Think of the worst accident or injury you’ve had in life, and you may be inclined to dwell on the incident itself. Perhaps you crashed your bike. Tripped or slid on ice and broke a wrist while running. Or maybe you’ve been in a car accident that hurt you physically and emotionally.
All accidents are difficult to bear. They make us regret our actions, our circumstances and our bad luck.
But once the shock is over, the healing begins. Or so it should be. We must recognize that for many people, the healing process can never be fully accomplished, at least in the practical sense. When people lose limbs or practical functions such as one of the senses like sight or hearing, healing must take place in a different way. People work back to a point where they can deal with life.
We think of soldiers coming home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our compassion for the wounds and trauma they suffer through battles and terrorism and our hearts and minds should be filled with compassion and gratitude for what they have suffered in our name. There should be no politics over issues such as these. Their healing and aid, whatever form it must take, should be our nation’s top priority.
Where healing begins
Where healing begins for many of us is in the head. We start to think about what we need to feel better. With luck and blessings there may be people there to guide us. But lacking that, the body and mind retain the miraculous power to heal. The physical changes alone that seal cuts and ease bruises are beyond comprehension in many ways. Evolution has provided the body with all the chemicals and processes the body needs to heal many wounds. Some would say God does the work of healing, not evolution. But whatever combination of beliefs you choose to apply, the fact remains that our bodies can do marvelous things to repair broken parts and heal everything from skin to bone to muscle.
Your body’s responses
When you’re really broken, as after a crash on your bike, there is soreness and stiffness that comes from swelling in response to the trauma. What a miraculous gift right there! The body stiffens and prevents you from doing things that might stretch or further traumatize your broken parts. Muscles naturally tense and even spasm through swelling so that you can’t stretch or degrade your situation even further. It can take days, weeks and months for the effects of swelling to wear off. We ice and heat the injured areas sometimes to help regain motion, but truly the body is going to proceed at its own pace.
The drugs and manipulations we apply to help healing are simply aids to the natural processes already at work. If surgery is deemed necessary, it is usually designed to enhance the healing process and repair the basic problem. Beyond that, the body must take over the mending and recuperative process.
That can seem to take forever. Our lack of mobility can drive us crazy, test our patience, lament or misfortune. We do need strategies for that.
Dealing with inactivity
It is difficult for people used to running and riding for hours a day to suddenly be rendered immobile by injury or pain. The mind comes to a jolting stop when that happens. The anxious among us can go stir crazy without the daily release of endorphins to lift our spirits and sort out our twisted thoughts. Instead you’re confined to the couch with an ice pack, watching out the window while injury-free runners and cyclists roll past without a care in the world. It can make you feel pretty bitter.
Best to find an activity to occupy your mind. Reading is probably best. It allows you to take in information at your own pace, and without inundation of heavy sounds or visuals that can set off stimulative responses related to the ‘fight or flight’ instincts our minds use to respond to stress. That’s why watching TV or other programming that contains negative or violent imagery may not be best for the healing process.
But then again, if you like watching Mel Gibson chop off heads in the movie Braveheart, (this link is to quotes from the movie, that might satisfy you…) and it serves your competitive instincts while you’re recuperating, that’s your choice. Just be aware of the balance you should try to achieve in your mind as you set about healing your body.
Sometimes even miracles take time
The truth about healing is simple: It takes time, because it requires time. The body’s natural processes work much like the overall pattern of human evolution. The growth or repair of cells is incremental, using the existing fiber of our natural construction to rebuild torn tissues and reconstruct broken bone. The busted clavicle which is now healing in my body has been positioned through surgery for alignment so that it can knit the bone back together. That is why we are required by physicians to wear a sling for a while, to immobilize and protect the healing bone so that the bone cells and fiber can grow back together. We’re like lizards that can re-grow our tails. We get a second chance. All that healing power is built into our miraculous bodies.
On God and our animal heritage
You can say that God designed it that way, but never forget that our animal history is replicated all the way down through the taxonomy of creatures even to the bacterial level. And think about that: our bodies are highly dependent on productive bacteria in our gut to help us break down and process food. Take away those little partners and we all die.
The wife of a friend who was battling cancer died not from the disease, but from the fact that a treatment regimen proved too strong for the bacteria in her gut, and she could no longer process food for nutrition. It cost a life. Basically her system was overstressed in a bad way, but it was the symbiotic relationship between the bacteria needed to turn food into nutrition that was broken.
That illustrates how complex the healing process can be. It also shows the complexities of evolutionary history among living things in this world. We share these types of symbiotic relationships with billions of other forms of life on earth. But rather than making you feel like you are on par with a worm, that knowledge should enervate you with the knowledge that you are truly “connected” to the universe right down to the cellular and elemental level, with all its highly evolved systems of life and healing. And if you see God as creator of all things, then you’re right at home with this knowledge.
Running and riding are forms of active healing
We should consider the context that our training and exercise regimens are essentially a form of “active healing” based on positive stresses to make us healthier by testing our systems and calling them into daily action. This is a basically a form of rehearsal against disease and illnesses caused by inactivity, germs and viruses. We all know that one of the greatest risks a runner or cyclist in heavy training faces is to become overtired and susceptible to viral infection that can lead to cold or flu. In those circumstances we say that ‘our resistance is down’ and that is true. A body wracked by fatigue cannot implement its defenses against germs or viruses. Our blood systems are too busy trying to heal our exhausted muscles and lymphatic systems can’t contain the disease. We’ve basically exhausted our own healing powers. That cycle has flattened many an athlete in training.
Some medical journals have theorized that many forms of cancer are actually based (and even begun) through bacterial or viral infections that set the stage for radical changes in our cellular systems and genetic processes. Some scientists are now focused on that process and how controlling our genetic responses may be key to preventing our curing cancers.
Creating positive stresses
You can begin to see how the positive stresses we apply to our bodies through exercise can indeed make us healthier and guard against disease if managed with complimentary diet and rest cycles that provide the restorative power needed to heal the body after stress. The miraculous power of healing is inherent to most of our bodies. We test these powers daily through workouts, then turn around and encourage the healing to take over and get us ready for another day.
Many people combine recuperative practices such as massage therapy to encourage the body to heal itself. A good massage has miraculous healing powers, but anyone who uses massage frequently knows that it is as important to rehydrate and protect the body after a massage because the muscles release all kinds of the bad stuff we’re trying to cure, such as lactic acids and other waste products that need to be flushed from the body for maximal health.
Massaging the mind
The same process works in the mind. There is now considerable evidence that exercise can be helpful for people with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. How encouraging to know that there is a natural starting point for dealing with some degrees of mental health. Similar results have been ascertained from practice of yoga, meditation, deep breathing and prayer. All these meditative practices encourage calm, consideration and mindful awareness of our selves, in the present and beyond. The mind also has miraculous natural healing powers. It is simply ours to pursue and discover them.
Viewing your exercise program as a form of healing can put all sorts of challenges into perspective. We are less likely to stress over a down day on the road or bike if we consider that our effort still functioned as a form of daily healing. And if not, we might need to step back and examine our priorities. Even our worst race results, and sometimes our best, must be put in perspective of the lifelong goal of better health and the miraculous power of the body to heal.
With these perspectives in mind, we can encourage others and even evangelize the benefits of our athletic pursuits without projecting our personal goals or desires upon the people we meet. It is simply ours to share the miraculous power of healing with those who might benefit from it. Encouraging others to get out and walk, or ride, or run…and even swim! is one of the best gifts we can give to others. Go and give freely.