We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
When Things Fall Apart
A few months after our big black Lab Max found his way into our home, he hurt his eye while playing outside in the woods. The lid was swollen and he could not see easily from the eye. Although a situation such as this might normally warrant a trip to the veterinarian, something stopped me. On the surface, I worried that I didn’t know enough to handle this problem. But on a deeper level, I felt called to healing.
After cleaning and treating the wound, I centered and focused on Max. He assured me it was a superficial cut and that what he needed most was to close his eyes and rest. “Trust yourself,” he said to me as we ended our conversation. Later, I was struck by the implication of those words, for trusting the call to healing was something that would bring about a much deeper change than I ever would have imagined.
I did some neck massage and energy balancing on Max while he rested. With one hand placed lightly over his forehead and eye and another resting gently at the base of his spine, I imagined soothing pink-white light bathing his eye and flowing easily through his body. Max slept deeply for a few hours. During the ten minutes or so while I was working with Max, my daughter, Alyeska, who was then four years old, watched intently. She wanted to know what I was doing, what energy was, and how to find the pink light. When she sat beside me and put her little hands on Max to help make him better, I was reminded that we are never too young to participate in a healing relationship.
Alyeska then wanted to make a “potion” to help Max. What kind of potion, I wanted to know. Like a magic spell? Laughingly, Alyeska said, “No, Mom. Let’s make a potion of real healing things!” And so, together, we collected “healing things” for Max: a crystal (to see clearly), some tiny flowers (to observe beauty), a penny (for luck). As we looked around for more, I suggested that we make a pouch to hold these things for Max to wear. Alyeska liked the idea. We sewed a small pouch and Alyeska drew a red heart on a piece of paper to put in with the other healing things, which by this time also included some dried mint and lavender. Placing all of the healing things into the pouch, we sewed it shut and tied it securely to Max’s collar.
From the moment we placed the pouch on his collar, Max moved with a new sense of pride. It brought tears to my eyes to see this change: it was evident throughout his whole body and demeanor. Clearly Max knew we had given him something special, that we had pierced beneath the surface in caring for him, and because of this, he felt “beloved” by our family in a deeper way. I was even more surprised to find my own vision shifting, too. Something had happened in just a few short hours, and suddenly I was seeing Max in a whole new light. I was touched by what I hadn’t seen before: the enormous amount of love this dog held for our family.
A healing relationship between the animal and human kingdoms must be a co-creative one, and an important first step in any co-creative relationship is to examine our perceptions.
Steve Johnson, The Essence of Healing
Of course, it wasn’t the pouch or potion that brought about this change but the energy that was activated throughout the process of making the pouch. It began with the “call” to trust, to go with the flow of events, to welcome others (my daughter) into the healing venue, to open to unexpected ideas (the potion, the “healing things”) and expand upon them (the pouch). Max’s hurt eye was merely the symptom, and although we treated the symptom, it was what happened beneath the surface where true healing occurred.
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Sensing Past the Symptoms
Symptoms are our body’s way of giving us clues, telling us that something is not quite right. Some symptoms, such as cuts, broken bones, or burns, require immediate attention. To treat only the symptom, however, and ignore the underlying problem that caused the symptom in the first place, is to miss out on the deeper nature of healing. Symptoms are often treasures, great mysteries that--if explored--show us more about who we are.
For example, was the reason Max hurt his eye (as opposed to his paw or tail) an indication of something that needed to be seen more clearly? Was the injury an invitation to become aware of another perspective, to peer beneath the surface of things? Or, was it a reminder that sometimes we need to pay more attention to ourselves when racing wildly through the forest? Holistic healing is about digging deeper than symptoms, treating not just the clues but seeking and addressing the core causes of imbalances that manifest as symptoms.
If we approach this work with open hearts and minds we will be able to receive many valuable insights as to what is really taking place on the soul level within the animal kingdom.
Steve Johnson, The Essence of Healing