Who would think one could actually find true wisdom from brewing a cup of herbal tea? I particularly like the brand called Yogi Tea for the pithy little sayings contained on the tab used to pull the bag out of the hot water. But really, could one of these contain an often-overlooked truth essential for health and happiness? Recently, while savoring the warm aroma from a cup of Roasted Dandelion Spice Detox tea, the little tab truly made me sit up and notice: “THE GATE TO HAPPINESS IS SELF-COMPASSION.”
Compassion in general is not something routinely encountered in our hectic, fast-paced lives. Sure, you might hear about it at your place of worship, but how often are we told to direct this toward ourselves as a portal toward deeper contentment? And, since health is such an important component of the ease of life, we call the opposite of it dis-ease. Hence, this cup of tea points us directly toward a rarely-mentioned root cause of health.
In my practice of Integrative Medicine, I pay particular attention to a person’s mindset or attitude toward their illness. In fact, we can utilize special techniques, such as Advanced Integrative Therapies, to dig down to a person’s root beliefs about illness. Although they may sound counter-intuitive or illogical, these tiny unconscious programs are often running in the background, impairing our efforts to heal. Some common ones I have encountered are:
“I don’t want to change.”
“I don’t deserve to be well.” (I don’t love some part of me so now I have to pay by being ill.)
“I have nothing to live for.” (Life sucks and then you die.)
“I cannot bear or survive all my feelings.” (My feelings of rage, sadness or fear are too intense for me to be with.)
“It’s not safe to be healed.” (What things will I miss that illness has brought me if I get well?)
“If I am healed there will be not justice for someone who hurt me.” (It is someone’s or something’s fault that I am sick, and staying ill is a way to make them pay for this.)
These hidden beliefs are especially likely to sabotage the very efforts we do to become well. For instance, a needed treatment causes unbearable side effects. Or, a new lifestyle regimen causes guilt about focusing on ourselves instead of the “To-Do List”. Or, worse yet, we beat ourselves up for “failure” to follow through: forgetting to take medications or supplements, “cheating” on a nutritional plan, unconsciously attracting an injury so you can’t work out, not returning to the doctor’s office for further treatment because we didn’t do lab tests or follow recommendations.
* Recently, a patient who is really “walking her talk” gave me insight into how self-compassion can lead to a breakthrough in healing. She is a progressive thinker who fervently embraces natural healing. Despite being a breast cancer survivor for over a dozen years, she suffers from debilitating seasonal allergies that greatly disturb her sleep and quality of life. Doggedly pursuing treatment through herbs, nutrition, acupuncture, and energy healing, she still felt she was suffocating every night, often with only a few hours of sleep. A genetic test recommended she avoid prescription medications because she was too likely to have side effects from them. Indeed, she is a very sensitive person, reacting to many things in her environment. Finally, in desperation after many sleepless weeks and as an act of self-compassion for her intense suffering, she was willing to try a prescription anti-histamine. She was terrified it would have side effects but she had to do something since none of the other remedies has brought lasting relief. At last, she was able to sleep soundly enough to focus her mind and efforts on some deeply-needed spiritual healing. She recognized that her fear of medications was simply a “story”, a belief her unconscious mind kept her trapped in.
At Whole Health Solutions, we have a very large toolkit to help people overcome many chronic health issues by using the power of nature to call up the innate healing abilities of the body. And, this said, sometimes people still need some self-compassion when reaching the end of their rope: relief from unrelenting pain, hope in the face of devastating fear, someone to trust to guide them safely out of dead-end beliefs that seem to offer them no respite from physical suffering. Sometimes, this appears in a prescription medication. Other times, it is challenging lifestyle changes. And, yet again, a gate
may open to an unfamiliar treatment which requires letting go of previous assumptions, such as tapping into the power of bio-electromagnetic therapies. In all cases, we must walk through the open doorway which says: “I must care about myself enough to explore new options.”
The ancient Eastern practice of lovingkindness meditation teaches us a way to first apply compassion to ourselves, and then spread it outward to the rest of the world: to those we love, to strangers, and perhaps eventually to our enemies. Although there are many variations on this practice, I share here one I particularly like from my first meditation teacher, former monk Jack Kornfield. (I recommend his home auido program The Inner Art of Meditation to anyone unfamiliar with these practices. Example of lovingkindness meditation from Jack Kornfield. Most of these practices simply involve becoming still and focusing on feelings of kindness, safety and ease for oneself first. To that end, I will suggest an added twist from a colleague with whom I have taught mindfulness. It is that which I think is the essence of self-compassion: “MAY I KNOW THAT I AM LOVABLE.” Indeed, you are.
For more personal assistance in self-compassion and uncovering hidden limiting beliefs about health, consult Joanne Pizzino, MD, MPH for Advanced Integrative Therapies at Whole Health Solutions. We also refer to Jennifer Kaitlin at The Mindful Way.
*photo credit fresh-idea-golden-5550792 © Marinini