The Heart of Healing

Shana's Heart of Healing may seem like an unusual name for a physical therapy practice. When I decided to go into private practice again, I sat down for a long time to become very clear in my mind about what it is I have to offer to this community, which is already so richly blessed with medical professionals of every persuasion.

Missoula has one of the highest rates of medical professionals per capita of any city in the US, I have been told. From surgeons to Reiki practitioners, we are a beautifully diverse community of health oriented people. Like attracts like. This is why I feel so at home in this town. I love it that I am not the lone candle in the darkness.

But it poses the question: Does Missoula really need one more physical therapist? Or one more holistic healthcare provider? May be not. But what about a physical therapist who is also a holistic health care provider?

In my long and diverse experience as a physical therapist I observed very quickly that healing is something the body does with, without, and sometimes despite, medical assistance. Or it doesn't.

I vividly remember a patient I worked with in the Internal Medicine Clinic of our University during my PT education. She had extremely poor circulation, and her stump from a previous amputation had turned black. Her last surgery had attempted to restore circulation to the stump some 10 days before I met her. When the surgeon removed her stitches, the wound simply fell open like a carved roast. No healing had taken place, despite the best care possible. The woman died 3 days later.

Studying physiology opened my eyes to the little miracles that are happening in our bodies all the time. I cannot go into the details, but even healing a paper cut requires fascinating feats of our cells, which they accomplish without our mind's direction. Frankly, if our conscious thoughts had to direct all of our internal processes, none of us would survive more than 2 minutes max, and humanity would never have had the chance to overpopulate the planet. DNA carries the blueprint of cell formation, multiplication, and repair. But how come a liver cell filters toxins, while a hair folicle grows hair, while both of them contain the same exact DNA? There are roughly 70 trillion cells in an adult's body, give or take a few millions. They all have to fulfill their own functions and coordinate with all the others what they are doing, when and how. The communication system of our bodies is absolutely mind blowing, and if it breaks down, so do we. When you consider how many millions of nerve impulses have to be processed for us to walk from the couch to the refrigerator, you realize the miracle is not walking on water. Walking itself, upright on 2 legs, is a miracle. Just ask someone who had a stroke recently.

Through the study of the human body I came to believe that there is an intelligence at work in this universe that is beyond our grasp. And it is present not on a cloud high above the earth or in some other-worldly heaven, but right here in every living cell of every body (including ants and scorpions). You and me are embodiments of a divine intellegence beyond our mind's comprehension. Our bodies are so much more than machines. When my truck had a crack in the engine block, it did not repair itself, no matter how long the thing sat in the garage, resting. Western medicine has so far failed dismally to incorporate or even acknowledge the role of mind and soul in healing. It has taken the surging tide of Oriental influences, such as accupuncture, yoga, and meditation, to make inroads with our medical establishment to see health as a holistic function of body, mind and spirit. While many surgeons pray before cutting into a human body, they would not dream of mentioning that in their surgery report. 

My introduction to holistic and Oriental medicine came from my dear friend and mentor Joanne Green, RN, FNP, in Butte, Montana, at the start of my professional life in the US. Joan has been a true pioneer of integrative medicine, and countless healthcare professionals in Montana owe her a debt of gratitude. She opened my mind and gave me my first taste of meditation, Tai Chi, and Therapeutic Touch. She was the first of my coworkers to point out to me that I have a gift in my hands that deserves recognition and development. She also acknowledged the gift of my heart long before I could appreciate its value myself. She opened the door for me, and I stepped through.

So here I am, and the gift in my hands can only go to work when my heart is open, full to overflowing with love, compassion, and respect for all those I have the privilege of touching. I work with heart energy. I work with guidance from the incomprehensible intelligence within your and my body. My hope for you is that you may find the trust in your heart to surrender to this intelligence, by whatever name you may address it. Surrender not as in warfare, giving up the fight in defeat. Rather as the surrendering of a dolphine to the ocean current, a falcon to the wind, non-resistance to that which is, making the most of it with great enjoyment. Life does not have to be a painful drag. Even painful experiences can be enriching, uplifting, if we can learn to ride the currents. Have I mastered that art? No. But I am having more and more fun practicing it. We can do it together. Let the heart lead the way.