Updated: Apr 15
To a naturopathic physician, illness is not an error or mistake on the part of the body-mind. It is not something gone wrong. Rather it is intelligent, purposeful, beneficial, benevolent, corrective, necessary and purposeful. This is not to deny that it can be painful, frightening and destructive. However it is NOT bad, evil, meaningless, or something gone wrong. An N.D. views the body as a living miracle, a perfect expression of god, incapable of anything but wise, kind action. To us illness is not an unnatural response but a natural and healthy response to unnatural care of the bodymind. It can be likened to putting diesel fuel in a gas-burning car, or growing a flower in too acid a soil. The sputtering of the car or the discolored, malformed flower are perfectly natural, even necessary consequences of abnormal care. The solution is to be found not by searching for some mysterious “malady” of the car or flower but in seeking to understand the abnormal care that is causing the normal response.
My interest here is not in elaborating about how illness is a wise and benevolent activity. If you are interested in this I recommend reading Henry Lindlahr “Natural Therapeutics” or John Tilden “Toxaemia Explained” or Henry Bieler “Food Is Your Best Medicine”. My interest here is in sharing the deep, all permeating effect this realization of the intelligent, beneficial nature of illness has had on other aspects of my life besides illness. Throughout my naturopathic education and early years as a clinician I carefully studied and tested the “hypothesis” that illness is good for us until it proved certain in my eyes. Then I asked myself “If nature is in fact right on track and acting with incomparable creativity, caring and intelligence in the often miserably uncomfortable processes of illness and disease might She not be performing with equal grace in other arenas of crisis that I similarly fear and try to avoid?” Hmmm.
I considered conflicts with my wife, misunderstandings with others, financial difficulties, negative self talk, depression, irritability and anger and I could see the same principle at work. Perhaps, just maybe there was some small chance that my behavior was somehow contributing to virtually every crisis I experienced. Could it be that my problems were largely the consequences of my own actions? Such a possibility brought far greater meaning to my life. Perhaps my actions mattered more than I’d ever imagined. Perhaps I have infinitely more personal power than I had previously believed. This was nothing less than miraculous. I began to eagerly investigate the possibility that all my problems were means that life used to instruct and guide me to wiser, kinder ways of living; to stop injuring myself and others. I found that the same wise, sweet power that I had observed in the clinic was also at work on the mental, emotional, financial, social and marital levels.
My awe and gratitude for life’s intelligence and kindness grew as I saw how She had woven Her love for us into the painful aspects of Her creation in equal measure as She had the pleasurable. Increasingly I began to view my trials more as lessons. My divorce, bankruptcy, debilitating back pain, skin cancer, codependency, food addictions and sexual inhibitions all proved enormous blessings. Each taught me to correct specific self-harming behaviors and develop a level of skill that keeps me largely immune to being infected by these “maladies” again. I could no longer see my most “unfortunate occurrences” as even unfortunate. I certainly could no longer find a trace of punishment in them. Rather they seemed to be a firm, kind instruction; as a father would give his daughter. My generalized, floating fear about “bad things happening” diminished markedly.
If the healing power of nature is speaking to us in times of crisis is it not also speaking to us in times of non-crisis as well? The same power, this living wisdom and love, call it what you will, is communicating loving guidance to us in infinite ways in every moment. That we live in a world, a universe of love is more than a comforting idea, it is a living reality to be touched, seen and felt.
Through food, breath, movement, thought, word and touch life is offering itself to us in the most real and practical ways. How tangibly, palpably real is the love of our earthly mother and heavenly father to us? Do we actually feel divine love nourishing us in the foods we eat, the strength and coordination of our movements, inspiring our thoughts and emotions? How awake are we to the beauty and bounty of Mother Earth, her sounds, colors and creatures?
We bite into a peach and swallow the sunrise, wind, rain and brown earth. What is the healing power of breath, sleep, movement, memory and touch? Isn’t life’s every action an unfathomable miracle? Each moment holds the opportunity of being a feast of joy, a sacred, sensual communion between we mortals and the divine. Health is born of our direct connection with goodness and wisdom, with real power, beauty and joy in each moment of our everyday ordinary life. Every second we face anew the “crisis” of how to escape the prison of our mind to the ecstasy of practical/mystical union with our beloved.