WHAT IS JUDAIC HEALING?
Integrative medicine is the current catchphrase today in healing circles; it's an amalgam of traditional allopathic medicine combined with holistic approaches to health. This trend is creating new demands for the services of healing practitioners.
Most consumers of healing turn to the wisdom of the Eastern religions for guidance, but now Jews are demanding it from Judaism. Until now Jewish healing has been primarily paliative, consoling the sorrow of grief and the despair of illness through prayer.
Working with alternative therapies, I recognize the necessity for anyone suffering from obstacles in life, physical or emotional, negligible or life threatening, to take an active role in his or her own healing.
In order to accomplish this end, I believe that Judaic healing therapies may be able to assist you in calling forth the powerful forces within you that can help heal your mind, body and spirit.
The Healing Power
Some people become sick and tired of feeling miserable much of the time. Then one day they shout "that's enough" and set out to change matters. There are many who simply deny anything is wrong and who go on to their dying day, carrying baggage loaded with unresolved issues.
From the Kabbalah, the heart of Jewish spirituality, we can observe how the
characterizations of the Ten Sephirot are delineated into spiritual levels that
correspond to the mind, the emotions and the physical body.
This Kabbalah also illustrates the smooth and steady patterns of energetic flow throughout the physical body. When the flow is disrupted by trauma, certain meridians of the body tense and block the current. These blockages are the precursors of illness.
Jewish healing attempts to liberate these barriers and restore health again. The work in healing the mind or the body is to identify the obstructed energies within our own lives, and release them.
What Did I Do Wrong Again?
Not too long ago, a friend of mine was instructed to fill out the usual new patient questionnaire handed to her by an apathetic medical receptionist as she entered a doctor's office for an initial visit.
The blank form asked the repeated routine questions we all know so well--name and address, date of birth,medical history, medication allergies and so on-- but just then an unfamiliar question caught her eye. Are your parents living? to which she replied: "no", and when asked for the cause of death, she wrote: "me".
She remembered her mother's words: "you'll be the death of me yet". The detached receptionist never batted an eye as she returned the form with a mischievous smile. I used to think this anecdote was funny; I'm not so sure any more.
My friend must have felt herself to be pretty awful to have deserved such a remark, even though she had no recollection of what she had ever done wrong. Now almost forty five years later, she's still feeling the fallout of misdeeds she can't remember.
I think we're all guilty of wrongdoings from time to time, totally unaware at the moment of transgression. We learn by repressing experiences too painful to remember; maybe that's why she couldn't recall the details of her
'terrible' childhood behavior.
Repression is a handy mental device that enables us to push those painful emotions out of sight while we go about our daily routines without a hint of discomfort. Unfortunately, while we can temporarily brush off the feelings, they never really go away,instead they hang around the subconscious until someone or something presses a hot button that rouses them to fury once again.
A Stirring of Healing
The Hebrew word "T'shuvah" (atonement or at-one-ment) characterizes the beginning of Jewish healing. T'shuvah, as action, is the art of shifting focus from our chaotic, frantic, everyday world to our inner existence where thoughts and feelings reign. In that realm we become acquainted with the subtle energies that constitute our emotional world.
Self-discovery is the foremost objective of t'shuvah, turning inward. We ultimately conclude that we, our real selves,include not only the physical but also the emotional, the mental and the spiritual dimensions as well. This knowledge helps us take responsibility for our feelings. We can then abstain from the futile act of blaming others we believe caused our unhappiness. Self-knowledge can teach us that our feelings are an unalterable part of ourselves, they are buried in our suppressed subconscious.
Take a few minutes from your frenzied day, quiet down, turn inward, and pay some attention to your body's sensations. If you wind down enough, you can discover all sorts of physical perceptions: a leg that aches, a nose that itches, buzzing and tension throughout your body. This little retreat is an invaluable reintroduction to your forgotten self. Quite often the mere discovery of what we really feel is enough to make a positive impact on our behavior.
Whats It Is All About
The personal choices and decisions we make day to day generate feelings that may be pleasurable or painful. Our underlying nature prefers to avoid the pain and cling to the pleasure. The stories of Genesis conclude with Jacob and his sons' journey to the land of Egypt to reunite with Joseph (now the Pharaoh's Grand Vizier). This exile, which lasted four hundred years, is metaphoric of how we repress our unwanted feelings. As the Israelites withdrew from the Land of Canaan, we withdraw from whatever causes us discomfort. When we camouflage the discomfort, we reject a part of ourselves: a construct of the physical, emotional/mental and spiritual dimensions.
The subconscious, where all these unwanted feelings are stored, is analogous to a steam boiler; once the pressure builds to a critical point, it must be released. The excess repression shows up in the nastiest forms; addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, work, gambling, relationships, etc., all to prevent negative feelings from arising.
What's more, we nourish these hidden feelings and project them on to unsuspecting others, erroneously believing that everyone shares the same beliefs and values, thereby adding to the conflicts within. Such behavior may result in our bodies response to those conflicts. Many doctors now believe there is a correlation between what the mind believes and how the body reacts to those beliefs.
The Sea That Parts
What's the solution? The Torah describes the anxiety-provoking scene at the Red Sea as Pharaoh's chariots descended upon the Children of Israel. Moses stood fast directly facing the impending assault, raised his staff and awaited God's intervention. In modern day terminology, this is called acceptance.
Acceptance is not heroic stoicism that prompts us to bear down and bravely face the outcome, nor is it a mental exercise that denies the existence of emotional discomfort. Acceptance is the on-going practice of baring one's distressed feelings before God. Acceptance is directly facing those feelings with all their fury, as Moses did just before the sea parted.
One way to achieve acceptance is to find a quiet place where you can be alone (it may require that you restrain your emotions for a short while) allowing yourself to simply focus your attention on the feelings. Healing is invoked by peeling away the layers of thought and feelings that block our vision to our inner dimension,the source of our healing.
Feelings are not in your mind; they are sensations in your body. One might sense them in the pit of the stomach, the heart center or the throat. It's important that we recognize them. Breathing into the sensations could be helpful in distracting your thoughts. If you find yourself questioning the cause of the pain or who's to blame, go back to concentrating on the breath. Healing takes place in the presence of a healing environment (like cleansing a wound that heals itself) that is created through the practice of meditation, guided imagery and visualization. With enough practice you'll find yourself desensitized from the feeling, the thoughts will no longer pose a threat, and the sea will part for you.
"A Groundwork for Jewish Healing"
By Wally Spiegler