Monday, 25 January 2016
The company we keep
This is a post about beliefs.
Health is not complicated. Sickness isn't even all that complicated but we've made it that way.
Because my experience involves both, and because my personal journey doesn't comply with what we're told to expect about either of those states of being, I feel strongly compelled to share what I learn as I go, so that maybe one or two people will trip over this and be able to apply what I've learned to their own journey.
It's hard to know how to write about this sort of thing. I don't want to crow, but I need to give credit where it's due, and some of that credit belongs to me. I figured out most of what worked for me on my own, you see, and I'm convinced that any one can do the same for themselves. If I were to try to be modest about my own success, I would be doing you a disservice; I want you to see that if a lowly, "uneducated" housewife and retired cleaning lady can come so far towards restoring her own health, so can you.
Yes, there's a catch. Before you can know what is right for you, you have to know who the hell you really are. And more than anything, it helps to be a rebel. Self awareness and self rule are not for the timid; if you keep looking for a shepherd you will never be able to do this. There is no salvation here on this planet, no other human can come to your rescue. For all the 'help' we may be offered by health care systems and industries and gurus, in the end we are alone in the night with our fears and pain. That's why we each have to find our own way.
I've believed - and sometimes written - that fear and faith can't coexist. I now know that to be one of the beliefs that held me back, a plank in my eye that blinded me. That sort of thinking comes from the linear, cause and effect mind set. In reality, in all things, two seeming opposites can be true at once. Reality is highly malleable, and as I've said before, energy goes where our attention goes. Every thought we have changes us by changing our direction. But if we hold two seemingly opposing thoughts in balance, as equally true, something magical happens. A third direction reveals itself.
Thought and belief are both our strengths and our weakness. (An example of seeming opposites both being true, yes?) If they're examined in detail we find them to be tools of great power, even greater than whatever problem or symptom we're trying to deal with. We have to examine the very words that we use in our inner thought conversations with ourselves, and what we believe those words to mean.
As an example, the word 'suffer' does not always have a negative connotation. It means to undergo, or to allow ("Suffer the little children to come unto me"). Under-go implies a journey, or at least a transient experience. To allow implies permission, a choice. This isn't as trite a matter as it may sound to you right now; the definitions of the words we use define our experience of reality. This isn't something to be derided as "magical thinking". This is a fact of human nature, that how we define our reality has a profound effect on how we experience it, even down to how we define the words we use to describe how we feel.
So it was that in examining my own belief system I found the key that allowed me to set myself free, for the most part, of the life of debilitating pain that, by conventional thinking, "should" have been my lot. The key was this; if I accepted conventional wisdom, or even the 'cutting edge', 'new' medical and health paradigms out there, I would have to seek answers to the questions they told me to ask, in the language of their belief systems. But I saw early on that those questions only applied in their version of reality, and my reality is my own.
A rebel from the beginning, you see.
The greatest battle I have waged - and still wage - is that of building up an immunity against infection by the beliefs of the herd. That will be your battle as well if you attempt to take full control of your life. This means that we learn as much as we can about whatever set of tools we choose to improve our health, but we don't swallow everything. We test each possibility against our own assumptions about reality. We become hunter/gatherers, taking what we need but only what we need, and leaving the rest. We become cynical, highly cynical, of all bandwagons and trends, conventional and alternative alike. In short, we not only must rebel, we must become quite solitary, and that, for many, is the most terrifying part.
It's also absolutely essential.
To me, however, that's the joy, the freedom of it. I've never been a joiner; every time I've tried to blend in anywhere I've felt more lonesome than I do when I'm on my own. I rejected organized religion because all I could hear were human voices talking about God, not God's voice. I rejected conventional herbalism because all I could see was human manipulation of nature's gifts (for profit). It's not that I'm a rebel for its own sake, it's deeper than that. There's something untamed and untameable in me.
So it was easy for me to look askance at any and all so-called treatments for the discomforts and pain that had developed later in my life. I could see that no one who suffered similar symptoms to mine - and that was an awful lot of people, especially women 'of a certain age' - was getting better from any of the treatments on offer. So I not only rejected the possible treatments, I rejected the diagnosis of 'what was wrong with me' in the first place and started from scratch. I started by asking myself what was right and building on that.
Although we are each alone, we are also never alone. There are always voices whispering in our minds, both our own and not our own. Sorting out the voices, categorizing the beliefs, finding where the conflicts are, finding the sweet spots, weighing the fears, tasting each thought for a hint of bitterness .. I have done a lot of that and so must we all. These voices, these thoughts and beliefs are the company we keep when we lie awake in the dark.
To finish this piece, here is a small example of the kind of changes that can be made by changing our thoughts. Small, but rather important to me! I'd been experiencing tension at night. Just as I was about to fall asleep I'd feel a rush of adrenaline that would wake me right up. It pissed me off, but it scared me too. "What's going on?" I'd think to myself, "why am I so anxious?" and my thoughts would race through the list of all the things I could possibly be worried about. It would take me forever to drop off, and often I'd be jolted awake again only to repeat the cycle. I tried cutting back on coffee, eating a little differently, tweaked my bedtime routine. It seemed I was developing non-specific anxiety, a thought that made me all the more anxious.
Then one night I asked myself, "Hey, what if this isn't anxiety .. ?"
"What if I'm actually excited about something? What if this is anticipation?"
Naturally, my thoughts then raced through the list of all the things I could possibly be excited about. I found, buried under the layer of fear, all the things I was anticipating with joy, not dread. What a difference!
So you see, this must be a habit, the examination of thoughts and beliefs. The belief that a rush of adrenaline = anxiety was a belief I had 'caught', it wasn't my own, and it melted away under the simple question - what if it isn't? With that one question I revealed to myself that I have a lot to be excited about - and joy is good company when we lie awake in the dark.
There is nothing wrong with a bit of magical thinking now and then, I think those who deride it just don't do it often enough. Practice this - look at your thoughts, find the useful ones, look at your beliefs, question the dark ones. Know who you are so you can find out what you really need.