I have invested so much time, money and energy into healing myself, sometimes with such ferocity that is contradicts the very thing I am seeking. So often I have treated my mind and body as something that needs fixing, a problem to be solved, searching desperately for the tools to annihilate the issue by any means necessary. I have pushed myself to the outer edges of sanity and exhaustion with practices of self-flagellation disguised as spiritual growth and development. I’ve reached desperately for more pills, more retreats, more practices, more specialists, more ceremonies, more certifications, to help me finally cross some sort of imaginary finish line. There is always, inevitably, spirals of shame that come with all of this – what is wrong with me?
This kind of thinking does little more than dehumanize myself, yet it has followed me through depression and anxiety, chronic illness, processing heartache and grief, and trying to reconcile my sensitivity. We walk around with so many narratives and constructs about what it looks like to walk the path to healing, whether it be through the lens of allopathic medicine or alternative and spiritual traditions. There is so often a quality of numbing, dissasociation, bypassing, personalizing, or blaming involved depending on which path is taken. But what if instead of trying to avoid the pain or punish ourselves up for what we may have done to deserve this, we lean in with curiosity and receptivity? We can find meaning in each pleasurable and agonizing moment just as they are without taking any of it personally. The drive to heal, as if it were some ultimate destination to arrive to, estranges us from our own grief and pain, and from the excruciating beauty of having our hearts broken wide open by the unforeseen visitors we encounter; be they illness, trauma, or any number of wounds that ache for us to tend.
To tend is not to fix. Tending requires an exquisite gentleness and uncompromising softness. A kindness and compassion that we may never have given ourselves the courtesy to embody before. It is a salve that cools the hot gaping wound and reminds us of the expansive landscape that lies within us. It does not ask us to answer the why that we often so desperately search for, but instead to be present with what is – not what was, what could be, or what we think should be. Illness and wellness are not binary opposites, our inner terrains are far more complex and luscious and vast than that. There is deep pain and wounding that come with being human, and no matter how privileged or gifted or ‘special’ you are, there is no escaping that. And rather than asking how can I solve this problem, and reaching for tools that promise a quick fix, what if we ask; how can I love this part of me a little more? How can I tend with grace and fierce compassion? How can I gather the strength to soften into the places where it hurts the most? How can I listen to the somatic flow of wisdom that is pouring from my being? Take a breath. And another. Slow down. Take permission to give yourself time and space to feel your body and listen deeply to what it is telling you. Our bodies cannot be bullied into a state of health; they ask us for patience, our full attention, presence, and loving care. The wounding of our inner child can not be handled with rough, violent hands; it calls us to be the most loving parent we could possibly imagine, with a soft loving touch and sweet lullabies on our tongue.
We are made up of extraordinary light and darkness, and there will inevitably be cracks in the foundation that we collect along the way as our hearts and minds and bodies break over and over again. Some chasms run deep within our bloodlines and and have been passed on again and again, waiting until someone finally has the capacity to tend to them. But no matter how deep the spaces, whether they be a small rift or a vast canyon, we can break and tend and radiate until we are a wondrous and holy technicolor well of wisdom that only comes when we stand with all that we are, and love it fiercely with tender-hearted presence. And the more you can do that – the more you can step fully into the wholeness and truth of ALL of who you are – the more this world gets to taste your sweet and tender medicine that only you carry.