Several years ago I was catching a train in Portugal from Lisbon to Faro, to do some healing on the Algarve coast. I had an over-packed suitcase which took considerable effort to drag up the steps of the train so when I was finally aboard, I sat down in the first available seat.
Within a minute, another passenger politely informed me that I was occupying their seat. I hadn’t checked my ticket and didn’t realise that the seats were numbered. So I pulled out my crumpled ticket and saw that I wasn’t even in the right carriage. In fact, I was in the furthest carriage to where I was suppose to be.
I took one look at the rickety steps of the train and decided that I wasn’t going to haul my battered suitcase back down to the platform and then up onto the train again. Instead I dragged my bloated baggage through five carriages, much to the discomfort of all the other passengers. In between each carriage I had to open two doors and pass by the draughty toilets and generally make a nuisance of myself. When I finally reached the end of the last carriage before mine, I encountered a calamity. I couldn’t open the door. It was stuck. I couldn’t make it budge an inch. So having inconvenienced all my fellow passengers, I ended up having to wrestle my suitcase down the steps and off the train after all, in order to get into my carriage from the outside door. But when I tried the outside door, it was also stuck! I pulled, I pushed, I banged, I twisted and nothing happened. By this stage, the platform attendant had blown the whistle to announce that the train was about to depart.
For a third time I lugged my hefty holdall up the steps of the previous carriage and barely made it inside before the train started to move. Then I waited for the conductor so I could explain why I wasn’t in my seat. When I related what had happened, he kept shaking his head and mumbling ‘No, no, no!’ I didn’t understand until he gently turned me around to face the locked door behind me.
To my dismay, the carriage I’d been trying to enter was no longer attached to the train. It had remained behind on the platform. All the doors to that carriage were locked for a good reason: no one was meant to enter because they would’ve been left behind.
I had misread the numbers on the carriages. The carriage I was in, was in fact my carriage.
Sometimes we misinterpret what we encounter in our lives.
Sometimes life puts barriers in our way because we’re not meant to be going that way.
How does this translate to the bigger picture of our lives?
I believe we’ve misinterpreted the meaning of disease. Instead of trying to eradicate disease, we need to look at what disease is telling us about how we’re living our lives and where we are heading as a species. Modern medicine tries to eliminate disease without delving into its deeper origin.
Let’s take asthma as an example. Asthma involves recurrent inflammation and spasm of the airways causing difficulty with breathing. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing and chest tightness. The cause is attributed to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Environmental factors include pollution, dust, animal hair, pollens and certain medications, to name but a few. It is treated by avoiding triggers and taking medications that open up the airways and reduce inflammation.
Asthma has been around in a small percentage of individuals for millennia but why has it exploded in prevalence in the last few decades? What are we doing to our bodies and our planet that is increasing the incidence of not only asthma but ALL chronic diseases? I believe the alarming rate at which chronic diseases are increasing is a sign that we need to slow down and reassess the consequences of our actions on our bodies and on our planet. Perhaps disease is a barrier that life is putting in our way because we’re not meant to be going that way.
Alexander Graham Bell observed: ‘We often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door (the limitations imposed on the individual by the disease or problem) that we do not see the door that has opened for us.’ The door that has opened is the opportunity to discover how to improve the quality of our lives in the long term.
I believe the declining health and increasing waistlines of our species has been misinterpreted as beyond our control. As being too hard for the individual to tackle. As being an inevitable consequence of modern day life. This is not true. Every one of us has the capacity – every day – to make choices that will inexorably improve the quality of our health and our lives. My goal is to empower you to do so.
My personal and professional philosophy is that no matter what happens in life, I will seek the door that has opened – even if it’s just a crack. I invite you to do the same.
Whenever we encounter disease or ill health, I believe it’s a nudge to pause and ask ourselves: ‘What now? Where to from here? What has opened up for me?’
And when we ask the question ‘What now?’ we need to listen with our bodies, our hearts and our souls, for the answer.
Sometimes disease is the body calling out to us: rest me, feed me better or take me out for a walk.
Sometimes disease is the heart calling out to us: forgive me, fulfil me, fire me up.
Sometimes disease is the soul calling out to us: know me, hear me, allow me to guide you.
And when we ask ourselves, ‘What part of me is calling out to me?’ the answer always comes.
But we live such frantic, furious, fast-paced lives that often we don’t hear the answer – especially if it’s the soft whisper of our intuition or a faint ‘gut feeling’. And even if we pause for a moment – through meditation, mindfulness, a stroll in nature or just keeping still – we don’t always want to hear the answer because it might require us to do something we don’t want – or are afraid – to do.
So how do we start the journey towards healing in a world that seems to be taking us in the opposite direction?