Hold Space for a New Spring in Your Mind (Part 1)

About healing and wholeness

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(Rumi)

The more I read this poem, the more I remember it when I need it. Embracing all emotions is the start of every healing process. Talking about positive and negative emotions is a judgment and creates separation. Wholeness refers to inclusive healing, and that includes indeed every emotion. What I learned is creating my own balcony moment by being a detached observer of myself and my emotions. My key question on the balcony is: WITUTU? This acronym stands for: What Is The Universe Telling Us? Finding a meaning brings me to a deeper understanding. It makes sense and helps me to accept and even celebrate what is.

After the unexpected diagnosis of a brain tumour, people often asked me how long I was expected to be on sick-leave. My answer was: “I’m not on sick-leave. I changed my work. Curing and healing is now my new job, my main occupation.” Not sure if people always understood what I meant by this. Curing and healing is an active process of wholeness, not something happening to me, but what I made happening, together with many others. Connection is indeed part of this healing process.

First of all, I was grateful for the doctor endocrinologist who dared on my request to start a hormonal treatment instead of an emergent brain surgery which was not without risks. In four months the volume of the macroprolactinoma was shrunk with more than 70%. The radiologist who studied the second MRI scan after four months could not believe what he saw. He thought that it was the result after a brain surgery. No pressure on the optic nerve anymore and my left eye was normal as before.

The doctor endocrinologist warned me that long-term medication would be needed to maintain the tumour under control. Now, seven years later, I’m still on a minimum dose of medication and I feel fine and healthy, better than ever before. Actually there is about 10% of the original tumour volume in my head with zero activity. I consider the annual control more as to reassure the doctors. My friend the endocrinologist in Belgium used to say: “When the tumour has completely disappeared, you’ll be declared 100% cured.” I used to reply: “When I am completely healed, the tumour will disappear.”

Going for a second opinion is always recommended, especially when it is a doctor who can look at the bigger picture. Some classical medically qualified people call the alternative approach irresponsible, even when it refers to ancient wisdom. Maybe sometimes a correct answer also depends on the right question. The different perspective of my doctor in Brussels created a shift in my consciousness and started a healing process on a deeper level than the medical treatment: seeing, accepting, forgiving, restoring. I always considered as an extra support of the medical treatment, never just as an alternative.

If there is a destructive power in my system to make me ill, than there must be also a constructive power in myself to support the healing process. It’s about my mindset and attitude. I can feel very clearly what kind of thoughts in my head are creating connection and nourishing my system and what kind of thoughts are creating separation, fear and destruction. I was surprised about the impact of my inner power on the healing process. As if my positive mindset transformed the medical treatment in a turbo treatment.

I don’t always choose what happens to me, but yes, I always have the choice how I look at it. And I became very sensitive for the people arround me. Some contacts were very healing because these people were positive and encouraged me. Other people made me feel even sicker because of their negative, judging mentality and destructive energy. I became very selective about people with who I wanted to keep in touch. This was also part of my healing process that I controled, together with the doctors.

Love and trust based connection holds space for healing to wholeness. Fear based separation leads to disbalance and disease. It also refers to the healing impact of others around you. Research has shown that socially isolated cancer patients have until 60% more chance to die than patients with loving and caring people around them. Loniless is maybe the cancer number one of our society, despite all the new ways of what people call ‘connecting’ through the social media. And yet, also loniless starts within yourself. How connected do you feel with who you really are?

There was also a new realisation: that my inner source of healing was connected with a bigger flow of life. In moments of stillness and reflection, I felt deeply connected with something beyond words. It made me feel humble and grateful. I didn’t feel sad because I was ill, nothing of consolation and seeking for compensation. I could only feel a deep trust. And I started enjoying these moments of deep trust, several times a day. Silence outside became a mirror for silence inside. Loneliness became for me a synonym for a lack of silence and inner connection.

Conscious life and healthier food is obviously an ideal way to lose weight. It happened naturally and the result was remarkable. I saw a purer version of myself in the mirror and became disgusted with all artificial and toxic food. Another way to feel lighter in my body and being was the ‘tumour with humour’ approach. Self-humour was for me a good and powerful medicinal supplement. Taking myself less serious and other people more serious, it became a way of living with an almost opposite perspective of the years before my tumour.

Healing to wholeness is related to who we are as a human being. Since Darwin we know that we are 99% ape. That means that there is 1% left to celebrate being human, with our actual qualities and potential possibilities. Healing of the brain tumour was not just a physical process, it also included mind, heart and soul. And so it happened that I was experiencing from inside out the metaphor that I used to teach for years at school: about the carriage and the driver, the horses and the passenger.

The body represents the physical aspect of human existence and is the carriage. The driver is Mr. Mental, the mind and the horses are the emotions. They are the heart of our emotional well-being, monitored by the driver. In the carriage is a passenger and that is the soul, the spiritual aspect of our well-being. I used to add: don’t feel forced to believe in a soul. Keep your carriage empty if that is what you believe. Some people indeed live their whole life with a vague sense of inner emptiness, and they often fill it with stuff.

If there is a tumour in the body, it has an impact on the mind, heart and soul. If healing is an active and integral process, it can’t be a purely physical treatment to heal the body part. My emotional and mental healing work was massive and created space for also spiritual healing time. Is it surprising that the doctors spoke after four months of a mystery and a miracle? My personal healing process made me celebrating my 1% being human. Seven years later I’m still celebrating and expanding this precious 1%.

If 1% seems to little to you to make a difference, remember the words of the Dalai Lama and try to sleep with a mosquito in your room… What I litteraly have felt in my head is the metaphor of 100% darkness and 1% light. I only needed 1% of courage and the darkness was less dark. And the courage came from connection with my heart (in French: coeur  courage). And if people admired me for my courage, it felt for me like evident and almost having no other choice.

Another recommendation of my special doctor in Brussels was to contact Pierre Moorkens, the founder of the Institute of Neurocognitivism. Pierre is a such a lovable man, we met several times and had always heartwarming and touching moments of togetherness. In the basic training of the Institute, I learned how neurosciences can improve well being and performance in organisations. Less stress and more serenity is an extra impulse for more success. Prefrontality or adaptive intelligence is vital to face the challenges of accelerated changes in this time. And realising the potential of your primary personalities is the key to live your life in joy through fulfilment.

Easy to look back on it after all these years, but I remember how hard and dark it was while in the middle of this struggle to survive. One of the highlights in these dark times was an afternoon with Stephen Covey in Antwerp. His words kep on sounding like an echo in my mind: “Every human has four endowments: self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” On that day, I created a 4×4 framework to map the best version of myself.

Waking up and standing up from a failed relationship was a big and hard shift. Family constellation work made me realise more than before that the only lifelong relationships here on earth are parent-child relationships. It’s an illusion to think that you can break up these deepest-rooted relationships. An attempt to do so can result at its best in an uprooted existence. The power of your wings is in your roots. Ancesters and siblings are included in these systemic relationships.

All other relationships, including love relationships can be lifelong in the sense of: as long as there is life, or mabe better: as long as there is love. Apparently people can get into a life situation that becomes a dilemma: staying loyal and remaining faithful, either to the relationship or to themselve. When is a relationship good enough to stay together as a couple? What if connection with your partner obstructs an deeper inner connection with yourself?

The divorce was her choice, not mine. Of course I saw my part, my contribution and my responsibility for the relationship so far, but as victim of her choice, I felt desperate and in shock for days, weeks, months. The pain of the divorce was so heartbreaking and unbearable that it was blinding me for any perspective. Future was over and destiny had failed. I had failed. I only could see darkness and death at the end of my road. My children kept me alive, definitively. Also my tumour and… my inner child.

The contact with my mother has never been really satisfying. We have never been able to meet each other’s expectations, and there has always been a mutual frustration until she died 15 years ago. In the relationship with the mother of my children, my inner child was looking for the ideal mother that I’ve never had. With six children in a period of ten years, my first wife was all the time 100% mother, and that was exactly what my inner child was yearning for.

After six children, the love relationship was apparently too limiting for her to live her full desire as woman, as human being and with my inner child I was unconsciously unable to meet these needs. The growing awareness of this insight added a new dimension to my healing process. Embarrassing to hear in a therapy session that I had to learn to hunt for a woman as a real man. It called to me the image of hunted women, and I could not really appreciate it, being a healthy vegetarian.

Rather patiently waiting as a lonely fisherman and dreaming of the perfect fish on the hook. Some ‘friends’ encouraged me to enjoy women, even without any perspective of relationship. It all felt so awkward and so unreal. The idea of seducing a women created more separation than connection. I’ll spare you my fisherman details of this part of my healing process and in part 4 of this book, I’ll give away my secret about winning the lottery of love four years ago without playing with it.

Also my fatherhood related to my inner child. The more I could heal my hurt and rejected child in relation to my father, the more I could be the father I really wanted to be for my children. An important shift in my mind was that masculinity is not just synonym for agression and violence. In my childhood, my absent father was present in the physical punishments, ‘because I needed it’. I was such a bad and desobedient boy. I swore that I would never hit my children.

And see what happened: in moments of stress, I started hitting my children with words, until I saw one of my daughters liftings her arms to protect her head against the words that I was shouting. Even worse, in an uncontrolled moment, I lifted up the same daughter from her seat and I dislocated her arm. In the hospital she kept on repeating to the doctors that I was the one who had done this. Can you imagine how miserable I felt: emotionally abused as a child and now abusing my child. Another tumour in my system.

As part of my healing process, I wrote these words to each of my children on their Christmas card: ‘So nice to see you, to love you, to be touched by who you are, driven to live, by trial and error. You give me inspiration to grow, to heal, as patient, as father, as son, as man. My life theme of the previous year was: every day passes away, and how: that is my choice. My wish for you for next year is: keep on breathing and promising yourself: every day is a new beginning, that is your choice. I bless you as my child, as a beautiful human being. So proud and grateful that I can be your father, lifelong.’

In my childhood and adolescence I’ve lived for many years without experiencing any blessings. As a father and teacher I felt so blessed to bless my children and students, by saying that they are doing well, by wishing them all the best and by ensuring that it all goes well with them. These are the words I wrote for every child at the age of seven during a ritual with other children of the Steiner School. Six different ceremonies over a period of ten years, each time with the same sacred words.

I bless your eyes to keep on looking at all the beauty, to not close them for evil, to love other people with lights of love or pearls of tears. I bless your ears to listen to the silence, to hear words of consolation or admiration. I bless your mouth to speak sweet soft words, to make others happy with your radiant smile. I bless your hands to reach out an open hand rather than a fist, a caring and healing hand. I bless your feet to keep on going to each other, also when it is often again a first step. I bless your whole body to be a sign of joy, peace, faith, hope and love.

For the annual world teacher day in October, our former headteacher was happy to use my words on a nice card for all the colleagues: Thank you, teacher, for your continuous focus on learning and teaching to inspire. When you change, the student changes. When you grow, the student grows. When you laugh, the student laughs. When you are boring, the class is boring. When you are sleeping, the class is sleeping. When you wake up, the class wakes up. When you share, the school shares. When you play, the school plays. When you are exited, the school is excited. When you cherish, the world cherishes. When you dream, the world dreams. When you live, the world lives.

Can you feel the healing power of words? All these words originate in your head as thoughts. We can master our life by mastering our thoughts. If I keep on thinking how ill and bad I am with a tumour in my head, my whole system feels bad and ill, and I undermine every possible medical treatment for physical healing. When I keep on the good things in life, with joy and admiration, my whole system feels better and I empower every possible medical treatment.

Looking back on my personal transformation journey of the past years, I can see a growing balance of feminine Yin energy and masculine Yang energy in my ‘me the best I can be’. I started making a list of masculine and feminine values (see part 5) to focus on my flexibility: how to flex between masculine and feminine energy as the situation or context requires. Still aware of my father’s and mother’s presence on the background, but now more inspiring than limitating.

A big struggle for me was my upcoming 50th birthday in 2010. If I dared to make a balance of 50 years on personal, relational, professional and spiritual level, the result was so shameful that I wanted to avoid at all costs to have to celebrate my 50th birthday. But as I told you, my children kept me alive and in my mind I created a space of light where I could feel good, despite all the rest. And that lighted space kept on growing through my healing process. Until the point that I discoverd something to celebrate.

An extra obstacle (or was it extra inspiring?) was the school were I used to work. That schoolyear was the celebration of the 50th anniversary. Can you imagine? In every corner of every hallway on every floor a massive five and a massive zero. You could not miss them. On rare good days, they were smiling and winking at me. On most of the days the numbers were loudly shouting at me with their ugliest face… again a mirror of how I felt inside.