Serving others as a teacher, healer, or a therapist is not an occupation for those with identity questions or ambiguity about their life’s work. Therapists and healers are called to their work by something larger than themselves and they know it in their bones. In the realm of healing work, whether you engage from the prepared space of your therapeutic container, yoga studio, or another more public arena, chances are you ‘ll not be getting much affirmation, so your ego must be strong but not big
In Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom, B.K.S. Iyengar wrote that the problem of self-healing is especially difficult for those who have achieved positions of prominence – like physicians, therapists, healers and other achievers – yet the generative therapist, healer, or teacher deepens their wisdom when they understand their greatest strength may also be their greatest weakness.
Iyengar’s voice is clear when writing about the pitfalls of human pride.
Considerable achievements also bring in their wake considerable dangers. An obvious one is pride – not satisfaction in a job well done – but a sense of superiority and difference, of distinction and eminence.
This is why healers working from the prepared space of their therapeutic container, yoga studio, or another more public arena, must have a strong ego, but not a big one. Self-healing can be more elusive than roping fish.
HUMILITY: THE HEALING ATTITUDE
To move from a place of high achievement to self-healing is hard because it takes humility. It’s also difficult because the place of humility is not a place. If healing meant a locale, it would be easy to find a dose of humility. But humility is a state of mind. A humble person faces up to their motivations and they’re willing to examine the pitfalls of ego. The healing state of mind fosters an attitude willing to submit and take the advice of another.
Therapists and healers know their patients will test them, and in order to achieve the larger goal, sometimes the patient, student, or congregant must challenge the healer as a way to find their healing. The healer must be able to handle it. And they will if they have prepared themselves with humility and a strong ego, signs of maturity and wisdom. Some people cling, some will idealize, and some will dislike you and try to bring you down. That’s when you come to the harder task that all healers must face… healing yourself.
Self-healing, rather than being escapist, happens with awareness, self-knowledge, and access to resources. My hope is that when the healer needs healing, he or she has multiple answers to each of these self-care questions.
What do I do?
Where do I go?
Who do I talk to?
Without options, it can be easy to slip into escapist behavior that suits nobody, especially the healer.
RELEASE: THE HEALING ACT
An overlooked healing action starts by letting go of achievements. This is why it’s hard for healers to heal themselves. They are people of credentials, learning, and achievement. Normally they are highly educated, trained, conscientious, and proud of their work and abilities. This is all good.
But in those moments when the healer sits at home after a long day feeling busted and broken, like they want to sit down in the corner to cry and die, escapist behaviors, credentials, and achievements will not comfort. I’ve know those moments. All my friends and colleagues in the healing professions have known them too. As a young clergy, I had to face my escapist behaviors and learn achievements alone were not enough to sustain me.
One Saturday night I was working late at the church. All doors were locked and I was drinking beer. I didn’t realize it, but I accidentally left six empty cans next to the electric typewriter in the church office when I went home.
When I arrived early the next morning, prepared to lead a congregation in worship and teaching, my co-workers confronted me. I decided then that I’d better find a different way to grapple with who I was as a therapist, spiritual leader, and healer. I wasn’t perfect, and I knew it, but I had some soul searching to do and I knew that too.
Healers know their needs are directly related to a realignment of energy. They understand healing energy paradigms because they are central to what the healer’s therapeutic is when working with others. In yoga’s healing therapeutic, energy moves from body to mind and spirit. This strategic movement of tension and release is what I call the magic reversal, using the physical self to heal the mental and spiritual self. One example of how this body energy works on the mind and spirit of the healer is through the humble warrior yoga pose.
HUMBLE WARRIOR: THE HEALING POSTURE
In humble warrior, the yogi’s head is down and the crown of their head is stretched forward completely exposing their necks – in devotion or reverence – their gaze is downcast, avoiding eye contact. The yogi bows in submission to an imagined superior observing the yogi’s oblation.
The yogi is balanced with their feet wide apart but clearly vulnerable to a push from the right or left. Hands are often clasped behind one’s back and can be stretched toward the sky. In every way, humble warrior reminds me of Bambi, vulnerable and exposed to danger. Humble warrior is a warrior with no defense. It requires focus, trust, and discipline while symbolizing complete submission.
The yogi or therapist embodying humble warrior can create a healing oasis anywhere, anytime. This is the secret of how the healer heals themselves; by letting go of pride in expertise and by leaning into the art of humility in flesh and blood. There’s no need to overanalyze, it’s an energy thing, and a trust thing.
The yogic parable of humble warrior is that healing is not found in doing. It’s not in trusting oneself, but in the energy of submission. Healers, teachers and physicians can heal themselves, but its like roping fish, impossible without the magic ingredients. But with the right attitude, act, and posture, anything is possible – even for the physician-healers.
Iyengar, B., & Evans, J. (2005). Wisdom: The Intellectual Body p. 174. In Light on life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale.