On being cured
Newsletter: March 2022
Greetings again, web friends, and how does this find you? There’s probably a six-lane highway of different feelings passing through you right now, and some serious snarl-ups in the traffic.
It finds me pondering the human dream of being cured. I am fortunate enough to spend most of my life sitting with individuals seeking some sort of psychological cure; some betterment of their lives. And so I thought it would do me good (if no one else) to ponder this desire in us, this hope for better things. Would that be OK?
We do talk a great deal about mental wellbeing these days; which, in many ways, is good.
We talk about being well; being made well. But what does ‘well’ look like or feel like for you? We talk about ‘looking after ourselves’ – but to what end, and with what goal in mind?
There’s a strong sense of ‘cure’ in our hearts and minds; the possibility of being better. In its first edition, my book The Journey Home was called The Beautiful Life and had the strapline, ‘Because life could be better’. As my editor said, ‘Everyone imagines life can be better. It’s in our DNA.’
It’s a dangerous idea. It can sometimes lead to a life of constant striving: ‘I must be better!’ It can lead to a life in which we don’t notice the present; don’t allow the present, sacrificed on the future altar of a quest for something better.
We can make a project of ourselves, imagining that true healing, or true happiness, is just around the corner if we find the right book, therapist, guru, retreat or seminar.
But what would your life look like if you were well? It’s an important question; and not always easy to answer. How would it differ to now? What cure are you looking for? And what would life look and feel like if it arrived?
It’s not enough to say, ‘I want to be happy’ or, ‘I just want some inner peace.’ These are the results of the cure – not the cure itself.
It is the same in the physical domain. When we walk again after breaking our leg, that is not the cure; it is the result of the cure. The cure was the blood clot forming around the break, to protect it and deliver the cells necessary for healing. Then it’s down to the callus, the healing tissue around the break – this, and rest, is the cure for our broken leg; to be walking again is the happy result of that.
So when we talk about wellbeing, what do we talk about for ourselves? If, for instance, we desire to be free (which is a result) what will we need to let go of, in order for that to be so?
Or if our desire is to be content (again, a result) what is stopping us from being content today? What would be the cure?
Everyone imagines life could be better. But not everyone asks why it isn’t, because this question can threaten something inside them. They might need to change.
People like the idea of the result; but may avert their eyes from the cure. This is common. So when Jesus asked a sick man if he wished to be healed, it wasn’t such a stupid question.
In my experience, seekers do find; though they do not always find what they were looking for. It may be something better.
And those who find are those who pay attention to the cure rather than the outcome. Instead of saying, ‘I want to be happy’ they ask, ‘Why am I not happy?’ And let go of everything that no longer serves them.
So what would a cure look like for you? We can start by remembering when in our life we felt most well.
I have been granted some wonderful moments of inner freedom, beautiful wellness which left me speechless with delight. But I also know that old thought patterns can return and slowly erode this state, leaving me almost back where I started… but not quite.
So it is good to know when you felt most well. Remember it? It gives you a glimpse of what wellbeing means for you. That is the result.
And the cure? The cure is asking, ‘What in my day, what in my life, and what in my mind, drives such wellbeing away?’ And there is the work.
And that’s enough from me for now. If you wish to look at my meditation on Vladimir Putin – trying to get beyond the tediously self-righteous ‘Isn’t he so awful!’ – you can find it here.
Also available is my Lenten reflection on finding flowers in Gethsemane. Possible?
I also look forward to leading a retreat at the Othona Community in Dorset at the end of this month, with my book Gospel, Rumours of Love as our theme. The retreat is sold out – but the book isn’t.
For now, though, I wish you well. And that is to wish you a great deal.