Almost ten years after my healing journey began, the book The Seat of the Soul popped into my mind along with the desire to read it again. I found my fourteen-year-old copy of Gary Zukav’s book under a layer of dust in the garage. It was a miracle that I still had it, because my husband and I have a habit of quickly discarding anything that we are not using.
I first saw Mr. Zukav’s book at my mother’s birthday dinner in the late 1990s. My brother was excited to share it with her, and he became defensive when other family members rolled their eyes as it was passed around the table. My sister had given my mother a Christian prayer book, and the contrast between the books was obvious.
Both books were good choices for my mother. She was definitely conservative and traditional in her approach to life and religion. She grew up during World War II in a small Midwestern farming community that was predominately German and Catholic. Her father and three brothers were all bank presidents, and her other brother was a Roman Catholic priest. My mother continued these family traditions. She was an officer at our local bank and worked as the secretary to the president and the board of directors. She was also incredibly active in our church and was even named Woman of the Year for her Catholic diocese.
However, there was another side of my mother that only a few of us knew about and that she rarely talked about. She was also quite intuitive and progressive. For example, when I was an adult, she told me that her favorite book was The Road Less Traveled (by M. Scott Peck, MD) and that when she’d first read it in the 1970s, it had changed her. When she came across the Briggs-Meyers personality test in the early 1980s, she had the whole family take the survey.
When I was about ten, my mother dreamt about some familial turmoil one month before it happened. She said the issue was easier to deal with because she had foreseen the details. She was incredibly busy and productive, but when I was little, she also took about a half hour each afternoon to lie on her back in bed, and I remember staring at her as she lay there sleeping. When I was an adult, I told her about this memory, and she corrected me. She said she wasn’t sleeping; she was resting with a quiet mind. I now suspect that my mother knew a bit about meditation before it became a household word.
In her mid-sixties, my mother was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and for seven years I watched as she became progressively paralyzed. In her last year of life, I noticed The Seat of the Soul on the table beside the recliner where she spent most of her day. I asked her if she had read the book, and she confided that she had tried many times but couldn’t get through it, and now she was too fatigued to read. She encouraged me to take the book and to tell her what it was about.
I read the book on the plane ride home, and I didn’t understand much of the content. While I was reading, however, I had a revelation that I later shared with my mother. “Throughout your life you’ve been fully in control and very active, and you’ve had difficulty accepting care from others,” I told my mother. “It’s interesting that you developed an illness that has challenged all of this. Maybe it is helping you grow on a Soul level.”
This comment became reality when, as my mother was failing physically, I watched her grow in love, peace, and wisdom. Then, five years after her death, I also experienced how the challenge of illness can help one grow. A few months after debilitating pelvic pain pulled me out of my regular life, I re-read The Seat of the Soul and diligently highlighted passages. To be honest, though, the content still made little sense to me. But things were shifting, and in the depths of despair, a spiritual side of me that had been shut down began to open up, and I realized that I was more than my spinning mind and broken body. I knew that I had a spirit and that it would never die. This spiritual connection continued to grow and to provide guidance and sustenance when the healing journey was rough.
In an effort to extricate myself from the pelvic pain, I tried a plethora of treatments from Western medicine as well as complementary health approaches. I also worked with therapists, engaged in self-introspection, and wrote in my journal in an effort to uncover constricting patterns in my thinking and behavior that contributed to the ramp-up of my nervous system and the continuation of the pain. Four and a half years into this process, I uncovered the early-childhood trauma that was at the root of my condition, and I began to work to heal from this trauma on all levels.
I started writing at the very start of my illness because I thought my experiences as a patient and as a physical therapist may be useful for others in pain. But then I experienced that healing was more than just curing my body or becoming pain-free. As I moved through the pain, I also reconnected with my spirit and healed my mind, and I recognized the connections between all these aspects of my being. Eventually, I shared that part of my journey along with the physical measures I adopted in my memoir, Healing through Chronic Pain.
In the next four years after finishing that book, it became increasingly easier to see how my experiences were reflected simultaneously in my body, mind, and spirit, and I began to use this connection to heal on deeper levels. I also started to work with clients in a holistic way by combining structural and energy work with an awareness of the connection between the body, mind, and spirit. Through these experiences I began to appreciate that this healing process had key characteristics that are experienced by many. I gathered up observations and stories from both sides of the treatment table and shared them in my second book, Healing with Awareness.
It was right after I finished the rough draft of that book that the idea to read The Seat of the Soul popped into my mind, and I dug it out of the garage. This time, I could relate to most of its content. In his book, Gary Zukav describes the experience of moving from a five-sensory being to a multi-sensory being. To my surprise, his descriptions of multi-sensory perceptions matched many of the transcendent experiences that had begun for me in the depths of despair and had gradually developed over ten years of healing.
Reading Mr. Zukav’s book validated my perceptions and helped me know that I am not alone in my “out there” experiences. I came to appreciate that when we hear about the esoteric and spiritual experiences of others, it helps us to recognize similar happenings in our lives and to consider them meaningful. So I gathered up my transcendent experiences and the experiences of many others into this book, Healing with Spirit. For all of you peeking with curiosity around the borders of five-sensory life, I hope this book helps you feel less alone, too.