#41 Let the Body Heal

It hit me a few weeks ago as I strolled to the coffee shop down the street. I sat down with some lemon ginger tea and within 45 minutes, I knew something wasn’t right.

A rush of cold sweat hit my body, my sinuses become inflamed, and a headache was building up like an avalanche.

I thought it was allergies and I simply ignored it. Shortly after, I went to play basketball and could barely muster the courage to throw the ball in the hoop. I left the court and walked to Baker Beach to rest and watch the sunset.

I took my shoes off as the cold sand sifted between my toes. The waves crashed with their usual viscous strength but slowly retreated to their original oceanic ways. The dogs were joyfully frolicking along the shoreline. Their friendly, innocent, and inquisitive disposition made my pain subside momentarily. I saw many couples, about 10, scattered along the beach taking wedding pictures. A glimmer of hope rang through my heart as I hope to be lucky to find a woman whom I can give my heart to. However, my cynical nature came into play because I know half of those couples will end up getting divorced and those smiles that were so rich and tall they reached the heavens, will one day be heartache, remorse, and regret. I laugh at myself because of how I exhibit such optimism about most things — but with love, the cynic comes out. Perhaps it’s because love takes away all power and leaves vulnerability on the table, exposes our closest insecurities, and is void of doubt. One day I shall fall, but not yet.

I laugh at myself because this game of life is just play and I know everything I do is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

The sunset was different today. Usually the fog floods the beach and the Golden Gate Bridge, making it impossible to see anything. But today, the fog withered temporarily. I love the last moments of the sunset especially because for about 20 seconds, lovers stop regaling, children leave their ocean play, and even the birds refrain from eating the junk left by a passersby. The sunset is and has always been a testament for something bigger — that when we leave things alone and watch them, we can open up to their beauty. Nature has always been a welcomed respite for the heart and mind.

As I walked home, the symptoms of this potential cold hit me again. I’m stubborn and still wasn’t convinced. I talked to my sister and told her I think I have allergies. She had a similar episode last month and told me it was the flu.

Sleep was restless that night so I caught up on the latest episodes of Silicon Valley.

The next evening I attended a wine tasting meet and greet for a non-profit that I am worked with. I kept a smile throughout the night, but inside I was weak. When my friends dropped me home I couldn’t be any happier. I was exhausted and immediately fell into a deep slumber.

The next day the symptoms seemed to have gotten worse. Coughing, sneezing, and an unbearable headache.

I went to my Dad’s house for Father’s Day. The heat was in its 100’s, which didn’t exactly make matters any better on the account of an aggressive sinus headache.

My sister gave me some Advil. I looked at the bottle and said to myself, “Not yet.”

I went without any medicine for the duration of my illness. I wanted to see what the human body is capable of. I wanted to see if I can let it heal on it’s own. I didn’t have any major commitments so I could take this time to run an experiment on myself.

I’ll save you the details but what ensued the following days were hellish. I’m about 95% recovered now.

Why did I refrain from medicine and how this life-lesson can benefit you?

I am not against medicine. I’m proud to live in a country with the best doctors, scientists, and medical advancements. I’m sure when I get older I will have to rely on medicine to prolong life, but not yet. Right now, I had time to get better without drugs.

I wanted to see what this body was made of. I wanted to see if I could apply what I’ve learned in meditation to this sickness.

With meditation, we are taught to accept our pain. We are taught to understand its impermanent nature. We are taught to invite pain and pleasure with equanimity. I was simply practicing what I’ve been taught.

If a difficult situation arises in my life I do not suppress it. I deal with it. I close my eyes and confront the issue at hand. I did the same thing with this sickness.

I wasn’t looking forward to the pain going away because that type of thinking is rooted in the future which brings about more suffering. The sheer expectation of anything can brings despair. Instead, I became a witness to my sickness and invited the pain with love.

There were times when the pain was so heightened that I teared up a little,but that did not stop me from trusting my body.

When I started to get better, I felt EMPOWERED. I literally felt stronger. I felt that my immune system climbed Mount Everest. I was gushing with happiness and joy.

In the course of our life we will come across many problems and while solutions may be the natural tendency, how often do you allow yourself to sit with your problems and truly understand them? How often do you confront your problems and make room to contemplate?

The more I sit with my problems, the faster they vanish. When I was younger, I remember being terrified of jumping from the diving board into the deep end of the pool. Once I mustered the courage to jump, I jumped again, and again. If I’m near a pool these days I will continue to jump.

The problems in our life is the diving board. It can be a daunting task to look at them, understand them, and eventually face them, but once you do jump, the fear loses meaning and the trust we exhibited as children comes back to us.

Understand your fears and problems. Don’t spend too much time on the why because the past can’t answer the questions that need to be answered now.

When we look at our problems in the present moment and accept them, then we can eradicate them.

With Love,

Anand Swamy

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