Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How Healing Happens

Well, as many of you know, I took a break from blogging and Facebook and most other forms of communication for the month of August. After my marriage ended unexpectedly in April (no, I did not see it coming) I spent a couple of months swinging between emotional agony and logistical details. With the legal separation signed in July, I decided a I needed some time of stillness. I leased a campsite in a wilderness reserve in northern Ontario and set up camp. I was planning on spending August there alone, fasting and praying, and resting in the landscape I love- the rocks and water of the Canadian Shield.

Today, I went through the emails that have accumulated in my Inbox. There were messages of encouragement and support (much appreciated) and quite a few from people anticipating some wisdom from my time of solitude and retreat. Many who have suffered similar losses expressed confidence that I would be able – after my month away- to tell them how I have healed, created a new life for myself and found joy once again.

So, as I sit down at my computer, the pressure is on. Have I healed, moved on, created a new life, crossed a threshold into wonder and wisdom? It’s tempting to try to reach for something profound. But I think I’d better stick to the truth.

When I told my sons (now twenty-seven and thirty) that I was going away for a month of solo camping and ceremony, they shook their heads and expressed their dismay. They pointed out that I have a tendency to set myself up for ordeal without consideration for my physical health or age (I protested: “I’m not that old!”) and often get ill or return exhausted. They questioned the wisdom of going to a place where there were physical challenges and risks without any way of summoning help at a time when I was clearly recovering from emotional and physical stress. Mostly they heard and objected to what Nathan called my “gung-ho attitude,” something with which they are all too familiar.

I was. . . offended. And defensive. And then. . . . I lay down on the floor of my apartment amidst piles of camping gear and reconsidered.

I did go camping- alone some of the time and for a few days with a dear friend. I lay on the sun-warmed rocks, swam in the cool clear lake and listened to the loons call out to each other at dusk. I sat on the earth and did my practise of prayer and meditation. I ate when and what my body wanted to eat and made sure all food was stored where it would not tempt the family of black bears roaming the area.

And then, I went home to the city for a few days, for warm baths, a soft bed and meals that could be prepared without gathering kindling, sawing logs and lighting a fire. Then I returned to the campsite, going back and forth, letting my intuition guide me. I tried something new: I became. . . .flexible! I listened to my body, letting go of expectations about what I could or should or would do, giving up my attachment to The Amazing Story of My Time Alone in the Bush, (and oh, how I love a good story!) surrendering my secret belief that I could “earn” my healing by putting myself through ceremonial trials.

In the middle of August some friends gathered at my apartment in Toronto and did a healing ceremony for me. And where I had felt a vague sense of being frozen, things began to flow. From the minute the Sacred Pipe ceremony began tears coursed down my face. It did not feel like I was crying. “I” was not “doing” anything. Tears were flowing. Only later did we notice that the air conditioner in my small apartment had flooded the bedroom during the ceremony. That night both the kitchen and bathroom drains became mysteriously blocked. The next morning sinks overflowed, and then the drains were unplugged and water flowed freely again.

During the ceremony, when it came time for me to offer a prayer, between watery breaths I said, “I am so grateful for these women. Thank you." I paused and then said the only thing I felt I knew in that moment, "I am broken." Feeling lost and more than a little hopeless I added, "Forgive me for my lack of faith. Help me, please.”

And I was helped. I don’t know that I can say how. But more and more I find myself noticing that I am. . . . happy, enjoying my own company, returning to my writing, taking in the beauty around me. I packed up my campsite at the end of August and with prayers of gratitude returned to my small apartment renewed. Without ordeal. Without proving how tough I am or how much I can endure. And still the grace of healing flowed toward me, and the pain eased.

It is not, of course, a linear process. Grief still comes, although less frequently and with softer edges. When it comes I give it time and attention. And then I get up and do my yoga or go for a walk or write or meet a friend. Because life really does go on, and we really do have the capacity to move (or be moved) forward, to heal, to see beauty and feel gratitude even when the heart feels it has been broken. It’s a bit of a miracle really- this ability we have embedded in our very being, in the cells of our hearts and bodies, in the essence of our souls- to heal and expand and choose life again and again. I don’t know how healing happens, but it does. It is a kind of quiet, ever-present grace that can fill us with wonder and bring us great joy if we let it.

My heart is whole and very full.


  1. Oriah, kindred spirit, thank you so much for sharing your truth, you've been missed.

    It's awfully hard to be flexible when you are broken isn't it?

    But reading your post gives me hope.

  2. Welcome back. So good to hear how you cared for yourself consciously and allowed your intuition to guide you moment to moment. Flowing again, such relief and joy to hear - may it continue. Blessings to you this day Oriah.

  3. Oriah,

    This was beautiful.Being flexible is something I find very hard.....Its hard to find a balance in ourselves.

    Your writing makes me smile. Thanks so much, Im so pleased for you :)

  4. I just discovered this through a friend via FB.

    Thank you for sharing and it too gives me hope. I am constantly reminded that "this too shall pass" and nothing is permanent.

    I love when I find writings like this. While I too have so many feelings, emotions and ideas, I'm just not good at expressing them with other or in writing. Maybe one day.

  5. The greatness from which we all emanate is so awesome and powerful that words fail us when an attempt is made to describe how that greatness showed up, gave us favor, nurtured all of our broken places, and forgave us when our own carnality didn't allow us to believe. The greatness in you and that is in us all is made stronger in our weakness. It teaches us to reach beyond the break; that broken place that screams to connect with its source for healing. I have learned to stop seeking the approval of others to do what's needed for my greater good, but like you, I will listen to reason for it too helps in getting us to that healing place.
    Just know, without a doubt, everything you need for the next level of your journey is already there...and those things that you didn't need have fallen, "shout to the silver of the moon, YES." keep on living, keep on loving, and keep on believing that something magical is always waiting for an open door.

  6. Your articles always give me hope and make me think of a bright future in front of me. I am going through a divorce also and I know the pain. Such articles are so amazing and they lighten up our hearts, feelings. There is hope out there, we just need to try a little bit harder and give it some time. Enjoy the nature and be free!

  7. you are back.

    that noise you heard was a heartfelt sigh from nyc.

    you are back.

    immense gratitude.

    you are back.

    *huge grin*

    lots of love.

    your stranger friend,


  8. surrendering my secret belief that I could “earn” my healing .. [I] returned to my small apartment renewed. Without ordeal. Without proving how tough I am or how much I can endure. And still the grace of healing flowed toward me, and the pain eased. ... we have embedded in our very being, in the cells of our hearts and bodies, in the essence of our souls- to heal and expand and choose life again and again.

    A post for the refrigerator.

    I wonder what it is that makes us think pain is a foe to be fought and healing will come to the victor of a hard battle. Or that we have to earn healing at all. That energy feels to be the exact opposite space of where healing begins and does occur.

    The simple act of choosing life - and my how that touches something deep inside all of us - seems to be the catalyst for renewal and a deeper connection with ourselves as we head into the next round of adventure that lays ahead.

    You sound as if you received all that you had hoped for, albeit through a much different path. Grateful for you be-ing back again.

  9. Lorraine, not sure it is that big of a mystery- this belief that all things good must be earned or won. Raised with a clear Protestant work ethic that taught things like: God helps those who help themselves (which of course is true but the Mystery can also be generous when we cannot help ourselves) and You get what you pay for! Sigh. Well, sometimes you do, but there was not a lot of talk about unearned blessings- grace. :-)

  10. Hm-m... so glad you decided to flex and not snap!

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and may healing and light be yours.

  12. not a lot of talk about unearned blessings

    How true.

    Mulling more on the idea of earning healing it makes even more sense about what you say that healing is embedded in our very being. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense we would have the ability to feel without the ability to heal. They go hand in hand really. Once again we seem to get in our own way of what's already present.

  13. Dear Oriah

    Healing just happens when we open to it, doesn't it? And sometimes it's so hard to balance all our needs...
    Wishing you health and happiness,

  14. Oriah,
    I am always so awed by the honesty, beauty and wisdom of your writing.
    Also, as I read the comments this week I was amazed by the beauty and wisdom in the writing of others who come to this blog.
    This "green bough" is indeed a place to come, sing our own song, inspire and be inspired by the connection we have.
    As surely as the multitude of birds that light on the crabapple tree each dawn outside my window, so we gather here to share community, learn, and support each other.
    Oriah, thank you for offering us a place to gather, and guiding us along the way.

  15. Dear Oriah, I find myself telling you what I tell myself most days - 'It takes as long as it takes, and my only task is to be present with the experience.'

    Much Love.