There’s a place not too far from where you live, you might know it. In fact, you probably know it quite well. You visit it in your dreams, when you look in the mirror, when you turn on the TV or lose yourself deep in the pages of your favourite book.
It is the place of Myth.
Often dismissed but closer to your own belief systems than what you may care to think or be entirely comfortable with.
And within this place of Myth live the archetypes that meet us in the street, at our place of work or study, and within our own families. Acquaintances, friends, and loved ones become caricatures of themselves. Myth and archetype formed the world’s first mirror as we glanced into its still, glassy waters and caught our own reflection looking back, larger than life. And in our confusion, once upon a time, we called these reflections, ‘gods’.
One such archetype that might meet us in the mythic landscape is the Wounded Healer.
We all know it, maybe we ourselves embody this archetype. The story of the woman with an abusive husband who beat her senseless every night until she managed to escape, and then decided to devote her life to saving other women from the same pain and burden that she knew. Or the one where the intrepid firefighter risked life and limb to rescue others only to end up losing a limb, and now works with disabled kids who were born without limbs of their own. Or the psychologist who went through a nasty divorce after he found out his wife was having an affair, and now he specialises in marriage counselling. The majority of healers who do the work that they do began so because they themselves sought healing.
In Greek Mythology, the centaur Chiron was considered a master healer. Yet he received the moniker of the Wounded Healer when he was unable to heal himself, and instead gave up his immortality for the life of Prometheus(you know, the guy who thought it would be a good idea to steal fire from the gods. Not the prequel to the Alien movies. Although some people think we were seeded here by aliens. Maybe they were. But I don’t think so.).
This side of the archetype also plays out in the waking world. Numerous people, themselves prominent healers have succumbed to the very illnesses that they were seeking to treat in others yet were ironically unable to help in themselves.
One is reminded of the admonition: Physician, heal thyself.
And so I began to ponder on the archetype of the Wounded Healer, and I pondered that perhaps we are drawn to this work because we really seek to save ourselves, or perhaps we think that because we know the pain of our particular suffering then we can relate to a similar pain in others – and so it becomes a relational thing, a thing of understanding because of shared experience.
But then I pondered some more, and my heart rested upon the feeling of empathy. Ah yes, empathy. That ability to feel within one’s own heart what the other person is feeling in theirs. It is so much more than just walking alongside the person in their grief, as I was taught in Holistic Counselling 101 all those years ago. And so, I have to wonder with this sense of empathy guiding my thoughts, is the core of this healing that is facilitated by one who has been wounded lie not in the offerings of their own wound (which as the archetype implies, the wound remains), but instead in the vulnerability found in not allowing it to scar and harden
The following is an excerpt from my soon-coming book ‘Luminous Immunity: An Elemental Paradigm’. I leave it here to hang my questions on. Is true healing thus found in that sacred space held by the vulnerable? And in this vulnerability, are we healers not merely conduits for the healing, for the Love from the Divine to flow through us? What then?
Perhaps we should look at the Heart….
“The traditional view of the heart as a pump was engineered out of the nineteenth-century fascination with steam engines. It is merely a mechanical model of the heart and its function that reflects the reductionistic, linear thinking of Euclid and Newton…..But deeper contemplation shows, and did even in the nineteenth century, that the heart, as powerful as it is, is not really the pump it is supposed to be.” —— Stephen Harrod Buhner
Perhaps it is best to examine the heart within its own light, not as a muscle that pumps but rather a very complex yet elegantly multi-tasking organ which helps circulate blood by generating pressure waves by a rhythmic spiralling ripple that moves through its musculature and sends them on throughout the body. And in this movement, it also generates electromagnetic frequencies, it makes and releases a number of hormones, it interacts with the central nervous system – as a brain in its own right, and it reads and sends information regarding temperature and pressure to the brain and the rest of the body. Rather than the homeostatic view of the machine that performs one linear function, the heart is a nonlinear biological oscillator that exists in a constant state of homeodynamis. This is reflected in the variability of the heart rate, a rhythmic oscillation that varies from one moment to the next, and the fluctuation in blood pressure.
All other organs and tissues throughout the body are also constantly analysing information from their environment, to which they alter their function to accommodate or strengthen themselves against. They then communicate this information to the heart through relaxation or tensing of tissues, and the heart then adjusts it’s beat, timing, and strength of its own contractions accordingly.
While it’s true that the heart’s pump-like rhythm does produce enough pressure to shoot water at 6 feet into the air, it doesn’t actually produce enough pressure to pump blood around the entire circulatory system. Interestingly, the blood actually moves around it of its own accord. This phenomenon has been observed in chicken embryos. The blood begins flowing in the pattern of regular circulation before the heart has developed enough to pump it around. The blood, flowing through the vessels throughout the body, forms a twin-stream spiralling vortex, inside of which is a vacuum. The blood vessels themselves are also formed in a spiralling pattern, which creates a spiralling movement that further enhances this flowing vortex of blood. If you’ve ever seen the umbilical cord when a baby is born, it looks like a spiralling twisting rope – much like the liquorice twists of my 80s childhood. When the blood is still moving through it, for up to 20 minutes, after birth, you can see and feel it’s pulsation as the blood continues to flow inside along this beautifully sculpted organ.
This spiralling motion, along with the electromagnetic charges produced by the blood cells themselves not only influence blood pressure, but how the blood circulates throughout the entire body to the furthermost limits. The heart then serves to synchronise itself with the circulation and match its own pulsating, pumping, and spiralling rhythm with the rhythm occurring in the blood, thereby stabilising and regulating the flow. The result of this harmony between the blood and the heart therefore ensures that around 7.5 litres of blood flows through a circulatory system nearly 95,560 km in length every minute.
It is said that we have three brains. The brain itself, the brain in our gut (called the Enteric brain) and the Heart. 60 – 65% of its cellular make-up is neural cells that are the same as those found in the brain. These cardiac neural cells also function in the same way as their sister cells in the brain. Heart neurons are directly connected to the Central Nervous System, and this connection cannot be interrupted or cut off. A continual flow of information occurs between the heart and the brain – in particular with those areas of the brain concerned with emotional memories and processing, sensory experience, memory and meaning attached to environmental sensory input, and problem solving, learning, and reasoning. The heart forms memories and stores them, which has been observed in heart transplant recipients who experience food cravings or personality traits that were characteristic of the donor and not previously experienced by the recipient.
The heart also produces at least five different hormones that affect the physiological function of the body as a whole, but particularly target the functioning of the heart itself, and also the brain and the gut. These hormones include: ANF (Atrial Naturetic Factor), BNF (Brain Naturetic Factor), CNP (C-type Naturetic Peptide), HPVD (Heart-produced Vessel Dilator), and CGRP (Calcitonin Gene-related Peptide). It also produces dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. All of which are crucial neurotransmitters involved in mood, memory, fat processing, and arterial health.
I think this is absolutely fascinating. The heart is the overarching guardian of all bodily function. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is seen as the ruler of all the other organs. It houses the Shen, which is best described in English as the spirit or soul of a person which also encompasses the mind, the essential nature of our being.
As an electromagnetic generator, it forms a torus around the body. Think of a torus as a donut shaped emission of energy that radiates out from a central point or points. You may have seen illustrations of the Earth’s electromagnetic field that emanates from the north and south poles as it’s loci. All living things emit an electromagnetic pulse in this fashion.
In humans, this field generated by the heart has been measured to extend up to 10ft and beyond from the physical body, and it is through this field that the heart performs its most extraordinary feat, and that is of perceiving and decoding the information contained within the electromagnetic field of everything we come into contact with – people, plants, animals, and environment. The heart therefore, is a very elegant, very specialised organ of perception. And whilst it’s performing the function of helping the body to become oxygenated through its roles in circulation, and monitoring the electromagnetic frequencies of the other organs and tissues, and producing hormones, it is simultaneously and continuously perceiving sensory and intuitive input, decoding it, and communicating the information from outside of the body and through its own neural network, to the brain in a two way dialogue that processes it and forms an effective response.
In TCM, this is also the function of the Shen housed within the heart. It does this without any conscious awareness from you, and it does this long before your brain is even aware of whatever external stimuli the heart is perceiving.
The language that the heart speaks is then through feelings, or physical sensations felt in the body. These feelings are representations of the feeling that the heart has perceived in whatever it has come into contact with. And although this may sound a bit strange, we have all consciously experienced it. It’s what happens when you walk into a house or a restaurant, or a building and you can feel something about the nature of the place. It’s intangible. You might not be able to put your finger on it, but you know that maybe something about the place doesn’t feel right. Or a house might feel homey, cozy and lived in. Other houses might feel cold and sterile, and others may feel busy. We talk about the ‘vibe’ of a place or a person. This is the heart at work, perceiving the feeling of the place, and in that moment, you are aware enough to listen to it. The heart then sends this information to the brain, which then processes these as emotions, attaches a thought to it, and both the brain and the heart then work together to activate the rest of the body to respond accordingly – either healthily or unhealthily.
This electromagnetic field that the heart generates in order to perceive the feelings of the outer world then enables the heart to do something truly extraordinary. It allows the heart to become coherent and invite coherence in others. Coherence in communication is to be on the ‘same wavelength’ as the other person. Or to have clear and mutual understanding. This is quite literally what it means to the heart as well.
As I mentioned previously, the heart is a biological oscillator. It creates a frequency. The gut and the brain are also major biological oscillators. When all of these biological oscillators are coherent, that is – they are all oscillating or producing frequencies in harmony, then the whole body/mind/spirit being that make up who we are exists in a state of harmony.
This internal coherence corresponds to our personal integrity. There is no internal conflict (which can be equated to hypocrisy) and we feel calm, at peace, and love is able to flow through us. Optimum health requires internal harmony.
The human heart, by way of the electromagnetic field is able to enter into coherence with other external electromagnetic fields. This is why we literally ‘resonate’ with some people, and not with others. (Why not with others? We’ll get to that.) This ability of the heart is most beautifully illustrated by the relationship of the mother and her baby. While the baby is developing in the womb, it is constantly hearing, or more accurately, feeling the mother’s heartbeat. This is soothing, comforting, but also vital in how the mothers heart begins to teach or ‘entrain’ the baby’s developing circulation. At birth, there is a separation from this. If you have had children of your own, or have been around small, very new babies, you may have noticed that their breathing pattern is a bit irregular. So is their heartbeat. When a baby is held close to its mothers (or fathers) chest after birth and in that first precious few weeks and months of life, when they are breastfed, when they are carried, and when they are slept next to, the mothers heart begins to entrain, or teach the little one’s heart and subsequent breathing pattern how to regulate. The two hearts become one again until such time as the baby’s heart can fully take on guardianship of its own body.
This phenomenon has been observed studied in the most basic form in the lab. Researches took the heart cells from a rat and placed them in two separate petri dishes. While all the cells beat in unison when they were together (even when separated by glass), when one of the dishes were moved much farther away, the cells in that dish became irregular and quite erratic in their pulsation. When they were moved back next to the dish with the heart cells that pulsated in coherence, then the previously separated cells began to entrain and resumed pulsing in coherence as well.
This ability to perceive and form coherence, to engage in relationship at this most basic level gives us the heart-felt ability for empathy. To have empathy is to feel within your own heart, with your own body what another person is feeling in theirs.
When we experience this heart to heart coherence with others, when we care for or receive care from others, the heart releases a different cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters. One example of the effect this has is by stimulating more IgA (Immunoglobulin A) to be released, thereby boosting the immune response in mucous membranes throughout the body. And when we come into coherence, or entrainment, with the oscillations of the electromagnetic field of the Earth, this is reflected in the harmony of our Circadian rhythms.
Although we all have this ability to engage in coherence with others, most of us are unable to use it. The majority of us have cut ourselves off from it. The majority of us have cut ourselves off from simply being able to feel. And it is something we do to ourselves, because we alone are responsible for our feelings, thoughts, actions, and behaviours. Even if others treat us unfairly, unjustly, cruelly, or just plain evil, we still are solely responsible for our feelings, thoughts, actions, and behaviours in response. This may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, because at the end of the day, feelings such as the desire for revenge are simply a desperate and innate need to receive empathy. To know that the perpetrator of the hurt inflicted on you, also feels your pain. Ironically, this is rarely experienced, because people with hurt hearts are the ones who inflict hurt on others. And this brings us back to dealing with unresolved emotions and the ability to receive and give love.
“The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?”
How can a creation that was called ‘very good’ be then referred to as ‘desperately wicked?’ This utterance from the Divine, when seen through the lens of Puritan prudence and ‘enlightened’ reductionism, presented and perpetuated the idea that we as physical beings – the ‘natural’ man, are base creatures and inherently full of sin. If we look at things through this lens, we misunderstand the heart, it’s capabilities, and its true purpose in our life. And as result we fail to open our hearts and actualise our full potential. But certainly, when a heart is hardened by emotional scar tissue from by the pain of trauma, or anger, or fear, or grief unresolved, and as a result cut off, who can know it?
“By their fruits you shall know them.”
The memories of trauma that the heart stores can stagnate or cause emotional scarring. Particularly if the related emotions were not allowed to be safely and healthfully expressed. This closes our hearts down to being vulnerable, to feeling things, so we no longer feel any pain. As a result, we can become afraid of being close to anyone or anything. It can cause us to lack empathy and compassion for others, and make us become inflexible, rigid, controlling, and judgemental toward others. Signs of a hardened heart include:
* self-absorption and narcissism
* manipulative or controlling behaviour
* emotional distance
* judgemental and lacking in sympathy
* arrogance, conceit (self-importance), and egotistical behaviour
* intellectualises everything, disconnects from their emotions
* justifies their behaviours
Does this sound like our current society? Steven Horne notes that this is a disease of civilisation. As people’s hearts become hard, they lose the ability to experience subtle emotions. Their emotions become coarse and they require more and more crude, violent, bizarre, and even cruel stimulus to get them to feel something. Because in spite of the reluctance to not feel anything, we do have an innate and overwhelming need to feel something. This increasing crudeness and violence of the entertainment that our society enjoys reflects this hardening of the individual, and the collective, heart. Much like the Roman empire and its gladiatorial games. And look where that empire ended up.
It is worth reflecting on why heart disease consistently remains among the leading causes of death in the world.
The purpose of the heart is therefore a portal of sorts, a communication device, to receive and to give love. And love is the feeling of connection. To the Divine, to the cosmos, to nature, to each other.
But what is Love? Briefly, it’s probably not what you think. The English language is limited in how we encapsulate the feelings of the various types of love in this one word. Although to be fair, there really is only one word for the truest definition of Love, but we use it indiscriminately for just about everything. The ancient Greeks at least differentiated their various ‘degrees’ of love by different words. There are;
* Eros – represents desire, or an ego driven love. It’s all about me and what I want.
* Philia – refers to the love of familiarity. There is a sense of shared equality or reciprocity.
* Agape – this is the love that is unconditional and is reflective of the Divine. It is the level of mercy. It is not something we ourselves can generate, but the love that we can transmit through a heart that is open to receiving it. It is through this love that we actualise our purpose in life, expressed through our unique gift. Heart coherence allows this love to flow through us.
Divine Love is really characterised by the following;
– it cannot turn into hate
– it is not blind – it sees the truth of people and situations very clearly
– it exists in freedom. It does not force, bribe, or control.
– it does not indiscriminate, it is universal in its gift.
– it becomes an innate response.
So how do we open our hearts to bring harmony into our life? We can begin to effectively use the deep breathing tools given previously to begin to feel and release unresolved emotional pain, and we can also use more heart-specific techniques. These may include meditative practices, vibrational remedies such as flower essences, or more specific techniques such as those developed by the HearthMath Institute. We can practise gratitude, and we can pray. Perhaps the most basic step is to simply become aware of your heart. Take a quiet moment and turn your attention to it. Really focus all of your conscious awareness on it. What feeling do you find there? Then begin to breathe into your heart and out from your heart. Do this is a squared pattern of inhaling for 4 counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts. The chatter in mind will quieten, and you just begin to feel.
I want to reiterate that again, the heart in all of its exquisite complexity, is much more than the steam engine we call a pump. It is a guardian of the body, an organ of perception, a conduit for receiving and giving love. A direct line to the Divine.
In the Scriptures, King David was referred to as a man after Yahuah’s* own heart. A reading of David’s writings will give you an understanding of why. David sought to entrain his heart to the Father’s. He speaks of his love for Yahuah’s instruction (Torah), he meditates on it during every waking opportunity, and like a newborn yearning to hear his mother’s heartbeat, David seeks the Father’s counsel in all things. But the ability that David had to do this, to seek this coherence, was in the vulnerability with which he continually allowed his heart to be in. He allowed himself to fully express his feelings, in healthful ways and when life became too overwhelming, he took those feelings and expressed them to his heavenly Father, his creator Yahuah. He didn’t hide them or bottle them up or allow his heart to become scarred and hardened. And he wasn’t ashamed of them. Even when he made mistakes and he became aware of them, he allowed himself to grieve and then move forward, refocussing on maintaining that heart coherence. The fullness and actualisation of this heart coherence with the Divine in its most perfect form was embodied in David’s descendent, the Messiah Y’shua. And in his embodiment, we were shown the real meaning of what true, deep empathy really is.
It is through the heart that the Divine speaks, and heals. If only we are willing to allow our hearts to soften, to become flesh rather than stone, and to listen to its perceptions.
Physician, heal thyself.
So, we leave the limited archetype, that gossamer reflection of the wounded healer behind, and my ponderings brings me to this;
Perhaps the gift of the wounded healer is not just that there is a shared experience, but that their wound has healed through coherence with the Divine, and the healer can now bring the client into this sacred space. The healer’s role then is perhaps inherent in the willingness to live with an open heart, and to simply feel, to perceive, and to give Love.
*Yahuah is the ancient and everlasting Name of the Almighty. Contrary to the mythology of Christianity, it is not a family name applicable to multiple beings. It is the Father’s, our Creators own personal Name which He refers to in Scripture around 7000 times. And it doesn’t mean, “I Am that I Am”. It is also revealed in the names of His prophets and of His son’s name. But you wouldn’t know this, because when you change the meaning of words, or blot them out entirely, or appropriate language and idiom and try and fit it into your own, you change the culture. And we find ourselves back in the land of Myth.