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Healing Your Spirit
by Rachel Harris, Ph.D.

We all need to be healed, to feel more whole.  Deep down inside ourselves, we know there's more to life, more that we can be.  We dream of transformation, like a caterpillar dreams of becoming a butterfly.  However, no matter what we do to seek or encourage it, the process of healing proceeds according to its own timetable for each of us.  Rarely can we see or guess what the next step of healing will be.  There is always an element of mystery to it, far beyond logical comprehension.

It is this elusive component that makes all healing sacred healing.  More is happening at the different levels of healing--physical, emotional, and spiritual--than we can know or imagine.  Sometimes we can help this process of healing, and other times we need to just allow it to follow its own course.  One paradoxical aspect of healing is that someone can be healed during their illness and yet still die.  Inner healing, spiritual healing, is not the same as remission of physical or emotional symptoms or cure.  Healing is related to our capacity to experience and embrace life as it is.  Often this means accepting the unacceptable, making peace with disintegration, and loving whatever we face.  These are the signs of healing.  They illustrate how healing transforms our relationship to life.

Healing, then, is part of our life's path, and as Stephen Levine, a Buddhist teacher who works with the dying, says, healing is what we were born for.  What did we come into this world to heal, and what do we need, within ourselves, to be healed?  What can we give and what can we receive?  The amazing thing is that sometimes the healing we need can only come from the experience of giving to others.  For example, when I am totally stuck with a psychotherapy client, I will suggest he or she try doing volunteer work, something that puts them in direct contact with those needing care, like being a hospice volunteer or Big Brother.  One man I counseled, an engineer, took up rocking cocaine-addicted babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.  The babies gained weight, allowing them to go home earlier, and the engineer learned exactly what he needed to about giving and receiving love.

The potential for healing is always present, whether in the healing of our relationships, the healing of ourselves, or the healing of others.  We must realize that healing is a spontaneous and essential part of our spiritual journey.  The more we are able to heal ourselves and others, the more whole we become--we are transformed again and again.

"Golden Light" 20-Minute Retreat

Many subtle energy systems, which heal through the laying on of hands, use the visualization of filling up your physical body with light to enhance healing.  A variety of colors can be used, from blue-white to a pure white to a pale green.  As recommended in Structural Awareness, a system of body exercises and visualization, I usually envision golden sparks of light.  In my mind, they are similar to those gold-colored handheld Fourth of July sparklers we used to play with as children.

Step 1: Entering into Retreat
Use the first three minutes to get seated comfortably, with back support if you need it.  Close your eyes.  Let your breathing become gentle and easy.

Step 2:
For the next fifteen minutes, imagine you can breathe in golden particles of dancing light.  Let the entire inside space of your body fill up with these particles of golden light.  As you exhale, let go of any negativity.

Once your inside space is totally filled with golden light, let the light permeate through your body into the space around you, like the glow of a candle.  Continue this process of filling up and glowing with golden light for the full fifteen minutes.

Step 3: Returning to the World:
For the final two minutes, simply let your breathing return to normal.  Be aware of your physical contact with the floor or your chair.  Open your eyes and glance softly around the room.  Move gently as you stand up.

"Shekhina" 20-Minute Retreat

This retreat is adapted from Rabbi Shoni Labowitz's book, Miraculous Living.  She is a student of the Kabbalah, an ancient tradition of Jewish mysticism.  In Miraculous Living she describes the Shekhina, the Hebrew goddess, as having wings to lift us into an altered state of consciousness so we will be more open and receptive to our healing.  Images of wings have always transported us to other worlds, from the wings of angels in the Bible to those of the mythological winged horse, Pegasus.  Prayer shawls, used traditionally in Judaism, are symbolic reminders of wings in that they draw awareness into the body at the same place where wings sprout: the heart center at the back.  This retreat uses the imagery of wings to convey a loving, even maternal, embrace.

Step 1: Entering into Retreat
Sit comfortably with back support.  Close your eyes.  You can use a scarf or shawl around your upper back and shoulders to give your body a kinesthetic sense of wings.  Give yourself three minutes to let your breath become easy and light.

Step 2:
For the next fifteen minutes, imagine that pure white feathery wings are encircling you.  This is a mystical embrace of love and light.  You are fully surrounded.  You can rest easy in these wings, allowing them to support, protect, and sustain you.  Feel yourself being enveloped and cared for.  Allow this loving embrace to soak through you, down into your bones.  Let your face become as radiant as an angel's.

Step 3: Returning to the World:
For the final two minutes, gently allow your eyes to open.  See if you can catch a glimpse of the shimmering light quality of the other world coexisting in this present world.

Copyright © 2000 Rachel Harris, Ph.D. and The Philip Lief Group.  All Rights Reserved.  Excerpted from "20 Minute Retreats: Revive Your Spirits in Just Minutes a Day with Simple Self-Led Exercises," Henry Holt and Company, LLC.  Not to be used without permission. 

Rachel Harris, Ph.D. is a psychologist who has led a private practice in Princeton, New Jersey, and has led national and international workshops for thirty years.  She is author of "20 Minute Retreats: Revive Your Spirits in Just Minutes a Day with Simple Self-Led Exercises" and the co-author of the bestselling "Children Learn What They Live."



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