We’re hard on ourselves when we’re healing. We don’t forgive ourselves easily for our slip-ups and our weakness. Most of us come to the Paleo Diet and Lifestyle because we’re struggling with (dis)ease, to a greater or lesser degree. Often, we’ve tried everything within our context and reach, and we fall into Paleo with a ‘got nothing to lose’ frame of mind. That’s how it was for us. We see results, and so we stick to it, more or less. We’re happy with our ‘more’, but we beat ourselves up for our ‘less’.
There are so many confessional and delusional moments to be found in our online Paleo groups. ‘It was Aunt Sal’s birthday. Mum had cooked her brilliant lasagne, and I helped myself to two portions – but that was just the beginning. I thought, oh well, the damage is done – may as well dive right in.’ I didn’t stop for the whole day – gluten, sugar, alcohol, dairy. Today I woke up aching all over. I feel so ill. I feel like I’m never going to be able to commit long term. Sorry, everyone. I just needed to blah.’
Responses roll in, and the messages are heart-warming. There are kind and motivational words. A little bit of mothering. Just the right amount of tough-love coaching. ‘It’s okay’, says the collective voice. ‘We’ve all been there. Now, today is a new day. You get right back on track, child, and we’ll be here for you.’
There is so much generosity and love.
I believe the communities exist, to some extent, to cushion and prop each other up again when we fall. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is blown away by these connections between virtual friends, physical strangers. Undeniably, a powerful, positive and expanding energy is created when people group together to heal.
There is also an incredible power available to us when we are able to transcend judgement and forgive. In this case, ourselves. I wonder if, along with our love for sweetness, self-reliance isn’t also built into our genes. Because it seems we have an intrinsic expectation that we can do it all, and have it all, as long as we try hard enough. If we’re not healing, then we’re obviously doing something wrong, because everyone, like, everyone, in internet land is losing weight, reversing autoimmunity disease, and puttting into remission whatever they can’t completely eliminate.
But healing is a journey, and I dare say the most important part of it has nothing to do with healing on the physical level. What all those cries and comments testify to is that the desire to heal our bodies launches us into an adventure of positive personal growth. We start low down, and step by step, we climb upwards. With each step, the perspective changes – regardless of whether or not we find perfect health.
When we’re low, we project outwards. We rail against our family / the government / the education system / Malsanto / food manufacturers / Big Pharm etc. Anyone outside of ourselves – it’s their fault. Through their lies or politics or unknowing misintent, they’re the reason we’re here, blown up like balloons and aching. The world was against me all along. They were out to get me.
There’s a dark, negative energy in this place of blame and anger. So when, unexpectedly, our scrolling fingers land us on the right webpage and something lights up and goes ‘Ping!’, we are catapulted to a plane of courage and self-responsibility, and this higher state feels like heaven. We’re in the company of angels, and they promise to hold us warm in their wings.
The problem is that, from this place of maturity, good-will and faith, it really hurts when we fall. Because now, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We know it’s not anyone’s fault but our own. We’re not commited enough. We’re not reciting positve affirmations enough. We’re not open-minded enough. We just don’t have enough darned will-power to give up those two coffees as well. It’s those two darned coffees that are holding the inflammation deep in my cells. Or so we believe. We punish ourselves.
‘You need to forgive.’
I think it was the end of 2012 when my friend – a psychiatrist – said this to me. I think of 2012 as the beginning of it all, though I know it started years ago – I just didn’t recognise the signs. In 2012 the major contractions started, and I didn’t understand. I was into real food, as best I knew. I taught stress management techniques. My whole practice and job was about the health of the lower spine. So why was I suddenly on the floor of the bathroom, gasping with pain, wondering how on earth I was going to get to my phone, which was in the next room. I was crippled. It was all downhill from there, and I did everything. I saw physiotherapists and shiatsu massage therapists. I took herbal anti-inflammatories, and the pharms. I meditated on healing light. I changed my diet. And then this friend said to me, over coffee, ‘You need to forgive.’
‘What?’. Oh man, I’ve done so much forgiving. ‘Who?’
‘You need to forgive yourself,’ he said. ‘For being powerless in this situation.’
Stop. Right. There. Like, what, in the name of God, does that mean?
I still ponder this message. It’s a big one, with grand philosophical themes. Power, and the lack thereof. Forgiveness.
We want to be in control. We think we are in control, and everyone tells us that if we just tweak it this way, or twang it that way, then we’ll find the tight key and be healed. Well, maybe we won’t. Maybe we can’t. Maybe, in fact, it’s beyond us. Not because of anything we can do or not do, but simply because it is.
Powerlessness, we are told, is a victim-mentality. It’s weaknes, it’s holding oneself in a state of ignorance. It’s the opposite of empowerment. It’s shaming.
Well, it doesn’t have to be. When I think of powerlessness, I think of a vulnerable thing. I think of a creature with no means of self-protection, a creature who is soft, who cannot fight or flee. This creature is dependent, it needs to be carried and held and fed. It’s a creature who is infinitely trusting, because it has no choice. It’s a baby, or a puppy, a wounded bird, or a beached whale. It is a creature who needs us. Have you never bundled an injured creature into your arms, and taken it home?
Of course, this creature lives deep within us, but when it rises, every now and again, with a little gasp for air, we try to beat it down. It makes us feel guilty. The Zen Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, says, No. Don’t repress your suffering , he says, because it’s a part of you. Don’t push it away. Rather, take it in your arms, as mother does when her baby is crying. She holds the baby gently and tenderly, and her lovingness calms the baby down. When baby is settled, you can put her back to bed. And while she is sleeping, go coltivate your beautiful garden.
Can we not transform our moments of weakness to moments of great self-love and tenderness? Can’t we honour those times of self-doubt as an opportunity for personal growth?
Rather than sink back down into a well of negativity, a gentle shift in attitude can hold us in a state of Acceptance. From here we can proceed to Forgiveness.
One of my most treasured of spiritual teachers, Dr. David Hawkins, explains that Acceptance is not a state of passivity. Passivity is a quality of Apathy, but Acceptance is an active plane of non-judgement which allows us to partecipate fully in life. From the perspective of Acceptance, we are able to observe things as they are right now, without needing to justify, or search for reasons. A very pure state of observation means we are not oscillating between past and future, right and wrong, or between desire and aversion. All polarities create tension and resistance because they are so subject to change.
Acceptance gives rise to tolerance. We understand that no situation exists in a vacuum, but is determined by an infinite and complex interplay of factors. Thus, all our concepts of responsibility and will are limited by context and conditions.
Acceptance means we can flow graciously with the both the ‘more’ and the ‘less’ of life, and with that comes a certain calm. A setback doesn’t translate into tragedy. We have enough energy to set long-term goals. We seek solutions and don’t waste time wallowing. We know we can’t avoid our share of suffering, but we also know our future is determined by how we react to that suffering. So we practice loving-kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. Forgiveness follows.
Forgiveness, I find, happens naturally when I peel away the hard and brittle sheaths of the judged object to reveal it’s soft and vulnerable heart. When I choose to recognize the inner child, everything changes. All judgement falls away in the light of that innocence and powerlessness. It’s rare to find a person who has not been damaged in some way.
Forgiveness, however, is not turning a blind eye. Rather, it engages our capacity to differentiate. We forgive the child for their innocence and ignorance, and because we know that what we see before us is the result of an infinite and complex design. That doesn’t mean we condone bad behaviour. With tolerance, loving-kindness and determination, we commit to re-education and positive transformation.
Forgiveness is so liberating. Once we’ve forgiven, we can relax.
So, please, don’t beat yourself up because you’ve fallen off the wagon. It happens to everyone. Don’t blame yourself, or anyone else, for your illness or your pain. Accept that you are where you are because of an infinite, complex interplay of factors. Know you are an intricate and beautiful blend of strengths and subtle hues. Love your inner child, because she is a part of you. Forgive yourself, and honour your weakness – it’s the source of your personal growth. Relax, be light. Go with the flow, and stay on track, both at the same time.
How have physical healing and personal growth intertwined in your own life? I would love to hear your stories. All your comments, feedback and sharing are so appreciated, and are so important for the motivation of everyone.
Thanks for reading, and thanks so much for sharing the message on your Social.
Best wishes, Good Health.