Invisible Illness: Is Westernized “Healing” Really Effective?

Geometry of the Soul series two. Arrangement of human profile and abstract elements on the subject of spirituality, science, creativity and human mind
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In the health and wellness community there is a dominant conversation around “healing”. There are more techniques, systems, and programs aimed to help you “get better” than most of us know what to do with. No doubt, as conventional medicine reliably fails more people continually shift their attention to alternative ways of “fixing” themselves, while others continue to keep attempting methods that have proven not to work. 

I have had a career in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) field for over 15 years and have had sessions with a variety of healers, therapists, doctors, and shamans. I have trained in herbalism, yoga, astrology, and energy work, and hold a Bachelor’s in Theology and a Master’s in Health Psychology. My training and education have been in service of my exploration of consciousness and how it impacts health. I have regularly posed a single question to my peers; “Could illnesses really be messages from a higher plane desperately trying to get through to us about the path we are on and the purpose of our lives?” 

As a research assistant sorting through mountains on holistic medicine, I kept noticing that more often than not, science concluded ancient healing practices to be quite effective, despite being able to explain exactly how some of them work. But I wonder, is the how really that important? What I find more interesting are the implications surrounding why they are effective. 

If, for example, someone benefits from having regular out of body experiences like those elicited in meditation or through the ingestion of entheogens, shouldn’t we be wondering if what’s happening on the biological, physiological, or neurochemical level is merely the tip of the iceberg? What if the real health benefit is coming from the metaphysical experience? Of course, for scientists and researchers the invisible world is still far more difficult to verify, let alone systemically document. 

Despite 25 years of treatments, a clean, whole foods diet, and a lifetime of study, it’s really been my work with Jungian dream analysis, and natural entheogens that have catalyzed the most significant personal shifts for me and revealed a depth of understanding about the meaning of my life that I had previously thought was impossible. 

I’ve had a history of overeating. For many years, I tried to heal my behaviors and various food addictions in that very active way Westerners like to try to control everything. True, I’ve known for quite some time the kinds of foods my body wants and why it wants them, but just the mere knowledge of something like this doesn’t automatically mean you don’t make harmful decisions anyway. Having studied and worked in Mind-Body Medicine for many years, I have a great deal of understanding in this area. But it wasn’t until I started having more regular metaphysical experiences – specifically with a variety of natural entheogens – that I experienced anything lasting. And one day I wasn’t hungry anymore. My cravings were gone. I was “full” from another source and thus my whole self’s “hunger” disappeared. 

In my Master’s Thesis, The Resurgence of Spirit in Medicine: A Return to Our Holistic Roots, I discuss how modern conveniences, overstimulation, technological addiction, and the existential crisis of industrial life have been gradually poisoning the human body and mind. Our inability to effectively deal with trauma and illness have, in large part, to do with the fact that we have separated from nature, and as a byproduct, no longer interact or even acknowledge the spirit world as our ancestors once did. 

In old French, the word disease was often interchanged with the word misfortune, suggesting that there was something more to a physical ailment then just anatomy and physiology – that perhaps some force shaping our life circumstances was at play. The etymology of health in Old English comes from hal or “being whole,” but also means “good omen” and “sacred” in Proto-Germanic and Old Norse. Within the roots of these words is a common thread—a definition of health that is much more intangible than how we typically treat it. 

We often prioritize our physical health above all else because it is tangible and grabs our attention. Anyone who has experienced a cancer diagnosis knows how suddenly everything stops. Still, I believe that our illnesses are not just a result of the foods we eat, our genetics, or or our exposure to toxins – although those are undoubtedly factors. 

Ancient healing traditions like Ayurveda believe that the human body is a direct manifestation of the elemental world. By looking at a person’s astrological chart you can see what their illnesses will be, how their personalities and behaviors will impact those illnesses, and in response to this data, there are a variety of herbs, techniques, and practices that can be utilized in order to bring balance to that person. Ayurveda approaches the human body in a similar way to the hermetic dictum “as above, so below”. When we interact with the spirit world we are mending wounds that often stretch across time and potentially across many different lifetimes. Each of our souls has a story. 

Dream work has helped reveal my soul’s story – it’s patterns – and resolve relationships with loved ones who have died. Since I was a child, I’ve kept a dream journal. I have experienced the most profound bliss and the darkest of hells in my dreams. In the early years of my dream work, I essentially had the same dream night after night. Not what would be typically referred to as a recurring dream as the scenes and characters differed slightly, but the overall theme of the dreams was the same. In the end, I found myself either mortally wounded, betrayed, or abandoned, and I had to stay there in the pain and just feel it – the loss, the heart break, the blood dripping. I did that work for over a year and it was an essential exercise in exploring what C.G. Jung deemed to be the psyche’s shadow. 

Then, as I started to more regularly work with entheogens, I noticed a change in my dreams almost immediately. They started to reveal new themes – specifically memories of being ostracized. But these weren’t memories I have as Sarah, they were memories from some other time. And these dreams shook me to my core. The kind of dreams where you are crying so hard that it wakes you up, only to find you are actually crying in “reality”. I felt the fear of fleeing home on a train as a gypsy refugee, the pain of being a very pregnant woman stabbed in stomach for betraying her king, the panic of being accused of witchcraft and taken away by a lynch mob. In each of them I felt something familiar and frightening. 

Through dream work and entheogens, the complexity of the human mind could be deconstructed and re-evaluated. Instead of addressing our trauma with basically a series of band-aids, there are other, older, and more steadfast ways to the truth. Engaging with these spiritual tools may prompts us to re-examine the values of Western Civilization and re-prioritize how we live, eat, treat one another, and relate to our environment. 

I don’t believe we suffer in vain. I believe all things happen for a reason. And that’s not to say we do not have decisions to make, but that there is a grand design and each of us has a role to play. When we exit our default state of consciousness and set our rational state aside, we are sometimes able to “see” the truth of our existence, gain insights about the choices we’ve made, reflect on events from childhood, face our shadow and above all else, learn. 

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