There’s a catchy saying – I’m sure many of you have heard it – by the French philosopher, paleontologist, and Jesuit Priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
It’s intended to remind us of who we really are, and what’s really going on in this earthly life.
Teilhard said: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
For those of us who serve in the healing professions, it’s especially relevant, because we are constantly being made aware of the role that Spirit plays in our work. The inescapable conclusion is that only the spiritual side of our nature is truly permanent.
This physical body in which we hang out for a lifetime is not a static event. Although we’ve identified it as uniquely our own since birth, it changes constantly – the cells of the body are not the same cells that made up the body just seven years ago.
The body is constantly evolving, the most obvious visible stages of the journey being infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
I’m reminded of The Velveteen Rabbit, a wonderful children’s story written by Margery Williams Bianco and first published in 1922. It’s about a toy stuffed rabbit who longs to be real. Doesn’t it feel sometimes that this earthly life simply cannot be the true reality of our existence? Is this mechanical mound of flesh really what we are, and what defines us?
When we define ourselves as our bodies, we’re setting ourselves up for a rude awakening. Our youthful prime is but a fleeting moment, the barest fraction of a lifespan.
The trouble with attaching our hopes and dreams to the body is that not only does it grows, at a certain point it reverses course and begins to diminish, as the various components of the machine begin to wear out.
Of course, it’s not as if we weren’t warned.
Throughout our lives the body vacillates and health and sickness. And if we cling too desperately to health, we may fall prey to disillusionment and despair as the body changes.
What’s the answer? The sages of all paths tell us that the singe desire that motivates all human beings is a yearning to experience ever-greater happiness, and to be free from suffering.
They tell us that the only lasting freedom we can ever know – and know it, we ultimately will – is the experience of the bliss of the part of God that dwells within us, hidden from our normal experience.
Spirit is the only reality. If you can get to know yourself as a spiritual being inhabiting a physical body, you’ll be much more composed and at peace as the body changes. Life will then seem more like changing a costume in a drama that is unfolding over many lives.
This is the relationship to the body that we observe in the saints – those who’ve released their identification with the body and know themselves to be pure Spirit. To be in the presence of such a person is an enormous blessing, for they remind us of who we really are, and what our lives are for.
Once anchored in spirit, we may feel a certain wry curiosity about the physical body. We’ll know it as a vehicle by which we must interact with the world. And at a deeper level of realization, we will be able to direct energy to change the body, and to heal ourselves.
The body is a classroom where we learn lessons that are intended to help our consciousness become wise and joyful and free.
As we resist, then accept, and ultimately become grateful for the growth lessons of disease and aging, we learn to identify ourselves with the permanent joy of Spirit.
The more we learn to let Spirit enter our consciousness, the more we find ourselves being spiritually healed, and the more we discover that we carry within us a “portable paradise,” as Paramhansa Yogananda called it.
In our practice, we often find our cancer patients deepening their awareness of Spirit. In the process they nearly always find profound mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. By a subtle inner grace, they become able to experience life more fully, and embrace the unwelcome gift they have been given.
When we understand our lives as Spirit working behind the scenes, we find ourselves able to relate as spiritual beings, rays of a single brilliant sun. Then, recognition, compassion, and connection accompany our path to healing.
The tools of spiritual healing are the tools of the world’s great spiritual traditions. “Tools” suggests a practical method. And this is true. If we want to unite our lives with the source of all healing, then blind belief and empty dogmas and rituals will not serve us. We need to work at a level of practical reality. We need tools that will help us use our energy to attune ourselves to Spirit. Those tools include prayer, meditation, devotional practices such as chanting, and Kriya Yoga.
Years ago, when I was in naturopathic medical school, I took a course called “Physician, Heal Thyself.”
One the first day, our instructor asked us, “How does healing happen?”
I replied that healing happens through love and light. I would now add that immersion in any attribute of God (call it Spirit or a higher power if you prefer) can precipitate transformation and deep healing, while giving meaning to the confusing events of this life.
Our bodies are bound by the laws of physical reality, and many matter-bound medicines and healing arts can facilitate healing. But our connection with Spirit is the most centrally transformational element of our lives. For we are not merely physical beings, we are energy-beings, born of Spirit and continually nourished by the light.
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