Healing – What Does It Really Mean?

By Steven Hodes, M.D.


Physician to Meta-Physician


“Healing is not the same as curing, after all; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but allowing what is now to move closer to God.”


-Ram Dass


“Kabbalah’s notion is that all life is in need of healing and fixing, not just those who are ill.”


-Estelle Frankel

I use the term healing in ways that may challenge some of the traditional notions.

To heal means to ‘make whole’. Therefore, healing is a process by which an individual, or any entity which is presumably less than ‘whole’: fragmented, dis-eased or incomplete undergoes a positive improvement in their status. The emphasis on the term ‘process’ is important since one does not ever truly reach complete and perfect ‘health’ and since none of us are completely ‘whole’ in mind/body/spirit. Although a human being is an amazingly complex and capable self-healing organism, assistance from others is often required in this process.

The act of healing or attempting to heal another being is a recognition of the state of isolation that all beings inherently experience. This is the source of our primal emotional state of fear. Healing on this deep level represent the triumph of love over fear as manifested by the act of compassion. It has powerfully spiritual ramifications for both healer and healee. This attempt to repair or correct oneself or another serves as a worthy metaphysical goal for all beings. In Kabbalistic terms, the act of tikkun or repair/healing is the purpose of our existence on this physical plane. It allows the soul to grow and develop.

Often, dis-eased states are the consequence of genetic propensities, plus behavioral choices. For example: smoking, eating unhealthy foods, excessive alcholol, drugs, chronic emotional disturbances all have a well known impact on the body’s immune response to infectious process and developing malignancies. Then there are the unknown karmic factors, such as past-life choices and this life’s contracts.

Although healing is most commonly regarded as relating to the physical body, it is clearly a concept which is applicable to aspects of mind and spirit as well. This understanding that body/mind/spirit are inexplicably linked one to the other greatly broadens any notion of healing. Treating or attempting to cure a physical aliment must take into account the emotional, mental and spiritual factors that affect any one individual. This is truly a wholistic perspective.

This notion includes an broad acceptance of traditional Western scientific accomplishments in terms of pharmaceutical advances and technological accomplishment. There should not be any rejection of technological breakthroughs. They are not any less the product of a higher Intelligence than so-called ‘natural’ therapies. Therefore, ‘wholistic’ approaches should not disregard the benefits of pacemakers, defibrillators, endoscopic treatments of bleeding and premaligant colon polyps. Any physician would be foolish not to utilize the great achievements in the reduction of blood pressure, cholesterol levels, antibiotic usage and others in the assistance of the body’s own reparative processes. In this sense, modern technology is an extension of the human mind’s ability to create.

On the other hand, the present societal attitude towards technology is to view this approach as superior to more natural therapies. The point to be emphasized is that one is not superior to the other. They are both needed in the total concept of healing. Technology alone cannot address issues of mind and soul which are crucial to the process itself. Technology does not heal but assists the natural processes which are in continuous motion.

Complementary and alternative healing approaches have introduced energetic healing, acupuncture and a variety of herbal and spiritual modalities to the general public and their widespread interest speaks volumes about what is missing in traditional/technology based medicine. However, such approaches should not be embraced just because they are deemed ‘natural’. It would be extremely naive and dangerous to do so. Although conspiracy theories abound regarding the Big Drug companies (they do have much to explain regarding their profit-driven practices at the expense of safety issues) it should be emphasized that the vast majority of pharaceutically derived drugs are based on naturally occurring compounds. Yet a drug which can save lives at appropriate doses can kill lives when not properly administered.

The world of alternative and complementary medicines including ‘naturally’ derived herbal and energy therapies must be evaluated by studies which examine their effectiveness while being aware of possible side effects and risks. The same open-minded skeptical approach should apply to ALL proposed healing treatments–traditional as well as wholistic. Utilizing a risk/benefit paradigm is also useful. There are several useful websites which have studies the effectiveness of such therapies and they should be consulted before embarking on ‘natural’ therapies. Unfortunately, there are as many unscrupulous, profit-driven individuals on the ‘wholistic’ front as in any other business.

Healing means becoming more at peace with the emotional and physical battles that rage within us. The Taoist notion of Yin/Yang acknowledge the balanced flow between opposites that characterize the nature of reality. Too much of any activity, including therapeutic medicines and herbs are potentially lethal. The notion of balance, peace and joy are important in the process of healing. Happiness and sadness, rest and activity, eating in moderation all acknowledge that a balance in everything produces a state of healing.

Healing requires the courage to face our own responsibility in this process. We cannot turn our bodies over to a physician and expect to be ‘fixed’ as one would a car. We are required to do ‘work’. It is our inherent in a ‘successful’ life that we make a sincere effort to learn, grow, love and help others. These are all healing activities. Even loss and pain are experiences that our soul requires to grow.

Participating and assisting others in their own journey is healing. Offering a shoulder to cry on, a kind word, a smile as you hold the door for someone: all these are examples of healing. Not so strange, but the process affects both parties since healing is always mutual.

Learning something, anything for the first time is healing since it reduces our ignorance, makes us more aware and therefore more whole. When we are less than whole, we are discontent, unhappy, we feel badly. This feeling occurs on all three levels of mind/body/spirit.

Millions of our cells die each second, millions are there to replace them. The appearance of a stable physical form is merely an illusion. Our organs, themselves, are continuously being replaced. Our very lives are a silent battlefield. Yet ultimately with aging our bodies ability to repair and replace worn parts diminshes. We begin to suffer from what have been described as degenerative processes. Athersclerosis, arthritis, diminished immune responses, deterioration in mental function as well as every other organ characterizes what may be seen as normal aging. Ultimately we all die, even those who work out and watch their diets. This process is known as senescence. It is natural to all living creatures.

This does not mean that we passively allow these processes to march unchallenged. There are extremely effective treatments for a multitude of disease states which can temporarily halt the processes of deterioration and offer us healing interludes. The point to understand is that even though our bodies may be slipping away from wholeness, or health, our mind and spirit can continue to seek healing. When understood from a larger context, healing can occur even during the process of dying.

This concept is quite different, much more expansive then is usually understood. It sees these issues as much more than about disease and cure of physical ailments. I see my own personal journey as still in its early states, yet as a physician, a meta-physician I have come to understand that healing is a powerfully useful metaphor for coming to terms with the nature of reality.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006


Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

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