Hello, Dr. Anita Johnston here.
I am at the theater of Epidaurus, the epic healing center of the world.
Imagine it is the year 400 BC, and you are an Athenian woman in Ancient Greece seeking healing. In your lifetime, you have witnessed some amazing things – the ascension of the Athenian empire, the establishment of democracy, the medicine of Hippocrates, the production of Oedipus Rex, the call to know thyself by a philosopher named Socrates, the building of the Parthenon.
But, you have also seen this golden age collapse in the horrors of war that pitted Peloponnesian cities against each other. You have experienced the agony of a plague that has killed too many family and friends. You have grown weary of your values being disregarded, your truth being silenced, dismissed, or ridiculed. You long for a place where your battered body, frantic mind, and tortured soul can heal from the onslaught of the chaos all around you and the turmoil inside of you – a place where you can find peace and restore your health.
You decide to go on a journey towards recovery. You make the pilgrimage to the Aesclepian, the great healing center of Epidaurus, to turn a corner on your reality; to experience your life in a new way. It’s amazing that we can still retrace the steps of the Ancient Greeks who were seeking treatment, and see what they believed was essential for healing.
We can imagine what it must have been like to ache for healing and wholeness, and make a pilgrimage like that, because we know what it feels like to long for recovery, to turn a corner on our reality, to experience life in a new way. Imagine arriving at Epidaurus and entering the great amphitheater.
This amphitheater could seat 14,000 people. What the Ancient Greeks understood was that storytelling was healing. How about that as a concept? Here, when people would come for healing, they would watch a play. Often it might be a tragedy. These Greek plays were designed to go deep into the psyche of those who needed the healing. Then, they would have a dream and they would take the symbols and metaphor from the dream deep into their being, and begin their healing journey.
There are stones of the ruins of where the families stayed when they came and brought their loved ones here for healing. It was even understood back then that the families were an integral part of the healing process. Just like today, we recognize that when you’re working with eating disorders, how valuable it is, if at all possible, for the families to be involved.
There were the Greek baths. They understood the healing power of the water. They have even had their own jacuzzies.
Fitness was a big part of the healing process, because they were working with body, mind, and spirit. This was a place where people would come to get stronger, to become more fit, a place where they could embrace the body as well as the mind, the psyche, and the dreams.
At the banquet hall at Asclepius they understood that food was an important part of the healing process, that it was sacred, and they treated it as such. There would be food offerings to the gods, as well as to those that came in search of healing. Imagine though, if now we understood how to treat food as though it were sacred, as an essential part of the healing process, and that it was a vehicle for healing the body?
They had banquet halls. They had benches. They had couches where you could sit and partake of physical nourishment, foods that would heal the body.
In ancient times the patients came here for healing and they would have dreams. People would come and they would lie on benches and they would have dreams.
What if we treated our dreams with that kind of respect? With that kind of honor?
What the Greeks had to tell us is that all healing begins with a story. Healing comes with finding your voice. Finding the story that is your story, and then finding the voice to tell your story. And then, going deep, deep within to learn from the story.
It’s your story. You get to decide what that story is going to be. Transformational tale – that’s your choice. A tale of healing – you get to choose that. A tale of freedom – that’s yours.
From the Light of the Moon Cafe, at the healing sanctuary of Asclepius in Greece. Thank you for joining me here.
I would love to hear what you think, share a comment below!