Home » Human Healing Unlocked: Transforming Suffering into Wellbeing: David Reilly (Transcript)

Human Healing Unlocked: Transforming Suffering into Wellbeing: David Reilly (Transcript)

Full text of physician David Reilly’s talk: Human Healing Unlocked: transforming suffering into wellbeing at TEDxFindhornSalon conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


David Reilly – Physician

I want to talk about human healing and the puzzle of unlocking it.

And it’s a puzzle, I hope, to encourage you to become involved in and to wonder about, because it is very relevant for us collectively, but it is also very relevant for you individually. In private times of your life, it will prove critical.

What do I mean by the healing, human healing? If you cut yourself and it heals. And if you break your heart, it tries to do the same; that is remarkable.

If you just stand back and think what that is, I don’t know what it is by the way. I don’t know what life is, and I don’t really know what healing is. What one patient said to me once, after we had a chat about stuff like this, he said, “I don’t know what healing is, doctor, but I am really into it.” Right?

And that would sum me up, I think, because it is a mystery we may never understand; it is a characteristic of life itself. And we don’t know what life is.

But, you know, a gardener may not know how a plant grows but it doesn’t stop them becoming a master of helping that growth. And that is the inquiry I would like to invite you into, to reflect on as we sit together, tonight.

Beginning to wonder, what unlocks that natural ability in people?

Now, I will throw out some clues as best I can, as we go along. And the first clue I would like to do is just a simple action. I wonder what is in that simple act. Life responds to nurture, and the simplest of action can produce a transformative change if that action is something to release a strength, which is already inherent, already present.

And so, the power for healing is there within our bones, and our blood, our body, and our spirit, and our life, waiting.

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But what are the actions that support it and could help it? And what does a plant do that has been neglected of water and it is given sun? Does it say, “So, you think you will come along, look after me now then?” it responds, with no story, no past, no resentment. It responds. It is forgiveness itself.

And as it does, all it wants to do is bring through the repair, and the healing, and the well-being, and the creativity, and the joy that characterizes life itself.

We don’t make these things. They make us. It is life that brings that gift. When I use the word ‘life,’ I don’t mean your life situation; we have all got one of them. And of course, if it is going well at the moment, it is going to be dipping; and if it is going low at the moment, it is going to be improving. It is, that is the way that when I say life, I mean your heart beating; what beats your heart.

Speaking of clues and talking about plants, I would ask you to think, for a moment, of your own lack of well-being, or distress, or suffering and difficulty. And bearing that in mind, and answer this silly question: If you were a plant, what shape are you in? Just you might want to close your eyes for a second, but maybe just let an image appear.

Okay, so, have you got an image? How they’re looking, I wonder. Could they be looking better? Drop your hand if it could be looking better. Yeah, right. This is a shared situation. I wonder what it needs. I wonder what it needs, the plant of your own life. And I wonder how you are doing in supplying its needs. That is if there is a mirror I would like to hold up to you, that it would be that tonight.

So often, sadly, we are denying the plant’s basic needs, which denies it the opportunity to genuinely flourish. So, the use of the imagination, as we have just done, to see ourselves from the outside can be one of the unlocking dimensions of healing actually, to see ourselves as other seers, rather than the locked-in state.

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And that image, you might allow it to reappear on and off as I am chatting with you.

And then, the third clue I would like to give you is, my first image I would like to use. This is it. It is quite good, yeah? It might be a bit of focus. What is it? Is it a blank? Is it a picture of darkness? What do you see in it, I wonder? If this was the darkness that is part of your own life and you were looking into it, I wonder what you would see and how you see it? Do you see it as an abyss with the hopelessness that that brings?

And maybe, you would like to just like feel that feeling that you will have felt in the face of suffering and darkness. Okay. Maybe, if we change the image a bit, what if it is a canvas? Maybe it is even a canvas, waiting for the light of dawn. As you do that, can you feel a slight shift in your physiology or your feelings or how you might tackle the difficulty of the darkness?

But there is an image I see in it that, for me, is even more effective. I see a seed lying behind this and within this. And the nature of a seed is that it waits, and it waits for the conditions. And when they are supplied, it begins to germinate. Do you know that there were some seeds found in the Siberian permafrost in the last few years, that actually were 30,000 years old? And the researchers described, and it is the actual phrase they use, ‘Planting it with love and care.’

And do you know that some of those seeds germinated after the wait of 30,000 years. This is one of them, which then came to flower. And for some seeds, you need cold darkness. It is one of the prerequisites for the emergence of new life, and for the emergence of recovery, and the emergence of healing.

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And actually, our suffering may be a gift in many ways. What do you need for that to be a possibility for you? Well, using my years of medical experience and looking around the audience, I would say, it is present in everybody because as far as I can see your heart is still beating, right? That is the main clinical sign, when it comes to working this way.

Life responds to nurture. Life responds to nurture. How are you doing with that?

Let us look at another young life form and ask ourselves, how they are doing? This is Karina, my daughter, at the age of four. How are we doing with our children? What is their future, I wonder? She and the other girls in Scotland have a 55% chance of significant psychological distress by the age of 15.

What do you make of that? Is that not outrageous? We are failing in some way. This is not successful nurture. And we know from the science that the more chronic stress, the more disease, and the earlier death.

Will she become one of those who develop diabetes? That is now 1 in 11 of humanity on this planet. It is at pandemic levels, measured in over 400 million people. It used to be called maturity onset; the name has been changed to type 2, I do not know if you know why, because it is happening earlier and earlier. It is now turning up in school children in Scotland, and some of our teenagers are coming to amputations in their twenties.

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