Healing is more than a physical experience. Genuine restoration unveils the self and awakens the seeker. It requires openness, enduring courage, and honest inquiry into the self, and, ultimately, total surrender. The Healing Curve chronicles such a journey. On one level, it is a book about the ardent quest for true and lasting restoration from scoliosis. The story begins in the physical, leading us across the United States, Brazil, New Zealand, and Europe . . . encountering healers, exploringcathedrals, and meditating in gas stations. But the journey often ventures inward, offering up powerful truths about our potential as human beings and how we can access this potential to create joyful and abundant lives. With each experience the seeker shares her spiritual insights as she realizes her own limitations and strives for awareness and deeper understanding of herself and her place in the world.
Sara Chetkin graduated from Skidmore College in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. In 2007 she earned a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture. She is a Rohun therapist and an Ordained Minister with the Church of Wisdom, Delphi University. She lives in New York with her husband, Brecht, and their son, Adrian.
I'd like to thank my husband and my mother for their endless support and willingness to read and re-read every chapter. Bob, my publisher, thank you for your guidance and encouragment in helping me transform what was an academic treatise into a truly personal and revealing story. I'd like to give you a very special thank you to Papa; you changed everything. I know you are still with me. And, of course, to all of the healers and teachers I have had the privilege to know, thank you so much. I would not be who I am today without you.
1. Curvature Revealed
2. A Note on Humility
3. Going Within
4. Personal Responsibility
5. Mr. Gedes/Psychic Surgery
6. Hohepa/Maori Healing
10. Trusting the Incorruptible Power of Stillness
11. Receptivity and Honoring the Feminine: The Power of the Void
About the Author
Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, and depending on the severity of the curve, certain deformities can appear. You've seen elderly people with humped backs. They most likely have scoliosis. My grandmother had it. I have it. Some of the key features are pretty easy to observe. One shoulder is often higher than the other, maybe your head sits a little askew on your neck, one shoulder blade rises up while the other flattens against your back, and your hips are a bit off kilter. These deformities can affect organ functioning, so doctors usually insist on surgery. They mention scary thins like paralysis or problems bearing children. Actually, I'm assuming this is what they do. I've never been to a doctor about my back. Seventeen years ago, when an X-ray revealed a severe curvature in my spine, I vowed to myself that this would in no way change my life. I was fifteen, and I liked my life the way it was. This was bad news, sure, but it wasn't the end of the world. I had my path, and I would continue to read it, scoliosis or no scoliosis.
With my new resolve firmly in place, I fiercely rejected any tendency of those close to me to treat me differently. I reacted arrogantly to the sorrowful looks of well-meaning practitioners. When my back hurt, I would push harder, never giving myself a rest. I never mentioned back pain. I was absolutely not going to see myself as ill or deformed. There was nothing wrong with me. I was normal. Isn't it funny, though, how so much of what we try to avoid often comes to pass, despite our greatest efforts. I tried my best to dodge stigma because I didn't want to define myself by my condition, but in my obsession with not being defined by scoliosis, I unwittingly created an entirelife that is almost solely defined by it.
I have spent an embarrassing amount of time since the age of fifteen considering my back. Either it feels tight or it hurts or I'm feeling guilty that I haven't done yoga yet or that I skipped my Qi Gong practice that morning. Or it feels great and I'm frantically trying to figure out what I did differently to bring about that change. When I go to the grocery store, I choose foods that will keep me as healthy as possible. I don't do this because I want to be healthy for the sake of being healthy. I do it because I want to make sure my body is as balanced and healthy as possible so that it can live with the strain of an already imbalanced spine.
I take herbal baths to ease my back. I buy good mattresses to support my back. I only wear certain clothing to hide the deformity in my back. When my family goes on vacation, it's often to some remote locale to visit a healer who might help my back. Even my spiritual life is wholly directed and supported by this concern for my back. I'm either praying for healing, asking for guidance about how to heal, meditating on the karmic nature of my illness or doing therapy to learn more about how I have created this illness as a learning experience.
When I finally realized how much of my life I was devoting to recovery from scoliosis, I felt terribly cheated. I had wasted my life constantly telling myself that I would eventually be healed, and then I could really live. What I didn't understand was that I had cheated myself. My life was slipping by me, and I was entirely disconnected from it. I was lost in fear and determination, and I couldn't find my way out. I was determined to heal my back, but I was totally at a loss about the rest of my life. I even chose to be an acupuncturist because I wanted to learn about the possibilities of healing from the eastern perspective. It started to look like if I ever did heal my back, I would have nothing left to live for. Scoliosis had propelled my life forward. It was the motivating factor in almost every endeavor.
I saw this as a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I had to wonder, since nothing seemed to motivate me like scoliosis did, what would I have been without it? I once read that some people have illnesses because without them they would be in danger of living shallow and insignificant lives. At the same time, I thought this was a bit harsh. However, once I realized how many things I had done because of this disease, I started thinking maybe the author was right.
I had everything I wanted growing up. My parents ran a successful business and had real estate holdings that provided significant additional income. We had two houses and an apartment in Manhattan. As a teenager, I attended a wonderful boarding school in Connecticuit that I loved. It was an idyllic town, situated on the town green with large trees and lovely houses. In short, it was exactly what you would expect from a New England boarding school for girls. For me, it was perfect. In fact, my parents love to tell the story about the day I went for my interview. We spent the day touring the school, meeting students, and talking to teachers. Everything seemed like a dream to me.
As I walked the hallways I thought about the stories my sister had told me about her time there. I had grown up on those stories, and here I was, about to go through my own experience. As we left the main building I felt exhilarated, anticipating the time I would return; and as we headed for the car I said, "Well, you just lost a daughter for four years."
At that point, I didn't have any problems with my back. We didn't find out that I had scoliosis until a year later. To me, my life was unfolding like a fairytale. Life was wonderful and everything was within reach. On top of that, unlike the stories you hear about many wealthy families, my parents were deeply appreciative of what we had, and they made sure that I understood how fortunate we were. They were loving, wise, and spiritual, and I received a good education at home.
However, I still wonder, in spite of my upbringing, if I had been perfectly wealthy, would my life have gone in another direction? Maybe I would never have explored my spirituality and healing so deeply. I might not have been so interested in half the things I've learned if I hadn't felt the pressing need to explore the possibilites for true healing. This imbalance in my spine has given my life so much purpose. I have searched and searched and searched for meaning. I have delved deeply into myself to understand who I am and what I am. I have met incredible teachers and healers. I have traveled all over the world from the top of Mt. Sinai to the lowlands of New Zealand, all in search of healing and deeper understanding. It has been an amazing journey. I have learned so much, and I believe it never would have happened if it weren't for a rather unruly spine that just didn't want to cooperate.
I call this experience the healing curve because the quest for healing has been a lifelong learning experience. I started as a teenager, desperately searching for ways to forget about my condition, but in the process of ignoring my spine, I also ignored myself. I didn't know who I was or what I wanted. Of course, this affected my relationships, but mostly it was in my relationship to myself that was ruined. I struggled against my body and everything it was trying to tell me. I shut off my emotions because there was so much fear in me and I just didn't kbow how to cope with it. I didn't give myself a chance to pursue any of the things I truly cared about. Holding back my emotions translated into holding myself back. I had all of these unfulfilled dreams. Things I was dying to do, but didn't think I could because of my condition. I felt rooted to the spot. Freedom seemed like an impossible achievement for me, and I wanted so badly to feel free. Then, having nowhere else to turn, I started searching within myself. I started looking to my own resources. How could I create a better, fuller life, even with scoliosis as a part of it? I had come to accept the idea that I may never fully heal my back. Was I to live my life as a victim? Feeling unfulfilled until my last say? I didn't want to look back on my life with regret. I wanted to learn how to embrace everything, the good and the bad. I wanted to learn how to be happy regardless of the circumstances.
Every experience, even the experience of illness, is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of ourselves and of our world. This increased understanding gives increased peace of mind and creates the possibility for true and lasting healing. We have always have the choice to complain about our circumstances, but isn't it more productive to understand how we contribute to them? I think so, but sometimes the answers to that type of question shake the very foundation of our beliefs, and so we don't dare to ask them. This type of question encourages you to know yourself. This type of question demands honesty and self-revelation. The days are filled with crossroads, moments when we can choose to come back to ourselves, to our deepest spiritual longings. At these crossroads we are presented with the choice to develop a truthful relationship to the self or to continue seeking distractions in the outer world.
When I finally had the courage to choose a truthful relationship with myself, I saw just how profodund and well-designed this life is. I started the journey seeking a teacher, someone who could tell me what to do and how to reach my goals--I was not experienced enough to think for myself--but as I continued going to class after class and seeking truth in the experiences of others, I started to realize this could only take me so far. The desire to know myself grew stronger and stronger until seeking a teacher seemed redundant. I was already my best teacher. The answers that meant the most to me came from within because understanding life starts with understanding self. You are life, living and breathing. You are the meaning of your life. Find out what you are truly made of, and then you will see your health and everything else about you start to change.