Almost eight years ago, my son Oliver and I were taking a campus tour of Boston College when I came across an interview with Father Michael Himes, a Catholic priest who was a part of the theology faculty there. In discussing how he came to choose the topic for his weekly message, he said that he long ago determined the futility of trying to direct a particular message at the diverse needs of his listeners. He asks himself instead what he most needs to hear and speaks to that.
In his own words:“I talk to myself, and the people are eavesdropping; they each hear whatever they need.”Click To Tweet
In many ways, this reminds me of some of the most unusual healing practices I came across in my early years of spiritual spelunking. While studying with the Hawaiian shaman Serge Kahili King, he shared stories of what he described as “the four levels of healing”, each one based on four levels of understanding reality he distinguished in his teaching…
1. Everything is Separate
The idea that everything is separate is so intrinsic in our culture that many of us have never questioned it. From the age that we first begin to grasp our pronouns, in particular “I, me, mine” and “they, them, theirs”, we divide the world up into separate categories and then subdivide and reference each category according to good/bad, better/worse, and right/wrong.
As a shaman, Dr. King was not opposed to treating the body as though it were a separate and unique entity, giving it both traditional and modern medicines as indicated by symptomology and the health profession’s current level of understanding of what would be of most use.
2. Everything is Connected
At another level of understanding, the universe is so interconnected that to treat any element of it in isolation is not only impractical, it’s impossible. I have fond memories of a cartoon featuring two mountain climbers roped up and approaching the top of a snow-covered peak. As the first climber slips and falls of the side of the mountain, the second climber watches him fall and says “Boy, is he in trouble!”.
What makes the cartoon funny is that as observers who understand how connected the climbers are, we know what’s going to happen next. And as observers of life, when we see how interconnected all of life is, we recognize that to treat any one thing in isolation makes no sense. So a number of healing modalities look to the mind-body connection or the amplification and sharing of healing energy between shaman and the patient.
3. Everything is Symbolic
One of the most interesting pieces of anecdotal research I’ve come across in the area of dream interpretation pointed out that most “Dream Dictionaries” and other systems of interpreting dream symbology were at their most accurate after someone had studied the dictionary or system. In other words, when we look for meaning in our dreams, we inevitably find it in pretty much exactly the way we expect to.
If I think losing my teeth in a dream indicates a fear of aging and flying indicates a desire or craving for freedom, then my brain will oblige me by showing me dream images of my toothless self flying across the universe while I sleep.
In terms of healing, the shaman can create a symbolic representation of the illness or source of dis-ease, and then in healing the symbol, initiate the healing process in the body.
One of my favorite versions of this that I still occasionally entertain myself with in coffee shops and airport lounges around the world is to find a person who looks like they’re preoccupied and struggling. I ask my mind to offer up a symbol over their heads that’s representative of their struggle, and then I deliberately beautify the symbol until the person’s features begin to soften.
While I accept that I may just be giving my busy mind something to do, it’s surprising how often I’m rewarded with a smile and a sense that if only for a few moments, I’ve contributed to lightening the burden of a fellow human being.
4. Everything is One
In pretty much every field of spiritual study I have come across, the highest level of understanding points to the singular energy at the heart of the universe – what religions tend to call “God” and science attempts to describe and understand through the study of quantum mechanics.
In the words of the physicist Sir James Jeans, “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”
As I recall it, Dr. King’s way of healing at this level of understanding reality was both humorous and unique. He would focus on the person he was working with until all sense of separation disappeared, and then he would essentially go out and have a great time, assuming that in filling himself up with positive feelings he was effectively healing his patient.
This is reminiscent of a story I’ve heard about the Scottish mystic Syd Banks that when one of his students complained that family and financial obligations prohibited them from devoting all their time to “spreading the word”, Syd laughed and said that he could do more good in the world by puttering around in his garden than spending all his time traveling around and speaking to groups.
While that seemed paradoxical (and just plain wrong) to me when I first heard it, I’ve come to see that if we really are all part of a singular energy and consciousness, it makes total sense that as we wake up to our deeper nature, the world wakes up with us.
While that may seem fanciful, it points to something I’ve been pondering lately that might just be the “user-friendliest” way of healing the world imaginable:What if the best thing we could do for the health and well-being of the planet is to be happy and love our lives?Click To Tweet
This doesn’t mean we all need to go out and live our dreams or life on earth is doomed. It just means that people are impacted more by our overflow than our efforts. And the more we fill up with love and understanding, the more love and understanding there is in the world.
With all my love,