Awareness – The Core of Healing
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?”
From Rumi the 13th Century Sufi mystic poet
Awareness is often ignored, which is one of the most significant of factors for healing.
Developing awareness, especially to constricting attachments, is an important step in the recovery from illness and pain. Centuries ago, the Buddha realized the link between suffering and attachment. In sickness, the mind tends to hold tightly to a narrowed set of thoughts, interpretations, and feelings. The repetitive focus leads to entrapment in the mental activity defining the health threatening conditions. The mind is naturally drawn to what is considered a threat as it then gives immediate attention to what the body needs. For healing to occur, however, there needs to be a shift towards a greater awareness and openness for new opportunities, solutions, positive health behaviors, adaptations, and skill development.
Someone who has chronic pain, addictions, depression, cancer or any life-threatening illness – experiences different levels of suffering during the disease. As a result from the illness, the person may find their mind is locked into thoughts about their losses. Fears may begin to develop regarding future difficulties. An individual may worry about death, the loss of function, or the capacity to work or care for one’s self or others. An important aspect of the healers work is to provide a listening presence, wise guidance and education. Also needed, is the sharing of techniques that facilitate the release from unhealthy attachment – especially to rigid ideas, concepts, and unproductive worries. The hope is to help alleviated pain and suffering, and to enhance healing and well-being.
The healing arts have adopted fundamental ideas, which were derived from schools of spiritual philosophy, psychology, and religion.
The value of bringing awareness to the mind’s activity are emphasized for both healer and sufferer, which then counter tendencies towards fixed or rigid ideas as well as judgments and reactions. The so-called self-ego is our developed mental sphere of self-centered awareness, which contains our patterns of reactivity and response. Tight identity with the self-ego has a relative functional role for us as it aids us in adapting, interrelating and functioning in the everyday world. This developed self-ego has locked in perceptions and ideas of what different experiences mean in regards to rewards, nourishment or threat. Depending on the type of learning, parenting and earlier life experiences, the self-ego gets imprinted with adaptive or maladaptive learned patterns, reactive thoughts (judgments), concepts, images, and responses. In the case of early life trauma, for example, patterns and reactive thoughts may be maladaptive with less flexibility to adapt to changing circumstance, which gets perpetuated as pain and suffering. see article on: Trauma – PTSD
With illness or severe loss, the developed self-concept of one’s world is held more tightly.
The person then begins to be less adaptable to change and feels more vulnerable, which intensifies his or her fear and suffering. The degree of pain depends on the level of attachment to one’s developed worldview or biased perceptions, so the tighter the attachment, the greater the person’s inflexibility – resulting in suffering. With greater rigidity comes a lessened ability to adapt, to change, to heal or transform. It is considered a healing crisis when an opportunity exists that moves along the natural developmental lines towards openness, acceptance, flexibility and spiritual growth. If you examine the healing process and spiritual growth, the essential ingredient in both is the ability to experience or recognize a “felt sense,” which is larger than one’s embedded cluster of ideas, reactivities, and repetitive pattern of responses to experienced situations. The degree of pain depends on the level of attachment to one’s developed worldview or biased perceptions, so the tighter the attachment, the greater the person’s inflexibility – resulting in suffering. With greater rigidity comes more significant pain and a lessened ability to adapt, to change, to heal or transform. It is considered a healing crisis when an opportunity exists which moves along natural developmental lines towards openness, acceptance, flexibility and spiritual growth. If you examine the healing process and spiritual growth, the essential ingredient in both is the ability to experience or recognize a “felt sense,” which is larger than one’s embedded cluster of ideas, reactivities, and repetitive pattern of responses to experienced situations.
Attempts to define or describe the undefinable, this “felt sense” of the greater, larger, all-inclusive space of being, which can be considered the infinite space of potentiality — has led to confusion due too many concepts or terms generated from the many fields of human endeavor: as science, spirituality, religion, and mysticism. see article on: Depression
One’s ability to gain freedom from mental or physical suffering and attachments is aided by:
- realization of the healing space, which may be beyond one’s contrived limiting self-notions of what we believe
- getting beyond personal rigid fixed ideas, concepts, and beliefs
- allowing for movement and release from repetitive thought, actions, and behaviors
- developing an openness to a sense of more possibilities, flexibility, fearlessness, peacefulness, and serenity
Awareness, openness, acceptance, and flexibility contributes to better life adaptation, recovery, and healing.
Being stuck in fixed behaviors or patterns may be part of the actual cause or the perpetuation of illness.
The ability to be flexible and to make a change contributes to healing. If caught in an inflexible self-ego, a clouded level of awareness, or a lack of spiritual insight, one truly is in the dance of suffering and decay; while one awaits a release to freedom, new expression, and new experiences.
Most schools of spiritual development teach the importance of following some form of regular practice. Gradual movement is encouraged – from rational thoughts, feelings, emotions and body awareness, to the freeing experience of the profound silence and serenity – as in prayer, meditation or contemplation. The release into the peace of “open awareness” goes beyond the usual mental activity of interpretation and judgment.
Each tradition has teachings related to:
- the care and nurture of the body, mind, and spirit
- the achievement of greater happiness
- the gaining of freedom from the bondage of entrapment in a shallow, unenlightened world of an inflexible self-ego.
With development and practice, the division of self-ego and the spiritual awareness melt away into an experience of oneness and unity.
The progression to enlightenment often follows a course of gradual awakening of awareness, along with total acceptance of change and impermanence, which allow one to experience the deep witnessing that is always eternally present. The experience of an enlightened consciousness can either happen as a sudden shift, or as a mere glimpse in the course of practices, or may occur after some catastrophic event or bout of severe suffering. Integrative psychiatry and nondual therapies support and nurture the development of a stronger, yet flexible sense of self, self-awareness and self-esteem as part of the healing process. The goal is to promote a better functioning and adaptability to everyday life stresses. At the same time, work is done to enhance the individual growth and development beyond the personal self – as well as the entrapping experiences of everything being about me or mine, to the deeper and more expansive realm of spiritual realization. This exists as the natural state of peace, happiness, well-being and release from suffering. See article on: The Secret
Some practices to consider, for integrative healing and joyful progress, which are along the different lines of personal, compassionate, and balanced development of a healthy body, mind, soul and spirit:
- nondual oriented therapies
- active, consistent exercise, along with a balanced program of rest and recreation
- yoga, chi gong, and meditation
- spiritual practices from either one’s background, or from other religious or spiritual traditions
- addiction and substance abuse treatment – if needed
- reducing exposure to harmful environmental toxins and allergens
- correction of medical, metabolic or hormone issues
- following a more nutritious, organic, plant-based diet with correction of deficiencies — vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids; and health enhancement with herbs and botanicals
- massage, acupuncture, deep relaxation, and other body-based therapies
- “other-serving,” volunteer and community service work; charitable and compassionate assistance to others in need; caring for a pet
- communing with nature and caring for the environment (personal and outside).
Study with a credible, well-trained and trustworthy nondual therapists, a spiritual teacher or a mentor when the opportunity presents itself. Read and study – individually or in groups – the writings and teachings of the great spiritual teachers, as well as other philosophies, and traditions. Be compassionately present. Be who you are, fully aware, liberated and open to the all existing potentialities — not a “who” that is constricted by limiting mind programming, learning, or limiting sets of reactivity patterns as from trauma experiences.
written by Ron Parks, MD, edited by Shan Parks
Resources and References:
Website/Book – In Touch
Book – The Sacred Mirror
Book – Listening from the Heart of Silence
Article – The Fourth Wave of Behaviorism: ACT, DBT, and Nondual Wisdom
Website: Radiant Mind