I drove up to the church in the evening darkness and it came upon me quickly. A huge stone structure, first hiding in the trees, imposed from the hillside. The service was to be in the adjoining chapel and I was happy for the promise of a more intimate setting. But the chapel was bigger than many churches and it too had a high, sweeping vaulted ceiling. In the dim light I could make out a small circle of chairs. My heart seized and I wondered if I had made a mistake in coming here.
The phrase “healing service” had whispered in my ear and lured me here. I had never been to a healing service and I had no idea what it was about. Something in it suggested an intimacy and an intensity not normally part of a church service. That was the draw for me.
As I sat in the circle, preparations were made for the service. The leader warmed up at the piano which was part of the circle. Candles and more candles were lit and the room began to glow. A large crystal bowl of water reflected the light and the unknown. Slowly the circle filled.
We began with a hymn and then went around the circle telling why we were there. I had come out of curiosity. I had come to add to my repertoire of church experiences. But as the circle came round, it became clear that I had come to be healed.
The addition of school into my life has been difficult. School has been a succession of stressful events: papers and tests. Some I have handled well, some not so well. By “well” I do not mean the end product. I am referring to the process of writing the paper or studying for the test. Sometimes the process did not go well.
When it did not go well, I paid the price. Life became narrowly focused – focused on the project at hand. Everything and everyone else would fall by the wayside. I could feel the stress in my body. I felt like a balloon stretched to near breaking. If only I could release some air, some pressure. I worked with stress reduction techniques like hot baths and exercise. They brought only temporary relief.
Stress is just a sanitized word for fear. I do not like to think that I am fearful, so calling it stress puts the locus of the problem outside of me. I fool myself into believing that fear is not the problem. The problem is that thing out there that is stressing me. But the true locus of stress is internal and it is fear. I worked on my fear. I thought a lot about it, trying to figure out what was at its root. But that was just another dead end mind game.
My fear-full self sat with others in the circle. We did not talk about our problems. We did not talk about our fears. We did not talk about anything at all. Instead, we sang. We followed an enchanted woman who sat at the piano and drew us out of ourselves and into the circle. We sang of faith, wisdom, fear, trust, love, rage, despair, hope, sorrow, healing, freedom, joy and compassion. We sang of ourselves from our hearts.
Somehow that night I healed. But my healing was not a releasing event; it was a replacing event. During the service my heart opened – it opened to the world. The stress of school focus and self focus was replaced by a movement out into the world toward others.
The shift in focus diminished the impact of the fear on me. So maybe relieving stress does not mean doing less of the stressful activity, but means living and acting from a different place. A call to a loved one, a hug offered to a partner, or a note to a friend in need, may do more than any stress reduction plan.
It was hard to leave the candles and the glow of the circle that night. But leaving was made easier by knowing that something unneeded was to be left behind and something new had been gained. I left with the song of my heart.