Have you ever sat by a waterfall in the forest, relaxed in a hammock on the beach, or watched an impressively colorful sunset and felt… nothing? Beauty and peace surround you, yet you’re lost in your own troubles. Maybe you’ve even had that experience with helping professionals, going to therapists and bodyworkers and life coaches and doctors and still, you remain caught in the same struggle that brought you there. It’s an awful feeling, like being handed a beautiful gift made just for you, only you can’t reach out your hands to accept it. You might decide the gift is not right for you and continue your search for more and new and better gifts. But what will help you to receive them?
As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of what I call “self-healing.” This phrase wasn’t super popular long ago, but much like “mindfulness” and “energy work,” it’s becoming so commonplace, it’s losing all meaning. So let me clarify the essence and the hype, as I see it.
What self-healing is not
When we are suffering, the darkness feels more real than the light. Finding solutions to problems in that dark place can seem pointless and burdensome. Self-healing, contrary to its name, is not about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and applying that independent, self-reliant, cowboy attitude to recovering from burnout and trauma. It’s not about undergoing a multitude of different therapeutic modalities or taking every nutritional supplement or psychedelic medicine available on this earth, though your own self-healing process may certainly include some of these wonderful tools and teachers. Self-healing is also not about manifesting everything you desire or replacing social needs with spiritual pursuits. And just like an outside person can’t make a change happen in you, no “self” can force you to think and feel differently either.
What self-healing is
Self-healing is an opening. It is being able to see and acknowledge whatever kind of angsty mess we might find ourselves in for the moment. It is surrendering from the struggle to make it all better, a giving up on the attempt to figure it out. Self-healing, in the way I practice and understand it, is being willing to accept life on its own terms and to follow the step that shows up next like one would follow a flashlight through a dark cave. The actual steps are unique to each of us and the timing is as important as what actions we take. In essence, though, self-healing includes both some stepping up and some stepping back:
We accept we can’t delegate our ability to feel better about ourselves and our lives to outward circumstances or to someone else. We don’t wait on what is outside our control to change. We give up the quest for the final answer being out there somewhere someone else has hidden, and take loving responsibility for our own internal experience of this life. We tell the truth to ourselves about how we’re doing and use our will to be willing.
We slow down and let in the support that is already available. Maybe there’s a passerby that makes eye contact and smiles, a cardinal that lands on a nearby tree branch, a cooling tea with just the right herbal blend, a song, a movement, or a powerful ally or ancestor unseen by others. The form the support takes is irrelevant–what matters is we’ve let down our guard and allowed the spirit of what is present to touch us. The natural flow of life is healing itself when we stop blocking it. We learn how to receive, which, most simply put, is how to relax around what is.
We think we need to feel better; often what we really need is to release resistance to what we actually feel and allow the everyday magic to do its thing. Healing as a noun is still a verb—it’s a process unfolding all the time. Shit happens and you can befriend yourself through it or abandon yourself. Self-healing is about learning to be your own champion, your own rescuer, your own beloved. Not because you have a big ego and can do all those things, but because you know you can’t. It’s like the little fuzzy caterpillars I’ve been seeing on my morning walks these days. I was looking at them and thinking about how they will become butterflies. Then I saw one being eaten by a chipmunk. All is not light and wonder. Healing is transcendence but not always through outer transformation.
The individual’s decision to accept rather than resist is a turning point, not the whole story. We are each unique beings, but we are also part of a much larger organism, beyond our own families and loved ones. We are not separate from the earth we walk on nor the child on the other side of the globe. We affect each other. We can trigger each other like crazy, but we can also heal together in depths we can’t reach alone. There is quite a lot of stepping up and stepping back that needs to be done in community as well. Self-healing is essential: only you can choose to be willing and open. Self-healing is incomplete: like trees in the forest, we may seem separate above ground, but our roots are interconnected.
I hope whatever you’ve got going on this summer, you’re reconnecting in a way that is nourishing for you. For the empaths and the sensitives, that way may look quieter and more intentionally slowed down, and that’s absolutely OK. For some of us, re-entry to society is harder than turning in to the introvert’s cave of quarantine. We’re all working things out somehow though. Thank goodness we’ve got ourselves and each other for company on this wild ride.
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I am beyond excited about the next cycle of the Release & Empower Women’s Circle, where self-healing in community moves beyond theory to practice. Women who give much of their time and attention to others are coming together in a sacred space for their own self-healing. We are upleveling the energetic container of the online experience, returning to a closed group model, and syncing up with the rhythms of nature this year, amplifying what has already been a nourishing and powerful experience for more than fifty women in the past couple years. Women have started signing up for the fall term with the early registration discount. Read more about the women’s circle here to see if it would be a good fit for you or to apply.