The Cycle of Healing

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Overview of the cycle

Anyone who works long enough and closely enough with the old ways of Nature will find out that people, not always but often, have the capacity to get better from just about anything. That healing, marvellously enough, just happens, not because we make it happen, because it can happen.

Except for when it doesn't, and it has been a life-long enquiry for this writer, and many others, to understand what gets in the way of that vital, self-healing process.

What follows is the ongoing result of that enquiry and it is as simple to understand as it is powerful when put into practice. What can be seen is that when a person becomes sick, but doesn't self-heal in a timely fashion, that there is always a key blockage in one or more areas of what can be called a 'healing cycle'

We are all continually moving back and forth through this cycle in our everyday lives. It is only when one or more of the phases becomes stuck or out of balance with the others that problems occur that do not self-resolve. In other words, healing naturally occurs when we remove what was obstructing it. The main phases of the cycle are cleansing, activation, nourishment & relaxation; summarised as follows:


Cleansing is obviously physical in the sense of the vital elimination of wastes and getting the body clean. It also encompasses feelings, and the mind, with respect to the process of working through things that have happened in order to make sense of them or let them go.


Activation is switching on and getting going. It is engaging with work or study. Physically, it is getting our bodies and our blood moving. Mentally, it is getting 'up' and becoming functional. Life is movement and activation is the embodiment of that life-force; it quests for more life, more energy, more!


Nourishment includes the essential proCesses of taking in air, food and water. It includes our most fundamental needs and a lack of any of it shows our vulnerability and utter dependence on our environment to survive. Nourishment also extends to our need for love, meaning and connection.


Relaxation is naturally centred around the quality and quantity of our sleep but it also includes how we release tension and simply enjoy being without doing, It is that time and those activities that don't require us to be 'up' but rather allow us to switch off, relax, and be comfortably, happily 'down'.

Relaxation is the essential balancing force to activation just as cleansing is to nourishment.

Where do you begin?

Western, pharmaceutical medicine is known as an 'allopathic system'; which means the focal point is to treat and relieve symptoms. This is understandably very popular, because no-one wants to suffer and there are many potent drugs that can quickly and effectively remove unpleasant symptoms.

The issue arises when there is a chronic, underlying problem that is not being addressed. In this case, removing symptoms but not paying attention to the cause of them can lead to rather bad places in the long run.

One of the most important, but hardest, things to understand is that symptoms are the body's way of talking to us and showing us what's wrong. Especially when they keep happening, it is vital to not just try to make them go away but to carefully listen to what they are trying to tell us. In most cases, they are showing us exactly what it is that is obstructing the self-healing cycle.

When we give attention to where it is needed, the body will respond heart-warmingly well and quickly too. Symptoms dissolve or they change, in which case they are usually showing us where the attention needs to go next.

Our body is a part of Nature as much as anything else in the Universe. It unconditionally wants us to live long, be happy, and to be in peace and harmony. Even when we are sick and suffering it is not trying to hurt us, we would be wise to not try to shut it up but rather listen to it openly and compassionately, because it is trying to show us the way to be well.


Cleansing is not for everyone and it must not be entered into when the system is not ready for it or the primary attention needs to go somewhere else first. That said, more than any of the others, it is the phase of the healing cycle that most often needs help at the beginning and removing the obstacles in this area has been seen to be nothing short of transformative for a great many people.

How you typically see that a person primarily needs help with cleansing are from symptoms of congestion, encumbrance and toxicity. An experienced holistic practitioner can see or feel characteristic signs on the tongue and in the pulse to get the message but the skin, the bowel, the kidneys, the lungs and the liver are all constantly at work to keep us clean and any of them may 'talk' in the way of diverse symptoms to show that they are struggling under a burden of excess wastes.

Some key points to know in this area are that cleansing herbs are some of the most important remedies in every tradition of every culture around the world and you should most certainly use them wisely and well when this is where the help needs to go. Nothing will help faster or better than the right herbs. Likewise, you must eat a cleansing diet for as long as needed, which may well only be a few weeks; nothing in the scheme of a life and for the reward of good health again. More about food and this important subject in general here


To better understand the concept of 'activation' with an analogy, imagine a car that has become stuck in the mud, some initial cleansing may be required to clear out the mess, but activation is turning the engine back on and getting the wheels moving again.

Any kind of exercise, training or other kind of intentional effort puts energy into this phase of the healing cycle. Likewise, there are many potent herbs that can help turn things back on, for example, by re-activating digestion, feeding immunity, stimulating circulation, nudging hormones, or acting on the nervous system. Knowing which ones to use and for how long is, first and foremost, a matter of carefully listening to the signs and symptoms of the body to hear what it is trying to tell us!

Activation with herbs or other interventions is rarely required in the early stages of any kind of illness because, in most cases, the body activates itself, knowing exactly what's required, for example, to fight off an infection, or resolve an injury.

Problems occur when the condition becomes chronic and an initially robust response to the illness becomes muted by fatigue or dialled down by drugs. Symptoms linger, not getting worse, not getting better. The sense of things when activation is going to be required is of being 'stuck', and an abiding sense of persistent fatigue is usually the primary symptom.

However, if you try to stimulate energy when the need to cleanse, rest or nourish comes first, you might get a temporary improvement only to find things soon get even worse than before you began!

Great care and intelligence is needed to know when to work with activation or when it needs to wait a little while. Healing is not an event, it is a journey, a person who has become stuck must be prepared to be patient to move forwards in the right way to regain the most precious possession they will ever have; their health.


Nourishment is the easiest phase of the healing cycle to understand and giving it at least some attention at some point is nearly always a key part of getting well.

It's also usually not too hard to tell when it's the area that needs the initial, primary attention. People feel emptied out, depleted, vulnerable and over-sensitive when not getting enough nourishment. Their body shows signs of depletion when it is not getting the nourishment it needs; the hair, nails and skin show it, the muscles, bones and joints feel it.

A number of tonic herbs that have the highest possible regard in all the old traditions of medicine work particularly well in the nourishment phase. Herbs that nourish the heart, build the blood, support hormones, strengthen the tissues. Their patient, careful use has seen many people come back to life and health from the lowest of rock-bottom points in their lives.

Good food is obviously an essential core to the nourishment phase but, as the saying goes 'one man's meat is another man's poison'. When illness has dug itself in and the person has lost their appetite or have not been eating well, rather than try to force themselves into a preconceived notion of a healthy diet, they may be best to honestly tune into their heart and their gut and ask themselves a vital question; 'what do you really want to eat?' The answer may be as surprising as the realisation that there really and truly is an intelligent force that lives within our flesh that will answer such an honest enquiry. The heart, and the body, knows what it wants.

Further to this, when the nourishment phase has become badly out of balance, it can be seen that oftentimes a deep change of mindset is required, one that moves a person out of always putting everyone else first and becoming ok with recognising and meeting their own needs.


Next to cleansing, the relaxation phase of the healing cycle is the most frequent area that a person needs to give their attention to first. It is also the number one area that people miss when it most needs the help and the difference to a healing process when it is or isn't attended to can be the entire success of failure of what happens next.

It would be a much simpler matter to know when this was the key area if such an obvious symptom as tiredness was what manifested when a person just needed relaxation but deep fatigue can equally be caused by insufficient nourishment, or a lack of activation. Unfortunately, in many cases, once a person has neglected their needs for rest for long enough they tend to become both tired and wired.

There are diverse disturbing symptoms that can show up when the 'inner-spring' becomes wound too tight. For example, functional imbalances in the bowel or bladder, heart irregularities, cramps, aches and pains, or adverse immune reactions. In most cases, when these imbalances become chronic, they are diagnosed with a medical label, drugs are given to reduce the symptoms so the person can keep going to work and pay their taxes while they gradually keep getting worse.

Particularly because, in the early stages of treatment, they will usually feel even more tired than they did before, a person who has been remaining functional by staying wired can put up a lot of resistance to finally letting go. When relaxation is the key priority for healing, an understanding and an acceptance of the need for rest is absolutely essential, as is some degree of trust that the fatigue will pass, the illness will lift, and the health will return.

Certain potent herbs that help release tension from the body are invaluable in this phase of the healing cycle. It could even be said that such herbs simply must be used or it is unlikely that a person will get there by themselves. Letting go into rest and relaxation is deep work in any case, even with the help of the healing herbs, the essence of the mindset required is summarised in a brief poem here

This chart can be seen more clearly in the PDF found here

Spinning the cycle

It is not just symptom-suppressing drugs that have the potential to baffle and waylay the self-repairing intelligence. Many programs and 'protocols' in the natural health world are designed around an expectation that certain products will help certain problems but this can just create further obstructions if it is not what the body truly needs.

For example, all too often it has been seen how people who actually need to cleanse are taking large amounts of supplements as if a lack of nourishment was their key concern. Or vice versa, people too long on cleansing programs that are too strict when their signs and symptoms are showing they need nourishment, not cleansing!

Equally, on the other side of the cycle, some people who have been unwell are caught in an endless river of rest and inactivity when it is time for them to get some help to clamber up the shore and start getting active again. Or vice versa, a person flogging their increasingly tiring organism with over-activity when all the signs and symptoms show how it is simply crying out for rest!

In the great journey of healing, all that needs to be known right now is where to start. What are the best, first steps to start becoming well? This is where knowledge and understanding of the healing cycle gives great insight. Reading the map of the body, listening to what is trying to say. then making the right beginning releases the self-healing process from what was obstructing it. There is often a sense of a palpable 'thank-you' from the body that is at last getting the help that it needed to get well.

Let Nature take the first step with some safe, strong herbs that will support what the body needs to do but has been failing to achieve by itself. Secondly, see what stage of the healing cycle needs attention and be kind with the care of a cleansing or a nourishing diet, or exercise or rest, whatever it is showing it most needs, just start there, don't try to do everything at once, just take the right first steps.

Once those right steps are taken, things are always seen to change, often rapidly. It is notable how then the symptoms simply vanish but sometimes the cycle of healing moves from one phase to the next, in either direction, as shown in the chart above. Such changes are the body showing that the healing process needs to go to the next step, perhaps to go deeper.

So long as we then keep an open mind and the intention to understand those signals clearly, we might find the next herbal ally, or see the next step to help the body heal itself further.

It is also notable how once the journey begins, especially after that vital first shift happens, that the cycle starts turning more rapidly. People go through the different phases with increasing speed until finally, they are no longer sick, the symptoms have become unstuck, their body and systems move through cleansing and activation, nourishment and rest each day without hindrance, because they're well.


Especially for students or practitioners, or people who have a special interest in this subject for their own reasons, there is an article written for the herbalist's magazine Avena. It goes into this same subject in some different ways and depths, in PDF format here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!































© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd