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A Time For Healing

by Kirsten Hartvig(more info)

listed in naturopathy, originally published in issue 282 - November 2022

 

We live today in a world of extremes, a world in which many of us struggle to maintain health and peace of mind. The pressures of 21st Century life encourages us to act in ways that make us ill, and the increasing medicalisation and digitalisation of society is sapping our confidence in our own self-healing abilities. Many of us are aware that it is important to have a healthy lifestyle, but most of us don’t live healthily because changing our lifestyle seems time consuming and impractical. Our education and the scientific climate of our times have convinced us that change must be major if it is to be worthwhile, and that science and technology have a monopoly on power. Since the Industrial Revolution, machines have become more powerful, weapons more deadly and medicines ever stronger, while individuals have been weakened by having to rely on energy sources controlled by huge multinational corporations.

But what about your individual power? How can you discover within yourself the source of energy from which everything draws its strength – Nature! Without earth, water, air and sunlight, and the natural resources they create, there would be no life, no society, and no economic systems. All the technological advances that underpin modern life owe their existence to the energy and materials supplied by nature. In recognizing the natural forces within yourself, you can plug into the system which produces the energy on which our world depends and use this energy to be healthy.

To become skilled at using your in-built energy supply, however, you have to start looking inside yourself for answers. You must realize that what happens tomorrow is a direct and inevitable consequence of the decisions you make today.

 

Thomas Troward – the Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science

 

As Thomas Troward [(1847–1916) English author whose works influenced the New Thought Movement and mystic Christianity] put it:

“My mind is a centre of Divine Operation. The Divine operation is always for expansion and fuller expression, and this means production of something beyond what has gone before, something entirely new, not included in past experience, though proceeding out of it by an orderly sequence of growth. Therefore, since the Divine cannot change its inherent nature, it must operate in the same manner in me. Consequently, in my special world, of which I am the centre, it will move forward to produce new conditions, always in advance of any that have gone before.”

Doing small things well is infinitely more effective than persistently avoiding big things; as a Chinese sage once said:

“All difficult things in the world start from the easy, all great things in the world start from the small.”

You can learn to deal with things from where you are instead of not dealing with them because you are not where you want to be. Journeys of a thousand miles really do start from the spot under your feet. The journey to health through self-healing is not always fast, but with every step your confidence in your inner strength will grow and you will learn not to fear moving forward slowly, only not moving at all.

 

A Herbal Medicine Walk - Nettle, Cleavers and More..

 

Natural Philosophy of Health

We are part of nature and can learn much about the process of self-healing by observing how nature works. Consider the procession of the seasons which encourages plants to grow from seed to bloom. Winter may seem like a period of darkness and cold, but its starkness also reveals the true landscape as trees lose their leaves and the undergrowth dies back. It is a time for going inwards, creating inner light, and for repairing, resting, absorbing, and processing the proceeds of the past. Though winter seems to be a time of little action and slow movement, day by day the light is returning and, with the emergence of spring, the impulse to clean and renew asserts itself. The pace of life quickens and the appearance of the first buds and new shoots heralds flowers and blossom to come.

As the sun climbs higher in the sky, the brightness of spring merges imperceptibly into the deep warmth of summer where growth and diversity flourish, driven by an unstoppable inner momentum. Then, all of a sudden, all is ripe for harvest and the Earth is hushed in momentary wonder before the rush of harvesting and picking that allows this miracle of abundance that once again has materialised out of the tiniest seeds.

Through mellow autumn the harvest is stored, and fuel is laid in for another period of rest and rejuvenation. The seeds that have fallen to earth are gently covered by leaves that moments before captured the sunlight containing the energy needed to produce those seeds. They now return their substance back to the soil to nurture new life and new harvests. And suddenly it is winter once more, black branches outlined against a darkening sky.

So it is with self-healing. The first step is to see clearly where you are, to clear that which is no longer helpful in your life, and to make choices that clears what has become overgrown. Next, you have to acknowledge your need for rest so that you can gather the energy that will fuel repair and regeneration. As the first signs of healing emerge, they need tending like delicate shoots in spring while you clean and tidy your mental and physical environment to provide maximum opportunity for future growth. As healing becomes established, you must make sure that you remain properly fed, focused, and watered during the period of rapid change so that the harvest of health is sure and abundant. Weeding out distractions and diversions, self-doubt and excuses is an important part of this period.

Then, as you gather your crop of wellbeing and plant the seeds of change that will determine your course over the next year, remember to lay up reserves against the exertions of new challenges and, in your dealings with others, be mindful of the fact that no harvest is complete until it is shared.

These ideas form the basis of naturopathy, a natural philosophy of health that provides the foundation for all traditional systems of medicine. Naturopathy sees health as a natural state and regards disease as nature’s way of restoring health when an individual is out of balance with their environment. It recognizes that all healing is ultimately dependent on nature – the surgeon may set the bone, but it is the body that actually mends the break. It suggests that the aim of all treatment should be to create the best possible circumstances for the body to heal itself, while avoiding anything that may do harm. It acknowledges the existence of a lifeforce which fuels our biological vehicle and sees body, mind, emotion, and spirit as interwoven strands in the fabric of life. It emphasises the responsibility of each individual to create conditions favouring health.

In practical terms, naturopathy is about doing whatever you are doing now as well as possible, because it is what you do now that ultimately determines what happens to you next, in other words, do good now and good will happen. When it comes to health, this means paying attention to the basics – rest, play, nutrition, activity, and community – before anything else. If we don’t sleep, laugh, eat, drink, move, and relate to others, we get ill.

The Road to Illness

We live in a society that tends to judge the value of individuals by their financial status, a fact that causes many people to sacrifice their health in the pursuit of wealth. We have also come to believe that our capacity to perform is limited only by the strength of our desire to achieve, and often act as if the body were an unlimited natural resource, in much the same way as we have regarded fossil fuels and the sea’s capacity to contain rubbish. As a result, many of us have depleted our energy reserves and polluted our system so much that we have lost our capacity of self-healing, which has made us increasingly dependent on powerful medical interventions to keep us going.

Achievement and pressure are related in three very important ways: first, if we have no incentive to do very much then we don’t actually achieve very much; second, increasing pressure to achieve tends to produce increased achievement, at least for a time; and third, if the pressure to perform gets too much, the ability to achieve inevitably decreases. When we perform better and achieve more – by working longer hours, taking on new responsibilities, being more productive – we get rewarded with more prestige, more money, nicer things, more respect. This convinces us that doing more brings us more of the things that we want. So we put even stronger pressure on ourselves to perform, in order to achieve the things we believe would free us from the pressures that others put on us. We act as if the line on our achievement graph will go on climbing if we can just push that bit harder and think that tomorrow’s rewards will compensate for today’s worry.

The reality is, however, that worry is a waste of good energy, and that your ability to go on responding to pressure by increasing your level of performance is limited by your capacity to stay focused, happy, and healthy in the face of increased pressure. Whether you like it or not, it is a biological fact that too much stress for too long will make you ill, and if you want to be healthy you have to understand that your inner energy store is a precious resource to be used wisely and cleansed and restored at regular intervals.

In fact, the road to illness or breakdown in a person’s life usually follows a fixed path, but the pattern is so common and the time scale so long that we often fail to notice it. As our lives unfold from youth to early adulthood, the external pressures that motivate us to perform – the need to earn enough to pay our bills, the demands of relatives and friends – gradually increase, and our lives become fuller and busier. If tiredness, stress or worry intrude on our ability to perform, society provides a range of pick-me-ups and calm-me-downs to keep us going, supplemented as necessary by ‘minor’ medical interventions.

At a certain point, however, the battle to achieve, or simply to keep going in the face of failure, starts to take a toll. Sleep no longer brings rest, and we start each new day as tired as we left yesterday. Relationships grow brittle and unsatisfying, performance at work drops off, illnesses become more serious and more demanding, and we begin to long for rest. Paradoxically, the help on offer at this stage – prescription drugs, in particular – encourages us in the belief that if we could just find the right remedy, then we could go on coping. Each intervention brings some measure of relief, but we tend to use any energy regained to go on doing more of what caused our problems in the first place.

The fact is that if what you are doing is tending to bring exhaustion, illness and disintegration into your life, things will inevitably get worse if you keep on doing it. But if you change what you do and start treating the basics of life as basic, you will become healthier and ensure that today’s achievements form the foundation of a sustainable future. If you are tired, you need to rest and release resistance, if you are damaged, you need time to heal.

The Road to Health

There is an expression in computing ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ which means that although computers are incredibly quick at doing what you tell them to do, if what you tell them to do is rubbish then the answers, they come up with are also rubbish. The same is true of bodies. A body that learns to be healthy knows how to stay healthy, but a body under constant stress almost invariably becomes ill.

The human body is a remarkable self-regulating system, capable of providing a constant and congenial internal environment for you to live in despite the ever-changing world outside. Once it has learned what is expected of it, it can carry out huge numbers of tasks on your behalf without ever pausing to ask for instructions. It keeps your temperature constant, adjusts your chemistry and control systems according to circumstances, and has a breath-taking repertoire of automatic skills which help you navigate through the day. Think of what a newborn baby can’t do, and then think of what you can do. From walking and talking to using knife and fork, reading, writing, and driving a car, your body’s ability to carry out tasks automatically that it learned previously by repetition is fundamental to your life, your ability to think, and to your free will.

In fact, the body and mind could be described as a super-sophisticated learning-by-doing machine. It learns to do things by doing them, and how it learns things first is how it goes on doing them unless you teach it to do something else. Everyone who has learned to drive and then tries driving a different car understands this. For some miles it is hard to operate the clutch, brake and accelerator smoothly, but go on doing it for long enough and the body learns. In all activities, the subconscious mind organizes the complex patterns of movement and response that enable you to do simple things like drink a cup of tea without pausing to remember how it is done. Your daily life depends to a large extent on the ability of your subconscious-controlled body to do things without you having to think about them.

Just a s a muscle grows strong by repetition of its movement, the subconscious grows efficient by repeated experience, so if you want to change anything in your life you have to actually do something new and keep on doing it long enough for your subconscious to learn how it is done. It is important to realize that, in fact, the only thing in the world we can control is our thoughts. Whatever you think consciously eventually influences your actions, experiences, and the way you learn new things because you are constantly programming and reprogramming your subconscious mind.

The point is that if you want to be healthier, wealthier, happier, calmer, more relaxed and more energetic, you have to reboot your conscious thinking for long enough to reprogramme your subconscious mind. Once you have understood that doing and thinking things in a positive frame of mind makes you feel better, you can learn how to this automatically by doing it a lot until your basic health skills become automatic. Patience and repetition is key.

The Spiritual Aspect

Nature cure is based on the idea that health is a state of balance between our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects; true healing involves paying attention to all these qualities of self. Just as nature is life clothed in a million costumes, spirituality in human experience takes many forms. Nevertheless, the qualities that most of us would associate with spirituality – kindness, compassion, goodness and service – are welcome visitors whatever our personal belief system, and they are the foundation of all true healing. There is no true heath without love.

Creating a Healing Environment

Ironically, a fly on the wall at a health spa would see that the elements that make up expensive cures are, in themselves, cheap and simple. Nature cure is first and foremost a way of promoting health for all, based on things that nature gives for free – water, air, sunlight, sleep, exercise, touch and wayside weeds – and it can be used by anyone with a desire to improve their health.

Making your home and your life into healing environments has many advantages. In practical terms, creating a healing environment involves dealing with six things: time, space, people, backlogs, intrusions, and habits.

I encourage you to start creating a healing environment right now by giving yourself time to discover your inner resources and using your own inner strength. It is an intensely rewarding experience and definitely worth the effort involved.

Further Information

At the Healing Garden, we organize herb walks and workshops to teach different aspects of natural health and healing; we are starting our first Nature Cure diploma course in October. The aim of all we do is to create healing environments and teach your how to do it yourself. Do join us if you are interested. You can find more information on www.thehealinggarden.uk

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About Kirsten Hartvig

Kirsten Hartvig ND MNIMH DipPhyt is a Medical Herbalist and Registered Naturopath. She is Director of the Healing Garden and the Rachel Carson Centre at Emerson College UK in Sussex, comprising a complementary medicine library and a medicinal herb garden. You may contact Kirsten for private consultations, to join one of the monthly herb walks, sign up for workshops, or if you would like to visit the gardens:  The Healing Garden, Emerson College, Forest Row, East Sussex RH18 5JX; Tel: 07477 220707; info@thehealinggarden.uk   https://www.thehealinggarden.uk/. If you want to support the Healing Garden, please visit Patreon: www.patreon.com/healinggardenuk You can find out more about the Heartwood professional and foundation courses in Herbal Medicine on heartwood-uk.net   Instagram @heartwoodbotanic  Watch Herb Hunters on YouTube;  Listen to the Herbal Medicine Show on UKHealthRadio. Watch Herb Hunters on YouTube. Kirsten may be contacted on Tel: 07477 220707;  info@thehealinggarden.uk   https://www.thehealinggarden.uk/

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