Befriend the disease

There’s a common and universal association of disease with “bad” in this world.

And there’s no question that disease can lead to suffering, and even death. At minimum, disease is uncomfortable.

Case in point: check this out.

I developed boils a few years ago, the first one emerging within two days of joining an intense, female ancestral healing circle. This first boil grew to the size of a ping pong ball and was totally freaky looking, but surrounded by the love and support of my sisters who witnessed me without judgment (“better inside than out!” said one of them), I opened my heart to what this boil wanted to teach me. I wasn’t exactly sure, but I knew it had something to do with repressed anger.

–Excerpt from Moonlight and Shadows: A Poetic Discourse on Ayurveda and Yoga in the West

I was at least relieved to experience this boil episode during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hid behind a socially acceptable face mask and sometimes put a bandaid over it when I was outdoors and unmasked. But regardless of my ability to hide the monstrous thing, I had to live with it. In addition to being painful and hideous, the infection induced a fever and fatigue. Some ayurvedic aristham (a fermented herbal medicine) assisted my immune system during the attack. My local herbalist guided me on how to additional support my skin topically with neem and coconut oils, hot compresses and clays. I was able to lance the boil on my own, and she healed up neatly. But…

Then there were more boils, and I felt like the South Pacific islands, boiling up from the ocean as the earth releases her heat. A part of me saw “disease! bad!” and was ashamed of these bright lumpy red flaws.

–Excerpt from Moonlight and Shadows: A Poetic Discourse on Ayurveda and Yoga in the West

Most of us have a tendency to shun and shirk from disease, particularly the ones that are chronic and take a long time to heal, as well as the ones that affect our appearance or energy levels in a way that induces shame, anxiety, or depression. For years I had dealt with other health imbalances which were ultimately what led me to discover holistic healing, yoga and ayurveda. I had tried all the diets, supplements, practitioners and modalities. And I was exhausted from trying to heal myself. I was also embarrassed that friends and family who witnessed all my efforts saw my continually sick, and it felt like I was the worst poster child for the holistic modalities I knew can work. But why not with me?

My boils turned out to be the greatest little red lumps of blessings on my journey to connecting with my inner healer. For they were the catalyst for confronting all this shame and anger I was carrying about my experience, and ultimately towards myself under the perception that my disease was my enemy, and I was failing to conquer it.

Both villainizing and abstracting illness is disempowering to healing. Making illness an enemy sets up healing to be a fight or battle. Abstracting it removes your greatest asset in the healing process, which is connection. All energy is conscious. And what happens in your mind-body system is an extension of your consciousness. Yoga and ayurveda help you to better see and understand your consciousness and that of the universe, so you can make the adjustments necessary to shift from imbalance to balance.

–Excerpt from Moonlight and Shadows: A Poetic Discourse on Ayurveda and Yoga in the West

Healing for me did not come from pills, herbs, or treatments. I was already doing these things, and while they do help, I was missing a special ingredient. One that I learned through my pandemic quietude and endless hours with the lands on which I lived.

Summertime is a fiery time. The increased heat can aggravate a condition like boils, which are inherently fueled by excess, toxic heat in the body. Since my infection began in May and continued throughout the humid summer of New England, I sought respite in the waters.

Cooling the feet in a water bath is an excellent way to release excess heat, especially due to the fact that circulation imbalances can lead to heat accumulation in extremities. A foot bath at home in the tub or a beautiful bowl of rose petals does the trick. Foot baths in natural waters are even better.

I walked daily to support my blood and lymph flow, collecting cooling ferns and greens to fill my indoor space.

Flowers and sprigs of juniper from the garden, shells from beach walks and anything that brought me joy or peace made it to my altar, which I refreshed regularly to continue keeping the energy flowing. These soothing allies with their tactile beauty helped to calm the fires in my mind and body.

Lovely purple dragonflies filled the air and sunned on the rocks. They demonstrated a sparkling form of fire that burns gently. They are swift and stealthy predators, yet delicate, sweet-eyed peace makers all at the same time.

As the seasons changed, I continued to surrender my body to the elements, receiving the love from the abundant life birthing and dying around me. I never judged the flowers for withering or the leaves for drying and falling, so what point is there to judge my own body for moving through its natural processes?

Journeying into my body, a graceful female dragon guide swam from point to point, weaving in figure eights, showing me that far from flaws, these are sacred sites. She traveled from one site of inflammation to the next like an island hopper, making offerings for each little volcano, reminding me that my body is the earth, and that she sometimes erupts.

–Excerpt from Moonlight & Shadows: A Poetic Discourse on Ayurveda and Yoga in the West

In full disclosure, I still occasionally have boils today, years later. But rather than causing me to quake, I humbly accept them, knowing, this is only temporary, and this has purpose. The experience of the disease might be unsightly or painful, but it is the mind-body system’s natural way of processing energy. And this is beautiful. I can’t say I love everything about boils or ask for them. But I do my best to befriend them and all of the unpleasant parts of me that are associated with them.

When I feel a sense of betrayal, a boil erupts on my heart chakra. Or when I am not feeling comfortable to express myself fully, one pops up near my throat. I believe that the original, massive boil I experienced contained lifetimes of repressed emotions, and the remaining ones are continuing this vital process of my soul’s healing. For however long it needs.

Health is not a final destination. It’s a construct, and I believe we need to start unpacking that construct, in order to build new definitions of what healing is to you, to me, to our humanity. The better we understand what it truly is and stop fighting ourselves, and each other, to get there, the more actual healing we can experience.

I explore this idea of befriending the disease, that healing never ends and illness is initiation further in my book, Moonlight & Shadows. You can get your copy here on Amazon.

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