The Better Kind of Side Effect
The metric most people judge healthcare by is whether or not it can alleviate symptoms. Western doctors have a strict and narrow take on that definition. If the primary symptom is abated, they claim cure, whether or not other symptoms arise as a result of their treatment. Hence pharmaceutical commercials that implicitly promote the idea that ‘side effects’ should be expected. Ads nauseaum, let’s call them.
Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine have a different methodology. They look at tongues, feel pulses, and measure multitudinous other subtle symptoms to try to figure out if the body is in or out of balance. They then try to bring those markers into a normal range (though dietary recommendations, acupuncture, herbal medicines), knowing that this will alleviate symptoms—and not just the chief complaint. If you’re seeing an acupuncturist, the ‘side effects’ you’re likely to see include improved sleep, more energy, better skin quality, more normal menstrual cycles, etc. Same, of course, for any modality that restores the body’s own healing capacities rather than trying to override them.
That said, there is such a thing as a healing crisis. I remember first hearing this term in acupuncture school and not understanding it. Why would something get worse before it gets better? It didn’t make any sense to me.
The answer has to do with the intelligence of the body. Rather than being a dumb machine that breaks down in linear fashion, your body intelligently manages its resources. It knows when to keep issues in latency and when to clean house. Of course, this ability can disappear if the person simply doesn’t have enough capacity, as in long term chronic or debilitating injury or disease. But if you’re generally getting better and then get hit with a crisis, it could be step in the right direction.
You can tell if you’re in a healing crisis by your trajectory. Did you recently clean up your diet? Start meditating? Been getting more sleep? Begun doing Resonant Attention regularly? Had a big emotional shift towards peace? These might have given your body exactly the resources it needed to tackle a bigger issue.
Another marker that a health issue that you may be dealing with could be a healing crisis is when the so-called ‘routes of elimination’ are affected. The intestines and skin especially fall into this category. These organs are the doorways through which the body escorts garbage out. So skin rashes and diarrhea that are preceded by an uptick in general health could be excellent signs.
The other major organs involved in elimination are the kidneys and liver. Heavier burdens on these, though they could be the result of a healing crisis, could be more problematic. There simply isn’t anywhere for the garbage to go when internal organs become occluded. This is why people recommend coffee enemas, which are said to keep the liver clear by draining toxic burdens through the intestines.
But Resonant Attention is also a great tool to see you through a healing crisis. As I discussed in my memoir, keeping one hand on my liver (or kidney), dowsing to see where the other hand wants to go, and then getting out of the way—is what kept my internal organs flowing at crucial junctures. You might also connect with the nature of what might be the logjam and just witness it. These handy techniques just might be the boost your body needs to make it through—and end up healthier than ever.
PS - There’s still time to sign up for the next group healing session. This one will be on Saturday, January 7th, at 10am EASTERN. I hope to see you there!
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