It’s 11:30 am – picture-taking time for our foursome: four friends who have found each other on the face of the Earth for such a short time and now will soon be parted. Antonio from Lisbon and Sara from Madrid are waiting, but where is tall Paul from Boston? Antonio has paralyzed legs; gentle, elegant Sara, here seeking clearness on some difficult decision, is resting after packing. It seems to be my place to hurry down the muddy Brazilian street to find Paul.
Finally I see him wandering to and fro in front of a row of tiny open-sided storefronts. “Come back now for lunch and photos,” I urge him.
“I can’t,” he says quietly, but with anxiousness. He walks up closer and holds out his hands, fingernails up. “I have to do this before I leave. It’s my first obedience. I have to do it now while I’m feeling strong, but there’s a fat lady in front of me taking forever.”
I look at him in surprise. Then I simply nod and say “Okay” and return to our friends with a general report of lateness. Inside, I’m amazed.
Paul and I connected from the start. We both have the “caretaker” syndrome and have encouraged each other in our efforts to get out of this prison. Two years ago, he reduced his work to part-time in order to commit himself to his healing work. His first spirit-goal was a tough one: to love himself completely. “Taking care of others, jumping in as rescuer or helper, these are just projections,” he says. “What we really seek is to love and value ourselves. We connect to others by helping, but this isn’t really loving them. We want, in return, to feel loved and needed; it’s still about ourselves, not about real love.” I talk about my struggle to get free enough from mothering an ever-expanding family, related and unrelated, in order to do my writing. Others share in this discussion about our “helper syndrome,” the challenge to feel that it’s okay to love ourselves first, to take adequate care of ourselves, and allow others to find their own strengths.
We are at a very spiritual center, the Casa of Dom Inacio, in Abadiania, Brazil. Suffering people from all over the world come here asking for cure or improvement from the compassionate spirits who work through John of God, called a “healer.” Seeking a healing here is not a passive act; we are asked to work on ourselves. We are given advice and prescriptions for the direction and support of our own work, then some are given psychic, or even physical, surgery, and all are given healing energy. Most people stay at least two or three weeks to get deep inside themselves and do their own part in their healing. Many stay longer; many come back yearly. Some have quick healings, many have gradual healings supported by their own changes.
Meals in the open-air dining room of our simple pousada/hotel are full of sharings with thoughtful people from around the world. Thanks to the blessing of nearly universal English, people from across oceans quickly become friends, sharing about their various spiritual practices and their paths of growth and healing.
Some people in suffering can become self-absorbed, buried in bitterness or fears, or by the need to pay attention to the challenge in their bodies. Here at the Casa, we are urged daily to lift our energy to a positive place and, above all, to focus on love. Here, energy is a fundamental element in the healing process, and love for ourselves and others, thankfulness, forgiveness: these all generate positive, healing energy.