söndag 15 april 2012

Acupuncture and how we can heal; the healing crisis (call it healing chances) and the health practitioner as catalyst for healing

What does it mean to heal?

It´s a big question. For some people it can define their entire life. Either in the way they get a chance to heal or in how they keep looking for it, sometimes knowing they are looking but sometimes just walking through life with shards of glass broken in their heart, or illnesses that they neither make friends with nor get rid of.

In this blogpost we are going to talk about healing, the healing crisis – better called the healing chance – and how the acupuncturist and health-practitioner can be a catalyst for healing.

Hurts, problems and illnessess can affect anyone. Some people have lives with less of it, some have more; the wounds can be subtle yet deep, others be big but heal easier. I think that on our way through life, most people look for healing in one way or another.

It takes courage to heal. This sounds strange from the outside – of course we wish to heal if we are hurt, isn´t that obvious? But healing means admitting our hurts and beginning to be free from them and heal to become more whole. This is part of the original etymology of the word instead of the recent New Age use of it – heal comes from hale, which means whole. Healing is about allowing ourselves to become more whole, allowing shards to heal and ourselves to be stronger and wiser in their aftermath.

The views of most Eastern traditions is that if we allow ourselves to heal, we heal the world as a whole too. Everything is connected; our hurt will echo in others as their hurt will echo a little bit in us.
Through accepting healing we can also begin to help others. We will talk about this later on in the post, when we discuss how we all can be catalysts for healing.

Illness is not evidence that you have failed, but rather a way to better health, a better state of balance. It can be a transitional state. Illness may be necessary if your old state was too rigid. There may be two types of healing. One takes you back to the state you were before. Although this often seems desirable, remember that nearly all the elements that contributed to that illness will still be there. In more serious illness, generative healing may be needed – healing that takes us beyond the person we were, the person who was prone to that illness in the first place. Unless this type of healing takes place you will become ill again in the same way. Illness can be a way to better health.
                         - McDermot and O´Connor, NLP for Health, s201.


In Daoism, a lot of training is done to understand and become friends with change. They study change deeply, and have frameworks for how to see and understand it in our everyday life, smack in the middle of coffee-cups, the papers to get through at work and the screaming kids at home.
    To heal is to allow ourselves to shift from one state to another. It is shifting from a wounded or hurt state into one that is more whole and more healed.
We have to allow ourselves to heal. Sometimes this goes fast, sometimes it goes in stages. Some hurts can take a longer time to heal, but we can heal if we only allow ourselves to.

In Daoism, shifting from the hurt stage to a healed stage would be a change called hua, transformation. It´s not just the shift of day to day, getting up, brushing our teeth, making a new cup of coffee day after day, sunset and sunrise and sunrise and sunset; a hua is that we grow and transform to something else. Sometimes we have to learn lessons on the way, lessons we don´t always want to learn yet which are very important to our growth and to the life that we have.
    Many of the old spiritual traditions in the East see our different hurts and illnessess as being part of things we should learn, understand, and evolve with in our life.

The view in Classical Chinese Medicine is that we are one piece. All our good things and bad things are one; any wounds we have can affect our entire being, but our entire being have skills and capacities to heal them.

The doctor who doesn´t have a positive effect on his patients ought to become a pathologist or anesthetist. If the patient does not feel better for your consultation, you are in the wrong game.
                           – J. Blau, ”Clinician and Placebo”, Lancet 1 (1985), 344.

Instead of healing crisis, call it healing chances

Part of healing is sometimes what many used to refer to as ”healing crisis”. I prefer to call it a healing chance. This is simply how that, when we heal, we have to meet and clean out a little bit of the hurts or poisons that we carried with us. These can be physical, emotional or mental; they are simply part of the time it takes to brake from a higher speed to a lower one. Then we can continue to heal and be ourselves more, enjoying the life we live.

In Daoist terms, this would be part of the initial change after a hua: this is what we feel in the early stages of healing. Like Daoist master an Chinese physician Jeffrey Yuan says, ”If you talk about a healing crisis then the body is already strong enough to deal with it.”
    If you go through a healing chance, this is a sign that you already have been healing for some time. Otherwise your body and mind wouldn´t allow you to release more and find more freedom through a healing chance.

Keeping awareness during the change from illness to better health, or from hurt to more whole, is a very good thing. The process is organic, this shift towards becoming more hale, healed, whole. If we are more aware of the stages of it it is easier to see what goes well and what we can learn from to make the next stage easier. Like British communication skills-teacher Cricket Kemp says, ”There is no failure only feedback.”
    If we look at the process itself, we can also see at what stages we learnt what skills. It´s often very helpful to sit down and make a list, or a timeline of the process we have gone through or are going through. What could we learn from the experiences we have had, the lessons we learned? What was useful for us? Which of them do we want to take with us to make the next stages of healing easier, smoother, and more natural?

If I told patients to raise their blood levels of immune globulins, or killer T-cells, no-one would know how. But if I can teach them to love themselves and others fully, the same change happens automatically. The truth is: Love heals.
               - Bernie Siegel, Love, Medicine and Miracles, (Harper and Row, 1986)

How to help catalyze healing in others

Often we need someone else to approve that we heal. For the presence of someone outside ourselves to say that it´s OK, you are healing, you deserve to heal, you can heal; you have the first tools to heal yourself and live a life that is better for you.
    It sounds strange, but this is often the case. Sometimes we only need this approval once, to start the process or to continue it, to believe in it; sometimes we need it at different stages of a longer healing process throughout our life. This voice from outside can make it easier to know that ”it´s OK that I heal.”

In the studies of information technology called stickiness, it was shown that when waitressess simply repeated the order back to a customer, their tips increased by 70%. We so often feel the need for someone else to verify our existence, to give even a tacit approval of our choices and our life.

An acupuncturist or health-practitioner of course have a bigger responsibility on their shoulders to help the healing of those we come in contact with. But anyone can help with that, anyone can be a catalyst for helping others heal. And through helping to heal others, we can help heal the world around us.

The intent we have is a key to this. If we have a healing intent, we will help heal. In Daoism, there is a clear framework of practices for this, especially if we work as health-practitioners, but even without that, if we have a healing intent with what we say and how we manifest ourselves it will help others a lot in their healing process, wherever it is and for whatever reason they are going through it.

Say a patient comes to see me. I´m trying to feel, are they at peace with their condition? Because if so, they already are have a sense of what their condition means to them. So what I´m trying to do is to give them guidance for how they can maintain that state of peace.
Jeffrey Yuan, interview on the Spirit in Chinese medicine, see http://www.accm.ie/all-diseases-are-rooted-in-the-spirit/

So, what does it feel like to be healed? Often, the change is one of atmosphere as much as anything – a lifting of the spirits occur, along with greater sense of engagement with life, which becomes resultingly less overwhelming and terrifying. Problems which appeared insurmountable suddenly take on a less threatening aspect. This is often accompanied by a very real and physical sense of relief. I have heard it described as anything from ”a dark cloud lifting” to a sense of release. The effect is often climactic, mounting to a dizzy sense of euophoria.
Healing the Wounded King, John Matthews, Element 1997

The intent we have towards ourselves and others can be heard in our voice, seen in our eyes; it echoes around our very being wherever we are. Some have a natural gift to heal others. But there are also long-time practices within the Eastern spiritual traditions,and in some shamanic traditions, that work very deeply first with healing me, then with specific training in how I can use my experience and wholeness to help heal you and other people I come in contact with.

To have a healing intent is a choice we can make. It´s usually more effective if we first heal ourselves, at least to a certain degree; without this it is very difficult to understand what healing can mean in someone else.

In Chinese history most of the legendary acupuncture doctors have also been Daoist masters or Daoist practitioners. The ability of their specific qigong- and meditation-practices gave an awareness and ability to heal that is very difficult to reach without them. Here are a few quotes on that subject. I´ve added shorter comments below them (see a future post for more details on these quotes).

De is the power of the Sage – a transforming power we cannot manipulate.
                   – Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée in lecture, London 2010.

De is the same de as in Daodejing, the Book of the Way and the Power. De is a specific usage in early China and Daoism, with connotations of spiritual and energetic power. This was later changed with Confucianism to mean ”virtue” instead, where the older Daoist usage sees de as evolving through practice, and through that revealing more and more of our innate ethical views and good heart, haoxin.

Therefore, the Sage
alters with the seasons but doesn´t transform,
shifts with things but doesn´t change places with them.
                  – Neiye (350 BC) chapter VII, The Classic of Internal Training, Original Tao, Roth, 1999

A very deep training in Daoism and healing is that we can help catalyse someone else to heal, but it´s their change, not our own; thus, the Sage alters with seasons and shifts with things, yet still always remains him- or herself.

The sixty-first difficult issue: The scripture states: Anybody who looks and knows it is to be called a spirit; anybody who listens and knows it is to be called a sage; anybody who asks and knows it is to be called an artisan; anybody who feels the vessels and knows it is to be called a skilled workman. What does that mean?

Chang Shi-hsien comments: A spirit looks at the patient and knows his illness; he does not have to ask him listen to him or feel his vessels. A sage looks at the patient and listen to him and then knows his illness. An artisan looks at the patient, listens to him and asks him, but he does not have to feel his vessels. The skilled workman, finally, feels the vessels and, in addition, must look at the patient, listen to him and ask him; only then does he know about his illness.
                   – The Sixty-First Difficult Issue, Nan-Ching, (200 AD) Unschuld

Spirit” here is the word shen, as in a highly skilled practitioner of Daoist training. For further information on this, see Zhuangzi, the Inner Chapters, by David Hinton.

When looking, one must be shrewd and keen. When one can understand the beginning and the end of a disease through looking, his treating will be invincible.
    – Huangdi Neijing Suwen, The Yellow Emperor´s Canon of Internal Medicine, (ca 300 BC) chapter 77, Shu wu guo lun, the Five Faults in Diagnosis and Treating, Wu and Wu, China Science and Technology Press, 1997

Again, a skilled practitioner of Daoist practices or very high level Chinese medicine, can see huge amounts of information in a patient through training that someone untrained would not even imagine is possible. There are specific ways to train it, and to train the awareness necessary, safewire it, and train the skills in understanding how that diagnosis will change over time. This saying was echoed 500 years later by the famous Zhang Zhongjing in the Shan Han Lun: "The skilful doctor knows by observation, the mediocre doctor by interrogation, the ordinary doctor by palpation."

We can all help each other heal

In Daoism and Ecological NLP, which we work with at Small Change Acupuncture and Communications, there are frameworks both for healing and healing practices. Both look at the subject in different ways, but especially Daoism has a very practical and detailed framework for healing on many levels. You can read more views on healing and the Classical Chinese Medicine view of how all diseases are rooted in the spirit from Benshen, chapter 8 in the Neijing Lingshu in this interview with Daoist master and Chinese physician Jeffrey Yuan: http://www.accm.ie/all-diseases-are-rooted-in-the-spirit.

We can all help each other heal. There are continually deeper levels in us we can heal too, and for those interested in spiritual training like in the Daoist practices or other spiritual traditions, healing is a process that continues over our entire lifetime, just in different layers and ever deeper levels of our being.

In clinic, Classical Chinese Medicine has techniques to help a patient heal on both physical, emotional and more meta-size levels – that is, help heal as in to heal our life, where we are, and how it is moving along.

We can all heal, all become more hale: we can all become more whole.

It is more important to know what sort of patient has the disease than what disease the patient has.
Sir William Osler

Daniel Skyle © 2012