Water Leads the Way
After nearly 40 years as a student, practitioner and teacher of wholistic health care, when it came to my own needs recently I forgot its most basic principle: Do NOT treat symptoms. Everyone wants to eliminate an illness quickly; just "get rid of it". But what if the "it" is you? Maybe even a wise part of you. That's why with any illness we should first look at the person experiencing the symptoms. And ask, "What's going on?"
While symptom resolution may work, the deeper issues that need addressing can easily be ignored. In my case, my body refused to settle for a simple solution and forced me to take a look at my life. Eventually I was grateful, but not before I was tired, scared and angry.
It began unexpectedly one night, with burning urination. I knew what that meant: bladder infection. I started to “treat” myself with vitamins, lots of water, and cranberry juice. I applied essential oils with antimicrobial properties to my pelvic area. I was peeing every hour, sometimes more. I used imagery to enhance my immune response. After two days I got a horrible upper back spasm. Then there was some blood in my urine. Time for help.
When I need assistance with healing I usually turn to acupuncture and herbs. But I was feeling exhausted and just wanted to “get it over with”. And I admit, avoid the out of pocket expense of acupuncture. I went to a medical doctor affiliated with a midwifery practice, thinking he might practice in a wholistic way. He didn’t prescribe antibiotics right away, but took a culture. When he called with results that confirmed a need for antibiotics, I agreed, thinking it would lead to a quicker resolution. That’s not what happened.
By day two I was still peeing at least every hour, day and night. I developed other symptoms as well. Possible side effects, according to the medication’s insert, included liver damage, so I started to wonder. I felt heavy, tired, and scared. I called the acupuncturist to make an appointment.
I told the acupuncturist my “bladder infection” story. In his calm way, he felt the pulses at my wrist and said the antibiotics “were working” and that acupuncture would help me resolve the situation. Gently, painlessly, he inserted a few needles in my abdomen and pelvis. The only needle that made me flinch a little was inserted on my foot, near the little toe, a point on the bladder channel. After all the needles were in place, he left the room so I could lie there quietly and allow an energetic response.
I had to restrain myself from cursing my decision to not see him in the first place. I took a couple of long, slow exhalations to let go of thoughts and focus on what I was feeling in my body. I thought about the last acupuncture point he had used, the one on the bladder channel. From what I know about that pathway, it travels along the back of the body from the little toe up to the head. Its energy helps us to move forward in space and in our lives. Constant work and relentless ambition tire out the back, often leading to pain.
Finding the Source
That’s when I realized that for the past seven months I had been pushing myself hard. A move to Washington, DC, after 30 years of being deeply rooted elsewhere, had been a much more difficult transition than anticipated. I was helping my daughter find a place to work and live. And I had also just started working again. I had no bandwidth left to care for myself, to exercise, to dance. I was so tired.
So my body, in its wisdom, had not allowed me to simply address my “symptoms” with a couple of pills. That was no cure for what ailed me. I needed to learn a lesson about life, apparently from “water”. As I lay on the table I almost laughed, except I was worried it might hurt, what with the needles in my belly.
I began to think about flow. Maybe I did not need to keep pushing myself, trying to get all of the answers about the future at once. Why not trust life more; hadn’t it led me here, after all, despite my “plans”? I relaxed into the image of water leading me, my mind shifting into receptive mode. Water can travel wide and slow, it can shift shape to fit through narrow spaces. It can be a shimmering, silvery dance or contain unfathomable depth. When water leads, direction arises by following the contours of the terrain ahead. Water does not try to climb, but can effortlessly transport us to places we love or to unknown realms awaiting exploration.
Not every acupuncture treatment changes your life, but this one did. "Symptoms" subsided, but I was looking at myself with a new perspective. Part of analyzing the body in acupuncture involves looking at the tongue coating; mine indicated a continuing inflammatory condition. There were two more helpful acupuncture treatments followed by daily diligence on my part to clear deeper patterns.*
I understood healing as an inner process, happening in many ways, through changes in eating, temperament and expectation. It is taking time; months. I am steeped in newness every day. And there are many small, interesting revelations! One was a journey to a tropical island, surrounded by water. A trip made possible by the generous invitation of family and made enjoyable by my readiness to yield to life.