This blog post is inspired by much of my own process into creating new beliefs and orientation around health and healing. It has been further inspired by the stories of my clients and those of my teachers. I have spent the past decade of my life studying and experiencing health and disease through a variety of lenses and circumstances. This has been a process that has not been linear or bathed in clarity. It really has been a process of sitting with many viewpoints that seem opposing and finding my own self within the sea of facts, opinions, and theories. A few weeks ago, there was a pivotal moment in this process for me. It all seems so simple when I look back at it now. I was listening to Ged Sumner teaching an introductory class on biodynamic craniosacral therapy. At one point he said something that struck me very deeply. He basically said that the body is always more oriented around health than disease. Much more. As in about 97% of the body at any given time is healthy. The 3% that is giving us trouble or calling for our attention tends to take up so much of our mental capacity and even our activities. That is such a large percentage of the body that is healthy at any given time. He went on to say (for context) that even a body with advanced cancer is still over 90% oriented around health.
For me, this provided a much needed shift in perspective. AND it raised this question for me:
What if we focus our energy on the 97% of our body that is naturally oriented around health? What would happen then?
I tried it and I am trying it. Trying to live with this question. I have found it to be difficult actually. It is so easy to focus on the part of my body that is aching, sore, etc. The part of me that is focused on disease and pain seems to have a much louder voice than the part of me that is embracing all the health and healthiness in my being. In the moments where I am able to embrace the truth of my own health, I find hope, power and peace. Okay, maybe I don’t need to work so hard to be well. Maybe my body is designed to have an innate orientation to health and healing.
What does it look like to be oriented around health / healing?
The first thing I need to say here is that creating orientation around health is not about denying disease. It is not an invitation to bury your head in the sand when something in your body calls your attention. It is simply an invitation to begin to see your body as an ally, to accept what is there but not to obsess. One thing that I have learned from practicing craniosacral therapy is that the mind body connection in healing can be both and ally and a roadblock for some. When we focus our mental energy on pain, the sensation of pain actually does intensify (but not because the real issue is actually getting worse). When we soften our focus, when the pain becomes blurry in the background, the other resources of the body come into focus. So it comes back to the question I posed earlier, what if we practice shifting our focus to the part of our body that is oriented around health. What if this becomes the lens for viewing our bodies? I believe that this looks different for everyone, so you must pose this question for yourself and see what arises. Just notice what is there. I find that when I am orienting around health the words like strength, resources, space, support and acceptance come up. When I am orienting around disease or the expectation of disease words like weakness, judgment and denial arise.
In this podcast, Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, beautifully shares her experience with uterine cancer. She speaks openly about how she came to use this experience with cancer to re-orient herself to being in her body. She also talks about the process that it took for her to view her body as an ally.
You can try this right now, in your own body. Sit or lie comfortably. Begin to pay attention to your breathing. Just notice how your breath feels coming in and out of your body. Now shift your focus to your whole body. Are there any sensations? Do you have any areas of pain? Bring all of your attention to this place of sensation. What happens when you bring all of your focus to that place? Now find a place that feels neutral in your body or even healthy. What does this feel like? Can you make this feeling larger just by placing your attention there? With your attention here, try to add in that place of pain. What do you notice about it now? Just observe what you find, there is no right or wrong way to do this exercise. End by feeling your body as a whole. Breathe.