In my latest post over on No Unsacred Place, an illness that leads to a hospital visit has me reflecting on questions about the relationship between health, healing, body and spirit and how we experience moments of transcendence even in the midst of danger:
If it weren’t for these strange experiences of transcendence, I might be a pure animist. When I feel the wind caress my skin and it seems to me to be living and animate, filled with purpose and awareness — I cannot divide that sense of Presence from the wind itself. I can’t separate the presence of the ocean from the reality of its waves, salted and slamming against the rocks, or the spirit of fire or sunlight from the physical heat and shifting illumination and shadows they create. Sometimes, the ocean’s presence seems to follow me into dream when I am home again in my landlocked state. Sometimes the sunlight lingers in memory even during long winter nights. But it seems to me that it is not the spirit of these things at all, not in the way we commonly think of spirit or soul as something that just happens to be living here for the moment.
When I feel this Presence of ocean miles from its shore, what is it I feel? A familiar memory belonging to and arising in my own material form, I think, the knowledge that my body has within itself of the concrete, sensory details of the world. My body remembers. And because my body remembers, it reaches out for connection with these things even when they are absent. If there is a Presence, a god or goddess of the sea, it arises from the body of the ocean as my sense of self and spirit arises from my own body.
How do we understand these experiences of transcendence or heightened awareness when faced with danger and disease? How does modern Western medicine handle (or mishandle) illness and its emotional, psychological and spiritual impact?
You can read the full article here.