In healing, we must look to the entire picture, not just the disease. We must reevaluate everything about ourselves. We must become willing to experience the full breadth of the circumstances that have brought us into imbalance. And we must move forward with a sense of adventure, knowing that anything is possible. Miracles do happen, and they can happen to us.
Willingness to explore your self-imposed limitations is essential to growth and to healing, but you cannot simply decide to be willing. Everything is a journey and a process of unfoldment. You may be saying right now, “I am willing!” And what good does it do you?
One part of you may be willing, but there are probably a lot of other parts that say “no way!” These could be fears of change or fears about taking risks or about other people’s judgments. They could be subconscious fears to which you have no immediate access. Luckily, there is a way to access these faulty beliefs. You can use your life experiences to get you there. Every experience of disappointment or frustration is an opportunity to uncover your fears and insecurities.
St. John of the Cross wrote about life as a chess game you play with God, who is teaching you how to play. The game is designed to suit your particular style of learning and to help you become a master of the game. In other words, your life circumstances are your opportunities for awakening. However, when we feel hurt or ashamed, we usually lash out or run from the experience rather than embracing it as an opportunity for growth.
The world is in divine order. You will keep encountering these opportunities. The more resistant we are to these lessons, the more difficult the experiences will be until we finally give up a little control, until we finally say “enough is enough!” Then, we can change things. It’s up to you how much you will endure until you reach this point.
And when you do, you can start exploring the beliefs you take for granted, the ones that you never thought to question. The vast majority of these beliefs cause suffering, but many of our ideas about life are so deeply ingrained in the collective psyche that they seem totally logical, even necessary to our survival.
Many of us believe we need our anger, worry, and fear to survive. You may have such a deep-seated and firm conviction about something that it becomes extremely difficult to recognize how deeply it impacts the quality of your life.
We’ve all heard it said: everything happens for a reason. But what we rarely realize is that, most of the time, WE are the reason. We find ourselves in this or that situation because of choices we have made. These choices are the result of myriad beliefs we have about the world and ourselves. Put another way, you make choices based on your beliefs.
Take a moment and consider what sorts of ideas you have about the world and your place in it. Do you have any negative ideas about how the world works? Do these negative ideas make you nervous, sad, angry, greedy, proud, or jealous? These are all forms of resistance.
In the same way that love and humility can bring about a life of joy, resistance can bring about a life of discontent and strife. The most damning form of resistance is the one that keeps us from looking honestly at our fears, judgments, and compulsions.
Here is a very simple example. If you believe in the importance of being right, you will probably always make choices to ensure this. Your self-worth may be completely dependent on your need to be right (therefore you resist the possibility that you could sometimes be wrong). So, perhaps you will enter into intense discussions with everyone who has a different opinion than you or maybe you won’t take big chances in life because you may fail. Perhaps you have abandoned someone in need because his life choices are different from yours. Whatever it is, this belief will determine the direction of your life.
I have met people who are so insistent on being “taken seriously” that they live in constant conflict with everything. Keeping a job is difficult because there is always a “problem person” in the office who has a different perspective.
Living in community is almost impossible for people like this because there is no room for compromise when one person requires constant recognition. These types often end up tense, stressed out, and emotionally isolated, and the people closest to them are either resentful, exhausted, or both. As the feelings of loved ones become apparent, the resistant person becomes even more enmeshed in their need for approval, and the problems just get bigger. It’s not what they want, but they are creating it through their beliefs and their behavior.
Sometimes we harbor beliefs or opinions about ourselves that are so well hidden we are totally unaware of them. This does not mean they are not influencing us. In fact, unconscious influences have even more power over us.
Sometime ago, I was riding down a desert highway in southern Utah. Brecht was at the wheel as usual. We were on a month-long journey through the American Southwest, and like everything we do together, this trip had become yet another opportunity for self-exploration and spiritual growth.
On that particular day, as we whizzed through the jagged red landscape, I was deep in contemplation over a spiritual teaching I had just been reading about: that you should be in the world but not of it; that you should interact with others while remaining free from entanglement.
I could not grasp this teaching at all. In a world filled with nothing but entangling relationships, it sounded callous to me. How could I love someone without getting just a little entangled? Isn’t marriage—supposedly the most recognizable expression of love—the epitome of entanglement?
But I couldn’t just leave it at that. I wanted a real answer, not a write off, and I wasn’t coming to one. The problem, it seemed to me, was that I didn’t know what I was supposed to avoid. What is an entanglement, exactly? The answer came: an entanglement is an attachment. But what is an attachment? An attachment is a need or a desire. But what do I desire? I desire love, acceptance, and security. But isn’t that normal? Silence.
I went round and round with this for a while, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to give up the search and let the answer come to me (this is an effective method I’ve finally adopted after years of inadequate answers springing from intense mental struggle). It only took a few hours, and I had my answer. We were parked at the gas pump of a small, dingy gas station in the middle of nowhere. It was one of those stations next to a sign that says, “No gas for 300 miles.”
I was leaning on the car watching Brecht pump gas, when I was suddenly overcome with an intense pit in my stomach and an episode of violent nausea. Wondering what this was all about I decided, inexplicably, that the best thing to do was, not to run to the bathroom, but to go into a meditation. Clutching my stomach, I babbled something to Brecht and slipped back into the car. As I sat quietly, I became aware of a dreadful feeling of disgust for myself. It rose up out of the depths like bubbling tar: a slimy, dark energy oozing out of me. It was thieving and insatiable. It wanted endless praise, and acknowledgment.
I allowed the feeling to come over me, and the reason for the disgust became clear. I realized that every interaction I had was a cry for acceptance and acknowledgment. I entered every conversation in victimhood looking to the other person to supply me with enough energy to fill the void I felt inside. Like a parasite, I went from person to person seeking more and more appreciation. Without this appreciation, I felt empty and worthless. I believed that I was nothing if others did not approve of me.
No one, except someone very sensitive, would notice this about me. In fact, I run from victimhood. I eulogize strength and independence to anyone with the patience to listen, but we always preach what we need to learn.
Somewhere tucked away deep inside like a dirty little secret was the most extreme victim. I saw how this feeling of victimhood caused me to abuse everyone: I wanted to feel strong, and someone was going to get me there! I sucked energy from everyone in my need for acceptance. But it was never enough, because the acceptance had to come from me, not them. In short, I was completely entangled in every interaction because I entered them in a desperate search for security. It seemed to me, I had no appreciation or love for myself at all!
On a higher level, I longed to awaken. I wanted to experience the truth that we are all connected. But trapped in this energy, I felt alone and filled with fear: fear of emptiness, fear of unworthiness, fear of judgment and fear of my own insignificance. Fear is binding. It traps you. It is the very opposite of freedom. Thus, in my interactions I was attempting to bind people to me so that I felt less alone. How entangling is that!
Become familiar with your beliefs about yourself and learn how it is that they influence you. What choices do you make as a result of them? How do they influence your well-being? How entangled are you by your fears, your relationships, your life in general?
Remember the only firm conviction worth having is the determination to understand your own makeup. Learn how you have wired yourself, and determine to break free from the host of knee-jerk reactions we all refer to as a personality.
My father once received a beautiful message in a meditation. He didn’t make much of it at the time, but the significance of the simple instruction quickly became apparent:
Then true healing can begin.
* Subtitles by InnerSelf.
©2014 by Sara Chetkin. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission. Publisher: Rainbow Ridge Books.
The Healing Curve: A Catalyst to Consciousness
by Sara Chetkin.
On one level, The Healing Curve is a book about the ardent quest for true and lasting restoration from scoliosis. The story begins in the physical, leading us across the United States, Brazil, New Zealand, and Europe . . . encountering healers, exploring cathedrals, and meditating in gas stations. But the journey often ventures inward, offering up powerful truths about our potential as human beings and how we can access this potential to create joyful and abundant lives.
When Sara Chetkin was 15 she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, and spent much of the next 15 years traveling around the world seeking healing and spiritual insight. Sara graduated from Skidmore College in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. In 2007 she earned a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture. She is a Rohun therapist and an ordained minister with the Church of Wisdom, Delphi University. Visit her at thehealingcurvebook.com/
Watch a video/interview with Sara: Journey Along the Healing Curve