When it comes to approaching a health challenge, I use the steps of healing from The Wise Woman tradition. It’s an integrative approach that moves fluidly between natural healing and conventional medicine. It invites you to make use of every healing option available. It’s a system that recognises six steps of healing.
Some of the steps build health and are best to engage with daily. Some of them do need a guide in the form of a natural health practitioner or a medical professional. It provides you with structure and helps you to understand what kind of medicine is required. This model was created by herbalist Susun Weed, and this is my interpretation.
Step 0 – Embrace the emptiness and do nothing.
Drop your bundle and drift. For women, at menstruation surrender completely. Enter the emptiness and wait. In Taoism, this principle is known as WuWei – action through inaction. Be a still receptacle and be ready to receive. In many yoga traditions, they say the hardest pose to master is Shavasana: the Corpse pose. It’s the same challenge posed at menstruation, letting go of control is hard!
This is an essential yet mostly invisible step. It’s the step where you can enter a quiet inner space to listen to your inner healer and access insight on how you should proceed. It’s the step where all healing comes from, although we need the help of the other steps to provide it with a clear path.
- Full surrender
- Cultivating a monthly practice of doing nothing at menstruation
- Unplug – disconnect from social media, don’t look at your email, turn off your phone
Step 1 – Investigate options, gather and organise information.
When women seek my services for healing, this is the first step we begin with. I gather all the threads of her story, all the way to the beginning at conception, through birth, adolescence and adulthood. I look for the context: her genetics, environment, significant events – both happy and sad – we look at what’s going on in her body right now and how the web of systems are working together. I am looking for where the healing is – the wound reveals the cure.
The menstrual cycle is a particularly powerful tool for step 1. Your cycle is a stress sensitive system. When you’re experiencing excess stress in your life or dysfunction in other parts of your body, it will show up in your menstrual cycle. That is why menstrual health is often the signal to heal something deeper. If you can learn to understand its language, you have access to a portal that can show you what in your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health requires your attention.
It’s important to review your nourishment, rest, exercise, stress, community and relationships. Viewing these as a whole will allow you to see how you arrived and how you can untangle the snagged parts of your health.
This is a vital step, as it’s where you learn where the root causes are and what kind of medicine is going to be required.
Will habit and food change be enough?
Or do you need a stronger intervention?
- Practising menstrual cycle awareness
- Charting your cycle and your fertility
- Write a timeline of all the significant health
- challenges you faced from when you were born to now
- Seek a holistic review
- Audit your habits
- Read books
- Take close note of your dreams
Step 2 – Engaging the energy and restoring connection
In this holistic approach, your symptoms are seen as signposts that are calling your attention and are asking for your care. They’re not something to anaesthetise or remove without looking behind it for the deeper story.
Once you’ve worked out where your health challenges are coming from and what the deeper causes are from step 1, step 2 asks you to take an honest look at your habits and the way you’ve designed your life.
Where are the disconnections?
Where are the blocks?
What habits and patterns are no longer serving you?
Where have you put walls up in your life that are only hindering your ability to live your life fully?
Are there any beliefs that you formed, or absorbed from others, that are subconsciously directing all your behaviour?
Step 2 asks the hard, yet interesting questions.
Journalling is a potent way of exploring and reconnecting with yourself. Meditation in the form of visualisation, process work and intention setting is another way.
Seeking a therapist, mentor or coach to assist you can be valuable. Learning processes to work through blocks, fear and negative mindsets can change your entire storyline.
I love using energetic medicines for this step. Flower essences are medicines that shift consciousness states: they help bring the shadows to the light. Homeopathics are brilliant at bringing energy circuits back into harmony. Constitutional remedies can fortify your unique essence. And miasmatic remedies can help you shift through inherited and genetic tendencies.
While this step is a powerful one, I have found that the benefits cannot hold if the foundations of health are not in place, which is our next step.
- Women’s circles
- Meditation in the form of visualisation
- Process work
- Creative writing
- Art therapy
- Intimacy, sex and orgasms
- Craniosacral treatment flower essences
- Tarot cards
- Intention setting and conscious manifestation work
Step 3 – Strengthen and feed health with nourishment & life design.
This is the earthly part. This is nourishing and balancing your inner soil, by providing your body with all the nutrients and building blocks it needs. It’s also the realm of nutritive, tonifying and restorative herbs that support different organ systems.
For many conditions, steps 0-3 are enough. Your body is innately wise and wants to move towards balance and health. You have to remove what’s harming you and supply the missing elements needed for healing.
Step 3 is also about the architecture of your life and building health through your actions. You create yourself with every choice that you make. Those choices can either add to health or take away from health. This includes how you choose to feed yourself, how you balance your meals, the exercise you decide to do and the tonifying plants that you choose to infuse into your life.
- Whole foods
- Simple, nourishing home cooked food
- Probiotic foods
- Nourishing herbal infusions
- Tonic and trophorestorative herbs
- Healthy social connections
- Life design
- Relaxation massage
The Healing Divide
The first four steps come with almost no capacity to harm, they build health and are to be engaged with daily. The next three if not applied correctly can cause harm. They’re faster acting but do have potential side effects. They are therapeutic interventions and are only supposed to be used for a short period of time, or they can otherwise deplete health.
Step 4 – Stimulate and sedate.
This step contains a greater power to change and is required for chronic health conditions or for deeper dysfunctions. Stronger herbal medicines and concentrated nutritional medicines are often much safer than drugs, but dependency can occur if steps 0-3 and not being engaged with.
This is the step where you remove certain foods from your diet, fasting may be introduced, therapeutic regimes to support detoxification and gut repair is called upon.
It’s also the realm of nutritional supplements and stronger herbal medicines that can elicit stronger responses from the body. This is not the wisest step to begin with as your first port of call without working through the other layers first or concurrently.
Understanding what your body needs, how to untangle a health challenge and nourishment will guide you in knowing what medicines are required from the step.
This step is best accompanied with the guidance of a naturopath, herbalist or nutritionist.
- Stronger herbal medicines
- Concentrated botanical extracts
- Standardised plant constituents
- Targeted nutrition descriptions
- Remedial massage
- Therapeutic diet plans, such as an elimination diet, detoxification protocol, intermittent fasting, ketogenic and other specialised weight loss food plans.
Step 5 – Drugs and pills
We now enter the realm of conventional medicine. We’re far down the healing steps, yet for many people, this is their initiation point due to the way our modern healthcare system is structured.
Medications can be life-saving and essential, yet unless all the other steps are also being taken, they’re not healing. It’s too easy to get stuck on this step and remain in a holding pattern that can deplete your health. This is especially true of antibiotics, pain relief, antidepressant, antianxiety and anti-inflammatory medications.
For women’s period issues, the first line of treatment is often synthetic hormone-based medication in the form of the oral contraceptive pill.
It’s vital to have a professional on this step. Medications are concentrated, synthetic and poisonous if the wrong dose is administered.
- Pharmaceutical medications – both over the counter and prescription medications
- Due to modern manufacturing, some herbal medicines are beginning to be treated and act more like pharmacy medications.
Step 6 – Break and enter.
This step requires breaking and entering. It elicits healing via wounding, removing and reshaping. It includes surgery, high-tech medicine and psychedelic substances.
In some circumstances, a skilled surgeon is the most appropriate agent of healing. Physical trauma, structural abnormalities or life-threatening disease (such as cancer, stroke or organ failure) all call for step 6.
Regarding contraception options for women, step 6 medicine includes the copper IUD, the Mirena IUD, Depo Provera shot and the Implanon.
Plants that have psychoactive properties and psychedelic substances can break and enter into your consciousness. There is a long human tradition of using psychoactive plants to heal certain deep-seated mental health issues. This is still practised in many cultures today. What is interesting is that often in preparation to take the psychoactive medicine, rituals including fasting, cleansing, eating certain foods and spiritual practices are required. Without the steps in place damage, not healing, can occur.
To ensure the least harm is caused, all steps need to be used together for recovery.
- Contraceptive devices
- Psychoactive plants and psychedelic substances