Our expectations can heal us, and they can harm us. Many people are afraid of losing, winning, playing and embracing much that life has to offer. Moving that to a new context -- acknowledging our own anticipation while maneuvering it into the zone of practice, trying, learning and waiting with expectancy of success -- is one of the grandest endeavors we can undertake. But to do that, we must at times be both the patient and the healer.
I'm reminded of an old Sufi story about time and pomegranates that may be helpful here:
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a young man who wanted to become a healer. He knew of a legendary healer under whom he wished to train. He therefore set out on a journey to find the man and learn the secrets of his ways.
After a long and trying period, he finally found the healer, and without hesitation went up to him. The healer saw that the boy was sincere and decided to take him on as a student.
After weeks of training, the two were sitting on the porch of the healer's modest home when a stranger approached from the distance. He was crumpled over and moved in a peculiar way.
The healer said to his student, "See that man coming up the path? What he needs is pomegranates."
The young man watched as his master listened to the patient tell an agonizing tale of woeful experiences with his affliction, including the struggle he'd gone through just to make the journey to their doorstep.
Finally, the healer put his hand on the patient's shoulder and spoke softly. "Yes, I can see you have suffered. I can see you are ready to leave your illness behind. My friend, I am certain that your disease is due to a shortage of a particular substance available in high concentrations in pomegranates. Eat three a day for the next week, and your health will return."
The patient left and within a couple of weeks returned, standing erect and carrying a basket of food for the healer and the blessings of a deeply grateful self and family.
A short time later, another stranger came down the road. He walked in the same peculiar way and was all bent over.
The student noticed the stranger and excitedly said, "What he needs is pomegranates!"
The healer nodded in agreement without really looking up. The student then pleaded to be allowed him to treat the patient. Finally the older man agreed, and the student went out to meet the patient and tell him of his cure.
Approaching the man, the student blurted out, "What you need is pomegranates!"
The stranger stopped. He looked at the student and said, "I came all this way for this nonsense? Pomegranates -- rubbish! Some healer you are." And he turned and went away.
This story deals with the expectations of all the parties involved. One aspect of it is that the student didn't understand the necessity of time and pomegranates. The afflicted person's assumption that he'd be able to describe his suffering and finally find relief was entirely overlooked by the student. The boy had taken only a mechanical learning from his teacher and assumed that pomegranates alone would cure. For that reason, both the student healer and the patient were disappointed in the end.
When you are both patient and healer, remember to be patient and allow time -- time to listen and time to distance and, finally, time to heal.
1. Taylor, E. 1992. Wellness: Just a State of Mind? Medical Lake, WA: R. K. Books.
Excerpted in part from I Believe: When What You Believe Matters!
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