In August 2007, I was going through crazy rough patch with my mom, and I was in a state of spiritual distress. A friend in Santa Cruz invited me for a weekend retreat. This friend — whom I had met at a freestyle dance gathering — had very calming energy, along with a deep capacity for intensity. We sat on the rooftop of her home, against the edge of a tree grove, as I poured my heart out and cried.
I shared with my friend all of the layers of brokenness I was feeling — in my body, my family, and the world, and I wondered aloud about the interplay between these layers of brokenness. Concentric circles of trauma carried somewhere in my heart, psyche, or cellular level:
The 4000 years of humiliation and persecution of my Jewish ancestors. The oppression and uprooting of my paternal family, Jewish refugees from Iraq. The racism they experienced after resettling in Israel. The sense of homelessness my father experienced since immigrating to America.
The daily doses of energetic assault against girls and women and the constant underlying threat of physical and sexual violence against us. The various levels of abuse in my immediate and extended family. The denial, blame, and punishment I faced in my quest to speak truth about and heal the wounds of that abuse. The alcoholism throughout my maternal family and its impact on my mother and, by extension, me.
The carelessness of random strangers, doctors, and body workers who injured me, refused to treat me, or ridiculed me as I struggled to heal — leaving me spinning in a confusing maze of pain and suffering. The numbness of our society. The pathologizing of people who radically embrace their spirits. The lack of socially-acceptable spaces to express and release raw emotions.
All of it.
The complementary and alternative medicine communities recognize the relationship between mind, body, and spirit. Often, however, I find that people in these communities promote a simplistic, reductionist formula for that relationship — rather than engaging with the patience, openness, and intelligence necessary for understanding the nuances and complexities of that relationship.
In addition, I find that there is a lack of socio-political awareness in these communities — i.e., recognition of the interplay between the micro and macro levels of life experience.
As a result, I feel hesitant to share an honest exploration of the many contributing factors to my healing or lack thereof. Just because I experienced abuse in my childhood does not mean that my pain is a psycho-spiritual manifestation of that abuse. It does not mean that I subconsciously willed a car to crash into me or that I subconsciously chose doctors who did not properly treat me.
We live in a world with complex, inter-related dynamics – including drunk driving and poor health care. Pointing to one emotional or psychological piece of a person’s puzzle, and declaring it as the sum total of that puzzle, is both inaccurate and unhelpful.
Through my own personal discoveries, encouraged by the validation of cutting-edge healers, doctors, and bodyworkers, my orientation is no longer one of looking at a particular ailment (like ankle pain), trying to figure out “the cause” of the problem, and then setting out on a mission to fix it.
For the record, I think this approach can be effective if a very specific, isolated issue rears its head against the backdrop of an otherwise clean bill of health, and if it is treated early on. Had doctors taken me seriously and respoded appropriately from the beginning, that approach very well may have prevented me from living with chronic pain for over a decade.
Today, however, that approach doesn’t work for me. There there have been so many contributing factors to so many different issues that are now connected in a complex, inter-dynamic web. So my orientation is one of looking at every aspect of my life and doing my best to ensure that all of me is imbued with vibrant health and well-being. I trust that the more I embody this vibrancy, the more my body naturally will come into alignment and heal.
Embodying this vibrancy means nourishing myself through a healthy diet, regular exercise, positive friendships, daily meditation, fulfilling work, and the exploration of diverse modalities of theraputic movement, be it dance, Feldenkrais, qi gong, physical therapy, or whatever.
It means dancing light, love, and healing into the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental realms of my individual self, into the relationships with my family, and into my social life and political activism. It means an ever-more radical commitment to truth, authenticity, and my own inner voice.
It means risking the disapproval of others, handing it all over to G-d, and trusting the healing process.