It may seem strange and something of an accident that a chance encounter on an airplane trip can be a source of healing for two individuals who have never previously met. But it really isn't quite that strange. Healing, as we are discovering, is ongoing and always available. Our homeostatic system is working even when we are asleep, practitioners and their therapies are ready and waiting, mind/body healing, as in this case, may be as readily accessible as the give-and-take of caring in a brief relationship, and the healing power of the spirit can be at hand instantly when we stand in awe of the simple wonders and beauty of life. Exceptional healing is merely the full use of our built-in Whole Healing System. What stands in our way is not our nature, but our allegiance to outdated ideas.
Inner Journeys: Exercising the Mind, Body, and Spirit
Here and in the following chapters I've included a variety of exercises, or inner journeys designed to amplify the text and provide you with a direct experience of the ideas and concepts described here. The exercises can and should be repeated as many times as necessary to maximize your understanding of the text.
You may do the exercises with another person, taking turns reading to each other, or you can tape them and play them back to yourself. I have frequently added material that expands upon or reviews the concepts previously presented in the text. For some individuals, listening to such information can be an important supplement to reading it. In my practice, I suggest that the material be recorded and listened to with closed eyes.
Note the time for pauses suggested. If you are recording the exercise, simply remain silent for the indicated time. Also when reading the exercises, allow pauses between sentences to permit enough time to respond to the instructions.
Inner Journey #1: Imagining Whole Healing
Although the material presented in this chapter is an important first step in understanding Whole Healing, a full understanding becomes possible only when we incorporate these ideas into the day-to-day fabric of our lives. In this exercise, we will complement the discussion in this chapter by presenting the same material in a way that uses your personal imagery.
Begin this exercise by allowing thirty minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time alone. Sitting comfortably in a chair, close your eyes, and allow your mind to become as still as possible.
We will begin by considering the homeostatic system. First, create the image of a person who is lying peacefully asleep. Place this image in front of your visual field. I would like you to imagine that the individual's clothes and skin are transparent, and that you can watch the inner workings of the body. Notice the normal and rhythmic pumping of the heart as it delivers the blood from the lungs to the tissues and cells of the body. Notice the thyroid, adrenal and salivary glands, automatically measuring and controlling the levels of hormones secreted in the body. Try to see the back-and forth conversations as the body's cells communicate their needs. Notice the master gland in the brain, the pituitary gland, overseeing all of this activity. Become aware through your images of the fine balancing of minerals, blood flow, and body temperature. Notice how these activities proceed automatically and continuously while the individual is asleep. Similarly, become aware of how this system depends on the quality of the nutrients, oxygen, water, and food that the person takes in from the environment. For the next ten minutes observe how this "instinctual" automatic system self-regulates the body. At the conclusion of this period, sense how this system is working at this moment in your body. Why does it work in this way? What are its assets, its liabilities?
Next, let's consider the treatment system. Create an image of a practitioner's office, and an individual in the examining room. Observe how the practitioner is asking questions and examining the body for information about its workings. Observe the decision to use one or more forms of therapy: medicines, surgery, or physical therapy. For the purposes of this image let's consider that one of the forms of therapy is an antibiotic that is being used to eradicate a "strep" throat. Observe the individual purchasing the antibiotic at the pharmacy and upon arrival at home beginning ten days of medication. Watch the pill as it moves through the gastrointestinal tract, into the blood circulation, and into the tissues of the throat, where it engulfs and inactivates the bacteria. Watch how the homeostatic system assists this process by sending white blood cells to "attack" the bacteria, macrophages to "clean up" the debris, and further helps in regenerating normal tissue. Become aware, in this instance, how the homeostatic and treatment systems work together. What is the role of each? What would happen if one or the other were inactive? Allow ten minutes to complete this section of the exercise.
We will now shift to the mind/body system. Create an image of a middle-aged man who has just suffered a heart attack and is lying in his hospital bed. By imaging the blood circulation of his heart, notice how the homeostatic system with all of its efforts cannot overcome the blockages in the coronary arteries. Some heart tissue has died, and the physicians are now injecting a medication to dissolve some of the blood clots responsible for the acute decrease in coronary blood flow. Other medications are used to control abnormal heart rhythms and maintain a normal blood pressure. While you are observing this scene, notice this individual in his normal life situation: a sixty-hour week in a highly stressful job with high demands and insufficient time or resources; a typical high-fat, quickly eaten American-type diet; insufficient time with his family to experience the nurturing and warmth of relationship. Observe how the homeostatic and treatment systems work to heal the disorder, and how the individual's life resists this effort. You may also notice how the mind/ body system comes into play when the quieting of life's activities, often the result of illness, assists in focusing the body's energy on repair and healing.
Consider another image, one of a thirty-five-year-old single parent, a woman with a full-time job, two children, and unrelenting migraine headaches. Imagine the endless day-to-day activity, the absence of time for herself, of social support, or of financial security. In this instance, as in the previous one, imagine the effort to reduce stress that is made by the homeostatic system, and of the activity of the medications, treatments designed to control vascular instability. Observe how both of these systems are working against the resistance of the circumstances of this individual's life. How in each of these instances can the individual choose to activate and use the healing capacities of the
Mind/Body Healing System? Can the homeostatic and treatment systems working alone result in healing? Can you imagine in these images how and why the mind/body system has been built into the body to provide flexibility and adaptability to the Whole Healing System? Allow ten minutes.
Finally, let's consider the Spiritual Healing System. Place an image of both of these individuals in front of you. Imagine that both have now returned to their day-to-day activities with the necessary improvements in their attitudes and lifestyles. In a sense, it would be as if they were each living in a room in which they had rearranged the furniture so that the conditions were more satisfactory. Life goes on with these changes. Now consider questions these individuals ask themselves: What is the meaning of this illness, and what does it tell me about how I have been living and how I need to reorganize my life, within the limitations of my circumstances? Is there a way to view life that will bring new meaning, freshness, and vitality? How would this change my attitudes, lifestyle, and physical condition? Allow ten minutes to consider these questions as they apply to each of these individual's lives, and finally, to yours.
Imagine that each of the four healing systems are not separate systems, but one system with different components. Create a new image of a Whole Healing System that incorporates each of the four healing systems and observe how this system moves and shifts with the movements and changes in our lives. When you are through, open your eyes.
This exercise is another step in the process of learning how to see wholes rather than parts, patterns and relationships rather than separateness. Observe in your day-to-day experiences how your Whole Healing System seeks to adapt to life in a manner that is intended to heal. Allow it to lead you, to make suggestions to you, and to inform you of its needs.