Qi Bo of the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine imparts that, “A good healer cannot depend on skill alone. He must also have the correct attitude, sincerity, compassion, and a sense of responsibility.” But what does this mean? The model for healing in our Western society, through allopathic medicine, sees the diseased individual as an equation of symptoms and protocol. What magic number of pharmaceuticals and return visits will alleviate this patient of their ailments and woes? The entire process of the “healer” connecting to the individual and contemplating their sickness is done in perfect isolation and sterility from the patient, often solely via computer screen. This is a very good technique for treating robots, however for living, feeling human beings this practice is often very limited and even detrimental to the person’s healing process. People are not cured by the efforts of other, disconnected people assigning routine drugs and expensive procedures, but through their own sincere expression and refinement of their subtle energies at the deepest levels.
This passage in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine is drawn from the chapter called “The Art of Medicine”, and this is what I want to discuss. True medicine is an art. It is therefore subjective to the healer and the person being healed. Yes, it is important for an injured leg to be stitched, dressed and braced, however equally important is the experience of the injured person to learn the lesson of why they broke their leg in relation to their soul’s journey. This is how one refines their energy. If this lesson is not discovered and integrated, the person is not safe from future injury and, one can say, not fully healed.
Sincerity is key to this process. Sincerity is a deep honesty, transparency, and a willingness to look at things that we are not aware of, or too afraid to acknowledge. If we are not sincere in how we express our truth, and our dis-ease, we run in circles, repeating our pervious hardships and mistakes. We not only do not heal when trapped in this cycle, we deepen the maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns that keep our soul from expanding, evolving, and expressing to it’s highest quality and fullest potential, which is then reflected into the rest of our lives. Our sense of wonder and curiosity wanes, our inner peace is disrupted, our lightness and satisfaction with life diminishes and the stagnancy begins to build. In our qigong education we are taught that spiritual stagnancy becomes mental stagnancy, which then becomes physical stagnancy, and we become dis-eased. It is only at this point that people typically open up to change in their lives and start becoming more sincere, but many still do not want to face their deep truths. These people do not heal, and will usually try to superficially address their ailment for as long as they can until they ultimately face premature death.
Thankfully, we have a choice at every step of the journey! To choose to live and express sincerely means to be willing to look at and be honest about the things in our being that we don’t know about, we don’t understand, or would rather not see, and then take meaningful action to address distortions that keep us from aligning with nature. To discover our truth can be an art in itself, for our lives are always changing in dynamic balance with all that is, and to be able to hold space to reflect, understand, and claim our authentic truth in our distractive and stressful modern society can be tedious, let alone being able to fully express that truth. It is not necessarily a comfortable process, but it is the one that begets inner strength, peace, joy, and virtue. Sincerity is the foundational quality that gives integrity to our practices of longevity, self-empowerment, and healing, the essential state to embark on a successful healing process with, and is the prerequisite to the other qualities of a healer.
Compassion is antidote to all of our spiritual dilemmas. It is what softens our hearts to the malleable place of transformation that is necessary for any meaningful change, and therefore growth. In our training we are encouraged to evaluate and reevaluate significant circumstances in our lives to see what factors are at play and what other choices we had in the moment. And when we make mistakes, or are dishonored or abused by the actions of another or by our own actions, we find the strength to forgive. Forgiveness is opening the floodgates for the healing waters of compassion to clean our spiritual, mental, and physical wounds, to reorganize properly, and return to a natural state of peace. This is an essential practice for the afflicted and for the caretaker alike. The facilitator must hold this energy in their field in order for the client to allow it to more easily arise in their own being. And this powerful force is what is needed not only for individuals and families, but also for organized human society, all creatures everywhere, and the environment we all share. Compassion is the transformative agent we must employ to heal our world of the deep sickness we now endure and from which so many life beings have expired.
That being said, it is the life being from the perspective of their highest self that we forgive and allow compassion to flow to. The maladaptive egoic patterns and abusive, dishonoring behavior that we exhibit must be given a boundary. It is compassion that fuels the warrior in every person to inspire the pure and good in all life beings, as well as protects from that which is no longer of service. However, discerning what patterns are beneficial and not can be a journey and an art as well. Some behaviors are easier to understand and either encourage or discourage. Sometimes deeds appear to be noble or feel right, but stem from a non-compassionate place of fear, and others appear to be harsh or unloving but come from a place of deep love and believing in one’s higher self. Compassion helps guide this process as well. It is the medicine that allows healers to hold deeper space and for stagnation to move with smoother flow; it also inspires the last quality I would like to discuss.
A sense of responsibility is a natural manifestation of a mature adult who is connected to other people and their own place in the universe, and it is paramount for healers to develop. It means transcending one’s selfish desires and becoming a conduit for what is needed in the moment. This is where we begin to grasp the gravity and the power of our role as human beings. Through this sense of responsibility we become more stable and tuned in to the needs of those around us, which then fosters commitment to the well being of one’s self and of those we hold space for. This commitment is especially important for those with dire sicknesses, deep trauma, or a very long and painful healing journey. It is what motivates us to hold steadfastly to integrity and virtue in our darkest and most challenging moments, when we want to succumb to our old patterns and ego’s desires, and ultimately our own demise. It is like a backbone or structure to a fulfilling life. A sense of responsibility endows us with the strength and presence to see that we, and those we are connected with, have a better chance at living that life.
Sometimes we are not clear on how holding one’s self to a particular responsibility is relevant to them or to others. This is where experience and education are irreplaceable. When a child is told to wash their hands before eating, there is no motivation to do so because the child does not yet see the value of it. It takes either clear and effective education or becoming sick and being shown the connection between their behavior and sickness to give the child a sense of being responsible for their own health. The process is similar throughout our lives, and as we mature we must appropriately shift our priorities to what is most beneficial to all that is, and not our narrow and limiting desires. There is also a discernment to be made between one’s own responsibilities and those of another. We sometimes take on other’s responsibilities in the name of helping, habit, perceived necessity or codependency. In all situations it is ultimately an avoidance of one’s own inner growth via substitution, and also a negation of the other’s opportunity to step into their responsibilities and therefore their growth. It takes sharp vigilance to always be aware of where one’s role ends and another one’s begins, and then to set clear boundaries so that they do not become inappropriately entangled. Though this is not easy either, it is highly necessary for us to safeguard and cultivate our energy in the healing dance. This is stepping into one’s wholeness, an evolution that on it’s own has a healing effect on all who are close.
These qualities of sincerity, compassion and a sense of responsibility that Qi Bo articulates hold the healer to a high standard. They set the stage for the healer to use their various modalities and tools in a heart centered and grounded fashion, and make it more likely for the ill person to actively own their own growth and healing process. When these qualities are cultivated from the healer’s own inner work practice, they are ready to accept the challenge of holding space for another to heal. But effective treatment requires another level of mastery beyond skill and setting. Qi Bo also imparts that; “You must also come into synchrony with the patient in many other ways. For example, when patients lack the confidence to conquer illness, they allow their spirits to scatter and wither away. They let their emotions take control of their lives. They spend their days drowned in desires and worries, exhausting their jing/ essence and chi and shen/spirit. Of course, then even with all these other modalities, the disease will not be cured.” The healer must also inspire the love of life in those afflicted with the confidence to overcome whatever has been plaguing them. Therefore, correct attitude is highly important for the healer to choose and maintain. It is the anchor the ill person has the opportunity to connect to and begin realizing their intention for health. But this ability to inspire and “synchronize” with the patient is where the artist must truly take the reigns.
First, the competent healer must be able to discern the person who is ready for growth. If the person in need of healing is not ready to make the changes that are necessary for better health, it is wasted time and energy to try to convince the person to change. This can be compared to a person who comes to a cooking class because they are hungry, and instead of learning recipes and practicing themselves, they eat what the teacher makes and go home only to become hungry again and not know how to feed themselves. This is very important for the healer to connect to, for if the healer is taking the time to attend to an unmotivated patient they are also blocking another person who is sincerely ready for the challenge of growth and increased health from receiving the guidance they need as well as leaking their own cultivated energy. Correct attitude toward one’s own healing value is needed to make this discernment. By setting the tone through one’s own determined cultivation and sincere expression of their virtues, the universe responds to that vibration frequency with bringing more people who resonate with that frequency into one’s life, including sincere patients. This is where the music begins.
The healer must then come in tune with the patient’s history, tendencies, and personality to be able to effectively treat and inspire a love of life. To treat deep illness and imbalances there must be a deep connection in the therapeutic relationship, with a shared trust between the patient and healer. This is likened to the relationship between dancing partners. In order to have flow and spontaneity in their movements, they must come in tune with each other’s stamina and ability. A mutual trust must be formed for the dance to be a full and authentic expression of both of their souls, and the same is true of the therapeutic relationship. Through this trust the sincere healer and sincere patient together can create a healing space where they can effectively identify blockages and stagnant thought and behavioral patterns, thoroughly clear these obstructions through the appropriate methods, even push one another to reach for the deeper or unconscious spiritual challenges and to overcome them with unconditional love and proper support. This is how the healer can inspire the confidence to conquer illness in their patients, decreasing the likelihood of their spirits scattering or allowing their emotions to control their lives. In this sacred space the healer and patient become painters with an ever-expanding pallet of colors to choose from to paint the desired trajectory of the patient’s life with grater freedom than ever before. The treasures found along the way on this spiritual journey are the lessons we discover in our healing process. These are the invaluable assets that healer and patient continue to feed from throughout their lives and allow them to navigate in safer and more fulfilling ways toward their goals. And with this higher perspective of their place in the universe and their roll in their life lessons, the patient can quell the desires and worries that exhaust their jing/ essence, chi, and shen/spirit. This creates a higher probability of the patient successfully returning to whole health.
The key to our success as healers is not only the performance of deep self-transformation and holding space for others to do the same, but also to consistently continue to deepen our own deep inner healing. Our space is only as healing as it is alive, and aliveness is expressed through our authenticity and choice to grow. In a practice in which one has done much work to achieve a high state of being, but then ignores their inner cultivation, becoming distracted by their work, relationships, and other external things, their ability to hold healing space for others is greatly diminished. This is because healing work, like all of life, is about energy flow, and when we are no longer moving energy inside of ourselves we become stagnant. Stagnant energy is ineffective in moving others’ energy, and this is why healers must always be prioritizing their inner work. The consistent practice of a healer is similar to that of a musician. The musician must consistently practice to keep alive the skill, stamina, and finesse needed to execute their performance and allow the music to enter their own heart and the hearts of others. And if the musician is to keep the sound and songs fresh they must resolve to continue to learn new things and reach new depths as a person. The same is true of any relationship or practice. In all of nature there is freshness only in new growth, and decline when the growing has ceased. In order to keep ourselves fresh and alive as healers, we too must consistently resolve to grow.
The healer in us all is held to a high standard. Not only do we need to create a strong inner foundation of virtue, integrity and steadfastness, as well as build the skills to effectively execute our practice, but we also must take on the essential qualities of a good healer that Qi Bo outlines for us. Correct attitude, sincerity, compassion and a sense of responsibility are what mature us to take on the great challenge of holding clear space for our own healing as well as helping facilitate the healing of others. Although the challenge is great, I believe that it is made far more manageable by always coming from and maintaining a sincere disposition that guides our every choice and pursuit. In my own experience I have only found meaning and satisfaction when I come from a place of honesty and authenticity, and it has made clearer my own path to wholeness and reconnection with the Universal One.