Healing In Spirals And Layers

After I broke my ankle 2 months ago, I began trying to recover full mobility just like a steps on a ladder. My doctor had given me a timeframe and an order of things, and I set up a schedule to follow it. 

My ankle and foot hurt every day, and I thought that was just a necessary part of the process. I kept marching along to “get better faster.” 

I did my exercises 4 times daily for a prescribed amount of time, started adding time and weight in increments, and elevated my foot, and treated my ankle like a problem to be solved. And I was sure I could solve it

My body thought differently. 

I started having more pain and feeling a lot of discouragement about “how long it was taking.” I began to despair about getting “back to normal” and did even more researching about “faster healing from a broken ankle.” I wanted to just skip anything uncomfortable and get to the end result. 

I have an inner drill sergeant- it could also be described as one who pushes. This part is not bad, it’s just not as usefull in the spiral nature of healing. I’d learned a lot about emotional healing over the years, and didn’t have nearly as much experience with physical healing

I knew that when I tried to push myself emotionally, my emotions pushed back, and that way just slowed whatever healing was trying to happen. I’ve learned to dance with these variables throughout my life. 

For years, I’ve been writing about how true healing happens in spirals and layers, rather than like steps on a ladder. We always teach best what we most need to learn. 🙂 

I realize now more than ever, that I’ve consistently used my mind to try to overrule my body– and this healing experience with my ankle was the most noticeable time that it wasn’t “working.” 

In the past, I would pretend to listen to my body, to get what I wanted, but I wasn’t actually listening- I was telling- or even yelling. If there was an image of this- it was me yelling at my ankle- or other body part- “Hurry up! What’s taking you so long?” 

Enter my enlightened physical therapist, who I’d wisely hired, and she educated me about the power of healing from the inside out- instead of the outside in- and helped me to equip myself with new abilities to heal differently. 

She also said, “Let me armor you with some science. You have tendons and ligaments that have been injured. When you use a tendon or ligament and it has had enough, it simply closes a door and sends a signal to your brain to not use that part. You have been trying to pry open the doors.”

This changed everything. 

Here I am, contemplating life and healing in the garden. Let me know if you relate to pushing yourself, or what you know or have experienced about the spiral nature of healing– I’ll love to read and ponder. 

After expressing my frustration at the amount of time this was all taking, I said to my physical therapist, “How much aching is normal?” 

And she smiled gently and said, “How about no aching?” 

“Great!” I replied. 

And then I said, “I don’t believe that it’s possible to heal without aching.” 

I didn’t realize until then that I had such a deep belief in “no pain, no gain.” I’d done weight training before, and I knew about tearing muscle fibers in order to build new muscle. Why wasn’t this the same?

And of course it’s not the same to heal as it is to build muscle. 

She explained about deeply healing by actually listening to my body and really following that, instead of a clock or a schedule. This felt quite surprising and alarming to me. Having pushed myself and my body for so long, it felt like this “no aching body listening” method certainly couldn’t work as well- could it? 

Oh, it might feel better, but wouldn’t I just stay at some kind of plateau, being coddled into oblivion? I asked her every question that had been building up in my mind. 

We also talked about all the things I felt like I was missing out on until I was “all better.” David and I had gone on a fun spontaneous picnic a few days before, and a cascade of other fun activities to do flooded into my mind as I sat on our blanket in the sun. 

During this epic talk, she said many other inspiring things, including encouraging me to have more enriching experiences along the way instead of waiting, did her incredible lymphatic massage to reduce swelling, and used a cold laser to bring oxygen to the area, and sent me home. 

On our way home, we stopped at a magical lookout, and then went to the beach, and I sat on a bench in the sun, while David took a run on the sand. 

I realized then that the whole world is available to me during this whole healing process– just more in micromovements right now- which is also what I teach. 

There have been more picnics, mini expeditions in nature, and adventures around the house and in our neighborhood. 

I woke up the next morning and couldn’t tell which ankle had been injured- there was no swelling or aching at all! Then I started being able to drive the car pain free, and am experimenting with my walking practice with no clock or schedule. I’m learning to really listen to my body now and responding to it with love. There is more dancing. 

I’ve experienced little to no aching since that session a week ago and am healing faster than before- except now I’m not measuring and counting for speed- I’m measuring how my body feels- actually how my whole “vehicle” feels- mind, body and spirit. And it’s feeling peacefull and glad

Of course, this is all a big fat metaphor for healing of all kinds, and it’s changing how I work and think too. Working without the pusher part of me being so active is going to be interesting- I’ve long been challenged by the right ratios- for me- of structure and flow, and felt reliant on pushing to “get things done.” I’m looking closely at what I was actually getting done, and for what reasons. It’s all quite fascinating and I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it.




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  1. Valerie

    I injured my foot 2 years ago and was unable to walk or stand for more than a few minutes. I saw doctors, had x-rays, saw a podiatrist several times, and had an MRI. I was diagnosed with 6 problems, but given no treatment to heal.
    I turned to an acupuncturist and at one session she said “the body can heal itself”.
    I was gifted with a bracelet of rock quartz crystal for healing, and another stone to help “accept the healing process”.
    Those two ideas changed the way I’ve dealt with pain and immobility. My foot is healing – slowly, without the scheduled surgery that I cancelled.
    I’ve learned a lot of lessons about taking care of my body as well as the limitations others face with mobility issues. I’ve had a long lesson on patience, which does not come easily (if at all) to me.

  2. Beth Cooper

    One time I injured my elbow and I was so intent on healing that I did everything the physical therapist and doctor told me to do. Three times a day I did my exercises. In the end I couldn’t bend my elbow all the way and the doctor told me they would have to rebreak the facia and start all over again. He also said you’re a massage therapist go to your community and figure it out if you don’t want to do that. I stopped all the exercises. I went to a workshop Barbra Brennon was giving. She was a famous energy worker. She told me hold your elbow for 20 min in the morning and at night. Imagine your hands can sink through the skin into the bones and take a lot of essential fatty acids. I did that and I have full use of my arm today. Stillness has value ❤️

  3. Urska

    Beautifully written Sark, thank you so much for sharing your path of recovery (the pusher part of me is trembling with anxiety after reading this :).

  4. Mariah

    I’m so pleased you are getting better. Yes I agree about layers and spirals. I think I’ll go and do a painting of that inner drill Sargent trampling all over the roses you are meant to be taking the time to smell. I while ago I was soooooh busy and just absolutely had to get all these super important things finished. I was rushing to a meeting clip board and minute books and all the important paperwork tucked under my iPad. A big ol snake slithered aimlessly in front of me. I shot into the air, adrenaline pumping. I landed twisting my ankle in a rabbit hole. Sorry I forgot context – this took place at an agricultural college. Um I got the message but it was soooh painful. Then I discovered in the Mayan calendar I’m a red snake tribe. It was a red bellied black snake that was the messenger. Get well and thank you for your inspiration

  5. Ana Paula Huback

    Dear Sark, the body has so much wisdom to teach us. Three years ago I went to a yoga & meditation retreat in Thailand. After being infected with dengue fever, I ended up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from my waist down, and with no bladder function. I was by myself on an island in Southern Thailand, in a hospital that had no resources to diagnose my illness. I almost died… When I was able to come back to NY, I had to learn how to walk and go to the bathroom. It took me several months to recover, but I fully embraced the learning experience, and saw myself being transformed while I reconnected to my body in ways I never thought were possible. And then I wrote a book about it, to inspire people who go through personal challenges as well. I hope you learn a lot from this experience and come back ready to WALK into a new life 🙂

  6. miriam guillory

    I love this statement, “I’m practicing going slower to get where I want to go faster”. I broke a bone in my arm 6 months ago (tripped and fell) and I’m still working on healing and learning to move more slowly! I have had 12 weeks of Phys. Therapy (shared your healing story with my PT therapist) and 7 weeks of chiropractic care. Now I’ve learned that I have a partial tear in my rotator cuff (reason shoulder kept hurting ) and I’m back in PT. Being a “control freak”, it was difficult to let go and let my body heal. I did learn that I could survive a whole day without makeup, stay home without a bra, and relax with an ice pack. The best thing is being retired and having time to just “be”.

  7. J Lukin

    How does one get to the other side of a migraine. Can’t see or think. Excruciating pain.
    Can’t reach creative parts of myself in this state. Help!

  8. postcard muse

    oh Susan! I’ve had ME/CFS now for nearly 19 years off and on and the hardest part is learning to listen to my body! I STILL resist this!


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