Heads up! Today’s newsletter is a little longer than usual, so grab a cup of whatever gives you comfort and give yourself the gift of time to curl up and read about healing a la Hildegard of Bingen via author Victoria Sweet. Please feel free to write to me and let me know what you think about time, about healing, and about all things green. The days are slowly getting longer once again, and with that light comes spring and renewal…always.
that does not have a radiance.
be it greenness or seed,
blossom or beauty.
It could not be creation without it.
Hildegard of Bingen
Hubby Ron and I just made a trip out to the west coast. While there I was reminded of the work of Victoria Sweet, medical doctor and author of God’s Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. What prompted the remembering of the book and article was a visit with two of our friends who are both conventional medical doctors and healers, having trained with the indigenous people of North America. And both mentioned that they would one day like to walk the El Camino de Santiago.
The other trigger for remembering this previous post are Facebook’s ‘memories’ that seem to pop up from time to time. The photos from our time in India in 2014 bring back the scents of curry, the sounds of auto rickshaws, motor cycles, cars with their exhaust fumes, the wood smoke-filled air, the laughter, the joy, the rags and waste of poverty and the extravagance of colour and wealth.
Our Time in India – HOMEOPATHY HEALS
One of the gifts of being in India was the opportunity to see cases we, as homeopaths, would unlikely see here in Canada. One memorable case was that of someone with a wound on the sole of the foot that was so deep you could see the bone. (Pretty gross to look at… I’ll spare you the visual!)
The patient had already lost one leg to Type 2 diabetes, but with the correct homeopathic remedy, we were able to view, through a series of photos, the process where the wound completely healed. Where there was once a gaping wound so deep that you could see bone, muscle, sinew, and tendon, you could see healthy pink tissue covering the sole of the foot. With time and homeopathic support, the healing was nothing short of miraculous. How long the ulcer took to heal, I cannot recall, but even with conventional medicine here in North America…and India…these kinds of ulcers in a diabetic patient might never heal.
THE GAPING WOUND
One of the other gifts of being in India was time to read. The book called God’s Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet, has changed my life, much like the trip to India…forever. One of the stories in the book is about a young woman who had bedsores that the author describes as scary.
“They (bedsores) signify that the body has lost its integrity. Normally the body is covered with skin, which is impermeable to fluids and to germs. Slather healthy skin with any amount of germs, and nothing will happen—no infection—unless there’s a break in the skin. As extra protection there is the fat under the skin, which cushions the muscles, and the muscles under the fat, which protect the bones, and the bones, which protect the spinal cord.
[This woman]…had no protection. Everything delicate and crucial in her body—bones, kidneys, spinal cord—was exposed and vulnerable to an environment full of danger, full of germs—to bacteria of all sorts and from every source, even the bacteria that live on and within our bodies. Giving antibiotics to try to prevent infection wouldn’t protect her, I knew, because germs would rapidly become resistant to them. And the bedsore was too big to graft, even if the surgeons agreed. It would have to heal on its own(my emphasis), and that would take years.”
To be so raw, so exposed…my mind cannot fathom.
WHAT TO DO?
So what was Dr. Sweet to do when faced with the challenge of helping a patient heal, a patient with such ‘scary’ pathology? She turned to Hildegard of Bingen-Benedictine nun, Christian mystic, doctor, musician, composer, writer, philosopher. The author realized that the only way for this young woman to heal was to remove all obstacles that prevented her body’s vital force (viriditas is Hildegard’s word for vital force) from its ability to self-heal. Simple. Sort of.
For those of you who are interested in the work of Hildegard, you can find links to other resources at the end of this post.
WHAT WOULD HILDEGARD DO? REMOVAL OF OBSTACLES
“What she (Hildegard) would do, I suddenly saw, was remove obstructions to Terry’s (her patient) viriditas, to Terry’s natural ability to heal. Because if nothing was in its way, then viriditas would heal her wound as surely as a plant will grow green.
My first job, therefore, as a gardener-doctor, was not to make a brilliant diagnosis or give any magical medication, but to remove obstructions to Terry’s own viriditas.”
In homeopathy, Hahnemann also understood this idea of obstacles to cure. (Maybe he had read Hildegard!) Here is Aphorism 259 from The Organon of the Medical Art as edited and annotated by Wenda Brewster O’Reilly, PhD:
“Due to the necessary, as well as expedient, minuteness of the dose used in the homeopathic procedure, it is easy to grasp why, during treatment, everything else that could in any way act medicinally must be removed from the diet and regimen, so that the subtle dose will not be over-tuned and extinguished, or even disturbed, by any foreign medicinal irritant.”
With an added footnote by Hahnemann to further illustrate his point:
“The gentlest tones of a distant flute in the still of the night, which would raise a soft heart to over-earthly feelings and melt it away into religious rapture, become inaudible and futile amid the extraneous clamor and noise of the day.”
The other important calling of any healer—be they allopath or homeopath—is to see the patient as already whole, complete within an innate connection to life, to greening to life force, or, as Hildegard would say, to viriditas.
Here is how Sweet so brilliantly describes the healer’s work with her bed sore patient Terry:
“To see what else was needed, I had to start with a vision of Terry whole, complete, and healthy, in a future when all that was missing from her complete health was a pair of glasses. And walk my way back from that. Which I did. I walked past the repair of her teeth, the strengthening of her body, the strengthening of her will, the resolution of her depression, and the healing of her bedsore. I walked all the way back from the perfect future to the imperfect now, and then I organized my strategy forward.
…in addition to removing obstructions to viriditas, I would fortify…with good nutrition – tasty food, vitamins, liquids –deep sleep, fresh air, and sunlight.
After that? Peace. Rest. Safety.
Not much else. It might be just that simple. Oh, and time. As much time as Terry needed.”
Within two-and-a-half years, this young woman’s bedsore healed…completely. Just like the patient in India. Would Terry’s bedsore have healed more quickly with a homeopathic remedy? Perhaps. But the point is, we are ‘hard-wired’ to self-heal when we remove obstacles to cure—and when we give ourselves time and support with good food, clean air, and sunlight in an environment of love.
How impatient we can be in North America when it comes to healing chronic illness and acute illness! “Take away the pain, take away the suffering. NOW!”
I can only imagine the pain Terry must have endured with the cleaning of dead tissue, the discomfort of laying face down, the changing of dressings. We cannot really know the extent of her suffering as she healed. Two-and-a-half years! (Do buy the book and read Dr. Sweet’s description of tissue healing…a miracle unfolding.)
“I was impressed by how long it took….and it did take two and a half years; I can’t imagine her healing in any less time. The general rule of thumb in premodern medicine was that it took as long to heal an illness as it took for the illness to develop. Depending on how we label Terry’s illness, as transverse myelitis, as a bedsore, as drug abuse, as a poo self-image, or – what I really believe it was – as some deep spiritual wound, two and a half years was just about right.”
TINCTURE OF TIME
“Premodern medicine knew about that special ingredient; it was called ‘tincture of time.’ Almost everything, it had observed, healed in time under the right conditions. And the most valuable thing that Terry received at the hospital was just that: enough – that is, the right amount of – time, the right amount of time being time without pressure and without end.”
Healing takes time. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be with a vulnerable, ailing child or elderly person or pet. When you are healing—from whatever ails you—you have the opportunity to grow spiritually…even in the midst of the most difficult emotions. When you are supporting someone who is in the process of healing, you have the opportunity to grow spiritually…even in the midst of the most difficult emotions. For those parents who are helping their children recover from toxin-induced autism, they know this. They are and will change the world…from suffering to joy.
Time is a gentle healer, and homeopathic remedies are gentle. Chronic disease, illness, gaping wounds—be they physical, mental, emotional, or wounds to the soul—need time to heal. With homeopathy there is gentle support to the process of self-healing.
Give yourself the gift of time…without pressure and without end.
Yours in health and healing,
In Scivias, Hildegard focused foremost on viriditas as an attribute of the divine nature. In her works it has been translated in various ways, such as freshness, vitality, fertility, fecundity, fruitfulness, verdure, or growth. In Hildegard’s understanding, it is a metaphor for spiritual and physical health, which is visible in the divine word. “Homeostasis” could be considered as a more common replacement, but without the theological and spiritual connotations that viriditas has.
Additional Hildegard Resources:
Blog – MONASTIC MANDALAS: HILDEGARD VON BINGEN
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