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 Spirituality and Health: Through Illness to Self-Realization 

Caroline, in her wheelchair for years with multiple sclerosis, has been steadily improving over the past year-and-a-half on a program of strict nutrition prescribed by Dr. Joseph Evers of Germany plus vitamin and mineral supplementation and homeopathic remedies-namely, Lathyrus (chickpea), which helped her regain full bladder control and helped stimulate leg movements, plus nux vomica, which helped overcome stiffness, and other prescriptions made on a monthly basis.

She then participated as much as she could in Meadowlark's body movement and art programs and had daily workouts on a stationary bicycle to build up her small leg muscles. She is now able to live by herself, walk up and down stairs unaided except by a handrail, walk out to her mailbox with the aid of canes, and has taken up dress-making to help support herself. Very important in giving her the motivation to stick with her program was a "waking dream" experience in which she saw herself on a mountain running and walking with no hesitation.

Trudy, ill with a chronic condition, was never able to visualize the trips she had hoped to make with her husband, nor could she play the piano, as she had done in the past. In three months spent at Meadowlark she expected our staff to do everything for her. She did not improve.

How do we regard our bodies? How do we see ourselves performing life's role? No great change ever came without vast exercise of the imaginative function and active anticipation. That which we hold in our minds is largely what we will become. Every thought filled with deep feeling that we pronounce or direct toward our person or any organ in our body is a direct command to our subconscious mind and will be involved in bringing about changes, altering the body's homeostatic mechanism for better or for worse.

It is helpful for us to think of the conscious mind as the captain of our ship, standing on the bridge and directing our body. It relays the orders to the subconscious mind, the ship's engineer, who is below deck and has no choice except to follow orders.

There can be no lasting healing without the cooperation and effort of the patient. Anyone who thinks the doctor is going to do everything for him is in for a sad disappointment. At most the doctor can only remove troublesome symptoms. He cannot change the inner and deep-seated causes of disease. He is, or should be, the leader and along with the psychologist and minister can only point out direction along the proper path. The patient must walk the path.

Every cell in the human body has its own level of consciousness and is, as it were, a member of the body's orchestra, responsive to the direction it receives from the mind of the person. The conductor who loves the members of his orchestra has a vastly greater potential to produce great music than the one who is indifferent or actually working at odds with its members.

The following comments frequently made by patients show their attitudes toward their bodies: "I don't know why my stomach never seems to be able to digest any food without a lot of gas." "That back of mine never gives me any peace." "If it weren't for my d knee . . ." Such statements are the fuels that keep disease processes alive and well. When one establishes a retreat center for healing, the first essential is not, as I had previously thought, a few hundred thousand dollars. It is, rather, a small group of dedicated people who are well along on the path of self-discovery and are ready to serve others and able to establish an atmosphere of love.

The guest who arrives with little or no sense of self-appreciation and is thoroughly discouraged needs to be waited on, loved, and appreciated until he or she can begin to feel accepted. Illness of all types is accompanied by great feelings of isolation in the patient; he hurts and longs for understanding. Frequently he is silent and fails to hear words that may be spoken to him, so high are the walls of his isolation.

There are four steps in the opening up and recognition of the self. First, there is the risk, then opening the door of self, followed by communication, and finally trusting and moving into the state of honesty and real openness. The first message of true healing is spoken in silence, with a look, with a touch, all of which carry the message "I care."

Some weeks after leaving Meadowlark, Susan wrote to me:
You opened your arms and took me in,
You asked no questions,
You shared your love with no strings attached,
You listened to my confused searchings,
You trusted my goodness, even when you saw none,
You opened vast new vistas for my mind to explore,
You gave the second chance to find- meaning and purpose,
You put the stars back in my sky.

I come to you
for with you I know
the exquisite joy of
sharing souls.

For with you I taste
of the substance of the kingdom of God
For with you I can sit around in my bare bones and just BE.

After the patient has found some feelings of worth, there must be recovery of an ability to communicate. At first many guests must be alone in their own rooms, too much hurt by life to risk contact with others at a common table for meals. It matters little whether the illness is predominantly mental, emotional, or physical, the sense of isolation is very frequently there. In a group experience, in a relaxation class, or an experience in art, it is easier to stay on the sidelines. Then, finally, comes the day when the person allows the first little revelation of himself. Progress from this point is dependent upon how the revelation is received.

In a group, feelings may gradually emerge. "I never would have thought that Mary has had an experience so much like my own." Or "I never would have guessed that our group leader would have had such awful thoughts during his own period of therapy, so maybe there is hope for me." Or "I never realized that dreams could tell us so much about our own personal lives." And so communication gradually builds up, and self-constructed walls of isolation start to crumble.

On the Lake of Zug, in Switzerland, about thirty miles from Zurich, is the Landhaus Murpfli, a small therapeutic community.6 There, under the direction of Max E. Bircher, M.D., this dimension of the healing arts is carried on. As one enters, one reads an inscription over the door: Porta Tibi Patet Magis Cor, which means "The door is open and even more the heart."

One of the important times of day is the Teestunde, or tea hour. This is held in the small meditation room. The guests and Dr. Bircher sit in a circle facing a shallow tiled pool. From a chandelier above the pool falls drop after drop of water, each of which disturbs the pool surface and sends out its circular waves that engulf the whole pool and finally disappear. On one particular day the doctor had shown a film of himself and his teacher patiently working at a potter's wheel. Afterward, an American patient attempted to describe a phase of her recovery at this small, yet world-famous, clinic.

I loved seeing you, also with this sacred concentration, trying and failing and trying again. And then, the masterpieces that you finally had the power and the knowledge and understanding and sorrow and love to create.... Then you, came to my door, and though I had wanted to shut out the entire world, I let you in. I don't know what brought you there. I don't know why you thought I would be there . . . in such need. Of what? Answers perhaps or more questions, maybe-but you came; and once more I tried to draw you out, in your entirety, into me through my eyes. Sometimes the tears welled up as I spoke to you of the inexplicable complexities. You wiped away a tear with such gentleness that another came to take its place. I tried to talk, but all I could think of was how little I could ever talk to you; how little time there could ever be; of how late in our lives we had met; that there was so little time to learn from you everything of importance and of worth.

I thought again in passing how you looked more tired than anyone I had ever seen. My heart ached for you to carry all that load of tiredness and that you might be too tired to convey to me anything of the great riches you have gathered in your life. But through your fatigue, you answered me with much quiet.7

Until quite recently psychology and psychiatry have been merely content to deal with the discovery and recognition of the ego and have been quite unaware of the Real Self. However, Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli, being eminently cognizant of the transcendent qualities of man, dared to launch out into man's depth dimensions and have profoundly influenced the emerging and widening concepts of human consciousness. In this country Abraham Maslow, Ira Progoff, Robert Gerard, Jack Cooper, and others have done, and are doing, much to broaden the scope of the psychological sciences in this direction.

Here in detail is something of Dr. Assagioli's concept of the human psyche as he describes it in his definition of Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles.

Psychosynthesis should not be looked upon as a single psychological doctrine or procedure. It is a dramatic conception of the psychic life which portrays as a constant interplay and conflict between the many different and contrasting forces and a unifying center which tends to control, harmonize and use them creatively. Psychosynthesis is a combination of several methods of inner action, aiming first at development of personality, then at the harmonious coordination and unification with the self.

These phases may be called respectively personal and spiritual psychosynthesis. The isolated individual doesn't exist. Every person has intimate relations with other persons which make all interdependent. Moreover, each and all are included in and are a part of the super-individual reality.8

The Waking Dream
While many subjects are considered to be within the realm of this vast area of psychology, we shall deal only with the technique of the reve eveille, or waking dream, first described by Robert Desoille. The diagram below is intended to give a picture of human consciousness. The lower consciousness is the repository of one's primitive urges and his many complexes, fears, anxieties, and obsessions. The middle consciousness is that portion of the mind that is readily accessible in one's everyday life.

1. The lower unconscious
2. The middle unconscious
3. The superconscious
4. The field of consciousness
5. The conscious self or "I"
6. The Higher Self
7. The collective unconscious
The superconscious is the repository of higher intuitions, aspirations, and artistic, philosophical, and scientific materials. It is the source of altruistic love and the area of genius. The field of consciousness is the part of personality of which one is immediately aware, filled with present thoughts, sensations, and desires. The "I," or center of pure self-awareness, is distinguished from the above-mentioned field of that awareness.

The Higher Self is the immortal aspect of one's being, which never sleeps and relates to the totality of life. It is that presence described by Brother Lawrence in his Practice of the Presence of God, the Christ's presence, or the Buddha state of mind.9 Last, the collective unconscious, a term used by Jung, describes the process of "osmotic" relationship the individual has with his total psychological environment and includes the archetypal images of dreams, psychic experiences, and so on.

In the waking dream technique, following a period of induced relaxation, mental suggestions are presented to the patient, which he may accept or reject at his will, such as the following: Can you visualize a mountain, a lighthouse, a bird? . . . Then the patient has the opportunity to climb a mountain, ascend the stairs of the lighthouse, or even fly on the back of the bird.

If he is not ready for this stage, the suggestion will be refused or accepted then rejected. In the case of the mountain, for example, the ascent may not be completed. One patient who was not ready for the ascent never climbed up the stairs in the lighthouse and instead set up housekeeping on the ground floor.

(Excerpted from Healing for Everyone)
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 About The Author
Evarts Loomis MDRegarded as “the father of holistic medicine,” Evarts G. Loomis, MD, was an internationally known homeopathic physician, surgeon, author, lecturer, and visionary. Preferring to be called “Evarts” rather than “doctor,”......more
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