Growing up in a traditional Indian household among an extended family of herbalists and homeopaths certainly has a lot of benefits. For example, last week when I felt myself come down with a cold, I brewed several cups of chai with cardamom and fennel, and instinctively added cinnamon, ginger and other warming spices because I knew this would support my healing. I then cooked some lentil soup and other soups with bitter greens and warming spices. With my background in homeopathy, I supported myself with the appropriate homeopathic remedy. In my family, rest is also a big part of the prescription for healing. So I cancelled what could be postponed from my schedule so I could allow myself time to unwind, spend time by the canal in Pittsford amidst water, nature and sunshine as well as take a nice afternoon siesta. ?
Finally, I also allowed myself time to be with me- my thoughts, my emotions and how I was feeling- and journal about this. Over the course of the day, I watched my mind and saw where I was holding sadness, where I needed clarity, where I was feeling frustrated and so on and so forth. I did not judge anything. I simply created space and allowed for the healing. As I write this today, I feel myself almost 95% better so I will continue this prescription. ?
In my family, and in India, healing is approached in a very practical manner. In addition, healing is inclusive. Nothing is excluded. Even if antibiotics, or other Western medical interventions are needed, these too are embraced and seen as vehicles of healing. My mom and her elder sister often say that doctors are representatives of the Divine and are therefore held in high regard.
In the West, I find that our approach to healing is often fragmented even when we are practicing ‘holistic’ medicine. Let me illustrate what I mean.
This past week a client asked me if he should take a Western medicine because he is working with me for deeper healing of his chronic pain issues. When I replied in the affirmative, he was surprised.
“So, if I’m healing myself with ‘spiritual/mental/emotional’ means, then I can still take this medicine?”
“Yes, of course, why would a medicine not also be part of your healing?” I replied.
I shared with him my story of how I had experienced chronic pain for several years and for a time I too felt I needed to heal the ‘natural’ way. I tried changing my diet, working with herbs and homeopathy, doing visualization, affirmations, meditation and yoga. I resisted Western medical approaches and surgery. In my mind, these were ‘bad.’ When I finally surrendered, and agreed to a minor surgical procedure, I experienced a lot of side effects. Everything went wrong! From the preoperative bowel preparation, to the IV insertion, to the postoperative recovery from anesthesia. Afterwards, I also experienced a difficult postoperative course with a lot of pain.
Given what I understand about healing today, I know that these ‘side effects’ reflected my own inner resistance to these procedures. My mind was in a space of what I today call the ‘I know everything I need to know’ and ‘I am the one in charge’ mind. I truly believed that I was in charge of my healing and I knew how it should happen. In this framework, even having to do the surgery felt like a huge failure.
A few years ago, I had a relapse of this chronic pain, but this time with a solid background and training in mind watching and mindfulness, I approached the whole situation differently.
Here are the five steps I took that I share with all my clients:
- I made a commitment to give this whole experience the purpose of healing my mind- because by this time, I knew that the pain in my body reflected deep, unhealed pain in my mind. When I use ‘mind’- I am referring to all the perceptions, emotions, thoughts and beliefs we hold inside us.
- I allowed myself space for deep clearing of the content of my mind. I felt that I literally needed to do a deep cleaning of my mind like we would clean our homes- the attic, the basement, the garage- everything! The tools I used included journaling, self-reflection, movies, books, and a lot of honest heart-to-heart sharing with my trusted friends and mentors. They are my beloved mighty companions who could hold loving space for me to feel safe to share whatever emotions, thoughts and feelings were coming up. Nothing was to be suppressed. Everything was allowed to surface and used for the purpose of healing.
- I then allowed myself time and space to connect deeply not only with my mighty companions but my Inner Teacher through meditation, prayer and walks in nature. In the medical world, I did not exclude anything. I allowed myself to take OTC pain medicines and use homeopathy remedies as they felt helpful. I worked with the same surgeon but this time I saw him completely differently. I knew he was in my life to help me heal.
- The fourth step is creation and this time when I went for surgery, I received a completely new experience. All that went wrong was ‘set right.’ As soon as I entered the surgical suite, I felt I was held in Love and Light. The nurse that greeted me helped me feel safe and comfortable from the start. The blood was drawn easily and the IV inserted smoothly. The music that was playing in the surgical suite seemed to be a playlist of my favorite songs. The last thing I recall is talking to the surgeon about my sensitivity to anesthesia. The next thing I know is that I awoke in the recovery room, and the procedure was over! Apparently, there had been a lot of healing in my body already and so the surgeon had less work to do than he anticipated. ?
- Postoperatively, I allowed myself adequate rest, used OTC pain meds as needed, and also had the love and support of my parents – not to mention the amazing healing power of my mom’s yummy Indian cooking. ? Everyone around me – including myself – were all amazed at how quickly I healed and how little to no postoperative pain I experienced. When I saw my surgeon, he too was amazed at how well I did and discharged me from his care with his blessings! And thankfully, the pain has never returned. ? My experience has served as a powerful confirmation – which is the final step- of the power of the mind in healing. Yet, we must also remember that this needs to be done in a systematic and integrative manner.
In Coaching for Inner Peace (CFIP), I share with my clients that if we don’t offer resistance to what comes our way- we move into a space where we don’t cling and also do not avoid. We simply accept what is. We trust. We listen deeply within. We join with our mighty companions in honest heart-to-heart discussions and sharing. We listen and allow ourselves to be listened to in a space of love, trust, and non-judgment. If we don’t feel clear, we wait. We listen more. We trust more. Eventually, moment-by-moment, step-by-step, a path of healing emerges that is uniquely suited for us- that is for our highest good and the highest good of others.
By integrating the medical with the complementary/alternative as well as attending to the inner journey of emotions, fears and doubts along with the outer path of pain, illness, medical care and appointments, CFIP is a bridge that we can walk with confidence – being truly present to the whole, leaving no parts of our experience behind.