By Donald K. Williams, D.O.
How do we heal? Well for sure, Mother Nature knows the answer to the above question. Though I do not feel qualified to speak on behalf of Mother Nature, as a student of nature and an osteopathic physician, share with you my understanding of the healing process. More important than my opinion is your own understanding of how healing takes place. Hopefully this will be a good start.
Healing is a process of renewal that takes place continually within the natural world. We are part of nature and we are living in the natural world. And yet, our modern lifestyles being what they are, at times this seems like a distant truth that lacks meaning. I believe this is an important area for each of us to explore on our own. Before we beat ourselves up about what we may be doing wrong, I feel it is more important to first understand how healing works.
The first step is to understand that we are part of nature. And we can remember this truth simply by going back to nature and reconnecting. Interestingly, this may not always work so well. A weekend of relaxation in the outdoors is planned. The drive to our destination may be longer than expected and traffic may be cutting into our precious rest and relaxation time. We may feel more frustrated than relaxed despite our best intentions.
And yet one evening we may be sitting in our back yard after a long day of work, when all of a sudden our attention is drawn to the sky at the brink of dusk. Filled with wonder, we notice an arrangement of color that has never been duplicated in the history of the world and never will be seen again. We linger there, basking in the moment as all else falls away. Recognizing this as an epiphanic moment, we consider living in a way to have more of these moments of calm appreciation, of connection to the natural world. Usually, before long, our attention is called back to our familiar world of over-stimulation. But for one moment we had entered a world of stillness and felt whole. In that moment, we were complete. Devoid of our usual worries, concerns, and pressures, there was certainly something that replaced them.
In their absence, we made room for peace. That peaceful moment stands in stark contrast to the traffic, TV, worries, and struggles. Though difficult to describe what it actually is, we know when we are feeling at peace. It is through those transient peaceful moments that we reach a place where healing can happen. This is self evident, because as the moment passes we feel rejuvenated.
Indeed, could these be more than healing moments? These may be the moments we truly live for.
Rather than waiting for these moments to happen, is it possible to duplicate them at will?
Let’s return to the evening sky and look at how this might be possible.
What was the mind doing at that moment we experienced this beautiful sunset? It was focused, but not fixed. Our mind was tracking the clouds ever so slowly and we were complete in the appreciation of how effortlessly they moved.
What was the body doing? We were aware of the way our whole body felt. In fact, it felt homogenous. Our arms felt just as comfortable as our legs, trunk, and head. In that moment, we were unified and whole.
What were we hearing? Perhaps the only thing we noticed were the sounds of the birds singing or some gentle music in the background resonating in harmony with our healing state.
What this tells us is that we can affect our ability to heal by directing our awareness properly. Awareness is an intrinsic part of our mental activity; it keeps track of what is going on and narrates the story of life as it plays out. Operating from our awareness is less about directing our lives and more about paying attention and making observations. Allowed to exist in its natural state, this part of our mind can help bring us to those moments of peace and healing which are actually always there waiting to be noticed.
As we learn to trust the mind in its natural state, and let go of the need to direct action, we feel more and more relaxed. This is fortunate because relaxation is a prerequisite to healing. Relaxation means more than the absence of stress. Relaxation is a state that has no limitation to its depth. As we reach deeper states of relaxation while still awake, we give the renewal process more momentum to work its magic.
It is important to understand that the ability to sit in a relaxed, meditative state is innate and natural. But the fast paced demands of our culture have a firm undertow; we become less familiar with producing this meditative state so conducive to a state of healing.
Many of us have become conscientious about improving our health. We work hard at exercising, getting good nutrition and sleep, engaging in regular prayer or meditation, and addressing psychological wellness to name just a few. Although all of these lifestyle choices help improve our health, we still would like to get more in return for the investment – we would like to feel better longer and more often.
Let’s dig a little deeper; by doing so, we may discover an easier, more direct route to achieving a state of healing. By creating the intention that we are going to be part of the healing process we create momentum to go in this direction. The challenge here is to create intentions that are in cooperation with the laws of nature. Mind over matter does not work if it is not in line with the natural world. Being too rigid or controlling with our intentions impedes the creative process. Balance is an important law of nature. Indeed, everywhere we look, nature continually achieves it’s own balance whatever the circumstances.
How are we doing with balance in our own lives? Are we trying to squeeze a little more in each day, pressing on until we become chronically fatigued or enervated? What would happen if we simply slowed down a little? Would everything suddenly go away? Would life pass us by never to return? Or would we perhaps feel more rested and whole, balance maintained.
Creating the intention of balance, whatever that looks like in our individual lives, allows the healing process to flow. Simply turning in the direction of balance whether that means slowing down, getting more sleep, better nutrition, or moving our bodies is, in the natural world, akin to turning our attention to the evening sky. Making the choice in that moment is the reward itself. Our mind is at peace. We see the wonder of the sunset, we hear the joy in the bird’s song, and our bodies are calm and comfortable. We are free to let life flow.
Dr. Williams is board certified in Osteopathic manipulative treatment with the American Osteopathic Association and is a pain management specialist in the state of Washington. His clinic is located in Spokane Valley and he provides treatment to patients from the Spokane, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene areas.