I spent years learning different systems of healing. I used to be a massage therapist and every year during CEU time (the requirement to continue to be educated in your field), I’d pull out the different courses available to see what I’d like to learn. Usually I was drawn to the more spiritual aspects of treatment, as opposed to purely physical training. Because of that, the question of what healing means came up over and over, both in classes and in my own mind. This question arises because sometimes there is a definite healing; both the patient and the therapist can tell there has been healing; something is much better than it was before. Yet that doesn’t always mean that the problem is gone. How can that be? That’s what I struggled with over the years. From my reading, a lot of people struggle over this; how can curing and healing not mean the same thing?
I remember hearing this once in a most emphatic way: “I don’t care if I’m healed, I want to be cured. To hell with healing.” I suppose that’s what “cure” means; the disease is gone and will never return. I’m not sure, even in clinical medicine, that a doctor can say a person will never have a recurrence. That the body is free of disease in this moment is pretty much what cure nowdays seems to mean, especially with cancer. When you’re 5 years out, and there’s no evidence of cancer, then cure begins to seem more certain, then 10 years, then 15, then 20. A doctor I greatly admire, Dr. David Serben-Schriever (see Diet and Environment/Diet), lived 20 years past his brain tumor diagnosis. Nevertheless, 20 years in he had a recurrence and died. Then again, others do appear to be cured and die from unrelated things.
Healing, on the other hand, aims to integrate the whole person. When a person is faced with a terminal illness, it isn’t just the physical that is threatened. Our emotions churn, our mind reels, our spirits sink. Healing addresses these parts of us, as well as the physical. It’s like bringing an organism back into homeostasis – that place where everything is in balance. Seen from this perspective, what healing tries to do is put us in a place where our bodies, freed from the necessity of using energy to achieve balance, can support healing from the inside out. To put your house in order, to forgive others, to find peace, to connect with your higher self, to connect with community – all these things are healing. And perhaps when all that is in play, the body can repair itself. It might, it might not (like everything else). There is no guarantee in healing that a person will recover from a physical illness, but there is never a guarantee with ANY kind of intervention, medical or otherwise.
I think healing versus curing is this: curing describes the physical body only. I have this tumor, it was cut out and now I have no more disease and will never have it again. Healing addresses the many levels of a person, including the physical. Hopefully, the entire person – soul, spirit, emotions, mind, body, and the community that body lives in – will be brought back into harmony and balance. In fact, illness itself can be thought of as the body’s response to a life out of balance, a life not working. It may be a signal to a mind focused on other things that something is out of order in your life, it may be that wake-up call – the only way the body has of saying, “hey, pay attention.” Because certainly, this diagnosis will get your attention. When I think back on my life pre-diagnosis, I can see that I was on autopilot. That autopilot got snuffed out in the terror of the diagnosis and I realized I needed to relight it if I was going to have any life worth living (an essential part of this process is explained in Facing Death/A Year to Live). I look back over the 6 years now that I have lived post diagnosis and realize that all my realtionships were reenergized; love and forgiveness softened the hard places, an awareness of the fragility of life gave me access to the joy awaiting in the present moment, my connection to Spirit was deepened, and an appreciation of what we have – family, friends, the world that surrounds us – just brought me to my knees with gratitude. Disappointingly, I have talked to people who really don’t care to be healed in this sense, who think it’s all nonsense or too much work. And it is work, no doubt about that. But, as far as I’m concerned, when you’re at the end of the pier, all you can do is jump in and swim.The swimming is hard work, but it got me to the other side.
Can I say I’m cured? No. No one can say for sure. Can I say I’m healed? Yes. What was broken or damaged before my diagnosis was made whole. I have come back into balance and harmony with my life. Understanding that balance is always dynamically changing with life’s input, maybe I’ll get out of balance again. What I hope from what I’ve learned though, is that I never get stuck in imbalance again, what I hope is that I have the courage to surf that wave of life coming at me. To me, that’s where healing lies, struggling with the new, laughing when I fall off, being thrilled with the current of the moment, savoring life as it is.