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Difference Between Healing and Curing

--by Michael Lerner, PhD (Feb 02, 2015)


In my thirty years of working with cancer patients, I've seen a profound distinction between curing and healing.

Curing is what a physician seeks to offer you. Healing, however, comes from within us. It's what *we* bring to the table. Healing can be described as a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual process of coming home.

Even if we're losing ground physically, there's extra-ordinary emotional, mental and spiritual healing that can go on. One of the most toxic new-age ideas is that we should "keep a positive attitude." What a crazy, crazy idea that is. It is much healthier, much more healing, to allow yourself to feel whatever is coming up in you, and allow yourself to work with that anxiety, depression, grief. Because, underneath that, if you allow those feelings to come up and express themselves, then you can find the truly positive way of living in relationship to those feelings. That's such an important thing.

Then there's the ideas we have about ourselves, our lives, about what the disease means. Often, people feel like their disease is some kind of judgment on them: "What did I do wrong?" I'm not sure that's an idea that serves people very much. When I had my heart-attack, I felt as though I was reborn. Even though I had been working with cancer patients for 18 years, when it was *my* heart attack, there was this profound rebirth experience. My beloved wife says that after the heart attack, I spent the first three months just rearranging the rocks in our garden. The whole world seemed new to me. I was inventing my life all over again. So there is the opportunity that comes with cancer, to ask ourselves how we want to reinvent our lives. And that can be one of the most powerful healing things we can do.

Healing is the most fundamental aspect of our condition, and it's a continuous rediscovery of what it means to be alive. It spills over into the rest of our life and guides us. It's not only about some "spiritual experience" of being high all the time. Not at all. It is about living with the ongoing stresses and strains and difficulties -- and joys -- of life, but doing so in a way that we feel whole.

Living in relationship with the struggles of life is what makes us human.

Thirty years ago, Michael Lerner, a Harvard- and Yale-trained political scientist, left a promising academic career to start Common Weal that would serve at-risk children, help adults with environmentally related health problems and promote public education about environmental health. Today, Commonweal is perhaps best known for its Cancer Help Program, which Lerner began when his father was diagnosed with cancer. With intellectual brilliance and spiritual sensitivity, Michael Lerner has helped thousands of people, in small groups of 10 participants, explore how to live with a life-threatening illness. In 1993, millions of Americans discovered this remarkable program when they watched Bill Moyers' documentary, "Wounded Healers," the fifth part of his award-winning PBS series,"Healing and the Mind."

To tune into a live-conversation with Michael, join his Awakin Call this Saturday (Feb 7, 2015).

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8 Previous Reflections:

 
On Feb 4, 2015 Gamini Wijesinghe wrote:

 If you are suffering from cancer or any other diseases just follow this.

Find out big trees which are available milk when we scratch bark. Start to treat these trees such as put water morning and evening. Do it affectionately to the environment.  If possible keep touch your both hands to that trees and wish as follows " My all pain and symptoms of diseases be absorb and give me healing power to my diseases "  Be sure spend religious life what ever religion you are.

Gamini Wijesinghe
Sri Lanka



On Feb 3, 2015 Cindy Swan Wing wrote:

I was diagnosed with blood clots on December 9 and placed on drugs and had a screening yesterday that saw it clear and gone and not reforming despite an opening statement that "you cannot heal in 2 months", I lay on my back and said silently "yes I can".  The lungs and clots were about resentment, heavy, broken, grieving, burdensome resentment.  Spending time in fertile solitude allowed me to feel this and see it and reform the areas that i perceived resentment, where I created the experience of resentment.  How beautiful is the body to lead me there and how beautiful was its responsiveness when this was turned off.  I live each day embracing my body, mind and soul messages - seeing that all the answers lie within - mindful body knowing and innocent lean into self care.



On Feb 3, 2015 Syd wrote:

I appreciate Dr. Lerner communicating, “Curing is what a physician seeks to offer you. Healing, however, comes from within us. It's what *we* bring to the table. Healing can be described as a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual process of coming home.” This coming home to me has had many dark nights. It feels like coming home to my soul rather than my egoic mind. This coming home has involved lots of metanio (change of heart). In my soul healing, forty years, there has been lots of metanio where everything has been turned around. I started my first ten years with the sewer running out of my mouth, then ten years later snakes were curling in my stomach, another ten years of depression and alienation from myself and others, and then another ten years feeling like a bum on the street. It came to the point I thought I had no ability to function and I was doomed. I gradually let go of my tormented consciousness by releasing myself from my depression and despair, feeling i  See full.

I appreciate Dr. Lerner communicating, “Curing is what a physician seeks to offer you. Healing, however, comes from within us. It's what *we* bring to the table. Healing can be described as a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual process of coming home.” This coming home to me has had many dark nights. It feels like coming home to my soul rather than my egoic mind. This coming home has involved lots of metanio (change of heart).

In my soul healing, forty years, there has been lots of metanio where everything has been turned around. I started my first ten years with the sewer running out of my mouth, then ten years later snakes were curling in my stomach, another ten years of depression and alienation from myself and others, and then another ten years feeling like a bum on the street. It came to the point I thought I had no ability to function and I was doomed. I gradually let go of my tormented consciousness by releasing myself from my depression and despair, feeling inadequate and defective, even letting go of my fear that I was unimportant and undesirable. This brought me home to where I felt this deep peace, self-respect and this enormous dignity. For some unknown reason, though, I had to leave this peaceful home.

 A few years later my cells stop producing energy for my muscles and I had to leave work. I had no questions asking “why me.” I just felt confused and unanchored to anything permanent within myself. Because I had no purpose from work it felt like my house burned to the ground. Then a few years later I came to a crossroad, which started placing my experiences behind me. Gradually I moved into a new home, only this house is completely empty and is a house with no doors. It feels like faith and serenity is all I have to counteract the terror and the despair.

Just lately I have felt this need to be quiet. It feels like in this place of stillness is this realization of my own value is without reference to anything or anyone. This appears to be real faith and trust. This place of quiet and stillness appears to express I am entering into non-attachment. Non-attachment is this quality where I do not cling to anything, inner or outer. Everything still touches me, yet I am beginning to feel transformed by my empty house.

The key I have found in my empty homes is learning to live by faith or trust. This offers a recognition of support and serenity, where I feel no need for effort or striving. There is this unshakable confidence to allow myself to rest. The spiritual healing of my soul is learning to be still and quiet. It offers this rest, which allows everything to arise and disappear in a state of stillness and peace.

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On Feb 3, 2015 Jesse M. wrote:

It seems to me healing is not only about ourselves, but also about "coming home" to the world and relationships we live in.  Part of this is using our experience to benefit others.  Sometimes I think we can become selfish in our attempts to feel and process through every emotion we encounter.  We need to allow others the same freedom to process the pain they share with us as we demand they allow us.  Sometimes just the conscious decision to consider others and put ourselves aside can offer healing that no amount of internal processing can.

We need to give ourselves permission to process every feeling we have, but also permission to let those feelings pass by if that seems best. 



On Feb 3, 2015 Jayne Pickett wrote:

Having a close group of friends helps me in the practice of equanimity.  In the embrace of friends I am allowed to feel and express my emotions so they do not overwhelm me.  In my circle of friends is nature which offers tremendous, non-judgmental healing.  I find being gentle with myself and honoring what I am feeling allows me to create a safe haven within myself so that I am capable of assisting my own healing.  Shalom, Jayne    



On Feb 2, 2015 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 As in all things, balance. It is helpful to have a positive attitude. At the same time is is healing and helpful to feel all feelings as they come, but not to be overcome by them. The phrase, "this too shall pass" has been most helpful in life. Not sure I would call it rebirth, but I have episodic Depression and what I can share is that when the darkness passes and light again shines, I appreciate the light much more than perhaps I did in the past. The most helpful phrase in living w ongoing stress and strain in life is honestly, "this too shall pass." It is freeing. Hugs from my heart to all of yours. Kristin



On Feb 1, 2015 david doane wrote:

Curing not only implies that something is being done to me from outside, it also implies that whatever was wrong is completely gone and done, while healing means the process of becoming more whole is from inside and is an ongoing process.  For me, reconciling equanimity with allowing feelings to come up means to allow and accept feelings that are occurring without being dominated or controlled by them.  I can see over the top of them and maintain equanimity, which is sometimes very difficult to do.  I haven't had life threatening illness, but a day or two after having a knee replacement, I was laying in my bed in great pain and feeling very sick, and I could hear people downstairs talking and laughing, and though I knew what I was going through was temporary, I had thoughts and fantasies of this is what it would be like to be dying, alone on my death bed, which fantasies were actually insightful and helped nurture a sense of rebirth and gratitude as I began to feel bett  See full.

Curing not only implies that something is being done to me from outside, it also implies that whatever was wrong is completely gone and done, while healing means the process of becoming more whole is from inside and is an ongoing process.  For me, reconciling equanimity with allowing feelings to come up means to allow and accept feelings that are occurring without being dominated or controlled by them.  I can see over the top of them and maintain equanimity, which is sometimes very difficult to do.  I haven't had life threatening illness, but a day or two after having a knee replacement, I was laying in my bed in great pain and feeling very sick, and I could hear people downstairs talking and laughing, and though I knew what I was going through was temporary, I had thoughts and fantasies of this is what it would be like to be dying, alone on my death bed, which fantasies were actually insightful and helped nurture a sense of rebirth and gratitude as I began to feel better.  What helps me live with the ongoing stresses in a way that I continue to feel whole is for me to know that I am bigger than my stresses.  I can have a detachment from them.  It helps me to remind myself that I don't have to be taken over by the stresses and I can learn and grow and become more whole from them.

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On Jan 30, 2015 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 Curing comes from outside such as the physician treats the patient to cure. Healing comes from inside. It is an inner work. In curing, a part of the body is treated. In healing , the whole person is involved. Curing is physical. Healing is holistic-physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Healing is an integrated process. I have had  prostate cancer for the last four years. When I discovered that I had tumor, I went to my physician friend who confirmed that I had the disease. My first reaction was oh my goodness! Why me? The good doctor advised me to consult an oncologist and get help from him. I followed his advice.I read about cancer, about alternative medicine,and made significant changes in my life style.  I did not stop there. Having cancer has showed me the value of living my life as mindfully and fully as possible.Each day is a blessing to count knowing well that one day, some day will be the last day. I have been practicing mindfulness med  See full.

 Curing comes from outside such as the physician treats the patient to cure. Healing comes from inside. It is an inner work. In curing, a part of the body is treated. In healing , the whole person is involved. Curing is physical. Healing is holistic-physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Healing is an integrated process.

I have had  prostate cancer for the last four years. When I discovered that I had tumor, I went to my physician friend who confirmed that I had the disease. My first reaction was oh my goodness! Why me? The good doctor advised me to consult an oncologist and get help from him. I followed his advice.I read about cancer, about alternative medicine,and made significant changes in my life style. 

I did not stop there. Having cancer has showed me the value of living my life as mindfully and fully as possible.Each day is a blessing to count knowing well that one day, some day will be the last day. I have been practicing mindfulness mediation daily. I become aware of whatever arises in me physically, mentally, and emotionally: Painful sensations, worry some thoughts, sadness and concerns. I breathe in fully. I let whatever arises in myself come, I breathe out  fully and let it go.I accept my humanness compassionately surrendering myself in the loving hands of my being. This is a profoundly healing experience for me.Yesterday, I spent one hour with a gentleman who has bone marrow cancer.I shared my journey with him. We did mindfulness mediation together. He felt grounded, at ease. and peaceful.When he left, I saw change on his face- a glow of acceptance. He realized that his energy was consumed  by dwelling on and being obsessed with awful thoughts and feelings.. He learned a lesson of healing.We are going to meet once a week to continue our work of self healing.

It is my conviction that life offers great opportunities to learn and to serve.How we perceive it and how we take it is up to us.

Namaste.

Jagdish P Dave




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