The Medicine in Our Wounds
Updated: Apr 21
Alice Walker has observed that “Healing begins where the wound was made.” This is not just a metaphorical and emotional truth, but a physiological one. In one of my past professional lives I practiced medicine as a PA in pediatric oncology, and I got to see first-hand how truly amazing bodies are. They are designed for self-repair. In the body, the margins of a wound are the literal sites of healing. The healing is in the wound; it grows out of the wound itself. This is the place where Life is active. The cells on the raw edges of a wound are generative, they multiply to build new tissue and that is what causes the wound to heal. It’s not hard to draw parallels to the collective healing process of social justice and transformation. It's from the sites of deepest societal wounding that the growing edges of transformation emerge. It is through the leadership of those most impacted by social ills that new possibilities for collective wholeness take shape.
One of the ways Spirit teaches me is by putting words in my mouth, to tell somebody else, that are exactly what I need to hear myself. Several years ago I was in a counseling session with a client and I heard myself say: “The sites of your wounding are your greatest medicine for the world.” And bless her, my client stopped me and made me repeat it and write it down. As we thought about it together, it rang true. It is our wounds, and the healing and transformational work that we choose to engage because of them, that shape us into the instruments of healing for others. Please notice my wording here -- we choose to engage -- because it is a choice. Wounding in-and-of-itself does not automatically confer wisdom or healing capacities. It’s how we engage our wounds, our suffering -- how we engage oppression and injustice -- that leads to the alchemy of new possibilities. Like the practice in Nichiren Buddhism of changing poison into medicine. So it’s fruitful to ask: what are your places of deepest suffering or wounding, your places of transformation and healing? What medicine did that healing journey instill in you? What gifts, learnings, compassion, understanding, perspective, insights, capacities, wisdom, strengths did you develop through your experience -- even if the process is still ongoing. What have you gleaned that you can place in service to others, especially in the midst of the crises we face? The shape this takes will be different for everybody. Some may be called to the streets and some to bedsides... some to be artists, poets, prophets... some to work beneath the surface in the innermost dimensions of spirit... some to shape policy... some to educate and raise consciousness... some to fight.... some to counsel and to heal. What are you called to? What is your sacred wound medicine? Our healing is never for ourselves alone. People in recovery from addiction often make the best counselors for those trying to get sober. Survivors of domestic violence who have done their own healing understand in ways others never can what it takes to get free. I have learned through the seasons of my own life, and over years of working with others, that ultimately, nothing is wasted. Every experience holds the precious seeds of possibility and growth. It’s useless to pass judgment based on the “snapshot” of any given moment because we never know how a story is going to end. It might be many years before the value becomes evident, and sometimes we may not get to see the beneficial impact in the life of another. But I have witnessed it enough times to have faith in the process.
There is medicine in our wounds.
This post is an excerpt from my book-in-progress.
[photo of new leaves growing from a dead tree stump by Jack Sooksan]