At the rocky shoreline in the late morning, I sat with my bare feet in the chilled, gravely sand. Sheltered in the lee of a giant, grey stone monolith, I was protected from the steady winter wind but I wrapped the soft charcoal scarf around my neck a bit more snugly.
I have been struggling lately with my electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and feeling poorly, so I came to the seashore, for it is always nature — a direct, barefoot connection with earth — that restores and grounds me. Literally. And the further I am from WiFi, ‘smart meters’ and cell phone towers, the better. It is often difficult to be a highly sensitive person, especially in the modern world.
Enfolded by the rumbling voice of the waves, a healing frequency and resonance in its own right, I gazed out at the grey blue sea and watched the gulls as they navigated the wind, calling to each other with mimicking voices. Thirty feet offshore, a couple of California sea otters floated on their backs like small furry logs with flipper feet, occasionally rolling over to dive and disappear momentarily, then resurfacing.
As I silently steeped in the polysensory coastal experience, breathing deeply into my belly and wriggling my feet down a bit further into the wet grains and stones while focusing on that sensation, I found myself thinking about healing and my ongoing connection with it.
Though I seldom write about the topic, bodywork and the healing arts have been my profession, on and off, for more than two decades.
I keep thinking that I’m going to retire permanently from bodywork but I continue circling back to it. Partly this is because that, despite my love of beautiful food and cooking, the healing arts are far more nourishing and less stressful to me in terms of a day job. Other than brief moments of insanity (which thankfully pass), I have no desire to put on my chef’s jacket or apron again to prepare dinner professionally. No, thank you. And much as I would love to simply write, wordsmithing doesn’t pay enough to live on, at least not at this stretch of my journey.
So, I continue to see clients, and very often I am surprised and moved by the unexpected healing that unfolds in these sessions. Years ago I developed a strange conviction that whomever arrives for a session is meant to have found me… though sometimes the reason may not become clear for either one of us until later.
The other day, I welcomed a new client and, chatting a bit beforehand, I asked him an open-ended query about why he had come to me. His response was that he was drawn because of a testimonial on my bodywork website, one in particular where a former client said that I was really a shaman. The tall, thin man who sat across from me on the couch was clearly on a quest for some deep healing; he is soul searching as he faces an important crossroads in life and wrestles with a grave illness.
Working with him on the massage table, as so often happens when my hands ‘switch on’ and listen, words and images began to arrive. They are messages meant to be shared with the client, and I think of them as directives from the firmament. Sometimes they make sense to me, other times they don’t. It isn’t my job to judge, interpret or translate, I’m simply the conduit. Like the energy that pours through my palms in sessions, the messages arrive from somewhere beyond — some nameless place where the soul of healing resides.
With this particular man, the first word that rose up, hovering loudly and refusing to be silenced or disappear until I uttered it aloud, was forgiveness. When I spoke it to him, a wave suddenly washed through my client’s angular body, wracking hime with emotion as he began to weep from a place deep inside. The gates to healing had opened. There were subsequent messages that I delivered in our session as my hands worked and listened, but somehow this first directive seemed the most powerfully salient. Forgiveness bridges all of humanity.
Seated on the shoreline, sheltered from the buffeting cold wind by the great jagged stone, I found myself reflecting on forgiving, and how essential it is for healing. What is it we need to pardon in life, whether in ourselves or in others? Perhaps we need to forgive life itself for hurting or disappointing us. It often seems most difficult to apply such compassion to ourselves: for our actions or inactions, our seeming failures and shortcomings, or even our gifts and success.
Last week I wrote that the little moments I so often share in this post — a cup of good tea, puttering in the kitchen, the anise-like scent of freshly gathered basil, feeding the little birds, watching and listening to the staccatto rain — are a balm for the ailments of life. I deeply hold that to be true. Yet I also know that healing is a complicated and mysterious process, one that invites introspection and the raw vulnerability of looking into the mirror. Naked, figuratively or literally. And as I wrote in a New Year post, we seldom evolve or transform a situation until we understand how it has aided us.
There are many levels and types of healing — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual — and they are all interrelated. Nothing is really separate, after all.
Compassionate, sensitive touch is profoundly healing. So too is nature. Both reach beyond the physical aspect to affect the other levels of our being. Hence why I was sitting outdoors on a cold grey day in January, barefoot on the shore, watching and listening to the silver grey waves. Grounding. Opening all my senses.
I believe that food is healing and that plants, in particular, are powerful medicine. The transforming power of what we ingest can reach beyond the physical — especially when it has been raised with integrity and respect, when food honors the earth it came from and the hands that gathered and prepared it. When what we eat has been acknowledged with gratitude for the gift of its life, whether a chicken or a carrot, when it has been prepared with love, it heals us.
Everything is connected.
In our quest for healing, on whatever level, we all need to embrace forgiveness. I write this for my own reminding as much as for anyone else; for as much as I might focus on nourishing the soul, my deliberately built life of little rituals that comfort and sustain, admittedly I have my own list of pardons to work on. It isn’t easy. I’ve a dozen or so bruised hurts and lingering disappointments that it is time to relinquish, yet I keep lugging them around like precious river stones, each one buried in my body somewhere, weighing me down and rounding my shoulders forward.
I wonder, if I carefully unearthed each one, cradling it gently in my hands and then laying it on a riverbank in the winter sun with a soft ‘thank you’ of gratitude and walked away, what lightness might I feel? And what could I plant in those waiting, welcoming spaces instead? Fragrant lavender and unrestrained laughter, perhaps.
Healer, heal thyself.
When we acknowledge the heart and soul, when we listen and tend to them, transformation unfurls. Sometimes I think that part of the reason I’m still connected to my healing work with individuals is because each one unknowingly brings me a gift; the messages that come through are powerful reminders for my own journey and finding my way along the path. Clients believe I am helping them, but more likely it’s the other way around. Really, everyone we meet in life is a teacher (non-humans included, from microbes to mountain lions), especially the challenging ones.
Here at the edge of the world, perhaps today I can step one foot closer to forgiveness — of self, of others, of life — and thus one step nearer to my own healing. That would be grace, indeed, for stones are heavy and best left on the riverbank or seashore where they sing to each other.
I wonder, gentle reader, what needs forgiveness in your world? And are you willing to embrace it?