Diane Shainberg: Healing

Some Psychological and Spiritual Dimensions

by Diane Soshin Shainberg

A woman said recently in my office, “I’m exhausted,” and wept.

A man looked out the window, was still a few moments, and then said, “I can’t lie to myself anymore about this.”

These are moments of truth. They are the moments when we feel that whatever we’ve discovered or found can’t be reduced any further. We’ve come to the very bottom, there is nothing more left to unpack. This is it!

It sometimes takes years to come to these moments of truth. And when we do, the potential for healing arises.

As a peacemaker priest I live with the tenet of healing and uphold it. As a psychologist I study the process of how we heal. As a psychotherapist I recognize and validate moments of healing as they occur. I encourage clients to see and appreciate their healing process.

Our dictionary definition of healing is to recover from sickness or a wound. This is a process, not a final state or cure. It is the process of learning to touch with kindness and awareness what has formerly been touched with fear. Stephen Levine, a famous teacher of healing, says that healing occurs when we begin to send merciful awareness into what we formerly dreaded and hated.

Often that starts with the recognition and admission, without judgment, that we have a sickness, that we have a wound within. As we make contact with our wounds or traumas, memories of how the wound happened will often spontaneously arise. We are asked to pay attention and recognize what’s going on inside us, become aware of our bodily sensations, our thoughts, changing memories, feelings, images and dreams, without judgment or opinion. As we do that, as we stay present, the hurt begins to ease or soften. We feel the experience in our body, we open and shift.

We see that it is we who are creating our own unhappiness. It is not something that happened to us in the past, it is not something our mothers and fathers made happen. It is something we are doing right now, all day, every day, hour after hour, as we cling to our stories, dwell and indulge in them, obsess over them. We become aware of how we hang onto our images, stories, identities, old object relations. We explore the effects of this attachment, we stay present in the pain this evokes and ask ourselves whether it brings us what we want.

By staying open and present in the healing process we learn what it truly means to begin to trust the universe. We are asked to just be. We don’t have to accomplish anything, there’s no pressure to become or produce. We come into the present moment and stay open, stay present. We leave behind our stories and beliefs, our obsessions and preoccupations, and come into the terrain of nowness. We enter the unknown.

In that state of openness and presence, we come into contact with a personal treasure house, a moving, dancing force within us that keeps bringing to us sensations, feelings, and thoughts that could be called our healing power. It contains within it all the seed potentials we were born with and that have been hidden in us since childhood. They come forth into our awareness when we let ourselves be and get out of our own way, and we begin to heal. It is a therapist’s skill to recognize the emergence of these potentials, such as strength, clarity, will, peace, creativity, immediacy, compassion, love, and self-value, and to support and validate them.

To heal is to recognize what is there, and to let “it” unfold as it will. We thus trust that there is a wisdom in us that will bring forth whatever needs to be heard in the moment. We heal as we learn to respect this innate wisdom within us. As we let go of trying to control this flow of life, we begin to heal, for we naturally let our organism do what it does with brilliance: spontaneously bring us arisings and naturally let them pass.

Healing occurs as we let the fresh new possibilities arise in each moment and tell us what they have to say. This happens when we choose to drop our story and come into contact with NOW, and commit to staying present and seeing how life will unfold.

Kalu Rinpoche, head of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu lineage, said this in a talk before he died:

“When you enter the moment
As it is arising
So are you healed
So are you complete
When you see that you are nothing
Then you are everything.
That is it.”

Our healing is to surrender the “I,” “me,” “my,” and to fall right into the heart of the moment. As we stay present we see the “whole catastrophe” played out in front of us. We have every conceivable idea, fantasy, mood, and mental state pass through us. We recognize what is arising and let it be. We don’t indulge or repress. And when we do that, something radically revolutionary happens. We see that whatever arises, self-liberates. Whatever arises, when seen and heard and given its space to exist, naturally dissolves and passes on its own. This process of arising and existing and passing frees us forever from being stuck with anything in our life. Everything that arises passes when we don’t choose to cling to it.

That means that everything in our life is workable. Nothing will last if we don’t grasp onto it. This means that we can choose freedom. We can choose to let go of our stories and see what will happen. And whatever happens will be a new moment with new possibilities.

We can either carry around the baggage of our stories or pop out of them into the vivid aliveness of the moment. Our life literally hangs on a breath. Moment after moment, we are free to make a choice to be free or to cling to the past. We can be the Buddha of 1998 rather than aspire to the one who lived 2,500 years ago!

Andrew Harvey wrote a book on Rumi’s life called The Way of Passion in which he said that the work of the Sufi master is to tear our heart open. Then tear it open some more. Then tear it more and more until it is so open it holds the whole world within it.

Moments of grasping our magnificence occur and they break our hearts open, for ourselves and others. Someone recently said that you might as well not try to fix your broken heart for it will just break over and over at seeing how beautiful we all are and how we often don’t appreciate it. I recently said to a client asking about love, “Love is as is. It doesn’t ask for anything to be different.”