The Nature of Spiritual Healing (Part 1)
The Sufi Healing Order and its partner organization, the Art of Healing Foundation, are dedicated to spiritual healing although they recognize and support all types of healing activities. The organizations use slightly different terms to describe their missions which really are very similar:
The Sufi Healing Order mission (sufihealingorder.org):
The purpose of the Sufi Healing Order is to awaken humanity to a greater realization of the power of the Divine Spirit to heal, and thus to bring about a better state of physical, mental and spiritual health. Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Art of Healing Foundation mission (aohfound.org):
Our goal is to cultivate the awakening and development of the innate healing capacity available in all people. We have adapted the core healing and self development practices of the Yogic and Sufi traditions to fit today’s language, culture, context and scientific discoveries. We believe that developing the personal and the collective inner capacity for healing is at the heart of providing whole person wellness and healthy communities. Devi Tide (Head of the Art of Healing Foundation and Sufi Healing Order, North America)
Just what is this healing, and how is it accomplished? Is it through techniques? Is there a bolt of lightning which comes down and heals a person? What is “Divine Spirit” and the “innate healing capacity?” For that matter, what is “healing,” spiritual or otherwise?
The Sufi Healing Order in particular focuses on the Sufi healing teachings and suggestions of its founder, Inayat Khan. Here is his definition of the cause of illness:
Disorder of the tone and irregularity in the rhythm are the principal causes of every illness.
Inayat Khan, in Vol. IV: Mental Purification and Healing; Part I: Health, ii) Given this, let’s be more specific. More precisely, what are tone and rhythm?
Here are some dictionary definitions and examples of tone (from dictionary.com): “The general character or attitude of a place, piece of writing, situation,” etc. [include person as well]. A musical definition is
“musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality and strength; e.g. the piano tone [is] lacking in warmth. … or a modulation of voice expressing a particular feeling or mood.” In referring to color, tone describes “… the particular quality of brightness, deepness, or hue of a tint or shade of a color; or a slight degree of difference in intensity of a color. Finally, here is a definition of muscle tone: “… the normal level of firmness or slight contraction in a resting muscle;” in other words, balance.
A definition of natural tone as it applies to health and illness:
Given the above definitions and examples, we can consider the natural, healthy tone of a person as the general character or attitude of the person, his/her natural character, reflected in his or her “intensity” and shades of feelings, expressions, general atmosphere and demeanor. When we feel or act “out of sorts, out of character,” more or less intense, unbalanced and in ways other than what for us is natural and usual, then we are not in our natural tone. This can lead to illness.
Now, let’s move onto rhythm.
Here are some dictionary definitions and examples of rhythm from the same source. “… a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound; e.g. rhythm of breathing.” Another is “… measured flow of verse or phrases;” and “… a regular recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes.”
A definition of rhythm as it applies to health and illness: Rhythm in health is a strong, regularly repeated pattern of movements unique to a person. This is reflected in a measured flow, a recurring sequence, which includes patterns of thoughts, actions, heart, brain and endocrinological rhythms, habits – anything humans do repeatedly. Illness, given this definition of rhythm, is a disruption of the regular flow of a person’s “habits” or internal and external rhythms of body, feelings and mental processes.
Entrainment: The interaction of rhythms.
We cannot talk about rhythm and healing without talking about an essential feature of vibrations and their rhythms – entrainment. Consider this: As seasons change, we can notice the effects of rhythm among the elements of nature. Seeds sprout in Spring and leaves drop in the Fall because they respond to the rhythms of heat and cold, light and dark. The rhythm of the seeds and leaves change in response to the rhythm of their surroundings. The rhythms of the Summer and Winter likewise cause changes in nature. This interplay reflects “entrainment,” a natural cause and effect relationship among vibrations, rhythms. It never ceases. Since all life vibrates, entrainment is ever present since it is inherent in all vibratory relationships. The principle is simple: one rhythm becomes dominant, and other rhythms follow. In a significant way, this is the power of spiritual practice: we allow ourselves to entrain to a more powerful, refined rhythm in the service of our inner growth and that of humanity.
Spiritual attainment is attuning oneself to a higher pitch
(Inayat Khan, The Complete Sayings, Gayan: Suras, #575)
This then is the power of entrainment, the power to integrate our own internal rhythms so that a balanced rhythm dominates. Likewise, it is the power of the healers’ atmosphere, their “breath” in Sufi terms, which entrains the rhythm of others to theirs, bringing it closer to a more natural, healthy state. It is not that all rhythms need be the same. It is that in the case of illness, healers’ guide others in finding their own natural rhythm. There is clearly a role for wisdom, judgment and ethics in the behavior of healers.
What is “healing?”
Again, here are dictionary definitions and examples. Healing is something “…curative,” that which is “…growing sound, getting well, mending.” It is “the act or process of regaining health” and “… to bring to an end … as conflicts between people or groups; … to reconcile.”
A definition of healing:
Healing then is that which mends, makes more sound, ends conflicts (as in returning from conflicting to integrated rhythms) and brings oneself or others to a more natural, balanced state (tone).
There is also the matter of connection to the tone and rhythm of that power which is greater than ourselves but which we also find within us.
This connection is a matter of aligning ourselves and others to that universal tone and rhythm. This will be discussed further in the next section.
How do we know when we achieve this state of natural tone and rhythm? We are able to function in our daily lives in a way which is consistent with our stage of life, fairly efficiently and without undue distress. At our best, it also means we experience a connection to something greater than our limited selves which allows us to feel productive, meaningful, and more fully alive. Towards the end of life, healing includes allowing life’s rhythms to end naturally.
What then is meant by Spiritual, Spirit, Divine, and the innate capacity to heal?
In this context, the “Divine” is that power greater than one’s personality and physical being. It is the guiding principle or force of the world in which we live, including ourselves. “Spiritual healing” is the establishment of a more natural tone and rhythm through connecting with and experiencing this power. This provides a deeply healing meaning in our life. The healing power of “divine” and a person’s capacity to heal, are essentially the same and are innate. It is a matter of semantics. We define and name this power and the meaning which accompanies it in as many ways as there are human beings: “The Divine Spirit,” “Emptiness,” “God,” “the laws of nature,” “evolution” and so many others.
Concepts of the Divine: evidence from “positive psychology”, the research of Martin Seligman, Ph.D., (as found in his book Authentic Happiness) supports the importance of one’s feeling connected to something greater than oneself. When connected, we experience what he terms a “full life.” There is further evidence that we are “hard-wired,” genetically and neurologically programmed, to support what we now call spiritual or mystical experiences (reference the work of Andrew Newberg, M.D. and others in Why God won’t go Away; and George Vaillant, M.D. in Spiritual Evolution.) We are trending as a species, because of our very biology, towards expressing “divine,” “spiritual” qualities of justice, compassion, and other “virtues” which make life meaningful.
Supporting these concepts are some dictionary definitions of Spiritual: “incorporeal;” “ethereal or delicately refined;” “… relating to the mind or intellect.” Here are definitions and examples of Spirit: “… the principle of conscious life; the vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul;” “… the incorporeal part of humans;” “… an attitude or principle that inspires, animates, or pervades thought, feeling, or action;” “… a divine, inspiring, or animating being or influence.”
Finally, let’s discuss the innate capacity to heal a bit more. This is well recognized in the “placebo effect” now being actively researched in science and especially medicine. The effect is powerful but presently difficult to reliably replicate. It is not “nothing.” It is so powerful that well designed studies must account for its effect to be able to prove the worth of whatever else is being studied. It is the power of wanting to be well. We often attribute this power to something other than ourselves. Herbert Benson, M.D. however, in his work Timeless Healing, renamed this phenomenon “remembered wellness,” the natural ability of the human being to find a way of reconnecting to a state of well-being. James Gordon, M.D. also refers to numerous innate capacities to restore health – what Inayat Khan, and now we, define as our “natural tone and rhythm.”
Looking at the above definitions, examples and concepts, we can now reasonably define the essential aspects of spiritual healing:
It is healing methodology which makes use of innate but intangible, ethereal human qualities related to what we believe is vital in our lives, pervading and even animating us.
It uses this innate capacity – this ability to connect to an animating meaning in our life, giving it a sense of purpose – to re-establish our natural tone and rhythm.
These latter are defined as: tone – individual human beings’ general character and attitude, their unique shades of intensity of feeling, thoughts and actions, which create a characteristic, balanced atmosphere; and rhythm – the regular flow of an individual’s characteristic bodily functions, feelings, thoughts and actions.
This natural tone (balance) and rhythm (flow) together become the predominant state within ourselves and/or in relationships with others, thereby healing ourselves and others through entrainment.
It is this natural ability to find and maintain a dominant, healthy tone and rhythm which is the innate capacity to heal.
The ability to re-connect with this natural tone and rhythm is also called the capacity of the Divine Spirit to heal since the Divine Spirit, in this context, is found in our connection with that which is more powerful than our limited selves.
Above all, the possibility of others entraining to this more integrated and natural state is the reason the atmosphere of the healer is so magnetic and eventually healing. It is also why the healer must be scrupulously ethical in his or her dealings with others.
Recent research in a variety of fields has shown that the development of this connection to a power and meaning greater than oneself is a crucial component of health and wellness. This is spiritual healing, the mission of both the Sufi Healing Order and The Art of Healing Foundation.
Rev. Wadud Henry Cretella, M.D. Senior teacher, Sufi Healing Order and Sufi Order International November, 2014
Benson, Herbert M.D., Timeless Healing, Simon and Schuster, New York.
Gordon, James M.D., Manifesto for a New Medicine, Addison Wesley, New York, NY. 1996.
Khan, Inayat, Healing and the Mind World, Hunter House, Inc. USA. 1982.
Khan, Inayat, The Complete Sayings, Omega Publications, New Lebanon. NY. 2001.
Newberg, Andrew M.D., and Waldman, Mark Robert, How God Changes the Brain, Ballantine Books, N.Y. 2010.
Newberg, Andrew M.D., Eugene D’Aquili, M.D., and Vince Rause; Why God Won’t Go Away, Ballantine Books, N.Y. 2001.
Seligman, Martin Ph.D. Authentic Happiness, Free Press, New York, New York. 2002.
Vaillant, George, M.D., Spiritual Evolution, Broadway Books, NY. 2008.
Art of Healing Foundation: http://aohfound.org the one who posts on there.
Sufi Healing Order: sufihealingorder.org
Wahiddudin.net: searchable site for works of Sufi Master: Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan