I’ve been fascinated by the healing arts since I was young. I was enchanted by characters in books who were “healers”. Those who had access to mysterious knowledge that would not only restore broken pieces but somehow left a mark of change. The healed version of the storyline being more elevated and luminous than before.
I was brought up going to church. While I rejected many of the Christian ideologies and formal rules of organised religion, I was mystified by the concept of the Holy Spirit and the many accounts of “miraculous” healing in biblical stories.
The more I witness healing in my own life and practice, the more deeply convinced I am that love, faith, forgiveness and compassion are some of the greatest healers of them all. But healing is undoubtedly no ordinary story with a neat beginning, middle and end.
It’s a multi-volume epic, with twists and turns, moments of unimaginable suffering, repeated mistakes, storms, chaos, darkness as well as faith, deep understanding, resolution, learning and love.
I would love to take the time today to explore the three main paradigms that underpin healing approaches and storylines: the linear, the circular and the Spiral. I first learned this concept from herbalist Susan Weed, and I’ve built upon it with my experience and learned understanding.
The Linear Paradigm of Healing
This paradigm exists in the realm of pure rationalism. It’s predicated on the belief that everything in nature and us is a series of predictable, repeatable reactions that can be understood in their totality through chemistry, biology and physics.
Disease occurs when these processes do not act in the way that they should or when an organism is attacked by another (as in the case of infectious diseases). Therefore the solution is to find an agent that will control or counteract the dysfunctional process.
If you have a viral infection, take an anti-viral medication.
If you have inflammation, take an anti-inflammatory.
If you have indigestion, take an antacid.
If you’re sad or anxious, take an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
If you want to control your fertility, close fertility down.
Or there is structural healing via the knife. Surgical procedures allow humans to remove tumours and tissues, replace joints, remove or replace organs.
Health is defined, within this paradigm, as the absence of disease. The goal is to overcome the illness or issue at hand with a physiological antidote or anatomical correction. While all of these interventions can be used within a holistic model of healing, they are primarily conceived from the linear paradigm.
There is absolutely a place at the table for these incredible tools. Still, if used alone in a vacuum, true and complete healing cannot occur. This paradigm avoids chaos and the unknown at all costs.
The Circular Paradigm of Healing
The circular paradigm of healing aspires to perfect balance and harmony. It is connected to nature’s ebbs and flows and is a student to organic change.
Seed, sprout, flower, fruit and decay.
Around and around she goes in this circular motion.
All matter is recycled into the new cycle.
It contains all the energy it needs to repeat itself.
It’s a closed energetic system.
While self-sustaining, the paradigm doesn’t necessarily create anything new. It’s the Garden of Eden before the fall and temptation. Many systems of healing and religion alike work within this paradigm.
If we eat clean enough, resist our cravings, purge the toxins, find the perfect diet, exercise and rest just the right amount we will be free of disease and rewarded with the perfect body. If we live a sinless life guided by morality and pure goodness, we’ll be granted access to heaven at the end of our life.
While this system is guided by many of the laws of nature and can feel wholesome in theory, it does not contain the power to transform or transcend. The ideal of what is healthy and good is narrow and leaves many feeling like they’re not sinless, good, pure or perfect enough. Its restrictions and dogmas do not leave enough room for the sacred to enter. It does not welcome the chaotic note of our nature in fear that it will destroy all hard-earned purity.
Many systems of natural medicine follow this paradigm. It can feel revolutionary in comparison to the linear. However, it’s not truly integrative and limits the extraordinary power of what gifts true healing can offer and enrich us with.
The Spiral Paradigm of Healing
The spiral paradigm of healing brings forth an alchemical attitude that organises itself around the process of transformation: taking the broken, old, outdated structures of our lives and reorganising them into something of greater complexity.
It turns our dross into the most precious type of gold there is: inner illumination.
When inner illumination is nurtured, it infuses itself into all layers of our being, from cell to soul.
The Spiral paradigm uses the potency of chaos, suffering and darkness as a midwife to give birth to the stabilising forces of healing.
The Spiral recognises healing does not come from intellectual understanding, personal ambition, or will, it comes from the depths of our most profound nature. Intellect, will and drive become tools in service to it.
The Spiral teaches us that healing occurs in the deep subconscious. It listens first, then speaks. It leads us to the far edges of what we know and asks us to plunge into the unknown watery depths below. It asks us to have faith that we’ll find what we need to move through suffering towards greater embodiment. That our treasure is to be found in the shadowy webs.
The difference between the circular and the Spiral is the thirteenth step. Twelve is a perfect number. It can be divided perfectly in many ways. It can comfortably repeat on itself. The thirteenth step appears when we feel like we’ve been here many times before and what we’re doing simply is not working. We keep going through the experiencies but don’t seem to be learning the lessons we truly need to profoundly change.
The thirteenth step is the step off the map into the unknown. It’s the sidestep that brings us into a completely new cycle that follows that same law of nature: seed, sprout, flower, fruit and decay, but now we’re on new territory.
The air feels different, the learnings are different, it asks us to adapt and grow. At times on this transformative journey, you’ll feel reduced to slush. Not knowing which way to go. It’s at this time true magic is at work. A deeper intelligence within your body is consulting the blueprint of your true nature and using its recipe to put you back together in a new way. The only way that we can allow this deeper, more transcendental quality to enter our dance is to take the thirteenth step and create space. Allow yourself to patiently wait in the void while the healing power of nature safely unfolds the next incarnation of your being into existence and plants you back into the universe anew.
The Menstrual Cycle as Midwife to the Spiral Paradigm
The Spiral path can feel unattainable in its ambiguity, out of reach with its mystical riddles, feel too grand and big and epic for one human being to take on. This is where the faithful guide of your menstrual cycle can come to your aid. It’s a midwife to your body and soul, within it contains all process of birth, death and rebirth.
It contains seasons of decay, growth, fulfilment and loss. Your menstrual cycle offers you an opportunity every cycle to step through the threshold of the 13th step into the unknown. When approached with a conscious attitude, you can approach even the most intimidating mountains with the knowledge that cycle by cycle, you can take one step at a time.
By becoming aware of your inner experience throughout your cycle, you will begin to see a map that was invisible before. Your curiosity will be attuned to catch the cues that ask you to tend and befriend what is going on within instead of reacting with dread, fear, shame, embarrassment that instinctively makes you want to numb, hide and forget. When this awareness is unveiled, welcomed and nourished, a shift occurs, and you’re able to develop a deeper relationship between your body and your mind. You’re able to align your will to the service of the wisdom of your heart. You learn to seek refuge and stillness in the depths of chaos instead of being overwhelmed by it.
As a culture, we’re encouraged to seek answers outside of ourselves, to refer to the experts and do as they advise. In the Spiral, this is one side of the coin of healing. This other side is finding the light and wisdom within you. When you begin to nurture it more with your attention and regard, it will grow in potency. Having access to both sides and calling upon them both in the way you need is the essence of Sovereign Healing.