What is healing? by Andrea Mitchell
What is healing? I was asked that question on the first morning of my first class. Actually I was asked to make artwork that represented healing to me. I made a medicine wheel, it was the first thing that came into my conscious, and I have learnt to trust what my unconscious gives me. The medicine wheel encompasses the entire life cycle, in all its dimensions. To me, given the culture that we live in, healing is for life. I’ve done a fair bit of healing.
My story is fairly irrelevant, I want no part in using stories to compare someone’s pain. What I will tell you though is that I had an experience that penetrated every part of my being. It got at the core of me, what Roberto Assagioli refers to as Primal Wounding. Something that went against the natural order and put me in suffering.
I’ve also been doing a fair bit of thinking about suffering. I recently read a work by Helen Luke, talking about suffering, pain and depression. She theorizes that suffering becomes part of the undercarriage of who we are as beings. When we have suffered, the experience never fully leaves us, and we are a stronger for it. We may experience all three, maybe even at once, but I believe suffering is what our spirit feels.
I sat in suffering for 7 years, I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety and spend a good chunk of adolescence feeling pretty numb. Medication stopped me from feeling the pain and the depression, but not the suffering. I don’t believe one can medicate a suffering spirit.
One day a small part of me got a glimpse of the north, the place of the adult. That glimpse was enough to stop my thoughts of suicide. I changed everything, dropped out of university, moved home, and just slowed down. As a teacher of mine would say, “slow is fast”. Slowing down my world helped me make some major realizations. I decided that I wasn’t chronically depressed or anxious, I had experienced Trauma, and I am a member of a highly adaptive species that can heal from Trauma.
The healing world that I knew was the world of psychiatry, and I was done with that. I didn’t grow up in a community where I had access to traditional healers, or at least not in the world I knew. There was however a crazy amount of yoga, so I went to class 28 days a month for over 8 months, in 2 months I was off medication. I worked and did yoga. Then I moved to India.
India feels like a million years ago, in reality it’s 7. I was alone, in a very different culture, off medication for the first time in 7 years and it was perfect. I got to learn how to feel, surrounded by people connected to Spirit. I learnt how to chant, sing, pray, and move. I made friends with my fear, and he slowly started to loosen the grip he had on my life. India both held and challenged me, my energy started to heal and I started to realize that I had picked up some interesting patterns to cope with life.
Making friends with fear allowed me to start looking into my shadow side. For me that’s where emotions lived, not just the bad ones, all of them. 7 years is a long time to be numb, waking up from that has taken its sweet time. I am not done, but now I can sit with them, feel them, honour them. Now it’s more about the journey to my core and learning to stand with myself there.
Making friends with people allowed me to begin learning how to stand in my own power. I had been extremely manipulated by someone in power and had lost all of mine. I didn’t really lose it; the part of me that knows how to stand in its’ power went into hiding. People scared me, they had betrayed me, wounded me, and bullied me. I no longer saw people as inherently bad and untrustworthy the way I did at 15, but I was still toying with the idea that I might be better off without them. It was touch and go for a while, but slowly as I kept healing, I kept having healthier people in my life. This may seem like an obvious correlation to most, to me, this was pretty mind blowing. I began to separate people from behaviours and my community was instrumental in restoring my faith in humanity.
Today I stumble, things challenge me and there is healing to do. I am at peace with that. Suffering strengthened my undercarriage; I know I can ride through it. I might get stuck. I might have to get out and push or get some people to help me but I trust through focusing my intention I will continue down this road.
I cannot generically define healing, and I am not sold that it needs to be defined, or even that it should. There is a chaotic divinity to it that words would only undermine. A uniqueness based on each person’s spirit and each person’s soul that holds a place of honour in my heart. For me healing is making friends with my fear, my love and my joy.