Healing has become a popular word, even a catch phrase, in our society. Lots of people are quick to tell me what they think healing is, or what they envision their agenda as. So many of these definitions are confusing to me. Perhaps we can explore these ideas and create a higher level of understanding for all of us. My don’t-know mind is quite curious.
The human bodymind is a complex web of interactive systems that are in constant motion, seeking to maintain homeostasis. Communication inside and outside each system and the whole creates perpetual change. When physics discovered the relationship between the observed and the observer, we had scientific "proof" that these changes had to happen. Many therapeutic modalities today seek to balance various systems in the bodymind, thus restoring health.
Is health a state we can restore or return to? This static model sounds good in theory, but reality tells us we are not still. When things quit moving they are dead. Andrew Still said that movement is health, which is an interesting idea that is somehow incomplete. Movement is an aspect of health and that tells us static models are inaccurate. A favorite research study1 of mine was done on 100 people with "healthy" (no pain) backs. Shown MRI scans, doctors recommended surgery on over 65% of these people. How many procedures have been performed based on these static images? The numbers are staggering.
Have you ever noticed how resistant you are when someone forces an opinion on you? Or how reluctant you are to follow a new routine or exercise program touted as the perfect cure to all your ills? Taken in the broader view of our own experience it becomes clear that imposing an agenda on another human being or ourselves based on a static image, statistic, or "fact" is violence. How are we to know if a symptom is part of the sickness or a healing attempt toward homeostasis? Medicine that approaches health by reducing symptoms could therefore be hindering the bodymind in its own healing efforts. Certainly violence is not usually associated with healing, although, again, a change in our perspective reveals that it is commonly basic protocol.
How do we get away from violent healing agendas? For me the somatics movement is a step in the right direction. Thomas Hanna wrote "The life sciences in general and the sciences of physiology, psychology, and medicine in particular lack valid grounds for what they assert to be established fact and sound theorizing exactly to the degree that they ignore, willfully or innocently, first-person data. To avoid evidence that is "phenomenological" or "subjective" is unscientific. To dismiss such data as irrelevant and/or unimportant is irresponsible."2 Once we start to listen, not only to the voice but to all of the bodymind, an incredible wealth of information and understanding becomes available. This new input reflects the current directions of the organism and adjusts spontaneously as changes continue.
As this model begins to be understood, many ancient healing rituals are being reevaluated and again becoming popular. Unless we approach them in a similar way to our ancestors, though, they will likely backfire. This is because we carry our agenda into the process. We may not need to spend our whole lives preparing ourselves as the shamans did, but a thorough change in attitude is in order. We cannot develop spiritual coherency in a weekend workshop; it is an ongoing journey that takes dedication and practice.
Recent research in cell biology3 shows how the extracellular matrix or living matrix penetrates the cell walls and even the nucleus of the cell. This provides an internal holographic referencing system that compares incoming stimuli to past experience or body memories at a rate of 100 billion times per second. A constant flow of information about genetics, history, systems status, emotional states, etc. is available in this system. We call this domain the unconscious.
Notice how your body adjusts when you walk into a room full of a strangers and you will get a glimpse of this system in action. The faces and postures, among other things, of all these new people are compared to past experiences at a speed that is astonishing. Without careful observation it happens so fast we may not even notice it, or if we do, it will just be as a strange feeling or a rush.
My work, somaZen, is focused on approaching and languaging directly with unconscious systems, with or without conscious involvement. Developing a new language is quite a task. My experience is that when we understand each other we are in agreement. I hope to see the day when practitioners of all somatic techniques can work with the same focus, efficiently network, and share the many wonderful discoveries that we are soon to make, God willing.
In conclusion I would say the true healing agenda is not to have an agenda. It seems useful to hold an intention to help us focus, while at the same time it is vitally important to keep as big a perspective as possible. As a wise friend told me, "Paradox is the truth standing on its head in order to get your attention." I wish you peace and growth as you continue your journey.
1 BodyMind: A Journal of Alternative Health
2 Thomas Hanna, "What is Somatics?" in Johnson, Don Hanlon, ed.: Bone, Breath & Gesture: Practices of Embodiment.. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1995.
3 Information available from James L. Oschman, NORA (Nature’s Own Research Association), PO Box 5101, Dover NH 03821-5101.