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Love is the Healing Power

I’ve always had a kind heart. I remember that as a child I hated to see anything suffer. I could never understand why people were so angry and cruel. I’ve never liked having enemies, either. When a bully started picking on me in the 6th grade, I sought him out and befriended him. Since I was not that physically strong, he actually started defending me if he thought other kids were attacking me.

One of my ex-wives totally misunderstood this story, thinking that I befriended the bully so he would protect me. That wasn’t my motive at all. I just didn’t want him to be my enemy. I’ve learned that I don’t have to have any enemies. This doesn’t mean that other people may not think that I am an enemy, it simply means that I don’t have to think of them as an enemy.

Healing for me isn’t just about helping people overcome physical disease. It’s about helping people to be whole. Being whole goes way beyond the function of the body and extends to the invisible world of our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. It also extends into our social world, bridging the gaps that divide us and promoting peace and harmony in our relationships with others.

I’ve been working full time at this for over 30 years and one of the things I’ve learned is that holding onto anger, fear, hatred, grief, pain and other emotions creates tension in our bodies. It removes us from the healthy state of gracefulness which allows us to flow with life. This tension blocks the flow of energy, what the Chinese might call qi, and actually makes us physically ill.

It’s odd to me that although I’d been teaching people that our feelings were important for 25 years and doing emotional healing work with people that I’d never “connected the dots” and fully understood why. Our emotions arise from our needs and desires. The emotions we call “positive” arise when our social and spiritual needs are being met and those we call “negative” are signs that our social and spiritual needs are not being met. (I’m not using the term spiritual here in the religious sense, but rather as a term to apply to our non-physical needs.)

Emotions are bodily sensations (not thoughts, although most people can’t tell the difference). This means they are very similar to other bodily sensations, such as hunger, thirst and fatigue. When we experience these bodily sensations we recognize them as signs that our physical needs must be taken care of. However, because we live in a society that looks upon emotions as something to be controlled or blamed on others, most of us have never really learned to understand what our emotions are telling us about our needs as human beings. And, because we don’t know how to recognize and take care of these needs in ourselves, we are totally incapable of recognizing and caring for those needs in others.

Whether we recognize it or not, it is our emotions that drive most of our behavior. Every marketer knows that people buy things because of emotions, not logic. Every successful politician also knows this (although maybe not consciously) as they stir people up to anger or fear to gain their support.

What I’ve learned in over 30 years of emotional healing work with myself and others is that if we do not understand what our emotions are telling us about ourselves (not others, but ourselves) so that we can learn how to recognize and take care of our own needs, then we will be easily manipulated by those who know how to play to our emotions. We will be convinced that we can alleviate our unhappiness, our fears, our anger or whatever, if we buy the right products, vote for the right politician, join the right religion, find the right partner or support the right social causes.

In reality, all these external things will never fix what is happening inside of us. They will bandaid it in the same way modern medicine often treats symptoms without fixing their cause, but they will never heal it. Real healing, both physically and emotionally, comes from the inside out, not the outside in.

As one of my favorite authors, Anthony de Mello says, the world supplies the stimulis; we supply the response. In other words, we like to think that our emotional responses are caused by what other people do to us and what is going on in the world. Therefore, we decide that the solution to our problems is to force other people to change. We do this in our personal relationships. We do this in politics. We do this in religion. It has never worked and it will never work.

As Ghandi said, we have to be the change we want in the world. If we want peace, we need to be peacemakers, reaching out to the bullies and trying to understand them and turn them from being enemies to friends. If we can't and we have to defend ourselves, we can do so without hating them. Jesus taught this, as did Lao Tzu:

Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon one’s self.

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
 
Weapons are the tools of fear.
A decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity;
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?
 
He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.
—     
Lao Tzu - (Tao Te Ching, from chapters 30-31, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

If you're a Christain, compare this to the teachings of Jesus.

Blessed are the meek (gentle): for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you

I think that Jesus and Lao Tzu are trying to teach us the same concept. I think Buddah did, too. I was given a spiritual message once, in the form of a question. "Everyone loves those who agree with them and believe as they do, but where is the love that sees all mankind as your brothers and sisters." This is the love I seek.

We need more peacemakers in the world, people with kind and compassionate hearts, that are also brave and strong. I've learned (the hard way) that being peacemakers doesn't mean we have to be doormats. It's just that we have to recognize that other people's emotions, like our own, are arising from their unmet needs. We have to recognize that we are not logical beings, so much as we are emotional beings, and that we will always warp our logic when we are in denial about our emotions and the needs behind them.

As I journeyed within to confront my own fears, anger, sadness and pain, I was able to become more compassionate with these same emotions in others. Instead of feeling like I have to harden that naturally kind and compassionate heart and act to protect myself (which I have done on more than one occassion), I have increasingly learned that I can defuse situations by using my compassion to understand my enemy. And, when I have done so, I have often been able to do what I did as a child, to turn my enemy into my friend.

To all of my friends who are in the healing profession, I suggest that before we try to fix the world, let's heal our own hearts. If we're living in fear and anger (which always go together) or wallowing in self-pity and victimhood, we need to go inward and heal these things, removing as Jesus would say, the beam (or 2x4) in our own eye before trying to remove the mote (dust speck) in our neighbors.

In parting, let me share these thoughts from Jesus and Lao Tzu.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
 
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Fear and anger always divide. We cannot be whole (or healthy) when we harbor fear and anger in our hearts. Love unites, therefore love alone is the healing power. If we want to heal, we have to cast the fear and anger (and the sadness and self-pity) out of our hearts and allow our natural loving nature to shine forth. To paraphrase something I was told in another spiritual experience:

You can't cure darkness with darkness
And the tools of darkness are guilt, shame, fear and blame
You can only cure darkness with light
And the light that cures the darkness of this world
Is love