Thursday, June 12, 2008

Discovering What Works 2

Holistic health, in theory and practice, was not hard for me to embrace at all. My first experience with a chiropractor was when I was 11. Somehow, as a result of playing baseball, I got a kink in my neck and could not rotate my head normally. My father took me to a chiropractor. He held my head in his hands, gave a little twist, I heard a little crunching sound, and all of a sudden, my movement was back to normal. I was amazed.

Learning more about different kinds of body work was pure pleasure. Massage, Rolfing, Reiki, Shiatsu, Tui Na, all of it. Having someone work on my body helped me get familiar with how all the parts fit together. I went to Chinese doctors who looked at my tongue, tapped on my pulse, gave me a brown paper bag of roots and leaves and things and told me to boil it and drink it. Tasted downright nasty, but it worked.

I once met a Brazilian healer who touched my third eye with his fingertips, and it was like lightning flashed inside my head. I do not understand how all these things work, and some things remain a mystery, but I could feel something happen. After I had a heart attack eight years ago, I took lessons in Tai Chi Chi Gong from a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was an excellent way to regain strength, stamina and flexibility.

The slow, graceful movements of this method were easy to do and produced good results. Recovering from the heart attack, I had to learn to move again, slowly. I began by walking five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the afternoon. The next day six minutes in the morning and six minutes in the afternoon, and progressed to a half hour each time, then more. Tai Chi Chi Gong and walking worked wonders. I thought my doctor was joking at first when he told me that I would probably only be able to walk for five minutes at a time, but I was surprised to find that five minutes of walking did sap my energy. The slow, steady rebuilding of strength was an amazing experience. I had to slow down to a pace slower than I ever was used to, before my strength coming back, and it was a journey of rebuilding in many ways.

During this period I took up gardening and developed quite a green thumb with herbs, flowers and vegetables. Fruits grew well too, but birds, squirrels and bugs like fruit better than vegetables. Everybody goes for the sugar, don't they? Gardening is a form of healing. Watching the plants slowly grow and evolve through the various stages was miraculous. To plant a seed in the dirt, watch it sprout, then see the green shoot get bigger, flower and then produce something delicious to eat and drink, all from nothing more than dirt, water and sunlight, is an experience in how life works. When you think about it, observing the results of the plants growing and changing, drawing everything they need from the elements is a miraculous sort of teaching.

Puzzling in a way because we need more than sunlight, water air and dirt to thrive. How do they do it? There is truth in the concept that singing and talking to the plants, and touching them with a caress just so that plants can leave their scent on your fingers, is satisfying. The spirit of the gardener makes a difference to the garden. Keeping bird feeders in the yard is good for a garden too, because they help eat the bugs, although not the bees and butterflies that help with pollination.

Watching and listening to them is also healing. You have to slow down to appreciate them. Have you ever just sat there with a cup of tea and watched the way the different birds act? Some come, take a seed, fly off to eat it and come back, while others just sit there and keep eating until they get their fill or your movement scares them away. Others fight and bluster until they get the feeders to themselves. Listen to them sing and talk. Flashes of red, blue, yellow and black grab your eyes and draw you into following the patterns of flight.

Birdwatching and gardening are good for the spirit. They are healing in so many ways. Life is all about discovering what works by doing things and observing the results. Yes, different experiences are more satisfying, depending on where we are in our life at the moment.

We do learn by doing. Movement, sound, taste, smell, touch, sight, all bring us knowledge and life. Surgery and patent medicines can do a lot to heal us. But, as many of us now realize, there are other things that also play an important part in healing both ourselves and others.

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