A few weeks ago I “pulled a muscle.” You’d think at my age that I would know better than to shovel snow; but it was such a pretty, blue-sky day, and I felt so good, that I simply didn’t think. Two days later my back ached. By the end of the week I couldn’t walk, and soon an old sciatica, reignited, was shooting pain down into my foot.
I’ve done everything imaginable to get well again, including doctors, chiropractors and PT, heat, cold, back brace, and prayers by wonderful Silent Unity, plus energy work like Reiki and Cranial Sacral. It’s just going to take time. Meanwhile I would find myself falling sometimes into such self-pity that I started scolding myself for the pity-parties I despise.
“If self-pity hastened the cure,” laughed one friend who has her own problems, “I’d have an amazing recovery!” And yet the pity is not wrong. Instead of critical self-pity, though, why don’t I call it self-compassion? When I acknowledge my sorrow, my low spirits shift, move off. Let’s talk, therefore, about loving ourselves with all our frailties and failures.
Last week as I lay on the massage table for a long and luxurious cranial-sacral treatment, drifting in and out of awareness, I found myself praying to my body. All my life my body has done whatever I asked of it, and I don’t think it had ever occurred to me before to give it thanks. Lying there, responding to the osteopath’s gentle suggestions, I was aware of the miracle of having a body. Imagine! I live inside a body! What a privilege!
And then I remembered that Forgiveness is the most powerful prayer you can make. All Christ needed to do in order to heal the leper or the man blind from birth or the adulteress was to murmur, “You are forgiven.” And they walked off healed.
Lying there, I asked my body to forgive me for all the times I have abused it, or invaded it with surgery or flushed it with powerful emetics for some unnecessary colonoscopy demanded by my doctor, for mashing my breasts under mammagraph machines or blasting my belly and limbs with x-rays and MRIs. How many times have I slashed my body open to remove some inner part, beginning with tonsils and adenoids and appendectomy when I was only a child and going on right into adulthood, cutting my flesh open to toss out cysts and organs as if they were just trash.
Lying there, asking for forgiveness, I thanked it for everything it has done for me. The fact is, I live inside this miraculous self-healing organism that cares for me and enfolds me and that functions without my having to do a thing. My heart beats 4800 times an hour, 42,000,000 beats a year and billions upon billions of beats for my lifetime without a single pause; my lungs fill and deflate with air, circulating nutrients to every muscle, tendon, cell. My brain sends forth electrical currents to feed this magical system. My bones regenerate every ten years, white blood cells every week, my skin every two or three weeks. And I take it all for granted.
Then I forgave my body for growing old, for having wrinkles and sagging skin and loosening stomach muscles, and shifting itself out of alignment.
Here’s what’s odd. Was it my imagination?
As I prayed, I could feel my body relax. I could feel it accept—am I crazy? — my thanks, and stretch, as it were, take a breath, and settle down to heal.
Here’s another idea. In the last few days I’ve been experimenting with something else: When I feel loved, and when I am openly loving something else (cat, dog, human, tree or bush), when my heart opens and I am flooded with spiritual well-being, the pain vanishes. Also when I am meditating. Also when I am painting or concentrating on writing or creating.
I’m not saying this is easy. When I am tired, or become anxious and afraid, when I start to scold myself impatiently for not healing faster or better, when I berate myself as old and useless and finished — used up. . . my back begins to spasm, and I am weak and sick again.
Can this be possible?
Is healing simply another word for love? I mean, love for myself and fearless, unfathomable love extending out toward others? Is it possible that self-compassion and an open-hearted delight is one of the secrets to getting well?