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Anatomy of the Spirit

We’ve all been there: the job where we feel an imposter; decisions made to keep other people happy; or the relationship that in our heart of hearts we know... just... isn’t... right.

Anatomy of a... cure?

We’ve all been there: the job where we feel an imposter; decisions made to keep other people happy; or the relationship that in our heart of hearts we know... just... isn’t... right.
 
How many times have you thought in retrospect: why didn’t I just follow my gut instinct?

Following intuition

Learning to follow your intuition is at the core of Caroline Myss’s ‘Anatomy of the Spirit’. For some people, it may be too wrapped up in words of mysticism: becoming a healer; acquiring symbolic sight; learning to be a medical intuitive.
But, to put it in layman’s terms, the message of the book is to be consistently true to yourself and live what you believe. And that if you don’t, your health will ultimately pay the price.
 

‘...you can be a vegetarian and run six miles a day, but if you are in an abusive relationship, or hate your job... you are losing energy... in a pattern of behaviour that can lead to illness...’

Common sense? Yes. It almost seems too simple a concept to be true. Yet we all know that depression can make us physically tired, stress can lead to stomach ulcers and intense fear can bring on heart attacks. I did however chuckle when Myss declared that ‘if you are spiritually centred...you can eat cat food and still stay healthy.’ I hope George Jelinek isn’t reading this!

A skill based in self esteem

Myss dispels the idea that intuition is a gift and asserts it as a skill we can all learn. A skill ‘based in self esteem.’ And she introduces the key principle of ‘biography becomes biology.’ This means every part of our lives – our relationships, attitudes, fears, regrets, opinions, beliefs – has the potential to impact our physical health.

‘Your mind is in every cell of your body.’

Is this an empowering idea or an incredibly alarming one? It certainly places responsibility for our health firmly in our own hands. Yikes. No blaming our parents anymore? Not even government policy? But it makes sense to me. My own MS diagnosis came while I was in a hideously unhappy career and failing relationship.

Were those things directly related? I undoubtedly think so.

The Nitty-Gritty

In the bulk of the book, Myss dissects in detail the seven Chakras. According to ancient tradition, the chakras are seven energy centres contained within our spirit. Each one contains a universal life lesson we must learn as we evolve our own self-awareness: lessons related to the material world, personal relationships, self esteem, forgiveness, self-expression, intuition and spirituality. Not much then, eh.

Myss uses stories of people with a range of illnesses – cancer, depression, heart disease, chronic pain – to illustrate instances where lessons have been learnt and people healed or sadly the contrary.

Let me save you the suspense right now: MS isn’t mentioned. And I read every word.

There is, however, at the start of these chapters, a chart depicting which chakras are linked to which illnesses. Under Chakra one, we have immune-related disorders. ‘

That’s MS!’ I think to myself. Lessons related to the material world and tribal power. Interesting. Oh, but wait... under Chakra six, we have neurological disturbances: lessons related to mind, intuition, insight and wisdom. Hmmm...

Yes, of course I skipped straight to these chapters in an effort to find my miracle cure and ‘fix’ myself. Admit it; you probably would too. But yes, you also guessed it: it’s not as simple as that. All the chakras are intricately connected.

One of the most helpful parts of the book came in the form of questions for self examination at the end of each chapter. These are probing. These are uncomfortable.

They make you squirm in your seat as they reach far into your dark and scary places. They force you to examine and admit your weaknesses, the role you play in creating your own problems and why you think the way you do. Are you judgemental? Ouch. What negative behavioural patterns continually surface in your relationships with others? Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Let me clarify: this is not reading for people in denial about their own flaws and short-comings. Or, at least, not people who want to stay there. It doesn’t offer excuses for your behaviours. It propels you to address them.

Turmoil

I first read ‘Anatomy of the Spirit’ six years ago after experiencing the initial symptoms of MS. Reading it a second time has prompted me to reflect on my life in the years since: quitting my career in finance, travelling to Asia as a volunteer, moving to London with few contacts, training to be a primary school teacher, walking out on my first teaching job, and applying for an internship I saw advertised on Facebook but never dreamt I would get.

I didn’t. But three months later, they offered me a job instead.

Did Myss have that much impact on my life? I don’t know. But I do know I’m now working on a career I love, pursuing interests I’m passionate about and in a relationship that feels right. My life is far from perfect. But a perfect life is no longer the objective.

Unfortunately, the downside of listening to our intuition is turmoil. Change and action become inevitable. And, as Myss says, our natural instinct to this is fear.
‘...we know exactly what we should do next, but we are terrified to act on it.’
We need to go through the turmoil before we can come out the other side.

Take only what feels accurate and truthful to your own heart.

Undoubtedly, the author’s use of energy and spiritual language will instantly deter a lot of readers. Even if you’re interested in spirituality, a foreword, preface and an introduction is still a little indulgent. If talk of mysticism is particularly tough for you to tolerate, skip the first thirty pages and go straight to chapter one.

‘Anatomy of the Spirit’ is unapologetic in saying the same thing over and over again in a variety of different ways. Is that preaching? Is it sloppy? Personally, reading a chapter on my commute became a good daily meditation for me – reaffirming how I should tackle the challenges ahead. I’d advise not to read it in one go though. You may take the central message, but you’re unlikely to have given it time to really take root. And, crucially, you don’t need to buy into everything Myss says. As she says herself: ‘...take with you only what feels accurate and truthful to your own heart.’

In conclusion

By the end of the book, I was sorry to finish it. I almost felt a little abandoned. Reading just a few pages a day left me inspired to be the best possible me: to address all those things I don’t like about myself and to follow my passions. I’m more aware of my feelings, the reasons behind them and better able to check the negative ones before they cause damage to my relationships. And the focus is on me now: how I react to other people and why. My own sense of personal power has increased tenfold.

‘...an empowered spirit is capable of healing a diseased body...’

I think I’ll read it again...
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