Maia Toll
“How does the story end?” she asked. “Did you heal yourself with herbs?”

My number three wish, right behind ending world hunger and luring a live-in masseuse to my lair, is a life that’s that simple.

Like so many people who get involved with “alternative” healing, I started this crazy and glorious journey— a journey that, over the years, has defined every aspect of my life— because I was sick. After yet another doctor stared at my bloodwork in confusion, I decided to take my first (desperate!) step into the “woo-woo” by making an appointment with a naturopath. From there I began exploring the wilds of the Manhattan wellness community, cavorting with homeopaths and energy healers, acupuncturists and, yes, herbalists (all modalities which are now more “normal” to me than pharmaceutical medicine).

While herbs were part of my healing, they were far from the totality of it… But that wasn’t the part of the (above!) question that hung me up. I got stuck on the phrase “did you heal?”

What the heck is healing? And how do we know when we’ve done it?

Does healing mean you have no physical or spiritual pains? Does it mean your condition no longer makes your bloodwork look like a Rorschach inkblot test?

For many years I thought healing meant returning to the physical, emotional, and spiritual state I’d been in before I got sick. It meant regaining everything I felt like I’d lost including boundless energy and the ability to digest tomatoes and peppers (Andrew knows that on my death bed, when ruining my week is no longer an issue, I want a piece of pizza and a super spicy vindaloo). I wanted to heal as if my health was a thing held in stasis and I simply needed to find my way back to it. But health is a facet of a living ecosystem, and ecosystems grow and change.

I had grown and changed. I was no longer the person who had gotten sick in the first place: every cell I my body had died and been replaced; hidden treasures and time bombs in my DNA had been reveled and triggered; my ovaries had ceased their cycling and my hair was no longer so dark it was often called “black.” Beyond that were the knowings that those years had brought— life experiences I wasn’t willing to trade.

To be well, to be healed, it became increasingly apparent that I had to redefine healing for myself and find wellness in the present tense.

If you’re going to define healing as a return to a previous state of being, your healing journey is doomed to failure before you even begin. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s thought that as long as you (and any conditions you have) are evolving, you’re on a healing path. It’s stasis and stagnation which will cause your acupuncturist to don her worried face. Change, on the other hand, shows that you’re doing the work of creating something new, something that might be called healing. Healing is not a destination, it’s a way of walking through your life. Click To Tweet

Healing is not a destination, it’s a way of walking through your life. If you can say to yourself, “Congratulations: you’ve changed!” then you’re on the right path.


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