Monday, 17 March 2014

Suffering and Healing in the Karmic Web

As healing goes it seems that often things can be a hit or miss. By healing we don’t mean only alternative healing practices but rather cutting edge state of the art western medicine. The little known secret of modern medical research is the Placebo effect. It is observed that the placebo effect works on many common conditions often as effectively as drugs derived from million dollar research programs.

A research paper by Levine JD, Gordon NC, Smith R, Fields HL (1981). "Analgesic responses to morphine and placebo in individuals with postoperative pain". Pain 10 (3): 379–89. doi:10.1016/ 0304- 3959 (81) 90099-3. PMID 7279424 reported that the patients who reported relief following placebo (39%) is similar to the percentage following 4 mg (36%) and 6 mg (50%) of hidden morphine.

Henry K. Beecher, in a paper in 1955, suggested placebo effects occurred in about 35% of people. Placebo had variable positive response rate, ranging from 0% up to nearly everyone. In a dental postoperative pain model, placebo analgesia occurred in 39%. In research upon ischemic arm pain, placebo analgesia was found in 27%. The placebo analgesia rate for cutaneous healing of left hand skin was 56%.

Now this can say something about Morphine but it also tells us a  lot about the inconsistent effectiveness of medicine both conventional and alternative. As healers or doctors know but hate to admit, healing can be quite probabilistic. The question is, why is it that for some clients the muscle relaxes with the slightest touch and for others, despite applying oneself for hours over several sessions there seems to be no substantial improvement? Why is it that some clients get better and some continue to suffer?

Suffering within the Karmic Context
The Law of Karma is the universal Law of Action and Reaction. To every action there is a set of consequences or chain of events one must experience. I.e. if you have lived a life of violence and intimidation then it is quite likely that you to will suffer the same. Or if you smoke then you have higher chance of getting cancer.  Though we may perceive a consequence as good or bad, still it is inevitable we will suffer the chain of events that come out of our actions.

In Buddhist thought the fundamental principle is that suffering is inevitable and that suffering arises from our desires. I.e. if we don’t get something we suffer disappointment, craving, if we do get something we want more or if we get what we want, is it really what we wanted? And we may lose the thing we so much wanted and we then suffer disappointment or loss. Of course this is a simplistic explanation of life’s rigmaroles, but the truth is that we all suffer and we suffer because of our actions, which then start a chain of events arising out of our own desires.

The Himalayan Master Sri Kulavadhuta Satpurananda says in his paper “The Matrix- the web of karmas” that  “All the happenings in a human life that create karmas, good or bad, preferable or not preferable, depend upon the preferences of doing, knowing, and desiring.  Desiring can never be without knowing, or doing, in its extreme ends.  You cannot desire something, which doesn’t fall within knowing or doing.  Knowing is mind and doing is body.   Is there anything in human life beyond body-mind? "

So our desires play out in our minds, our actions and speech through our bodies. The consequences of which is suffering.

As healers the implication of the Laws of Karma for people who suffer is clear. People suffer pain and disease because of the choices they make in life. For example an occupational choice to be a software designer meant sitting hunched for hours in front of computer and consequent bad posture and pain. A desire to own wealth and comfort led to a stressful yet sedentary life resulting in heart disease. Sometimes of course the connection between action and consequent suffering is not so clear because we don’t realize in the moment what we are doing can effect us 10 to 20 years down the line. We are conditioning ourselves at every moment in ways that will affect us later in life. Here is where Samskara, the more metaphysical concept of karma of past lives arises. That even though one has lived righteously in this life, still one may suffer karmas of the past. Eastern philosophy will tell us this is due to accumulation of the Karmas of our past lives and that we need to bear this suffering too with equanimity to end it.

While one may choose to believe in past lives or not however a large portion of our suffering can be directly attributed to the choices we have made in this life, a life we clearly remember. So what role do we, as healers or doctor’s play if suffering is inevitable and the consequence of our client’s actions?

Healing in the Web of Karmas
Anyone who says that they can heal someone is fooling themselves and their clients. The very idea that the “I” can do any healing is based on egotistical viewpoint and refuses to acknowledge the crucial role of the client. It is this lack of understanding or ignorant viewpoint that results in the probabilistic nature of healing, both alternative and conventional. An infection can eventually be defeated by the body’s own immune system even though it might have taken some assistance of an anti-biotic.

Robert Schelp,  conducted a research on Myofascial pain by working on clients while they were under anesthesia. The study found none or very little improvement from Myofascial release techniques on clients under the effect of anesthesia as compared to a control group that were awake. Schelp postulated that any release that is felt on waking clients is due to the effect on mechano-receptors which respond to manual pressure by reducing the sympathetic tonus. The findings of the study shook the core of many Myofascial Therapies like Rolfing and Myofascial Release.  By proving that fascia cannot be modified without the active awareness of the client, Robert Schelp put a bit of a dampner on the skill, technique and egos of many physical therapists.

So what do we do as healers?
The role of a healer irrespective of the modality is to bring the client into awareness about his or her own problems. From the viewpoint of physical therapist, this would mean making the client aware of what occupational/postural situations are possible origins of their pain. If one were a cardiologist, then explaining what lifestyle choices are the cause of their disease. If one were a psychotherapist, then what behavioral/ mental constructs is the origin of their malaise. Sometimes this awareness need not be even at a conscious level but merely planted into their mental physical construct at a sub-conscious level to take root,  flourish and eventually heal.

When therapy results in such awareness and realization by the client, then real sustainable change is possible. Of course even this state of awareness need not result in change. What works best, is that this realization is experiential rather than intellectual.  Experiential learning is a powerful learning tool.  A fire will burn is an intellectual premise until the child actually puts its finger in the flame. One could argue that Karma is the ultimate and highest experiential teacher and woe to those who don’t learn their karmic lessons for they are bound to suffer, not learn and suffer more. Clients who don’t internalize and assimilate the change are great for billing (if they keep coming back) but they do not sit well on our conscience.

As healers, it is crucial to have awareness and understanding in what ways a Healer’s role is relevant for the client and how Time and Space play a major factor within the Karmic Matrix or structure. The client came to us not because we are the cat's whiskers but by a chain of events. Perhaps we may be able to help them or perhaps not. A lot depends on how much they want to change themselves and their capacity to develop the sensitivity to know their own minds and body. Then sustainable change can happen.

What about Thai Massage
However, as Thai Bodywork goes, then what use is all that pulling, kneading, palming and stretching? The purpose of all that pulling, kneading, palming and stretching is to bring the client into Awareness.  Thai Massage allows the client to experience their own bodies, their restrictions, adhesions,  and their SEN (channels) Lines. This awareness is not intellectual but of the highest experiential order. This is the Art of Thai Massage. A good Thai Massage session aids the client to experience the totality of their body and to come to a realization of their body’s potential.

With compression, we are able make the client experience the fascial continuity due to the mechano-receptors firing along the fascial chain. By working out the adhesions and knots we make them understand what parts of their bodies are being repetitively stressed or locked. When we stretch and mobilize they realize how their bodies have become stiff. Finally when they get up and feel the buzz of improved circulation and easy movement they realize the toll their current lifestyle in taking on their body and mind. Maybe then when they go home with the exercises and knowledge  given by the therapist then they will change and one may never have to see them ever again... in a professional context.

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