True change is possible. I have done it and I am still doing it -- and it is responsible for my healing. Change brings about healing. Only change brings true healing - everything else covers up the source of the dis-ease. I want to share a short story about how this process of healing started for me, and then I want to share an inspiring quote from Why People Don't Heal and How They Can by Caroline Myss (Paperback - Sep 1998).
The first couple years after I was diagnosed with glaucoma were fairly typical. Of course I incorporated a full-on alternative medicine approach and I did many things that may not be typical, but I was living and thinking entirely within the narrow band that defines the world's view of glaucoma. Then a couple things happened that shook up my world.
First, on a routine visit to my ophthalmologist to have my intraocular pressure checked, I was very surpised to find that my eye pressure was elevated compared to prior visits. It may not seem significant to those of you reading my blog, but this ophthalmologist visit shook up my world. It indicated that something I did not understand was affecting my intraocular pressure. It indicated that my fanatical program of nutrition and hundreds of vitamin and herbal supplements wasn't working as I expected it to. And it indicated that the doctor's tools (primarily the glaucoma medications) were not completely managing my eye pressure either. This event marks the point in time where I stopped relying primarily upon the advice of experts. WIthin less than one month I embarked on a program of self-tonometry research and that program changed my life.
The self-tonometry research confirmed that my lifestyle had a significant effect on my intraocular pressure. That discovery was truly life-changing for me. But what happened next is critical. I made the decision that I was willing to change anything and everything about my self and my life in order to heal myself. And I made this decision with equal parts enthusiasm, joy and determination. There was absolutely no dread.
I also had the idea that I could not wait to rid myself of the old me. Of course, the "old me" is the ego, and the ego possesses us like a demon. While there is no reason one couldn't immediately cast the ego off, in practice it often requires considerable training and evolution to dissolve the ego. My current favorite discussion of this topic is found in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (Oprah's Book Club, Selection 61) by Eckhart Tolle (Paperback - Jan 30, 2008). In this current post, I want to focus more on Why People Don't Heal and How They Can by Caroline Myss.
The quote below comes from page 47 of the book. As I read it I felt like I could have written it myself. I will insert my own comments throughout the section below. Here it is.
by Caroline Myss (Paperback - Sep 1998) (http://www.amazon.com/Why-People-Dont-Heal-They/dp/0609802240/?tag=jaxfl...)
[The] myth [that true change is impossible] is especially debilitating because it has a great deal of clout within the psyche regardless of whether one is physically ill. The reason we believe change is impossible is simple: No one likes change, and no one likes to change. We like everything to remain familiar -- perversely enough, even in very difficult situations. We believe that "the devil we know is better tan the one we don't," and that's how most of us look at the process of change.
Comment by Dave: another reason we my believe true change is impossible is because we almost never see a living example of it.
Even though change is constant and inevitable, we prefer to turn our attention -- and a great deal of our attention -- to preventing changes from happening in our lives. Suggesting to people that they initiate change and call upon the winds to pull their ship from its safe harbor into the moving seas is akin to asking them to sit on hot coals for an afternoon. Yet the truth is that healing and change are one and the same thing. They are composed of the same energy, and we cannot seek to heal an illness without first looking into what behavioral patterns and attitudes need to be altered in our life. Once those characteristics are identified, we have to do something about those patterns. This requires taking action, and actions bring about change.
Comment by Dave: these patterns are the most fundamental cause of any chronic disease.
Many people convince themselves that quitting an addiction or beginning a routine of bodywork represents sufficient change for healing to occur.
Comment by Dave: I convinced myself that elevating my nutritional supplement program from merely "extreme" to the level of "most sophisticated glaucoma supplement program ever devised" was enough to bring about healing of my optic nerve and to reduce my intraocular pressure. One reason you rarely see me blogging about nutritional supplements now is that I realized, though quantitative data obtained via self-tonometry, that pills, powders, potions and all the other stuff doctors can "do to us" pales in its healing power compared to changing ourselves internally. If I had written this statement, it I would have substituted acupuncture (which is something I do believe in) and nutritional supplements (which is another approach I do believe in) for "quitting an addiction or beginning a routine of bodywork" but the specific external practice doesn't matter -- none of them are going to come anywhere near the healing power of internal changes. Just insert whatever practice you are doing and the statement still applies.
Certainly these changes support healing, but quite frankly they contribute very little to the real issues that may be preventing healing. Healing requires internal as well as external change. It requires asking ourselves questions such as "Am I fulfilled by the life I am leading? Have I given enough attention to my own personal needs, or have I just sought to look after the needs of others?" These questions not only direct our attention to ourselves but also compel us to shift directions in our lives and even change our nature.
Comment by Dave: Wow, this is an important paragraph! I think she says it very well. Some things I have been emphasizing that help us shift directions and change our nature include:
- Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell(Paperback - Dec 23, 2003)
- A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (Oprah's Book Club, Selection 61) by Eckhart Tolle
- Serene Impulse or some formal meditation practice from an real tradition.
At this point, we usually begin to argue with ourselves, telling ourselves again and again that we simply cannot change our natures. "This is the way I have always been," we say, "because this is who I am."
The myth that true change is impossible is entrenched within us as deeply as our DNA.
Comment by Dave: Well now we know that even our DNA is not beyond our influence of change - See DNA Is Not Destiny.
Everything and everyone seems to support [the idea that we cannot fundamentallly change] because we don't want to change ourselves any more than we believe others can change. Even when we are holding out hope that someone will change his or her negative characteristics, we usually doubt that this kind of transformation can actually be accomplished.
To work change into the depths of our nature, we need to come to grips with those characteristics within us that we have tended to avoid. We are often completely unaware of certain parts of our personalities, either because we do not want to recognize them or because we have never given much attention to our shadow side. Regardless of the reason, we must face them once and for all. It si not an easy task. We don't like diving into our dark side, and we don't like bringing our fears and negative qualities out into the open.
At one of my workshops, a 41-year-old woman named Louisa told her story of dealing with ovarian cancer.
Comment by Dave: I omitted this section of the book. It discusses a person who was in denial.
At the other end of the spectrum, some people regard internal change as not only possible but as a bit of an adventure, especially when they approach it with a sense of humor.
Comment by Dave: I did not approach my situation with a sense of humor, but I did see it as a huge and exciting adventure! You can probably get a sense of that from my blog posts such as this one: Embrace Evolve Exceed To Overcome Glaucoma.
Linda, a woman who had to cope with skin cancer, was absolutely delightful, full of humor and warmth. She decided to look at her healing as an adventure, commenting, "I always wanted to go exploring, but I sure as hell never thought it would be from the inside of me!"
Linda was open to any and all forms of healing on the market. After investigating many therapeutic possibilities, she met a man who was both a therapist and a meditation teacher. They got together twice a week, and as she said to me, "When we weren't on the outside, we were on the inside," As part of her therapy, he directed Linda to enter a meditative state and then answer his questions. To help herself cooperate completely with him, she created a poem that she would repeat a few times before she relaxed into a meditative state: "In I go, off to mend; out I come, healthy again."
We rarely think that changing ourselves could be an adventure, but why should it not? Illness is associated so closely with fears and negative patterns that we can become as frightened of healing ourselves as we are of the disease itself. The knowledge of how much and how deeply we need to change is as intimidating as it is true. Linda's remarkable attitude offers a positive option of a lighthearted approach to healing, as unlikely and as difficult as it may appear.
Questions for Self-Examination
- Do you think about change more than you act to bring it about?
- Do you always imagine that change will be troublesome and depressing rather than adventuresome or exciting?
- Do you think of change as something that will make your life feel out of control and chaotic?