What does it mean to heal?

I’ve posted versions of this post several times now. I like revisiting these concepts from time to time.

I found some of the below quotes on a blog called, “Determined to Heal.” These are ideas I work with too. What does it mean to heal?

Healing to me does not mean returning to what one was before something went wrong. Wholeness does not necessarily mean normal. And even the word recovery is problematic because, frankly, I don’t want what I had before. Who wants to go backwards anyway? Healing means being whole even while still perhaps not functioning like others. Healing also suggests some sort of maturation and growth from “before” for all that is learned on the journey. Ultimately now, I see this journey as one of transformation and individuation.

It’s about accepting and being completely who I am with whatever limitations I have. I may still have limitations these days, but I also have a better sense of self and, well, wholeness, even in my still healing body and that is because my level of bodily function is not what ultimately determines my overall well-being. It is only a part of my being. And heck, our bodies do eventually all give out, don’t they? Our bodies will all die one day.

Indeed, I do not consider myself ill anymore. I consider myself HEALING which is a vibrant state of movement and change. My limitations do not mean that I am sick. Learning to make boundaries for my well-being has been one of the healthiest things I’ve learned to do. Deeply respecting the needs of this body/temple is one of the most wonderful achievements of WELLNESS.

Below are meanderings about a topic that deserves much more attention.

The Determined to Heal’s author’s personal definition is:

I define healing as a process of moving towards wholeness. To me, wholeness is the consciousness within all of us that knows no boundaries.

Here are some of the definitions she collected. (go here to see whole post)

I like to think of the word ‘healing’ in the relationship to curing, as coming to terms with things as they are. What healing is is a process through which we come to terms with the actuality of our situation in the present moment. Now, the beauty of healing is that healing is possible even in the absence or the very improbable likelihood of a cure — that the work of healing can be done right up to our last breath.  Kabat-Zinn (2004)

“Healing may not be so much about getting better as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. Not a better you, but a ‘realer’ you….People can heal and live, and people can heal and die. Healing is different from curing. Healing is a process we’re all involved in all the time. Healing is the leading forth of wholeness in people. I think that healing happens only in the context of our imminent awareness of something larger than ourselves, however we conceive that.”  —  Remen, N. R.  (1993).

Healing as the ways that an individual relates to the suffering triggered by his or her medical conditions. Patients’ journeys through illness and healing manifest individualistically from their foundations in religious and spiritual belief systems and practices. Bedard, J. (1999).

Healing as transcending suffering. Egnew interviewed medical and psychological experts such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Bernie Siegel, and Carl Hammerschlag, and coded his findings into themes of “wholeness,” “narrative,” and “spirituality.” Egnew, T. R. (2005).

Healing as a relational process, one that is predicated on the harmonic interplay of physical and spiritual forces between beings and elements. Illness as a healing process in itself. — Barasch, M. I.
(1994, June).

Love that snippet at the end of the last quote. Illness as a healing process in itself. Yes! Because god knows deep parts of my being are far healthier now than when my body was seemingly more functional. Illness can cleanse the soul. And learning to deeply heal the body is a lovely education in returning to the earth.

While I’m on this topic I just thought of a quote I once posted by Deena Metzger about “Sacred Illness.” I’ll share that too:

A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way, and aligns us with a life path that is, ultimately, of benefit to ourselves and those around us. – Deena Metzger

My husband too shared some thoughts on this theme and I’m going to share them.

As a reflection spawned by your post, it seems to me that our distorted view of health comes from living in an over-physicalized culture. We equate health with peak physical condition ignoring the fact that a person can have a perfect body yet a fragmented being, or conversely a sense of wholeness within what might appear to be a broken body. The real barometer of health is spiritual rather than physical. The times when we say we feel most alive are when we feel most deeply connected to life itself — not our own life, but life in its totality.

I also like to say that being healthy (in both body and mind) is simply about living well and this illness has allowed me to learn how to do that in a profound way, for which I am very grateful. Being mindful of all that I do moment by moment throughout every day is a life lived in conscious sacredness. That is the healing path in my mind. One that never ends.

Update: here is one more quote I’m adding from Ram Dass.

After any major physical “insult,” as they call it, it’s all too easy to see yourself as a collection of symptoms rather than as a total human being, including your spirit — and thus to become your illness. Fear is powerful and contagious.

At first I allowed myself to catch it, worried that if I didn’t do what the doctors ordered, I’d be sorry. But now I’m learning to take my healing into my own hands. Healing, after all, is not the same as curing; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing “what is now”. — Ram Dass, from the film Fierce Grace

Another collection of links:  Information and inspiration for the chronically ill

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters