Like many Quakers, my beliefs and responses to the world have been challenged by the political chaos of recent years. It is hard for me to see children separated from their parents, public wilderness areas sacrificed to corporate interests, and the dearth of compassion or humane feelings shown by many politicians and bureaucrats. I have found myself being pulled into adversarial attitudes that I know I do not believe in.
As a Quaker, I say I believe there is “that of God” in every person – every person. Yet I struggle to include the people who act in ways that fundamentally defy my sense of the holiness and wholeness of life. I have had to dig deep to find responses that allow me stand up for my beliefs, clearly and openly, while still honoring that of God in others. One framework that has helped to me in this struggle is one I often use in the healing work I do. Throughout the many years that I worked as a nurse, I learned a number of different complementary healing modalities, and one that I relied on especially was a framework developed by Therapeutic Touch ®. (You can learn more at: therapeutictouch.org.)
I have retired from traditional nursing, but I still practice and teach the complementary healing skills that have nourished me over the years. Beneath the practice of Therapeutic Touch and many other healing modalities, there lies a worldview that fully supports me as I respond to a world that has broken down into warring ideologies.
Therapeutic Touch is a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and wellbeing. The practitioner uses her consciousness to assess the energy fields surrounding the body of the recipient and to help bring that set of energy fields into the balance, symmetry, and flow that characterize health. The recipient can experience many positive results, such as relaxation, change in their perception of pain, faster healing of broken bones and wounds, decrease in discomfort due to chemotherapy, etc. These positive outcomes rely on the compassion and awareness that the therapist brings to the session.
One of the initial actions in any session of Therapeutic Touch© (TT) is called “centering.” When I was a beginning student of TT, this process was familiar to me from Quaker worship. We center in order to begin the silent meeting. We let go of the outward attachments that hold us to the material world, and we focus on the Inner Light. Therapeutic Touch practitioners call that Light the “inner self” or the “timeless self.” During the act of healing, the Therapeutic Touch practitioner relies on her own inner self to guide her to an understanding of the needs of the healing partner, the person who has come to her for help.
As Therapeutic Touch practitioners mature in their skills and learn the inner terrain that leads to the timeless self, they begin to experience the true, universal nature of the matrix from which this timeless self directs us. This was no surprise to me. Often during meeting for worship, I have found that the centering we do as individuals ripens into a universal experience that supersedes the individual. It is as though we come to a state of unity simply by following ourselves down our own rabbit holes of longing for peace. All our centers somehow lead to this supreme state of corporate flow and peace, as though we are flowing together in an Ocean of Light.
In Therapeutic Touch, this unifying force is called the “universal healing field,” and it carries an intelligence that can guide the practitioner’s decisions during Therapeutic Touch sessions. Theorists within the Therapeutic Touch community have spent a lot of time considering the nature of this healing field, and through this study, we have found a strong metaphor for the matrix that underlies our natural world. This metaphor comes from ancient India: the concept of “Indra’s Net,” which was described in the Avatamsaka Sutra in approximately 3,000 BCE. The scholar Francis H. Cook describes it this way:
Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. (Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel in the Net of Indra, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997, page 2.)
Even several thousand years ago, the sages understood the nature of the hologram, and they had a god whose job it was to manage that hologram! Hindus consider Indra to be the god of nature. It is Indra who regulates the relationships of every aspect of nature and who facilitates the intrinsic order that exists in all of creation. Here lies the matrix through which flows the universal healing field. In Therapeutic Touch terms, this universal web carries the universal intelligence that can help us help each other. In Quaker terms, this net carries “that of God,” imbuing each person with the innate compassion and understanding that allow us to create a world free from violence and war on every level. This grand arrangement is also the ground from which we have our being, the ground where we gather in corporate worship in Quaker meeting.
As we know from practical experience, not every individual acts on this innate knowledge and compassion at every moment. In fact, I would venture to guess there many people are not aware of its presence at all. As I struggle with day-to-day challenges, I work to keep the image of Indra’s net in the back of my mind. When faced with distressing evidence of racism, greed, or ignorance, I keep reminding myself that somewhere in there is that spark of the divine – the still small voice that speaks with compassion. The corollary to that reminder is a question for myself, “What do I do to speak the truth of that still small voice as it resonates through me?” Here are some of my answers to that question:
In some cases, I am called to speak in ways that show the path to that inner intelligence, hoping that the person before me will follow my lead and discover their own version of compassion.
Sometimes, I stand as an example, acting out my own leadings from within. I can model what I know of this inner world as I go about my daily life.
In some cases, I take on the role of teacher by placing facts against prejudices. Sometimes, a simple statement of my truth can open a person’s eyes to a new way of seeing the world.
Two years ago, I realized it was time for my car to take a stand. A bumper sticker with a well-stated message, when seen often around town, can offer support to alternative ways of thinking.
But most of all, I simply love the people with whom I feel conflicted. I cultivate a hope that they will find that core of Light that resides in us all and learn to live by its dictates. Loving someone with whom we fundamentally disagree can be difficult, but we are all connected. Because of Indra’s net, we are all flowing in the Ocean of Light, even if some of us are temporarily blinded to its intelligence.
In my responses to the challenges I see every day, I try to keep foremost in my mind the image of the holographic connections among all of us. When I step up and speak my truth to power, I try always to remember that the persons before me are really extensions of myself. Deep down inside, they too carry the same signatures of compassion, hope, and love that are present in my deepest nature. We are all one. ~~~
Maria Arrington is a nationally recognized teacher and practitioner of Therapeutic Touch and has recently published a book on the subject, Reflections on the Art of Therapeutic Touch (2019). She is a member of Glacier Valley Worship Group in Northwest Montana (NPYM).
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