Spirituality and Healing
by Paul Bedson
A seed lies in the soil,
It cracks open.
A sprout emerges;
it pushes up through the soil
into the light of day.
Now the plant grows
towards the light.
A bud forms on the stem,
tight and protective,
until it too cracks open.
A flower emerges;
it reveals its fragile beauty.
In the heart of the flower more
seeds are waiting
for the wind and the letting go.
A seed drops into the soil.
In the journey from seed to flower, as with our own human journey, there are some radical transitions that present both as challenges and opportunities for growth.
These transitions are essential but can be scary business nonetheless – they require a process of opening up to the unknown, the new and unfamiliar; and letting go of the known, the familiar and the habitual.
As I write this article, outside my window autumn leaves are fluttering down in the breeze… these trees know how to let go! We can learn a lot from nature.
A plants journey is from seed to bud to flower… if the plant avoids the transitions, the seed may rot, the bud may wither, and the flower may never appear.
The human journey is from child to adult to elder, with the flowering being associated with the awakening of our innate spirituality. In a similar way to nature, resisting these transitions can create suffering, and be a causative factor in illness.
So what is spirituality? What is the spiritual longing and search all about? What is the relationship between spirituality and healing illness?
In the broadest sense, spirituality is the dawning sense of connectedness with self, others, the natural world, and a higher power. This connectedness brings a sense of belonging, compassion and deeper meaning to life. Spirituality is generally understood to be related to but distinct from religiosity.
What awakens this sense of connectedness is the growing from separate consciousness (self-centered isolation) to a state of union with all life forms, and with life itself. This is the most essential step in the growth of a human being… like it or not, we are relational beings!
Spirituality is recognized as an integral part of the human journey and, as such, it is inter-connected with health and wellbeing.
This transition into the spiritual phase of life is a healing step away from isolation, defensiveness, reactivity and a preoccupation with materialistic happiness.
In ancient societies, the connection between spirituality and healing was so close that the roles of priest, shaman, elder and healer were one and the same.
As human beings we have physical, psychological and spiritual needs. Our physical needs are for food, clothing and shelter. Our psychological and spiritual needs are for: certainty (safety, security), un-certainty (variety, adventure), significance (recognition and worthiness), connection, growth and contribution.
The needs for certainty, uncertainty and significance are ego-formative, whereas the needs for connection, growth and contribution are ego-transcendent (or spiritual) needs. Our ego-formative needs are not inferior, wrong and “selfish”, rather, they are the bud that opens into the flower of spirituality.
Our contemporary societies have specialized in satisfying the physical needs and the ego-formative needs, but have resisted the ego-transcendent needs of our spiritual nature. We have created a preoccupation with materialism and individuality. We have generally prioritized comfort, control and certainty and resisted the transition to spirituality. Fierce individuality feeds competitiveness, struggle and scarcity consciousness (hoarding). This creates winners and losers, haves and have-nots, successes and failures… domination and greed. Co-operation, compassion and kindness become scarce commodities! This resistance to growth also manifests as social isolation, depression, anxiety, and a range of addictions and distractions; it also becomes a causative factor in chronic illness.
So where are our wise elders who have weathered the seasons of life, made the transitions and flowered into their spirituality? We need these wise elders to point the way, and to assure us that it is possible to change, to open up, and to let go.
There have always been wise elders (perhaps a little thin on the ground), wisdom teachings and spiritual practices for making the transition from:
The bud (protection) – to the flower (growth/opening)
Comfort, control, certainty – to connection, growth, contribution
Separative consciousness – to expanded awareness
But, in an individualistic and materialistic culture, people rarely reach out for spiritual resources unless there is a crisis in life and their usual coping strategies aren’t coping.
A crisis like a physical or mental illness can provide the opportunity to ask some very important questions like: “What’s missing in my life?” “What important needs are not really being satisfied?” “What really needs healing here?” “Whose life am I living?”
In this context, spiritual growth can be the outcome of a shift in perspective, which enables us to live beyond our previous way of life, and frees us from beliefs and limitations that have held us hostage for decades.
The tight bud begins to crack open to reveal the flower!
Spiritual practices like meditation and prayer – done well and consistently – help us to make this healing transition. These practices make the space for it, develop the trust in it and enable the letting go, in order to be in-flow with it.
With a commitment to spiritual practices you begin to develop the inner resources to embrace the transition: courage, resilience, patience, trust, humility, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, insight, inner integrity and joy… this is the flowering!
When you first glimpse this new way of being you may experience liberation from the confining wall of isolating self-centeredness. You may also begin to feel that whatever you are experiencing at the moment is also felt by millions of other people. Recognizing your commonality with all others will widen your perspective and increase the resources that you have for healing.
Of course, there is likely to be plenty of resistance to making this spiritual transition: resistance in our conditioned values and priorities, resistance from our lifestyle habits, resistance from our old self-image and resistance from others. But the impetus for the spiritual flowering has always been there: in the seed, in the soil, in the sun, in the rain, and in the tight bud… all stages playing a role in the journey. It is the natural process of growth, healing and maturation, requiring support and guidance from inner and outer resources.
Senior Therapist, Facilitator
The Gawler Cancer Foundation
BA, BCouns, BAcup
President, Meditation Association of Australia
Paul has been working in the field of mind/body medicine for over 25 years as a counsellor, psychotherapist, meditation instructor and natural therapist. His particular interest is in helping people deal with the range of emotional issues associated with their healing journey. Paul also works with grief and anxiety issues, and relationship problems. He teaches mindfulness-based styles of meditation which develop wisdom and compassion through awareness of body, emotion, mind and spirit as one integrated Self. Paul co-authored the book Meditation an In-Depth Guide with Ian Gawler.
If you’re interested in exploring these themes further, Paul and Maia Bedson are running their next Spirituality & Healing Retreat from 2-4th June 2017. Click here to learn more about this unique weekend retreat program.