Two days ago I posted a blog titled “A Contentious Election In An Irrational Time” that focused on making a 180° shift from the fear–anger–guilt way in which we have lived our lives for thousands of years to peace, creativity, compassion, and kindness. I detailed simple ways to “reframe” this very important shift. I consider that post to be a segue to this one, The Healing Power of Presence, which focuses on two words with basically one fundamental idea: love and presence. I share with you now two previously published stories (in Bridges Magazine for Living Subtle Energies, 2009 # 3. Lafayette CO) that made this clear to me.
At a holistic medical conference in 1990, a featured presenter, Evelyn McDonald, told us how she had recovered completely from ALS ten years earlier. She had developed an aggressive form of this fatal disease, and when she was hospitalized, having lost the use of her arms and legs, she saw her reflection in a mirror, and cried out, “God, Evy, how I hate you!” She had never before expressed this self-hatred, and she swore that she would come to love herself before she died. She spent a full hour daily in front of that mirror encompassing herself in love. It took several weeks, and nearly complete, she wondered if loving herself completely would require her to like the disease that was taking her life. She forced herself to go through that concern. When she had encompassed her whole being in love, she no longer identified with the disease! Her paralysis progressed, though, to the point where she had the strength to breathe for only about ten minutes. At this point, she stayed in this strange suspended state for 36 hours… at perfect peace with her impending death. Then her strength started to return… taking the next two years to complete the process!
I wanted to meet with her in private to talk about love. She agreed, and when we met, she opened up with, “Ken, I don’t know what cured me of my disease. It wasn’t love, but I do know that it would not have been possible had I not come to love myself.” Evy subsequently changed her career from nursing to ministry, and was alive and well the last time I heard of her in 2008.
Meg Carver, a healer trained in the Ojibwe tradition, told me her experience with presence in 2008 while we were driving home through Missouri after a conference in consciousness in Kansas. I was driving, and she was sitting quietly, looking at her right hand, when she began her story. Five years earlier, when her marriage was under great stress, she severely cut her index finger with her husband looking on. In response to his demands that they go to the local hospital emergency room, she told him she had work to do before they would go. When he settled down she focused on the injury. She had controlled the bleeding with thumb pressure and was able to focus on restoring the integrity of the finger according to her Ojibwe training and experience. She told me that after fifteen minutes, she knew that the situation had been “Taken care of”. She took the pressure off, and saw that it had. She showed her husband her finger… he left the house! To my question, “Healed?” She said, “No, Ken, no sign that it had ever been cut.” To my astonished, “How, Meg?” she said, “I was present to it and let go of all fear!”
For me, these two wonderful women helped me learn the illusory nature of fear, anger, and guilt. I have learned that spiritual traditions have all pointed out that these projections and attachments are illusions. These two friends of mine have shown me that getting rid of illusions can cause the disappearance of significant physical disease!
For me, the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen, as taught me by Pema Chödrön, is a practice of bringing peace into a condition of suffering. My experiences with these two friends led me to use in H.O.P.E’s work what I learned from Chödrön about bringing peace to myself and others. It effected significant healings in that H.O.P.E. Group work. I offer you these stories that you may be encouraged to work to bring peace to every conceivable incidence of suffering. Challenging? of course. Rewarding? of course.
For me, the tensions that we are experiencing in this contentious, irrational election are symptoms of just such a profound suffering because we are struggling with ending the Industrial Revolution. We do not ever again have to result to violence to resolve our suffering. We can devote our inner selves to becoming peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside our selves. In this way, we can begin to benefit from the healing power of presence before the last votes are counted.