“Pain is not a sign of weakness, but bearing it alone is a choice to grow weak.” ~Lori Deschene
I, like many of you I’m guessing, am a wanderer. A student of the soul. At times it can be a bewildering path. Most days I give thanks for the adventure. Many others I wish for clarity and certainty.
But though I am a wanderer, I am not aimless: I have a path as deep and true as any other. I simply have no map to guide me, only my intuition, and the myriad teachers that cross my path: people, places, books, ideas, synchronicities.
I have learned to trust my inner senses. When I am on my path, my life feels good and right; off it, I am aware that I am scrambling through the undergrowth and finding my way at the edge of cliffs.
For a long while I wondered what this path actually was. What was it that defined some actions as “right” for my soul direction, and others “wrong”? Especially when many of them seemed to appear synchronistically, out of the blue, and were counterintuitive.
The idea of a “path,” or what Lao Tzu calls “the Way,” works for me.
It’s as though there is a channel through life that is “right” for each of us to take. An invisible highway of least resistance in the midst of white noise, which resonates at the same frequency that we do and seems to draw us forward, exerting some sort of magnetic pull.
When we are on it everything makes sense, we find flow better, we feel right in ourselves, we have a sense of something larger than our own small ambitions guiding us.
I have begun to see that the path, this invisible pull to our souls, is in fact our own personal way to wholeness: our own unique healing prescription.
Our path, I have learned, takes us through the experiences, thoughts, and meetings that will heal every aspect of our selves, even, and especially, those that are hidden from our conscious awareness.
The words “whole” and “heal” come from the same root. To reach wholeness, we must heal from the wounds and distorted vision that life and our perceptions have wrought on us.
Therefore, each healing path must be unique, as each of our woundings is unique. And yet they each share many similarities, because in the end we are all humans and our stories cross over.
This is the part that many of us miss. We are so focused on “finding me,” on healing ourselves, that we walk on our individual paths looking down at our feet. We forget the fellow travellers around us. And this is where our ability to fully heal is lost, because we cannot do it alone.
The emphasis in Western medicine, the self-help and personal development movements is very much on the individual. “You're the most important thing in your life” messages have trumped the greater truth, which is that we are tribal creatures and herding mammals.
We are only as strong as our weakest members. The fate of us all lies in all our hands.
If you see a group of migrating birds, a shoal of fish, or a herd of wildebeest, there is a constant communication going on between them. They move as one, navigating canyons and predators.
They listen for the calls of others, and they listen to the instinct within. Both guide and steer them. Both have equal weight. But the overriding aim is to find the path and stay on it together, to find the safe way, the yielding way together—to get through together.
One day last week, feeling frustrated at myself and the seemingly disparate roles that I could not quite reconcile, I had a realization of immense clarity; I could not let go of any of them because they were all actually different facets of the same thing: healing.
The internal guidance system that leads my work as a writer, teacher, editor, and artist; my roles as mother, daughter, partner, and friend, are all one big journey of healing myself, and sharing that process with others for their own healing.
My instinct to heal and to help others heal are equally strong driving forces that determine my whole life.
This is what I love about all of my heroes: their dedication to healing, and their willingness to reflect on their pain and share what they have learned.
Then I zoomed out and saw it from a much larger perspective—that this is some human instinct, a basic herd instinct—the need to help to heal the herd, to keep us all together, all moving in the same direction.
Like the race that an African tribe does, the aim of which is not who wins or runs longest or fastest, but that everyone finishes together.
Sue Monk Kidd reflects on this herd healing in her beautiful book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter.
She recalls watching a nature program about whales and seeing these behemoths throwing themselves out of the water and crashing down on their backs.
The narrator shared that naturalists believe that breaching, as it is called, might be their way of communicating when the seas get rough. A spectacular way of creating strong vibrations in the water, marking their route so that the others in their group would not get lost.
She reflects on how women do this too, an example that I feel applies to all humans:
“Women must have the whale’s instinct. When we set out on a woman’s journey we are often swimming in a high and unruly sea, and we seem to know that the important thing is to swim together—to send out our vibrations, our stories, so that no one gets lost.”
So here we are, the waters are rising on this precious Earth of ours, the storm waves crashing. Many of our global population are tired, have lost our bearings. But the instinct is strong. Many of us who are aware of the need for healing are calling out, breaching: “This way, this way!” we call.
We share our stories, show our healing, so that others might find their way onto the path of healing too. So that person by person, community by community, country by country we might find a better way to live. So that we can find healing for our whole herd, and a path, a way through.
Sometimes I doubt myself. I wonder why I do my work. But now I know. I do it for me just as much as I do it for you.
I speak or paint or write or dance with One Billion Rising, because I am adding my vibration, which is the most basic thing I can give. Because I yearn to the depths of my soul to be healed. To be free from suffering. To see those I love and those I don't know free from suffering too.
So I ask you, every time you feel the instinct rise, like a whale breaching in the center of your soul, with the urge to reach out and share words of love, gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, appreciation, hope, and healing, do it.
Every time you feel the desire to give a stroke, kiss, hug, gift, or smile, but you think it makes no difference, or that you don’t have time, do it.
It matters. More than you could ever know.
In fact, it’s really the only thing that does.
Photo by Nesbitt Photo