Health is a journey. With luck, divine intervention, and persistence, we may reach the magic kingdom.
Surfers talk about finding the perfect wave. For many, it’s found in some remote, magical place, like Australia, affectionately known to surfers as Oz. That perfect wave is an ideal barrel of sapphire or, perhaps, a smooth wall of emerald that requires all their skill, a little inspiration, a dash of luck, and a healthy serving of divine intervention. The journey to health and happiness shares many similarities.
I had the good fortune to take a Craniosacral class on the immune system recently. We learned how to boost the system and use its resources to address infections, chemical and emotional toxins, scar tissue, restrictions, plaque, allergies and auto-immune problems.
Though we tend to notice it only when it struggles, the immune system actually performs incredible feats around the clock. With 100 to 200 billion cells at its disposal, it can do amazing things—and at the speed of thought. Often before we even utter a request, immune cells have anticipated it and begun work. This transfer of energy, intelligence and intention is sometimes palpable.
During the class my macrophages safely disposed of a ton of rage that I was unable to express more than fifty years ago. My natural killer cells cleared up a gland that has been swollen since a raging infection seven years ago. I felt other immune cells repair damaged heart tissue. In every case, working with the immune system seemed so easy and natural—even for addressing seemingly insurmountable health challenges and mysteries—that I had to wonder if I’d actually ever been sick in the first place. Had I? The obvious answer is yes, of course; in another sense, however, illness has an illusory quality. Once we are well again, we tend to forget ever having been otherwise.
After the last day of class, I awoke in the middle of the night lathered in sweat. It was a result of my liver oxidizing all the toxins stirred up by the therapy. Before I fell back to sleep, The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy’s travelling companions sprang to mind. The Scarecrow is certain he lacks a brain; the Tin Man feels he lacks a heart; and the Lion is confident he’s a coward. And they’re all convinced that if they can just get to Oz, the Wizard will fix them.
Remarkably, none of these three characters have a single symptom of the deficiencies from which they claim to suffer. The Scarecrow proves to be the most rational, reasonable, logical, clear-thinking person you’d ever hope to meet; the Tin Man gushes compassion; and time and again, in the face of mortal danger, the Lion demonstrates undaunted courage.
Ironically, the Wizard proves to be a complete humbug, a total sham. He is so incapable of facing his own demons that he sends the travellers off on a suicide mission to kill his nemesis, the Wicked Witch of the West. When, much to his surprise, they return successful, he finally agrees to heal their “maladies.” Hollywood took a lot of liberties when they made the movie, but in the book, the Wizard gives the Scarecrow a handful of pins and needles for a brain. The Wizard gives the Tin Man a silken heart filled with sawdust. For courage, the Wizard gives the Lion a drink of green liquid, most likely water. Even though all three recipients know the Wizard is a sham, all are content and confident that they are cured.
Of the principle characters, the character most healed is the Wizard. All along, he’s been a prisoner of his own weaknesses. By confessing as much to these strangers, he begins to deal with reality—and heal.
The Wizard’s case sheds some light on why people go into medicine and the healing arts: helping others can help the physician heal themselves. Indeed, our patients and clients model healing. They teach us about suffering, courage, gratitude. They give us every opportunity to open our hearts and experience compassion. But of course, more often than not, we do that which we most need, so it’s always nice to be in a field where continuing education and continuing therapy go hand in hand. Ultimately, however, whether we are physician or patient (or both), healing is a job each of us must do.
Many—if not most—illnesses stem from emotional and spiritual traumas. This is the elephant in the room that society prefers to ignore. You’d think that any rational person would choose doing emotional release work over taking medicine with all its potential side-effects and surgery, but apparently not.
I can empathize. For years, I resisted emotional releasing, even though I knew it was exactly what I wanted and needed, and I had a pretty good idea what most of the issues were. Such is the power we give to that which we sweep under the rug or stuff in the closet!
However, there are now many gentle and effective ways to work through our material and get on with our lives. Who would ever imagine, for example, that our immune systems could unleash a swarm of cells to clean up in minutes—with minimal muss or fuss—years of negative emotions like anger, resentment, or even rage?
Health is a journey. I would argue that the journey was an integral part of the cure for Dorothy’s companions because it gave them numerous opportunities to practice precisely those skills or attributes that they believed they lacked. With luck, divine intervention, and persistence, we—like Dorothy’s companions—may reach the magic kingdom. Once there, we may wonder if we were ever ill in the first place, or merely dreaming. More often than not, our Wizard is there in the mirror each morning when we rise. Of course, sometimes we need a little help with the introductions—and that’s where therapists, physicians, friends, angels and serendipity enter in.
As you read this, a breeze is transforming a little ripple into your perfect waves. Each of us must paddle out and splash around enough so that, when our wave finally arrives, we are ready to dance with it.