I was talking with a healer friend of mine this morning about all juicy things related to healing, which means inevitably we talked about our own stuff. If you aren’t aware, a healer doesn’t actually heal you; they are simply someone to guide you so that you can heal yourself. In my experience that can only happen if the “healer” has done their own work.
The inner journey isn’t the most important journey…it’s the only journey” ~John F Barnes
I didn’t realize this when I went into a career in physical therapy. Heck, I didn’t realize the depth that a career in physical therapy would take me when I decided I would pursue it at a mere 12 years old. I thought I would assist people that had strokes and spinal cord injuries learn to walk again and “help them”. Little did I know that this career path would steer me immediately into outpatient orthopedics and sports medicine, then to help the elderly in long term care and assisted living, back to outpatient orthopedics, and eventually to my own practice working with people suffering from chronic pain.
It was in my work with people with chronic pain that I learned about the mystery and complexity of the mind-body-spirit complex. I was taught a compartmentalized view of humans, that we were separate Mind, Body, and Spirit. It was in my training with John F Barnes, the father of Myofascial Release, that I was introduced to the concept that perhaps it’s all one “thing” called a “human being”.
Since 2013, I’ve been really diving into my own healing work.
I guess it started long before then as I vowed at a very early age to not repeat the same parenting style as my own parents. No disrespect to them, it’s just that they divorced when I was five and that caused a lot of heartache and confusion in my life. I decided I wouldn’t get divorced because I didn’t want my own children to experience that heartache. My mom struggled to make ends meet financially while working full-time and studying at the local community college. I vowed then and there that I would get a good-paying job so I could take care of myself. I also swore I wouldn’t drink excessively because I had spent too much time at the local bar playing video games and hanging out with my brothers waiting on my daddy. At the age of eight, I had already made a lot of important decisions.
Eventually heartache, coupled with a couple accidents, started messing with my head. Quite literally, in fact. I started having headaches in my early 20’s and by the time I was in my mid-30’s I was having constant, daily tension headaches. After quite a few failed treatments I ended up in my first Myofascial Release (MFR) seminar. That’s when my real healing work began. I started getting some relief from the headaches and realized MFR work was different than the traditional physical therapy I was taught in school. I pursued treatments which led to my inner stuff being cracked wide open with a healing crisis. That was when I actively began to heal, and that’s when I truly started learning how to help others.
I didn’t mean to divulge, it’s just that for you to understand this next bit of information that I’m about to share, it’s necessary that you have a bit of background information. I didn’t think you’d be happy with just, “Yeah, I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve had some big wounds in my life, too.” for you to trust what I want to share with you.
During my morning conversation I told my friend about a recent healing crisis I was in.
A healing crisis, if you’re not familiar, is something that can happen after you get bodywork, such as MFR, done.
The body stores all kinds of information in the tissues, called tissue memory. Forgotten or suppressed beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and events can come flooding to the conscious memory. It can stir things up a bit while the person becomes aware. This can cause discomfort; physically, emotionally, and mentally. The awareness is beautiful though, because now instead of the information being trapped and held hostage by the subconscious, the person can decide what a healthier way to think, believe, and act would be. Call it a cleansing or letting go, if you will. Clearing the old makes room for the new and healthier things to take root. These things can be new and healthier relationships, beliefs, emotions, thoughts, posture, or movement of the body.
I recently returned from 10 days of MFR seminars in which I received and gave treatment while I learned. When I returned home I was a little stirred up. For me it showed up in the form of melancholy, fatigue, and lower back ache. I told my friend that instead of fighting it, I just sat with it to let it go. Now five days later I’m feeling better. She asked what that meant to me, what exactly I did to sit with it, and what helped me feel better.
For me “sitting with it” or “letting go” means quite literally that. Sitting or lying still and just feeling what comes up. Feeling the physical sensations of the body, whether it be a warmth, ache, tightness, fluttering, or knots, then going INTO or UNDERNEATH the physical sensations. That means hiking up my big girl panties and asking myself “What’s in there? What do I need to feel? What do I need to be aware of?” then waiting for the answer. Your intuition knows the answer and will show you it, but you have to be open to experiencing it.
Sitting with it means being patient with yourself.
It means quieting down your inner chatter and telling your scared self [gently] to shut up.
It means taking notice of where and what you’re feeling in your body.
It means allowing yourself to soften into sensations.
It means when you come face-to-face with an emotion you express it.
It means getting treated and doing some self-treatment or self-care to see what lies within.
It means just feeling, without judgement.
Tips for Letting Go:
Give yourself time and space.
- Clear your schedule, make time for yourself, and go to an area of your home that you feel safe and supported. If you need to schedule a caregiver for your children, do so.
Give yourself permission.
- Self care is not self-indulgence, regardless of what you were taught. No one is going to come by and say “I give you permission to take care of yourself.” Perhaps it would be nice if they did, so we wouldn’t feel guilty for taking time to care for ourselves, but you’re going to have to decide that it’s okay to take care of you.
Have a healthy support system in place.
- You know who you can trust and rely on in your life. Keep them close and tell them as much as you feel comfortable with sharing. It’s okay to ask for help, even if you don’t know what you need. It might be a friend who will listen and give you a big hug, your spouse, or maybe even a mental health counselor or spiritual adviser to work through some big issues.
Be patient with the process.
- A healing crisis may last days or weeks or longer. If you can surrender your own expectations and timeline, you’ll be better off. Trying to rush through it won’t work, so just be patient.
Get in touch with your intuition.
- Tap into your own inner voice, your divine wisdom from within. Spend time listening to your gut. A good exercise to do so is simply to listen to what a “YES” answer is versus a “NO” answer. If your stomach knots up and you get cold and clammy, that may be your body saying NO. If you feel tingly all over that may be your body saying YES. You’ll learn your own clues if you start listening.
- This means forgiving others, but also yourself. Sometimes when you sit with things and get a clear picture, you realize maybe you have to forgive yourself for things you have done and said. Carrying around hurt and grudges is a heavy load, so consider unpacking your burden through forgiveness.
Consult with someone who has a holistic approach to healing.
- See if they’ve done their own work so they can help guide you. I am partial to the John F Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach because of the impact it has made in my life, personally and professionally. Therapists that get treated themselves and attend trainings regularly are likely doing their own inner work. They can guide you with yours. To find a John F Barnes’ MFR Therapist in your area, look on the MFR Directory.
Feeling your pain, without judgment, is the hard part for most people. They want to make it go away, through numbing it with pain medications or alcohol or talking or ranting or blaming others or stuffing it down. They ask “why” and analyze it and just keep themselves on a hamster wheel of hurt for years and years. It takes courage and discipline to sit quietly with your pain and just feel it, so you can let it go. All of it. The physical and the emotional and the mental and the spiritual. Without needing to solve anything, without wishing it away. Just feeling it.
So why do it? Why feel it?
Because that’s the only way to the other side. What’s waiting for you on the other side is LOVE. And that’s the answer to all your hurts.