Hooked on a Healing
I believe in creating our experience of life from the inside out.
Therefore, I am utterly enthralled by personal awakenings, self-actualization practices, spiritual breakthroughs and epiphanies. I believe that as we transform our own lives, naturally we participate more intentionally and powerfully in the evolution of society and the world and existence itself. So for me, healing ourselves (our self-concept and our connection/relatedness to everyone and everything else) is the clear first step to creating the world I want to live in.
It’s why I do what I do. I see spiritual self-discovery and practice [and I mean this in the broadest possible sense: any and all ways that make life seem rich and meaningful] as the key to pretty much everything.
AND… I also see how easily and often it can all slip into masturbatory self-fascination, procrastination, and irresponsible non-participation in our shared reality.
It’s addictive. Because spiritual healing feels really good. Uncovering and releasing the unconscious self-limiting beliefs and ideas that have left us feeling small and shitty — wow, that’s just an awesome relief, like a psychological colonic. Sometimes I envision my spiritual practice like a drain snake, scrubbing out all the scum & gunk that tends to accumulate and stick in my mind. It’s really satisfying to scrape it out.
Trouble is — because it feels so good, it can become an end unto itself.
For example: because I like to have emotional breakthroughs, I sometimes find myself on the constant lookout for emotional blocks. I think I’m striving for the breakthrough, but really I’m riffing on the block.
Or this: because I get off on personal epiphanies, those delicious “Aha, now I see!” moments, sometimes I catch myself investing energy and attention into all my wrong-thinking, everything I’m unclear about. I’ve convinced myself that this is the way to brilliance, but really it’s a reinforcement of murkiness.
One more: I love to feel courageous, so I often tend to fixate and exaggerate the fears that I need to confront. Instead of simply being strong & sure, I spend a lot of time quivering at my own shadow.
Spiritual breakthroughs can be habit-forming and addictive like anything else — chasing the good feeling, we seek out (or create) the absence of that feeling just so we can have the fleeting pleasure of discovering the good feeling again and again.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, my parents sent me to an evangelical Bible camp. “Camp Medusa” was the real name of the place, in Medusa, New York, on Lake Medusa. For realz. I had dreamed of going to the United Methodist “Sky Lake Youth Camp,” the brochure for which had pictures of happy pre-teens waterskiing, doing leather crafts, and singing around a campfire. But Sky Lake was expensive; Camp Medusa was free. So they packed me off to Medusa.
It wasn’t as horrible as the name might suggest. I remember everyone being pretty nice. But what I remember most about the experience was that every single night there was a revival meeting culminating in the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. This was not a tradition with which I was very familiar — Methodists were much quieter about such things — and at first it seemed a little embarrassing. But I quickly realized that my options were either: A) sit on an uncomfortable log pew singing the same song over and over for 40 minutes while others got “saved,” or B) open my heart to the Spirit, stumble up on stage, fall to my knees, and have everyone pour praise over me as I was born again. Well… guess which one I chose? Spiritual exhibitionism won out. There was never any question, really.
After my salvation, I got to go out back with one of the counselors and talk all about myself and everything that this life-changing revelation meant to me, and I’ve gotta tell you, it felt intimate and quite special. So, at the next night’s revival meeting, when another dramatic opportunity presented itself, of course I chose once again to be reborn publicly and gushingly. I don’t remember what my conversation with the counselor afterwards was like — something about how this second time around, my eyes had been opened to an even deeper relationship with Christ.
This happened every night, 5 nights in a row. Every night I got saved, again and again, each time with more tears, more heart, a more complete redemption. If I had had crutches, I would have thrown them aside for sensational effect.
It wasn’t until decades later that I learned that the whole idea of being born again is to do it only once. I was describing Camp Medusa to my husband Travis, who was raised Southern Baptist, and he told me, “It’s supposed to ‘take’ the first time.” Had I known, I imagine that I would have played up my questioning and soul-searching resistance for the first four nights, in order to have the most climactic 11th-hour deliverance. I bet that would’ve knocked some socks off.
Anyway, my point of sharing this is that I’ve been thinking about how pervasive this kind of over-and-over redemption can be even in progressive spirituality, and therapy, and self-actualization. We don’t usually call it or think of it like “getting saved.” But isn’t it the same thing? The never-ending journey to authenticity, digging deeper and deeper into our own navels, peeling back layer after layer of experience and baggage, forever in pursuit of our truest and most profound self-concept…
I mean, for sure there’s juicy stuff to be enjoyed in all this. We’re endlessly fascinating to ourselves, and that’s okay. Indeed, there will always be more to discover and learn and expand into. And of course the spiritual path, and especially spiritual community, is at its best when it includes feelings of sanctuary, rejuvenation, renewal, and healing.
It can be self-defeating, however, a sneakily unconscious perpetuation of limitation, when we get so hooked on this healing, so grooved into the rut of our own process, that we keep ourselves from ever actually being Whole, from actually living powerful lives in the real world with each other.
The whole point of self-actualization, I believe, is to empower ourselves to participate more fully in the world we’re creating together. The point is not to keep finding more nuanced evidence of our brokenness, the work we need to do, the healing we need to complete before we can step forward into our new co-creation.
In fact, I think the most liberating approach, in many ways, would be simply to plunge deep enough to get over ourselves in the first place — to recognize that there was never anything wrong with us to begin with.
As Emma Curtis Hopkins wrote, “Your soul doesn’t need saving; it needs to be made visible.”
If our self-discovery in any way reinforces a sense of broken aloneness, then we need to do it differently. We’re all wounded. We’re all tangles of dysfunction and neuroses. But this is our connectedness, not our separation. It’s our own unique version of the Perfect Being in which we we all share and of which we are all embodiments.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to grow & discover & deepen & evolve. We can. But we can do so as a graceful expression of Wholeness and Connectedness, rather than as an ever-deepening probe into made-up inadequacies. Instead of constantly looking for wounds to justify our desire for ongoing transformation, we really can allow ourselves to be Whole Already.
Ernest Holmes wisely declared that, ultimately, “there is nothing to be healed, only Truth to be revealed.”
Our human experience of healing, then, is simply the natural unfoldment of the Wholeness that we already are. Our human experience of transformation is the inevitable course of blooming perfection — no more a reiteration of fixing ourselves and compensating for our shortcomings. We’ve already broken-through time and time again, for heaven’s sake. The real opportunity, now, is to create something amazing out of an awareness of our own Enough-Already Magnificence.
Transformation isn’t just for the broken. Ever-evolving, ever-unfolding, blossoming expansion is what Whole Beings do. Be Whole. It’s easy because we already are.