I’ve dealt with so many doctors and health practitioners in my lifetime and I’ve recently been having several conversations with different people about health, doctors, medicines, supplements, choices, decisions, disappointments, triumphs–all that. In the middle of one such conversation, I suddenly had a sense that we are all too inclined to find solutions and remedies that have only to do with our bodies (all of them)and our personal healing. There’s nothing wrong with that, except I think there’s something more.
I’ve told this story many times, but I think that it is worthwhile repeating here. In 2005, I received a call from friend and mentor, Nicanor Perlas, asking me if I was interested in joining PAGASA (PEOPLES ASSEMBLY FOR GENUINE ALTERNATIVES TO SOCIAL APATHY). It was a newly-formed movement then–a quick response to the Garci scandal that has yet to see its end. I was going through a critical time in my biography then and was close to declining. It was a worthwhile and necessary endeavor, but I just didn’t see how I could contribute, given my sense of loss and brokenness. How could I give anything when I was barely even thinking straight? But Nicky reminded me that the fastest way to heal is to engage in the world.
I had so many physical and emotional ailments at the time, but I took his advice and plunged. I have since found what I feel is my life’s task or, something at least, that is intimately connected to it. It is finding this and engaging in something worthwhile and ultimately larger than myself that keeps healing me. It is a challenging journey, to be sure, but one that I haven’t regretted taking.
Doing something larger than you in the context of society takes you away from that small space of “me” and all that ails me; it transports you to a bigger realm, of which you are still a part. You just take the larger view and everyone in it with you! I believe this is life-giving. Being spiritually and socially engaged is healing–and it is healing in the broadest sense of the world. I find that a lot of perspectives on healing today have a tendency to be self-indulgent and I am guilty of that as well. When we become ill, of course we are drawn inwardly, but I think the challenge is for us not to stay there forever, but to rather tap into what is universal in us to be able to approach our health in a different way. Illness is one way of getting to the core of who we are and I think its true purpose is just that.
I think this connection is the very same one that changes the lives of people who are struck by illness and know they are dying. Suddenly they find relevance in their lives, where before there was mostly drudgery. They are able to initiate important, world-changing projects, with more energy and hope than when they were “healthy”. Health doesn’t just come from within. Our efforts to do work and change outside do much to heal us, simply because we’ve taken our health to the larger context of societal and world health.
It is a worthwhile exercise to ask what we can do outside and beyond ourselves, when we are struck with chronic ailments. No matter how personal it feels, it is quite possible that the true healing is found in its universal counterpart. Once we are able to birth that in us which was meant to blossom and bloom, despite the 9 to 5 job and other obstacles, real and perceived, powerful things begin to happen. All it takes is the ability to see outside yourself towards the world beyond.