‘Unless All of Us Heal, None of Us Will Heal’
By Natalie Reid
[Note: The following article appeared in the November/December, 1996 (Volume 12, No. 6) issue of Venture Inward.]
Merle and Peter Maraun of Queensland, Australia, sold their home last year and were moving. As they were packing, the September/October Venture Inward arrived, and Peter started to read it. As soon as he saw the article calling for psoriasis patients for a “Temple Beautiful-type treatment/research program” in Virginia Beach, he and Merle – who had suffered from psoriasis for over 40 years – were as good as registered.
The psoriasis conference, sponsored jointly by the A.R.E. and the Meridian Institute, began at a rented beach house in November 1995 with nine participants and one “support person,” Peter. All of them felt that their participation was no accident.
From the person who “knew” that her boss wouldn’t let her leave work and didn’t have the money to those who had never participated in group programs, everyone had a story verging from the coincidental to the nearly miraculous. By the end of the second session last March, however, the individual stories – like the individual people – had become part of a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. I am one of those 10 people, and this is our story:
We feel bound by an almost inexplicable sense of purpose, the differences in our ages, life experiences, and personalities notwithstanding. As Pam Billicky of Willoughby, Ohio says, “I feel very strongly that there was divine order in our coming together.” Betty Appleby of West Chester, Pennsylvania, observed that “there seemed to be an invisible hand which was doing the arranging – call it by whatever name you wish.”
Yet our differences are striking: A 64-year gap separates the oldest from the youngest. We come from as near as Virginia Beach to as far as Australia. Some of us have never been to college, while two are writing graduate theses – and yet another is in middle school. Whether retired or still working, none of the adults share the same line of work. Even in terms of the psoriasis we are different, some arriving covered from head to toe with angry scales, others with only small patches.
How then could we become a group with a purpose that we believe extends beyond ourselves and the A.R.E.? The answer may lie in our common commitment to learning about and healing ourselves so that we might help others. That very commitment allowed us, for example, to stick to what for some was a radical change in diet – “What, no potatoes!?” As Deborah puts it, “This group is bringing into perspective the spiritual journey of us as a group and as individuals and is the opening of a door which no other organization could have opened. So indeed it is by grace begun.”
The bond we created transcended category as we looked for patterns that might underlie our common diseases. When chiropractor Carl Nelson pointed out the constant activation of our sympathetic nervous systems (the “fightor-flight response”) to the near exclusion of the para-sympathetic system (the “relaxation response”), our after-hours group discussions uncovered some common childhood experiences that clearly could have caused what Dr. Nelson called “hypervigilance.” That psoriatics are constantly “on alert” fits with the Cayce readings, which often referred to “right thinking” as essential to the elimination of psoriasis.
Among other things, therefore, we had to learn to relax. Over the 12 days of the November conference, as we meditated and talked, we grew in trust. The meditations came with the daily schedule. But the late-night meetings – for gathering personal information and working out differences – were our spontaneous creation.
Gradually, our differently constructed but commonly held protective shells began to soften. The talkers began to listen more; the shy, to find voices; the loners, to participate; the controllers, to let the process unfold. Like a cosmic parent, the group we created enfolded us in its arms and gave us a safe place to grow.
One example is Galen Deming, then only 12, who had come to the conference reluctantly. But before the end of the first week, he had moved into the beach house with us, engaging us as individuals and participating with keen insight in morning dream interpretation sessions. “I think it’s important in life,” he told us, “for everyone to come to a place like this and make new friends.” Given the age differences, he could have seen us as surrogate parents or extended family – but “friends” is exactly what he meant.
Deborah had a personal revelation: that we should all pray for one another until the March meeting. As she shared her thoughts during dinner, out popped the statement that has since become our watchword: “Unless we all heal, none of us will heal.”
The healing has begun – both the emotional and the physical. The emotional healing often showed itself in incidents of spontaneous, inexplicable tears. Mine occurred while we were drawing something in conflict in our lives and placing the drawing into a kaleidoscope. As I looked into the light and saw the symmetry, I burst into tears. Another person started crying openly during group meditation again for “no reason” – and still another while the group walked a labyrinth. Many reported having this tearful experience during hands-on healing with the Glad Helpers Prayer Healing Group at the A.R.E. They cried, some said, from the sheer force of the spirituality.
As for the physical, those with severe cases were cautioned that the psoriasis might get worse before it got better and might heal “from the top down.” But just as we have different degrees of psoriasis, we have different styles of healing.
Galen had the insight that since a “leaky gut” is often connected with psoriasis, we would start “clearing” on the abdomen, with the scales on the extremities the last to go. For both him and another person, that’s exactly what happened. First, their psoriasis got worse. Then it started clearing on the stomach, and the healing spread outward.
Another began clearing “from the bottom up.” Others reported clearing “repeatedly”; every time stress brought the psoriasis back, sticking to the diet or to the meditation practice cleared it yet again. Some developed psoriasis in places they’d never had it before – but then most of those lesions disappeared, along with many of the old ones.
We have discovered individual triggers and cures. One person stays clear as long as she avoids beets. Another can heal herself by sheer will. Others have to maintain the acid /alkaline balance that Cayce frequently mentioned in his readings. Some say stress is their main culprit, some say diet, and some say both. We see again why Edgar Cayce gave readings for individuals rather than for diseases.
One of the most dramatic reports comes from Betty, whose psoriasis disappeared entirely within a short time of her return home. When her son died suddenly three days before Christmas, she gave herself over to the twin processes of grieving and of taking care of herself, letting the diet fall by the wayside for lack of energy. Her emotional healing is still continuing. But her spiritual healing is intact – and the psoriasis has never returned.
Our 76-year-old Australian belle, Merle, also healed almost completely, after suffering from “head-to-toe” psoriasis. Her one flare-up came four to six weeks after she had eaten oysters, but disappeared soon thereafter.
In my case, the psoriasis healed dramatically during the November meeting. New lesions later appeared, then gradually disappeared. Allergy prevents me from using some of the best Cayce remedies, such as saffron tea, but the rest of the diet and meditation program keeps me improving.
As of this writing, four people have healed completely. Although those with the most complex cases involving greater degrees of “leaky gut” and larger areas of scaling are taking longer to heal, all of us are definitely healing.
Because most of us have been or still are caretakers of others, the unusual centrality of our needs and welfare gave us not only the physical but the spiritual freedom to begin healing. Everything, from meals to art therapy, was organized in advance.
Gabriela Drinovan cooked wonderful meals for us at the beach house, and she and Kieth Vonder0he, our tireless facilitator and caretaker, did all the shopping – often with lists full of separate requests. We felt blessed by the safe environment that the A.R.E. provided. For some of us, it was the first safe haven in our lives.
Kieth lived with us, organized us, and did everything from making sure that those with food allergies were accommodated to getting us to our activities on time. He is a natural listener and mediator, and we felt his presence as a blessing. No matter how many hats he had to wear he wore them well.
Similarly all the professionals who worked with us were more than superb; they were dedicated, receptive, and open. As Pam puts it, “Everything we brought to them they took as gifts.”
Had any organization other than the A.R.E. sponsored this program, most of us would probably not have participated. As Pat Blair Funk of Ashland, Virginia, says, “Everyone having a connection with the A.R.E. made a big difference in the make-up of the group and was important in my wanting to attend. While ‘leaky gut’ is at the root physiologically, and therefore the need for a special diet, I believe that feeding the injured spirit, as we did and do for each other, and as did all the beautiful souls who helped on the project, is just as much a part of the healing.”
Attending the conference helped us cope differently with – and feel differently about – our psoriasis. When we were saying our first goodbyes in November, in a group embrace, Mary Miller said, “Thank You, Lord, for this psoriasis.” She went on to express her gratitude that her body chooses to exit its toxins through her skin, causing surface distress, rather than lodging them in an internal organ and causing life-threatening disease. Her heartfelt prayer struck everyone with its truth.
Each expression of gratitude moves all of us deeply. From Pam: “The conference made me realize that the scales on my skin do not lessen my beauty.” Betty says, “I had always felt so alone before.” Adds Pat: “I never once during the 12 days thought of us separately as a group of psoriatics but as a group of beautiful, sensitive, individual souls.”
Interestingly, while we were originally encouraged to bring a support partner, most of us came alone. As Pam says: “We were forced to communicate with each other more when feelings and discomfort came up instead of withdrawing to a familiar support source. We had to create our own safety and support among the group.” (One person had a unique “intermediate” experience – that of having her local spouse attend some activities but not others. The balance worked very well for her.)
Peter’s presence – he was the lone adult male – added “an element of humor, caring, and acceptance,” said Pat. Peter, who by his own admission has the self-confidence to handle anything, says simply, “By March I believe we had all bonded.” And we had.
Between November and March, many of us went through personal upheavals: deaths and terminal illness in our families, marital separations, personality changes. Phone lines hummed and letters were exchanged as we spiritually nourished one another with love, compassion, and support. Most of us agree that at moments when sficking to the diet seemed just too much work, we would think “but I promised the group” – and the moment would pass.
Meanwhile, we told Kieth that we wanted fewer scheduled activities for the March session and lots of time to talk. And by March, more than barriers had disappeared: our faces actually looked different. “You look softer” was repeated so often that we began to believe it.
For most of us, the conference was a wake-up call for changing the direction of our lives. Peter and Merle, for example, are starting an Edgar Cayce healing center for psoriasis in Queensland. Although we initially came to the conference expecting help with psoriasis (which we indeed received), we returned this October knowing that we are being transformed.
We also agree that even though we can put into words the nature of our personal transformations, the deeper meanings elude us. Says Galen: “I learned how to deal with people better – but it’s not really explainable.” Others cite being “freer in speaking of my knowledge of spiritual truths” or the increased ability “to apply subtle, fragile discernment more frequently in my choices.” But, almost to a person, the most common response to the question of change echoed what one person said most succinctly: “I have changed but cannot say how.”
Perhaps Pat says it best for everyone: “The experience at Virginia Beach has not only helped me diligently adhere to the healing program, but has helped me handle other difficulties better. It is almost impossible for me to say how I have experienced the spiritual and emotional support from the group …. I can only say that it has stayed with me and helped sustain me.”
It surprises none of us that the Edgar Cayce readings show the physical, mental, and spiritual as entwined. Perhaps the deepest of the group realizations was that as we heal the flaws or wounds – in the spiritual and emotional body, we almost automatically heal the physical. We call the healing by different names. One says that she is a stronger person, another that she copes better on certain levels, a third that he is no longer frightened by what used to frighten him – and we heal.
During our second session, we agreed unanimously that we needed a third, even though Merle and Peter would be present only in spirit. We feel that this meeting will yield the necessary data and insights for completing our goal: to be of service not only to every psoriatic but also to the A.R.E. and the Meridian Institute.
Because we believe that our being the first of the A.R.E. research groups is no accident, we are committed to fully examining our lives and our souls in the interests of others. We see this commitment as an honor and a privilege. (Pam Billicky of Willoughby, Ohio; Mary Miller of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Natalie Reid of Southboro, Massachusetts, offer ourselves as contact people for anyone with psoriasis.)
We in this psoriasis group have all been givers – rarely askers, almost never takers. Although giving is blessed, having difficulty with receiving, or with believing that one has a right to even ask, interrupts the natural flow of life’s physical and spiritual energies. As a result of the psoriasis conference, we are all learning trust – in self and of others – at the deepest of levels. Because all of us are healing, all of us will heal.