Perhaps the healing of the world rests on just this sort of shift in our way of seeing, a coming to know that in our suffering and in our joy we are connected to one another with unbreakable and compelling human bonds. In that knowing all of us become less vulnerable and alone. The heart, which can see these connections, may be far more powerful as a source of our healing than the mind.
– Rachel Naomi Remen, M. D.
There is something in the air at Christmas-time. We can see it as a materialism and busy times, or we can look deeper and see some other life lessons.
This past week I was getting caught up in the former: I was making lists in my head and feeling overwhelmed with the chores and responsibilities. Then I was sent an email with the above quote by Rachel Remen and it centered me. It reminded me of the bigger picture. The picture of what healing is about and what Jesus’s message was and is. For me, it is not about religion but about belief in a mystery of something larger than our world. And the belief in the beyond fuels this interconnectedness with our humanity. As a physician I have had the honor of being at transitions of life and death. It humbles. I am daily reminded that with all our amazing and growing knowledge and technology, that it is bigger than we are. I have deep respect for all faiths but do recognize the faith in which I was raised and in my quest to serve as a healer, I cherish the power of Jesus as an ultimate healer and learn from the stories of his birth. Perhaps, no matter what your faith is, you may also resonate with some of the lessons. Nativity means the place, conditions and circumstances of one’s birth. Within each of our lives and health stories, we experience what we could even call mini: births and deaths. Let me share some of these Nativity thoughts now:
It is not always as it seems.
Certainly Joseph, who married a pregnant Mary would agree with that. In medicine I would say this is an important lesson. Often, the truth is consistent with our first impression. However, it is a good idea to keep an open mind and listen. In medicine, we have a lot of protocols and diagnostic criteria. There are also diagnoses of exclusion, where we piece together layers of information to come up with the full diagnostic story. I’ll just say, when we listen to different layers of the story, we hear different things.
Don’t give up.
I’m not sure what things were like to find no room at the Inn after traveling all day with a woman who was 9 months pregnant. But somewhere in here are lessons about not giving up and finally finding a place to rest. It gives hope for those who can’t find an explanation that resonates for their health condition, or who are searching for a healthcare provider who they feel listens. It gives a message of persistence, even for those who are trying to find new patterns to quit smoking, or eat healthier or overcome feelings of despair or pain.
We all have something to offer.
From the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to the simple shepherd boy, value comes in different forms. There is a spark in each of us. This simple babe in a manger can bring new hope. The simplicity of a poor baby and the power that can hold, can humble us all to the mystery of what each person can bring to the world. This includes a beauty of the concept that “it is in giving that we receive.” The physiological benefits of helping benefit the giver and receiver. I was particularly moved by this video recently and by what these teen boys were doing to be “everyday superheroes.”
Overlapping life experiences do connect us. Whether we are all singing together, sharing in a ritual, or being in the world together where our paths overlap in line at the department store or at the doctor’s office. There is literally a healing power in community and connectedness. Take time this holiday to connect with others.
Give up perfect.
From the above picture of my Nativity scene, we sometimes are so focused to have perfect resolution that we miss the experience. Certainly, Mary had not planned to give birth in a stable, among the animals but it worked out much better than she could have imagined. Again, the lesson is to LIVE IT and not necessarily micromanage our health. We are called to embrace the miracles around us.