DANCING WITH CHRONIC LYME
I was active and self employed until about 2014. In my twenties I was a modern dancer, I began teaching Pilates and experiential anatomy in 1998, and opened a Pilates studio focusing on rehabilitation work in 2010. Along the way I got married and had two sweet and beautiful kids. I was used to getting tons of exercise and trusting my body to handle what came my way. But in 2014 I slowly developed symptoms of Lyme Disease. My immune system became more and more overwhelmed. I had been bitten by a tick in 2013, but conventional doctors assured me I did not have an infection, as I tested negative to the antibodies, and had never had a rash. ("Here's a Zoloft. Don't let that door hit you on your way out.")
I got scared. I ditched sugar, almond lattes and bourbon. I ate a very healthy, anti inflammatory diet and got plenty of rest. But I just couldn't seem to recover. In fact, my symptoms worsened. I finally wound up taking a leave of absence from teaching, and devoting myself full time to healing. Though feeling so ill was terrifying and the last thing I wanted, it was also my spiritual teacher.
Meditation helped me sleep and heal
There was a moment when I was lying in bed, anxious and afraid, suffering from multiple symptoms without knowing the cause, when I began to visualize my pituitary gland. My body calmed and softened as I felt deep in to my own brain, warming and relaxing my pituitary with my attention. I found a powerful capacity for self healing living there, as though just waiting to be invited in to my awareness. An hour later, when I got up, I felt so different. My anxiety was gone. My body was functional enough to go cook dinner for my family. At this moment I knew I would help myself through this illness with meditations exploring the healing power in our physiology.
Creating the meditations was a slow process. I spent about a year playing with imagery in my imagination, finding what worked for me, what eased my symptoms. Eventually I wrote the imagery down, and then recorded it on my phone, revising over and over. As any Lymie knows, sleep is a challenge. I found that listening to the meditations at night calmed my nervous system, and put me back to sleep! On nights where I would have been up for good at 3am, I could listen to a recording and fall back to sleep till 6. This was a game changer, and a turning point in my illness.
After two (plus) years of experimentation, I had a gut instinct to call an old friend, Alex Theory, who I had recorded music with back when I was dancing. I hadn't talked to Alex in 15 years, but he answered my Facebook message, and we met that week. It turned out he had two months before his next big project started. I had a window. We decided to record the meditations together. As I left that meeting my heart was singing with thrill and joy. Working on these meditations makes me feel my illness has a purpose, and can serve others struggling with the difficult, long term process of treating Lyme.
Yay, brain plasticity!
At this point, I no longer need to listen to meditations at 3am. I do still use them - while driving to work, or while taking a long walk with our dog. No matter where I am they calm me, lower my heart rate, and bring peace and well being to my nervous system.
I believe the use of directed, healing imagery will come to be embraced by modern medicine over time. There are scores of books now exploring brain plasticity and healing. My current favorite is The Brain's Way of Healing, by Norman Doidge, MD. I also love Annie Hopper's DNRS system for retraining limbic system injury through conscious, positive emotion. Our minds truly shape us from within. This means we have power! Any time, any place, we can use our brains to heal.
It is my deepest hope that my meditations will support you on your healing path. Your body is an unfathomable miracle, full of mystery and power. May your journey be luminous, and your heart be full.
Thanks to impermanence, anything is possible.
Thich Nhat Hanh