I invite you to come with me on a journey that has taught me about the connection between the mind and the body, and how important it is to nourish the two.
Sunday morning. My alarm goes off to let me know that I have to get up for a workshop to learn an ancient Chinese abdominal massage technique. Turning off my alarm, I reflect.
Yesterday I finished my first yoga teacher training on an island in Thailand. I ponder. Last night’s graduation ceremony was the perfect way to finish such an intense month. I feel proud and I am so grateful for all the amazing people I’ve met, for all the incredible things I’ve learnt.
I get up to get ready when I notice that something feels wrong. I’m dizzy. I haven’t had alcohol in over a month. What’s going on? My head starts pounding as I climb out of my mosquito net. This is not a normal headache. Half an hour later, on my bike on the way to the yoga school, the headache gets worse. I start to feel weak, but I decide to hang in there.
In the next couple of days, the fever comes and goes. I never have a fever. But then again I’m in a different climate, a different world, so who knows what kind of infection my body is fighting off. Also, there is a virus going around. Yet again, I decide to hang in there.
And then the inevitable thought: What if it’s a dengue fever?
As the days pass I am waiting for the typical dengue symptom, pain in the joints, so I can go to the hospital. But nothing. On the fourth day another symptom arises as I keep feeling sick after eating. So I rarely eat. The next day my energy level is so low that I decide that it is time to go to the local hospital. By now my blood pressure has dropped so much I cannot stand for even a minute.
Then the test results come: Yes, it is dengue.
I decide that the safest option would be to recover in the hospital.
A few hours later and with one prominent thought in my head:
“I’m in the hospital. In Thailand. With dengue fever.”
As time passes, my temperature is measured and blood is drawn, and I notice how all the yoga and meditation in the past four weeks slowly show their effect. After only a couple of hours other, more calming thoughts start to arise, and I find myself accepting my situation.
Reality is as it is.
Reality is as it should be.
The universe loves you.
I feel the words sink in. I feel how they bring me comfort.
And as I contemplate in my hospital bed, I am able to take a step back. I try to see the bigger picture. I start to see the positive things, like how this is the best place to be sick because there is sufficient medical care (which wouldn’t be the case in any of the other countries that I’ll be traveling to after this) and the doctors have a lot of experience with cases like mine. Like how the nurses are amazingly kind and actually do speak some English. Like how this is the best time to be sick, too.
I have friends on this island who come to visit. One is even in the room with me, she got sick as well. I am not alone. And, apparently, the intense yoga brainwash that I received in the last month has helped me apply positive psychology to my situation and wants to be tested in the field.
Everything happens for a reason.
I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
As a psychologist and a yogi, I am a strong believer of the connection between the mind and the body. So after the doctor says that my platelets still haven’t gone up after a few days of treatment I decide to act on the proposition of a wise friend and choose to give my immune cells an encouraging speech:
“My dear immune cells. I am humbled by your strength and your abilities and I feel honored that I can say that you are a part of me. You’ve shown so much resistance and courage in this fight that I call “The Southeast Asian War of Dengue.“ Now, with all the love in my heart, I ask you to stick together for a last final battle so we can defeat these unwelcome intruders once and for all! Let’s raise our flags, get our peace signs, work together with the electrolytes and stand proud! We can do this! I believe in us! Let’s go!“
Impermanence. This, too, shall pass.
Trust. And surrender to the process.
Now, more than half a year after I got sick, and after I have overcome a two month period of hair loss, an aftereffect of dengue, I am more convinced than ever that there is a connection between our body intelligence and our mind intelligence. I believe, more than ever, that by nourishing and taking care of our bodies, we do something good for our minds. At the same time, by being gentle and kind to our souls, we do something good for our bodies.
I trust that by acknowledging this interaction, by allowing that dialog between our body and our mind to take place, we can find a new way to relate to our health and well-being.
It took only two of these speeches to encourage my body and my platelet count to skyrocket. Much faster than other people who got sick around the same time, I was released from the hospital.
By now, my hair has started growing back and I am so incredibly grateful. This part of my journey has helped me practice gratitude, and appreciate those precious little moments that our lives are made of.
This experience will always be a reminder to me to listen to my body and to be present in the now. Don’t worry. You don’t have to get a tropical disease to realize this.
Just remember: Now is really all we will ever have, so we might as well enjoy it.
Image DPlane / Flickr
Editor: Sara Kärpänen; Katarina Tavčar