‘When we come home to our body, we come home to our soul.’
~Mary C. Earle
My husband and I were gone for one month for what was to have been a two week vacation in Kauai. While away, I was hospitalized in ICU (first in Kauai, then in Honolulu); threatened with lung surgery; signed end-of-life papers; almost died twice; had a gangrene appendix surgically removed; diagnosed with peritonitis; and turned sixty [see more in February’s blog article]. Upon returning home, I naively presumed that this mysterious journey had run its course. I did not fathom that the recovery process would prove to be an intense and lengthy [5+ years] continuation of this journey. In retrospect, traceable signs of the unfoldment of this healing course (Body 101: From the Inside-Out, as I came to call it) were present from early on.
The evening we arrived home, I encountered several surprises. Along with my feelings of relief and gratitude for being home was a perplexing sense of vulnerability, loss, and displacement. I dismissed it, reasoning I would feel differently in the morning. Only later did I realize that I instinctually knew internal shifts were underway; old familiar ways [pre-Kauai trip] of ignoring my body’s say would no longer carry the day.
The second surprise came when I opened one of my many “get well” cards. The message, bringing tears to my eyes, was from a woman whose name I didn’t recognize. She noted that a group of nuns would be praying for my recovery at daily Mass for the entire next year. Later, I learned she was my youngest granddaughter’s first-grade teacher. She bid these prayers on my behalf after my granddaughter, Abby, had shared about my condition in her class and the children had prayed for me. I was deeply grateful for this generous gift of prayer support, but did wonder: ‘why was it scheduled for an entire year?’ Later, as the comprehensive nature of the recovery process unfolded, I was reassured when I realized that this spiritual support was put into place from day one by God’s grace.
On the third day home, the initiating lesson in Body 101: From the Inside-Out unfolded. I had called my spiritual director (an elderly Episcopal Priest and Monk) to inform him that I would not be meeting with him as I was recovery from surgery. He asked if I was in pain; I said, ‘yes, my whole insides feel on fire, particularly under my diaphragm.’ He prayed briefly for my recovery, then said: ‘Sometime later, while lying down, put your hands gently on your diaphragm; stay with the pain no matter what; it will not be easy, every part of you will want to flee, but STAY WITH THE PAIN – God will be with you.’ I did what he suggested, and he was right; staying with the pain was next to impossible. My mind raced: ‘This is foolish; Why do this?’, on & on. I envisioned getting up to do things that, all of sudden, needed to be done. I prayed: ‘Lord, help me!’ An image of an infant in a crib came. Instinctually, I knew she was hungry; she had cried until she couldn’t cry anymore; no one had come; the agonizing pain under my diaphragm was one in the same with hers. This infant was my infant body.
Overwhelmed with compassion and horror, I desperately wanted to make her/my pain go away and yet, I wanted to flee at the same time. Feeling totally powerless, I despairingly cried out: ‘What am I to do? Why am I experiencing this now? It all happened so many years ago!’ Then, the image came of St. Mary [Mother Mary] picking her up — picking up my infant body — soothing her/me, feeding her/me, just as she did her own child — God’s child. Then, I knew in my body that this babe was Jesus. God’s child had been there all along, taking on the toxic pain that was too much for my infant body to bear. Only then, after so many years, did my cells know this from the inside-out. Then the words came: ‘If you have done it unto the least of them you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Prior to this time, I knew that my history of early childhood neglect included some times of being left without food, but I had assumed they were few and short in duration. Later, several great aunts reluctantly divulged that these times had been many and often long in duration. They had thought it would serve no purpose to tell me of these incidences, and said it was a miracle that I survived.
As I looked at my aunts, I knew that what I had survived was not only the horrors that they described but also the generational patterns that would have had me avoid pain rather than know the truth and heal through it. Thanks to my aunts, now my mind knew the truth – truth that my Soul and body knew all along – and now, finally, integration and healing could happen on a much deeper level.
If you’d like to continue exploring this theme further, please take a look at my reference materials:
Suggested Soul Practice:
Moving through Pain
Marvelously Made: Gratefulness & the Body