“Living in touch with our inner guidance system involves feeling our way through life using all of ourselves: mind, body, emotions, and spirit. . . . We have to give our bodies credit for their innate wisdom. We also don’t need to know exactly why something is happening in our bodies in order to respond to it. You don’t need to know why your heart is racing or why you feel like crying. Understanding comes after you have allowed yourself to experience what you’re feeling.” —Christiane Northrup
There it is again. Pushing its little petals towards the sun, presenting a patchwork of purple patterns across my yard. This small weed, Prunella vulgaris, also known as self-heal, has a persistence and a strong will to spread, like so many other plants in the mint family.
Despite it being a bit of a nuisance popping up everywhere, I have to admit that I admire its strength. This mighty little herb seems to be well-named, for the force that we all contain to mend and heal is also amazingly tenacious.
You get a papercut. In a few days it’s gone. You bash your shin on the bedpost. The bruise fades on its own. This is a phenomenon we all possess and rarely appreciate. Your body knows how to take care of itself. The speed and ease with which the body performs these miraculous repairs leaves these changes so often unnoticed.
Our bodies want health. And they are designed to ceaselessly return to a state of balance, if we choose to live in a way that supports and strengthens this innate power. Our bodies possess the inherent intelligence to self-diagnose, self-restore, and regenerate.
You break a bone, the most solid tissue of the body, and a straightforward fracture will resolve in a few months. On its own! Those bone cells come together at the break site in such a miraculous and clever way that the fracture will no longer show up on an x-ray.
But how does our physical system, seemingly steeped in chaos and variability, always know how to come back to this place of balance?
This self-healing power within us is no different from the force that keeps the planet spinning or the drive of a plant to longingly lean itself towards the sun. It’s the power behind a newborn baby humpback whale immediately searching for its mother’s nipple to nurse after birth. Or the impulse of salmon to swim upstream, against every odd and obstacle, to reach its original spawning grounds. The spark and will to live. This force penetrates and connects all things, from the tiniest single-celled organism to the entire universe.
The ancient Chinese called this force qi. Qi is the animating energy that drives all activity and change in the cosmos. It has the essence of a pilot fire that feeds and connects all living and nonliving things.
In every culture and medical tradition before our current time, there has been an understanding that all living creatures contain vital energy. In many ways, the medicine of these ancient traditions couldn’t be more futuristic or relevant for the times we live in.
Although our self-healing nature is always with us, it is not limitless. You cannot get four hours of sleep every night, drink Red Bull for breakfast, and smoke a couple of packs of cigarettes a day for years on end, and just figure your good old self-healer will take care of it. Many a rock star has tried this out already (and we know what results).
The gift of the archetype of the Inner Healer is about presence, choices, and deep listening. How conscious are you in the choices you make about your home or work environments, the people you surround yourself with or the kind of job that consumes your time?
This sense of presence and awareness concerns your physical body, too. Your body is constantly giving you hints and messages about how to best take care of yourself, but are you really paying attention? Do you hear your body’s voice?
In my work as an acupuncturist, I guide people in learning to listen to the whispers of this part of themselves, the part that knows what bedtime makes them feel most rested, the part that knows that a job is systematically killing them, or the part that knows why they are really sick. Sometimes this wisdom is subtle and hard to perceive and other times it is just painfully obvious. You get diarrhea every time you eat dairy? Well, I think you already know what you need to do.
Why do we not listen to our Inner Healers? I have wondered a lot about this over the years. Yes, we are inundated by our distracted minds, but this goes beyond not being in our bodies, not paying attention, not hearing. Why do we fight against what is best for us, even when we only hurt ourselves in the end?
Sometimes it is related to the “bad rebel” part of us, which has a self-disparaging bent. Other times we are triggered by experiences in childhood, and we are seeking control—not wanting to be told what to do. Kind of like an inner, unconscious foot stamping.
Or we never received the education, training, or positive imprinting that would allow us to set up healthy habits or know how to take care of ourselves appropriately. Maybe we just don’t think it’s worth it—that we’re not worth it.
Then there are the times when we are just plain pissed to have to limit our lives in some way. To have to limit our diets, limit our excessive doing, or limit our indulgences. This can be based on an inability to see the long-term view, to not perceive on a daily basis the way our choices may be slowly injuring us.
It is just basic human nature that we orient by the here and now. Even though the Inner Healer tells us how to best take care of ourselves for our entire lives, we tune out this wisdom for what is momentarily sweeter, easier, or more comfortable. Often, we are trying to fill some endless hole within ourselves, that part of ourselves that is never quite satisfied, never quite full.
Resting deep within what is most settled and content in us, the voice of the Inner Healer rings with authenticity and awareness. Her tones link and sync up your gut, your heart, and your mind—all your avenues for inner knowing—so that they can work together. The intuition of the Inner Healer doesn’t just know what we need for healing, it knows what we need to truly live well. She is unconcerned with lingering in imbalance and illness; she only knows the path to reorienting us in health.
She is a stubborn, unflinchingly honest guide. The voice of your Inner Healer will resonate with the truth no matter the source from which it comes, no matter how much you like it or not, and no matter what the consequences to your life might be. Her truth cuts with a straightforward blade.
She lets us know where our emotional boundaries lie, such as when something feels unsafe or does not belong to us. She squirms when we are taking on other people’s problems as our own. She itches when she perceives that our stories about ourselves are untrue or when she catches us going down rabbit holes of self-deprecation. She howls when we are engaging in unequal energy exchanges.
This is an especially important lesson for those who want to give over their power to or abdicate their responsibility of healing to others, doctors and other healthcare practitioners alike. Often, such people have given up the belief in their capacity to be well; they have forgotten that they too hold an essential role in caring for themselves.
What a gift she is. At her essence lies the capacity to become involved with and take responsibility for our individual healing journey. No variety of outer measures or restorative techniques can bring about genuine mending at any level unless we are quickened from within to seek the wholeness of life.
Inner Healer Meditation
Try this exercise as a way to connect deeper with your Inner Healer.
In a moment of quiet, steady yourself, grounding in your breath and feeling the solidness of whatever is below you, such as the floor, a bed, a chair, or the earth. Slow it all down.
Get into a space of connection and creativity, knowing that imagination is what your mind’s energy rides on. From your own inner wisdom, with your eyes closed, call out to your Inner Healer. Ask her to come forward, revealing herself in form.
Let an image come into your mind and observe her every detail. Breathe in this meeting, noticing how you feel and how you interact with the energy. Make a gesture of connection in your mind, whether it be through an offering (giving of a small gift of the earth, like flowers) or through touch. Just be watchful and available for a little bit. When the Inner Healer is ready to leave, take a moment to give thanks.
Then write down all of your observations. The age that your Inner Healer presents itself as reflects the maturity of your relationship together or how much energy in your life you have dedicated to this idea of self-healing. The health, or vibrance, of the Inner Healer also mirrors the well-being of the relationship. Maybe there is some repair work or apology that needs to be given because of past neglect.
Nourish this relationship with the importance it deserves. You may feel the voice of the Inner Healer inside you as an intuitive fluttering, subtle and persistent, in your throat, chest, or belly.
Another way to connect further is through writing. Take out your journal right now and see what arises when your heart feels into these questions: