Tuesday 14 May 2024

Healing as a pathway to joy

Healing is often considered arduous but what if we reframe it as a revival; a pathway to joy? What if illness is a call from the body to improve our lives not only from the way we eat, but to the way we think, engage and respond? What if holistic (that is to say mind-body-spirit) healing, is necessary in order to reset aspects of our lives which are in need of attention or no longer serve us? How would that level of emotional healing expedite physical healing? And how would our lives look once we have transformed? 

We are not consciously responsible for illness, but it is true to say that many of the subconscious choices we make on a daily basis are misaligned with wellness. Redirecting the course of our lives can be uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst. If we are lucky, the diagnosis of a chronic disease such as cancer gives the opportunity to explore and change deep-rooted patterns and this is important for longevity. 

Much of the way we live is entrenched from an early age. In his groundbreaking book The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton talks about this hard-wiring of the subconscious during the first 7 years of life and how this programming imperceptibly runs the way we think and engage as adults. Gabor Mate speaks of people who are prone to disease as perfectionist, stoic and hyper-responsible, often repressing emotion as a longstanding means of self-protection (which may no longer serve). Fortunately, behavioural patterns are not set in stone and in this respect awareness is truly the gateway to deep healing. Becoming aware of patterns, be they lack of boundaries driven by poor self-esteem, or simply an ingrained generational way of thinking about self-care, is transformative. Catching thoughts as they arise and observing them with curiosity rather than judgement or control gently changes old behaviours. We can witness growth by the ways in which we begin to advocate for ourselves, implement healthy boundaries and practice self-compassion. It can take many years to master this awareness and enjoy the subsequent shift, but over time and with patience life can metamorphosize into something even more beautiful, meaningful and vibrant.

Excitingly, transforming how we show up in the world positively impacts our internal terrain. Epigenetics describes the ways that genes respond to their direct environment. Our bodies are constantly moderating and optimising this inner terrain via a complex system of feedback loops: biological mechanisms which seek to maintain balance, from blood sugar regulation to hormone balance, digestion and more. When we heal in a holistic way, we become aware of ourselves as the cell, responding to our own unique external environment. This can be family, home, community and the wider world. Consider ways of improving the terrain in which you are immersed. A life of chronic loneliness, chaos, disconnect, disappointment, frustration, fear, stress or lack is reflected in our internal chemistry, impacting practically every system in the body from the microbiome to neurotransmitter production and detoxification. Engaging in the world in a conscious way positively impacts inner health by reassuring the body that it is safe: that you are aware of your powerful role as a part of the feed-back loop. From this place of connectedness we are able to improve the dialogue we have with our bodies, responding to symptoms in real time, eating consciously, living congruently and harmonising our internal systems through breathing, connecting with nature, exploring healthy relationships and practicing self-care. On a microscopic level this can reduce inflammation, improve the diversity of the microbiome, support digestion, lower cortisol and optimise mood. 

Ill-health is undoubtedly challenging in many ways, but understanding the gifts it can bring if we are willing to sit in awareness with our entrenched patterns and the ways in which we are sleepwalking through life can bring joyful rewards. Healing, particularly from a chronic disease, is not about surviving, rather about thriving. I often ask my clients about purpose, joy and how their ideal world looks once they have healed. Many of us have forgotten the importance of joy as a necessary human emotion for wellbeing and vibrancy, and disease offers us an opportunity to reevaluate what is important. For some, this is brave work, unpicking a lifetime of conditioning which requires the help of others in the form of energy work, therapy or hypnotherapy. For others the shifts happen with relative ease. Either way it can be helpful to start a daily practice, taking time to advocate for your needs, pursue passion, explore purpose and consider what makes you happy. Joy is as important a part of healing as focusing on diet and exercise. 

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