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"The Healing Body" book cover
Twenty healing responses to illness, aging, and affliction in a chessboard setup

The Healing Body: Creative Responses to Illness, Aging, and Affliction

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In our lives we sooner or later encounter bouts of illness, injury, and loss of ability, sometimes transitory, but often chronic as we age. At such times our own body, the foundation of our perception, movement, abilities, and relationships, can seem an enemy, or at least a mysterious stranger. And yet, people find ways to flourish despite, sometimes even because of, these challenges. This book begins by examining some twenty existentially “healing strategies” individuals employ, often developed quite independently of the medical system, I start with the phenomenology of structures of lived embodiment as analyzed by Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and others, contending it determines a kind of “chessboard” of moves possible in response to bodily breakdown. For example, assaulted by illness I can move toward my body, listening to and embracing it (I am my body), or distance myself (I have a body), choosing to ignore, objectify or transcend its limitations. All in all, I examine five essential structures of human embodiment—and four variant possibilities of healing response that pertain to each area. I draw on “pathographies,” as well as scholarly and literary accounts, my training as an M.D., and personal experiences with chronic back and nerve pain.

In the Second Section I turn to the predicament of groups particularly challenged and marginalized in our society. One chapter focuses on our age of mass incarceration; I suggest that long-term incarceration is effectively a socially-imposed illness to which incarcerated persons respond with healing strategies similar to those with chronic illness. I then turn to the aging body, and the adaptive strategies elders use to find fulfillment even in the face of limitation.

Section Three deepens the analysis of healing with a focus on the body’s as inherently “inside-out.” One chapter examines the healing use of messages from our inner body, (“interoception”) even in a culture which tends to ignore or override them. I then examine the breath—that pivot point between body’s interior and exterior—as itself pivotal in practices that engender illness or health. Finally, I end with non-Western models that pose our “ultimate healing” as involving a transparent openness to the universe that enables us to transmute and
transcend bodily sufferings as we connect to a transpersonal world.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: A Musical Introduction: Re-possibilizing Life after Illness and Incapacity

Section One: Twenty Healing Strategies
Chapter 2: Escaping and Embracing the Body
Chapter 3: Chronic Healing: Repairing Time
Chapter 4: Objectification and C
Chapter 5: Receiving and Giving

Section Two: The Marginalized Body
Chapter 6: Incarceration and/as Illness
Chapter 7: Elder Wisdom: Re-possibilizing Later Life

Section Three: The Inside-Out Body
Chapter 8: Inside Insights and the “Inferior Interior”
Chapter 9: Breath as the Hinge of Dis-ease and Healing
Chapter 10: The Transparent Body

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