Streams of Light
by Jordan Van Voast
Different paradigms of healing are like glass lenses. Some fit telescopes, some microscopes. Some are polished with time, some are cracked, some shine with fresh insight. All models are concepts of mind. Ideas about medicine and health are ways of viewing reality, not the reality itself. The deepest, most complete healing transcends all views.
In this era of rapid change and transformation, health paradigms, like spiritual paradigms, are undergoing mind-boggling multiplications and mutations every day. You can shop on the Internet for a guru or the latest technology to help boost your biorhythms. Information, health products, and guides are useful supports in our journey toward wholeness, but if we are constantly searching for health outside of our own mind and body and the present moment, we perpetuate the root of all illness by thinking true healing is to be found elsewhere.
Clarifying our health challenges by identifying pathogens and diagnostic patterns is useful, but if we limit our definition of health to maintaining a functional body and mind, then we are entrenched in a battle against aging, sickness, and death. One school of medicine interprets health in terms of how well these "ills" are kept at bay. Disease, from this perspective, is a negative outcome.
Our tendency is to identify with form: our body and sense of self. When the forms decays, malfunctions, and ceases, as all forms do, all that remains is cosmic dust. Death often is perceived as a bleak annihilation. Our true nature is deathless, though. Purifying our vision enough to see this totality requires an uncommon persistence to uncover and abide in truth.
A Buddhist parable referring to the arduous journey to enlightenment tells of a crow with a silk scarf in its mouth that flies around Mt. Everest once every hundred years, brushing the mountain with the scarf each time. The amount of time it takes to wear the mountain away completely with the scarf is the time it takes to tame the mind to the point of transcendence. Within those same wisdom teachings is also the recognition that time is merely another concept. Our true nature is timeless, here and now.
The ultimate root of all disease is living out of alignment with nature, which is beingness, or Tao, or Buddha mind, or Christ consciousness, or whatever you may wish to call it. Various disease processes to which humans have assigned labels, such as cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder, etc. don't constitute a divine message that we have somehow failed. Instead, they are invitations to come home into acceptance of the present moment: "Look here, this is the way things are."
A recurrent challenge in my own healing process, and as a guide for others, is maintaining a healthy balance between spiritual and physiological perspectives of healing. To say to those with cancer or AIDS that all they really need to heal is faith in a higher power, or to let go into the present moment may be true, but not very skillful.
Health hazards are everywhere. Extremes of weather, bacteria, viruses, tumors, famine, toxic chemicals, car crashes, electromagnetic fields, bike crashes, war, stepladders, asteroids, poor posture: these all exist in the relative world. If one assumes spiritual evolution as the goal of the human life, then the relative freedom and stability of a healthy human form is a precious vehicle through which we evolve. Preventive and emergency medicine keep the spiritual vehicle, the human body-mind, on the path. The assumption that when we die we automatically get another human body-mind is a big one, and even if we do, perhaps our circumstances will not be quite so fortunate as they are now.
Simultaneously living aligned with spiritual purpose and engaging in the relative world is the knife-edge ridgeline we walk. In my practice as an acupuncturist, and as an evolving being on a path to wholeness, I continually seek a balance by asking, "What is appropriate here? Given my unique gifts and challenges, how can I best benefit this situation? What seeds of truth and goodness can I plant in this moment?"
Refining this skillful balancing to ever-higher levels requires a mind with a vast range of awareness, and infinite sensitivity to context and vibration. This is one of the purposes of meditation: the cultivation of mindfulness as a tool. The mind becomes like a laser beam, clearly illuminating whatever one directs it toward, clearly seeing all the complex patterns woven together into the present moment, moment by moment. Clear awareness is the best medicine for all situations in life, and in death.
Many years ago, I read books by Shakti Gawain and Louise Hay, introducing me to the concept of affirmation, a self-empowerment tool for attaining optimum health and harmony. Later, I learned of the Tibetan practice of transforming one's immediate surroundings into a sacred mandala, bringing wisdom and compassion into each and every moment. In Native American spirituality, each footstep is a prayer to Mother Earth and all her children. In qigong, one breathes in light and pure qi (life force) through the crown of the head, washing all the organs, and then breathes out stale qi like a fog through the soles of the feet. The form is not all-important, but just another lens through which the light shines, if we allow.
Healing need not be complicated. If I have a headache, or even a serious illness, sure it is difficult to bear. Acupuncture, herbs, massage, surgery, or a vacation in Hawaii may help alleviate my condition. But in this moment, can I accept that nature is teaching me about life in every moment? Can I be grateful for having a human body that has the nature to both feel pain and to awaken?
One of my practices is to recite each morning the following verse from one of my teachers, immediately upon awakening: "How fortunate I am to have this precious life. I resolve not to harm anyone. I resolve to benefit others. I wish to remove my obstacles in order to benefit others." Words and thoughts are potent medicine.
We decide the basic orientation of our minds, whether toward heaven or hell. Just as affirmations of compassion and healing light result in one mind state, negations based on greed, anger, fear, etc. lead to a different mind state. One of our most pervasive negations is our mental habit of unkindness and condemnation toward ourselves. This is often quite subtle and below the level of conscious awareness. Nonetheless, in time it becomes like a grimy layer of toxic garbage that obscures our pure light nature.
Observe the mind. Acknowledge garbage as garbage and be free. There's no need to pile on more garbage. Healing is your innate life force. Manifesting the ocean of truth and compassion is your destiny.
Jordan Van Voast is a licensed practitioner of acupuncture and oriental medicine, with additional training in qigong, craniosacral therapy, and meditation. He can be reached at (206) 285-7363.