Is arthritis really about feeling unloved, as I read in Louise Hay’s book “You Can Heal Your Life” ? I didn’t know at the time but the debilitating pain of arthritis taught me surrender, courage, acceptance, patience ~ and much more.
I can pinpoint a specific occasion as the trigger or “final straw” which led deep into a chasm of sadness that I thought I’d expressed fully, but clearly hadn’t. I then contracted into resistance, to begin life in a body that felt like it was turning inside-out.
Pain came on gradually over a period of weeks. At first I thought a new bed was to blame for my aching stiff joints. Gradually, especially at night, a creeping agony would bind my limbs, fingers, toes and jaw. Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, when out and about I felt afraid I wouldn’t be able to get home before my body locked up solid.
Feeling indignant despair that years of yoga and tai chi were seemingly wasted, I questioned ~ do I even know my own body ? This pain felt much deeper than a physical ailment. At the time I hadn’t read Eckhart Tolle or heard of a “painbody.”
Stubborn about treatment, and not wanting to add toxins to an already struggling system, I took a long solitary and silent route, without anti-inflammatory drugs. Ignoring all advice from GP, family and friends ~ knowing it was what I had to do ~ to hear the calls from deep inside.
A freelance, who happened to be working at my partner’s office for only six weeks, on hearing that my GP had diagnosed a type of arthritis and prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, asked to speak to me. She also had arthritis, and had found relief with diet & lifestyle change.
She gave me a book list and wisely advised that arthritis drugs would still be there if the changes didn’t work out for me. “Try the diet first. You’ve nothing to lose but reliance on stronger and stronger drugs.” I so wanted the pain to just be gone !
Making clock time for healing myself was step one. To that I added shiatsu, homeopathy, cranio-sacral therapy and initially, rigorous diet change. Yoga was out of the question. Regular tai chi/qigong was beneficial. Although pain, fatigue and stiffness limited movement severely, the support of the group in still silent meditation was a steady tonic.
Avoidance of stress was strongly advised, so a whole process of simplification began.
There is beauty in the allowing of fear. Each morning, the first bird call (usually a robin) would light me up. Still does. A sound from the part of myself connected to the heart of nature. Because this proving or healing has a different timespan and pace to “normal” life, the natural world is a perfect teacher.
My partner rose to an immense challenge. He cared for me tenderly between his work schedule, and supported in a loving, practical way. When I was able, we went for slow, tiny walks along a nearby canal. He thoughtfully chose a good flat path, no hills. There were swans, one of whom paddled along beside us during a walk. A beautiful encouragement. Each time I was able to walk a little further. One step at a time …
The discomfort of depth ~ I saw it on the faces of loved ones. Their anguish was very moving, and inspired me to get to the heart of an imprisoning pain. But there was still pressure to “just take the drugs !” I fully appreciate their appeal, and respect the choice to do so.
When I returned to yoga class after an absence of five months, the gentle kindness of classmates was a wonderful affirmation of love. My teacher would lower me down to my yoga mat, and pull me up at the end of the class 🙂
I continued to work from home and at my own pace. Thankful for work, the familiar joyful flow of drawing improved low mood, so maintaining a creative focus. Patience was essential ~ I became a patient patient !
It seems now that my gifted “duty” was to accept the experience of this depth as part of life in a human body. Pain has a communication contained within it. Stop and listen. I was aware the pain arose from grief and massive sadness threading back to my father’s suicide twenty years before ~ the end of unconditional love as I’d perceived it. A sacred wound.
I learned that at the heart’s core is timeless, eternal Love. Arthritis became my transformation to being able to feel loving kindness, to love myself ~ and to know that we are love.
The whole process took maybe six to nine months. Physical pain and stiffness are fully healed. I’m thankful to all those who supported me, and for each nuance of mobility. Healing is ongoing ~ a work in progress. I know to trust my inner body to take me wherever I need to be, and to speak loudly when I’m not listening.
This experience enhanced a deep and enduring empathy with all human suffering, and has given those around me a sense of the connection between mind, body and spirit.
It is taking consistent journeys deep within to see clearly. Arthritis flare-up was in 2006, gifting a profound opportunity to let go of old conditioning. Now my practise is to observe the whole outer and inner landscape, and to let go, let go, let go.
See also: Energy pattern of asthma and arthritis.