Healing is a dynamic and a kinetic, a fluid action, a movement toward balance and peace. Our true north, our core nature, is homeostasis: a place of balance and peace. Our human organism seeks this at all times, as we breathe and as we are breathed. We seek balance as we eat and as we are eaten away; we balance as we sing, as we are sung. These are truths that I know from my life, and this is my invocation: O Mystery, bring me to a still point, to soft equilibrium.
I was a nurse for 35 years. This profession for me was an earnest combination of altruism and endless curiosity. Nursing was a tireless meeting of others in need: assessing, responding, encouraging, cleaning, instructing, documenting, praising, coaxing. We often juggled the needs of several sets of patients at once at a busy childbirth center, with a public health caseload, or in a village outreach program. My family, marriage, and sons needed many of these same skills. Considering what constitutes healing was often set aside until I felt that I had time to rest and ponder. At meeting for worship on First Day, I would sit down and sink into the silence, accompanied by the thousands of tiny interactions of my busy week, and know that I could finally allow all this to return to Source.
In this prepared ground, this milieu of meeting together, the Great Mystery is most welcome.
The most useful core concept that animated my practice was this: You nurse with your self. This was relatively radical—to the root—and a concept usually reserved for classes in the four-year nursing education programs’ courses in nursing philosophy. It was not well understood by many of my coworkers, supervisors, and administrators. Nursing as one human being actually being with another was captured neither in the National League for Nursing (NLN) professional board examinations, nor the hospital documentation matrices, nor efficiency time studies.
Yet, for me, this tenet survived through all those years of long hospital shifts, and later as a public health nurse, meeting impoverished young teens and families in the complex urban “jungle” of Seattle or in an Alaskan village. This took time. This was a priority. This became even more true as my experience deepened and I questioned whether healing actually resulted from my efforts to apply conventional medical interventions, or whether healing was a rather mysterious occurrence for both myself and my patients or clients.
You nurse with your self. This interpersonal dynamic—this meeting of souls—was present when all the hard stuff and all the good stuff happened through those years. This is the golden filament that carried through from allopathic nursing and into holistic medicine when I became a classical homeopath. I love this process; I stay with this.
In homeopathic consultation and healing—as in Quaker meeting for worship—there is a belief in the presence and power of the vital force or the inner Light in each being. Both worship and homeopathy invite and employ expectant presence and patient waiting. At best, there is a release of attachment, judgment, and assumptions. Deep listening ensues.
In this prepared ground, this milieu of meeting together, the Great Mystery is most welcome. Mystery—and the unfolding of a person, body and soul—is listened for and longed for. Space is made for right and true energies. And in this way, whatever is out of balance, that which is wonky or wobbly or seemingly broken beyond repair, arrives as well, often cloaked with veils of mystery. These are fascinating to a homeopath or a seeker: these teasing tendrils of life experience and personal expression. Homeopathy calls this the constitutional self-regulating core of being, as it unfolds in conversation, in gesture, and often in silence. For me, it is the fleeting precious arrival of the numinous between us.
We are privileged to discover together that this sweet spot is the occasion of healing. Dynamic and elusive, healing is one of the loveliest gifts of human existence. As one self truly encounters another, as pain or puzzle is expressed, witnessed, and held, there opens a space for a shift, however tiny, toward the good, toward the just, toward the true.
Healing is cherished and invited but ever mysterious: sometimes dancing just beyond our reach, other times sneaking up on us from behind in a dream.
The task is to stay here, quietly, perhaps longer than feels comfortable, away from value judgments, associations, and explanations. As we just rest in the silence together, what can and will emerge is some indication or some clue to lead the way toward the wholeness, the healing, or health that is sought.
This moment may not look or feel like what we want. A dying patient may not get up and say, “Well that was a close call, but I’m not going to die now.” Yet a deep healing can have occurred in the conversation or silence, in the meeting of souls, in the realization of the precious gift of life and choice.
Overt recognition of healing in the labor room may be eclipsed by the excited welcome of a glossy, sputtering new being, yet the mother and all who attend her have witnessed a miracle. The mother takes with her a knowing in her flesh and bones that she has been incredibly brave and that she has participated in the most intimate way in the incubation and bringing forth of new life.
There may not have been anything wrong in her pregnancy and labor; there may not have been a diagnosis or problem for the hospital problem list. Yet great healing has occurred! For this moment at least, all the time when she doubted her own character, strength, and abilities has dissolved. She knows, in her fatigue and great amazement, that now she has arrived at a new place and time. She is new, in relationship, as the healing vessel for this child and for herself. She’s done what she didn’t believe possible, and she has been witnessed and accompanied.
In all of this, healing is a dynamic and elusive force. Healing is cherished and invited but ever mysterious: sometimes dancing just beyond our reach, other times sneaking up on us from behind in a dream. Healing is a verb: a slowing, flowing movement toward balance, toward the good. Healing is always occurring on a continuum, a trajectory of goodness.
I feel incredibly grateful for all the opportunities given to me to meet another and to meet myself. We become partners together in a healing process. We all can nurse ourselves toward the goodness of being ever more fully human.
7 thoughts on “Balancing Acts”
Thank you for your insightful piece on the great mystery of healing. This has been a huge theme in my life, as I have lived with an incurable, sometimes life-threatening condition for all of my adult life – a benign tumour situated very close to the pineal gland in the brain and considered inoperable (it was diagnosed when I was ten and I am now 35.) I had major surgery on the tumour for the first time five years ago using endoscopic techniques, and the last five years have been the most transformational of my life. I have experienced an opening of spiritual awareness which has lead to transformations in myself and my relationships.
As I thought about the situation through my adolescence the word which came to me as a metaphor for God was balance. For me God is the universal balancing element in the universe, which allows us to live and then die (I believe so our consciousness can return to a “universal pool” to be used again in another form.)
I am a Member of the Hague MM in the Netherlands, although I am originally from Scotland. If you would like to correspond further, please do get in touch.
As a long time Quaker and a classical homeopath, I love your treatise of worship and healing. Thank you.
The Quaker principles that we often refer to – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Sustainability of the Earth – all have healing properties. If we “mind the Light,” we can sometimes surprise ourselves by how we share with others.
I once spent six months in a rehab hospital after brain surgery. During that stay, the most healing thing for me was finding ways to support and encourage fellow patients. I was trained as a speech-language clinician, and now I found myself as a patient. I sometimes managed to “get through” to patients who were a challenge to the therapists, because I could share the perspectives of the patients as well as the staff. Two of my preferred strategies were reflective listening; and singing and playing music for and with others. We can learn to build community wherever we are.
Absolutely, Brian! We all can reach out with whatever gifts we carry. We humans –as well as beings in Nature–have the amazing ability to offer a deep presence and sing even when we’re recovering from injury or illness. How kind you were.
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