I am here to tell you a secret: each and every one of us can become a force for healing every day, in every part of our lives, both for others and for ourselves.
In more than 15 years of practicing integrative health care I am yet to be burned out or bored. In fact, on my very worst and most-draining days, going to work is one of the best things I can do. Rather than being drained by my work or ever feeling burned out, I am constantly fed by the experience.
The thing is that during the last 16 years I have taken every opportunity to examine what I do, trying to develop deeper understanding of it and improving its efficacy. I am continuously on the lookout for correlations between my work and my life, learning from my experiences outside the office and bringing that knowledge back to my practice. I am continuously gathering data from what I encounter in my practice and applying it to other situations, feeding them back and forth, enriching both.
This constant searching, exploring and connecting has resulted in layers of understanding that I have examined and organized into something called Cultivating the Healing Presence. The foundational premise is that a compassionate presence is a positive act of healing. Healing Presence has become the foundation of my work, and I practice it as integral to my work, improving the profundity and effectiveness of it, and making it increasingly pleasurable for all involved.
This column is the place where, together, we can explore this principle. It is a place to share my insights on what it means to Cultivate the Healing Presence, a concept that seems so simple at first glance, but has layers and implications that reach far beyond the obvious. Embracing and considering this idea can change how we enter the world and our relationship with it. I am constantly awed by how miraculous, simple, breathtaking and seditious it all is. I am completely intimidated by the profound enormity and the utter obviousness of the whole thing.
Let me start by talking about the word “compassion.” This word is tricky as it is so frequently misunderstood or imprecisely interpreted. “Compassion” gives an impression of a bleeding heart, feeling the pain of the world. But compassion does not require us to feel the pain of others. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Compassion is simply wishing others to be free from suffering. It is a state of unselfish detachment in which one is compelled to relieve the suffering of others. A pure state of compassion exists in a state without ego, fear or pity. In Buddhist texts, pity is sometimes called the near enemy of compassion. It can take on the superficial guise of compassion, but is actually a kind of self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. Compassion is even more easily confused with sympathy or empathy, neither of which has the unselfish detachment that allows us to embody true healing presence.
The choice of the phrase “positive act of healing” is an important one. I use the word “positive” in its meanings of: “Making a definite contribution” and “Unrelated to anything else; independent of circumstances; absolute; unqualified.” It signifies that compassion is an active undertaking in healing, and that it makes its contribution regardless of the participants, setting, or other qualifying variables. It has an active contribution to the healing process and does not just provide a favorable atmosphere for it.
The best part of this whole thing is that, although it takes some effort to shift our awareness, it requires no excess energy expenditure. In fact, it is an energy creator, releasing us from our need to feel “shielded,” our subliminal fears regarding our own inadequacies or ego death, or the fallacy that healing requires a drain on the provider.
I am very excited to bring this information to the everyday, real world that so desperately needs it. The world is full of opportunities to learn about and practice embodying this healing presence and my hope is to open them up to you so that your healing presence can grow and develop.