Today I sat and listened. Needless to say, I did some talking too. I am a noted talker. My father, God rest his soul, always said I talked too much, though he never informed me personally of this observation during his life time. He chose to tell me in death. He informed one of his friends who told me of this fact at his funeral. Funny how fathers talk to sons? Anyway, I was listening to a young boy today telling me how he was coping with a hereditary disease of the kidneys from which his father had died. His mother had informed me of this fact at a recent P-T meeting leaving me an opening to broach the subject with the young lad – I should state that he is about 17 years of age. The mother wished me to speak to/listen to the young lad as she said he quite trusted and liked me as a teacher. The disease he is suffering from is Polycystic Kidney Disease(PKD). This is a disease that is not for the faint hearted. Check it out if you wish on Google. Only a week or so previously another young boy of 16 had informed me that he had been just diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - quite a lot here to take on board for these two young men. Not quite too much for me to take on though! I only have to do the listening!
As readers of these pages will know, I have been through my own hell and back. Indeed which one of us has not? There is a lot of truth in the wise saying that a healer is really and truly a healer when he or she is a “wounded healer.” I have always been enchanted, intrigued and touched by the famous story of Blessed Damien of Molokai (1840-1889), the famous missionary to the lepers on this eponymous island. Molokai is an island of Hawaii. One day Blessed Damien got up and addressed his parishioners of lepers by stating: “My dear brothers and sisters, for indeed we are such in flesh as well as in spirit, I am now one of you. I, also, am now a leper!” These are not his exact words because I have forgotten them, but they are what he wished to convey. Truly Blessed Damien had become a wounded healer. Gandhi wrote, "The political and journalistic world can boast of very few heroes who compare with Father Damien of Moloka'i. It is worthwhile to look for the sources of such heroism."
Wherever from this type of heroism exemplified in the lives of Damien, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Brother Roger of Taizé or a Jean Vanier of the L’Arche movement comes, one thing is sure they are all “wounded healers,” persons who have had their own personal struggles and have helped others with wisdom gained from these very struggles. Believers will ultimately attribute this heroism and its resultant healing of others to God’s grace or the Holy Spirit while non-believers will attribute it to the innate healing power that lives within us often unexplored and under-utilized. Many different groups within the New Age and Self Help movements would make this latter attribution. However, to my mind it does not really matter to what or to whom one makes the attribution, because I would argue that the ultimate effect is one and the same thing.
For me spirituality is all about connection, holism, completion, unity, positivity, going with the flow, working with nature and not against it, being in touch with the real inner Self and its needs, all about communication with Self, Others and a Deeper Dimension of life which some of us call by the name of God. This latter is a word too often abused to have really much meaning today, as people use it to encaptulate their own little ideas, indeed prejudiced ideas of who or what they think God is! It can mean so many different things that one wonders at the usefulness of it as a word which has any relevant denotations in today’s world. On the other hand, it has too many connotations, and contrary ones indeed which lead to war and more war and more war. Ideas can too often become ideologies, and indeed many religions can sometimes be portrayed as ideologies which are blood seeking.
Anyway, back to my point. Wounded healer that I am, I am listening to these pupils. I find strength in meditation, in all the self-help books I read, in talking and listening to my workmates, in attending group and individual therapy, in being open to others and to all ideas, new and old, in trying not be be fixed or rigid in my opinions and above all in trying to be true to my Self and in caring for my Self thereby enabling me to care for others.
The picture I have placed above is one I took of a Falung Gong practitioner in O'Connell Street Dublin Christmas 2006. Falung Gong is essentially a peaceful spiritual practice which aims at harmonising and healing the whole body. It is outlawed in China and indeed many of its supporters and practitioners are tortured and executed because unbelievably (or believably?) it is looked upon as subversive of the government.