We live on a planet where every single thing wants to grow and thrive. The fact of healing is a constant in an ever changing biodiversity. There is abundant healing inside and all around us in any moment. Nature will always find a way to restore balance.
When we cut a finger, healing is triggered immediately – the blood clots to stop bleeding, white blood cells destroy harmful germs and scar tissue seals it. Given the right conditions wounds fully heal. The same can be said of minds. Trauma is experienced when the mind isn't fully allowed to heal itself, but given the right conditions the healing impulse will kick in.
When we feel healthy, and life is going well, healing feels like a normal part of being alive. We take it for granted. When pain and illness visit we are often forced to stop and take stock. These times can become opportunities to release any inner barriers we have to healing, and invite positive change into our lives.
Lifestyle habits that can get in the way of healing our body/mind are: a diet low in nutrition, ingesting toxins such as nicotine, excessive alcohol and white sugar, and a lack of physical activity. Far more destructive than all these habits, though, is stress.
If we are stuck in the stress (or survival) response then healing is slowed down dramatically.
The stress response is meant to be short lived - to get us away from danger and then back to normal as quickly as possible. It is nature's way of keeping us safe. It takes energy away from the immune, musculature, nervous and digestive systems and sends it to the limbs and heart so we can run away from or fight what is after us. When stress isn't released after a dramatic incident it turns into chronic stress and trauma.
Long term, chronic stress creates a situation in which the immune system is never really operating properly, our hormones are all over the place and muscles tense.
It is estimated that most modern human beings spend between 85 – 95% of their lives in the stress-response and 5 – 15% in the rest-and-restore (or healing) mode. It is actually meant to be the other way round - we, as mammals, are designed to be living the vast majority of our lives in a state of peace, just going about our daily routine with mild ups and downs.
It is vitally important that we release stress, especially when sick or in pain. The stress habits of worry, anxiety, depression, blame and despair are toxic to a body/mind already under pressure. We need to be kind to ourselves. We need to fight back with self-care and self-compassion.
Every natural process inside us wants to be well. When we begin to let go of stress it may seem like we are swimming against the tide of a stressed-out culture, but we are also swimming with the flow of the natural world, which is infinitely more powerful.
Meditation, prayer, yoga, gentle exercise and body-work such as massage, acupuncture and reflexology, provide opportunities to get ourselves out of stress and into rest-and-restore. We often only turn to these healing boosting modalities when we are sick of being sick. That feeling of being at the end of our tether is a wonderful beginning point to make lasting life changes.
It is said that pain is inevitable and suffering optional. Suffering is what we add to the natural ups and downs that are part of everyday life. We come into the world through the pain of childbirth; as our body grows it hurts; our baby teeth fall out; we graze our knee; we love and then lose. This is how life is. By arguing with life we jump out of healing and into stress.
Whether a pain or illness is small or huge, when you stop struggling with it, moment by moment, you will find healing and happiness within the light and darkness of life. This happiness is vast and sturdy, and a great gift to everyone who comes in contact with it.
Aoife Valley in a Mindfulness Meditation teacher. She runs courses in Meditation, Mindful Eating & Soul Care at Letterkenny Community Centre and Silent Retreats at Ards. See www.mindfulnessdonegal.com
Aoife is also the founder and facilitator of Intact - peer support for adult survivors of sexual abuse, meeting each Tuesday 7-8pm until Christmas. See www.intactireland.com