations are considered “foundation” work in Vajrayana Buddhism for a reason – they dearmour the body, allowing both release and restrengthening to occur. It starts, or speeds up, the process of rewiring the body.
Prostrations help us move heavy states as they arise by simply keeping the body moving in a form of physical surrender. The sheer number of prostrations required to complete the foundation practice (100,000) builds determination and strengthens the will.
3) Meditation practice
It is the same with meditation practice. Over and over, this practice rewires the habitual mind away from negativity, fears, and worry, toward non-clinging awareness, bliss, joy, and compassion. As the ‘occlusions’ to mind fade away, new neuronal pathways are formed. You literally change your chemistry and are a new person, a more clear, awake and present person. It takes many years, but the effects are lasting…deep and beautiful.
As a member of a healing profession, I’m fascinated by the many approaches and opinions around healing. Chinese medicine, some might say, was originally shamanistic, nature-based and coming from a profound awareness of the nature of the universe and humanity. Now, we live in a mechanistic time. Science is king, it is the new religion and pattern of belief.
Yet when we take science to its most cutting edge, to its deepest wisdom, we find quantum physics, where mind and matter are indeed being proven to be inseparable.
So, I entreat us all to remember this, both us human beings seeking healing and my fellow medical practitioners. Atoms are supposedly 99.99999% empty space. Remember to dwell in that mystery, while still getting relief for that aching knee.
I’ll end by offering a poem that came to me as I wrote the above, I hope you enjoy it.
The Great Healing
Is a saint
A person dwelling in a quiet place
Free of heavy clothes
Yet beautifully adorned
By a clear and radiant unity.
You might get a glimpse
From time to time
Of a free mind
Where you are silent
Where nature opens
There is a settling of dust
And the floorboards melt into forest.
The body might ache
Scrapes and bangs from learning to be human
As the mind learns
To see these as training wheels
As awareness-raising bruises
It begins to laugh.
So let go
With that heavy sack dropped
And heart and mind open to the sky
Feet nestling in the earth
So the Great Healing continues.