A couple of years ago I was in a period when I was living through some fairly difficult days. My heart was stressed and my mind was not at ease much of the time. During that time I developed an intolerance to anything with gluten in it. I also had headaches that were so profound that I thought I had a giant tumor in my brain. And I am not a headache person. I’m not a person who gets sick much, either. At one point I had Lyme Disease, and though that was obviously a result of the tick I found embedded in my shoulder one spring day, I became incredibly sick, the most sick I had ever been.
It’s only now, with the gift of time and clear vision that I have been able to link the challenges of the circumstances and the stress in my life to the illness that befell me then. I was in a relationship that was unhealthy—a situation that left me feeling that I was in perpetual fight or flight mode. I was a little lost vocationally and my sons had flown the coop for college in the west. There was very little happening during that time that was joyful or even satisfying.
A friend of mine who is a Reiki Master and teacher recently suggested that I watch the documentary called Heal. It was the second time in about a week that someone mentioned the film, which is always a sign to me, and so I did. From it I gleaned a very simple and profound understanding: if our thoughts and emotions can make us sick then they can also make us well. And so I decided to do a kind of experiment.
I decided that I was going to work to undo the gluten intolerance that had brought to my life a kind of low-level misery. Obviously there are far larger issues we contend with in this life, but I am a toast girl. I am a pasta girl. I like having a chunk of good french bread, butter and jam with my coffee in the morning. I live in Vermont and bread and butter and jam are all made by people I know and they taste sublime. I love a bowl of steamed mussels with lots of bread to sop up all the juices. Bread, bread, bread has always been my life and when it started to make me sick I was pretty angry. Which helped a lot, of course.
I won’t describe to you what happened to my body when I ate something with gluten because you’ve probably had digestive issues at some point, so you know. It was ugly and smelly and painful.
Here is what happened:
I started a habit. I start my days with Reiki (I have Reiki II attunement), meditation and visualization. Also, most days I eat or drink yogurt before I drink coffee or tea. Yogurt first. All of this was my idea, no one prescribed it. And believe me when I tell you … it is not easy. Learning to meditate feels like working on the flabbiest muscle in your body. I could not believe how weak my mind is … traveling hither and yon all the time. It is hard work to reel my thoughts in and keep them focused on one single thing: the healing of a very specific unwellness.
I visualize beautiful things: a garden of flowers and vines emanating from my gut and swirling around my limbs and up around my head. I created a small mantra: this body is a body of peace, this body is a body of love, and I repeat it over and over. I imagine my community of gut cells living happily and healthily. I know this all sounds a little woo-woo, but I have good news: it’s working.
It. Is. Working.
I say working because I’m fairly certain this will be an on-going thing. I feel cured, if you will; I can eat all the things I haven’t been able to eat for the past few years with none of the effects of the gluten-intolerant condition. I had homemade mac & cheese the other night, I have had birthday cake and popovers (two one evening), the most amazing cruller of my life in Kittery, Maine last week. Bread and I are reunited and it feels so good.
Imagine that. The mind that can make us sick can make us well.
Taking some kind of pharmaceutical antidote would be much easier than meditation, visualization and energy work, no doubt, which is probably why no one really talks about this stuff. Americans seem to love a diagnosis and a pill. But it’s always the harder work in that pays off in life. And this healing choice, unlike every medication known to humankind, has positive side effects: I feel peaceful, more grounded. I don’t limit these practices to the morning; sometimes I meditate when I’m walking Daisy. Sometimes I do the visualization when I’m driving. Sometimes I sit still after a meal, if I’ve had pasta or bread, and give myself Reiki. In other words, my choices to make myself well and to stay well are woven into my days. I will tell you that it’s a good way to live. Things fall away, I get less upset about challenging personality conflicts or unresolved questions. I can eat an english muffin for breakfast again and I am more tuned-in to the nuances of the world around me. I am noticing more instances of synchronicity; my head and heart are clearer.
Shortly into this process I visited with my friend, Raina, who happened to be reading The Mind-Gut Connection, another sign and a terrific book. Do all diseases begin in the gut? I’m beginning to understand this reality. Did I become sick because I wasn’t trusting my gut, because I had stopped paying attention to the gut reactions I was having to things in my life back then? I think this was part of the story.
Now I know. I won’t linger in situations that are not life-affirming. I won’t allow myself to believe that someone else holds the key to my well-being. Medical degree from Harvard or not, it’s clear to me just how much we intuitively can know about our own bodies and minds. I now know the power of my very own thoughts and the array of choices I have, all the time. I am humbled, quite frankly, by the reality of what us humans are and I will never sell myself short again. The bodies we have, our hearts, minds are infinitely magical, infinitely capable and we limit ourselves by lack of trust, lack of faith, lack of effort. It has been great to be able to eat toast again, to not have to ask the annoying gluten-free question at every restaurant, to not be the eater with the issue at the dinner table. It has been miraculous to learn, to have taught myself how to rewrite the sickness script.
What’s the upside? It’s free; the downside: it’s hard work. The upside: my body is healing; the downside: it takes patience. The upside: I feel powerful knowing I can take charge of my own wellness, the downside: I have run out of them here, I can only think of about two. The upsides, I know, will be life-long and infinite.