My Ordeal with Shingles

I’ve had to learn to overcome the shame and pain associated with my bout with Shingles in order to gain insight into the lessons to be found here. For months now I’ve been asking God to release any unnecessary energy, negativity, doubts and fears I have about my life journey and purpose. Like most prayers, mine are often answered in unexpected ways.

The warning signs are now obvious. I clearly had a big problem from the start. Both my arms went completely numb for two nights in a row. This should have worried me, but I dismissed it. The rash started after that. My skin was very red, and itchy. The next day it was beyond itchy to a painful mass that wanted soothing to which I applied hydrocortisone with little result. On the third night I had classic flu symptoms. By the morning, one look in the mirror told me I needed to see my doctor right away; the red mass had developed bumps and felt like someone was rubbing glass shards into my chest. That was when I became alarmed. Apparently, this is the highly contagious stage of the Shingles and Chickenpox virus, Herpes Zoster.

The pain is unreal. Now imagine 100 shards of glass on your delicate skin, moving and burning into your skull through your spine. The agony you feel each time your shirt rubs lightly against your skin is enough to make you see little stars, exhale loudly and hold onto furniture. This is not a fantasy; the pain is real. Some people cannot even think straight when Shingles strikes. While the rash itself is localized to a small area of the body, the sensation is dispersed, owing to the neurological nature of the disease. It emerges from the spinal column and will send pain signals everywhere, including unaffected areas.

At this time, some myth-busting is necessary. Why do we have the crazy idea that Shingles only happens to elderly people? It must be especially bad then, too, but it’s not exclusive to our old age. Talking to friends, I heard from quite a few young women in their late thirties and early forties tell me of their experiences with Shingles. Shingles is the very same Chickenpox virus, which once it strikes, lies dormant in our bodies forever, like all viruses. Therefore, a key trigger is a compromised immune system combined with some sort of high-stress situation, which explains the myth; elderly people tend to experience a compromised immune owing to the natural aging process. The compromised immune system, however, is not enough to cause an outbreak. I’m convinced that stress is really the biggest factor to unleashing this severe pain and possible disfigurement.

In my case, a previous illness, treated with a double dose of antibiotics, followed by worry and stress because I had quit my job and concern about how things would resolve themselves, made me ripe for an attack. As additional factors, I had physical and psychological stress to contend with. I had been attending several dance classes, which exposed me to too many people’s germs and energies at a time when I needed to be more careful about my surroundings. My body just collapsed under the pressure. I had to withdraw from everything to allow my body to heal.

Through this humbling and debilitating illness, I learned that it’s good to have access to healthcare and pain medicine when one needs it. I have a high tolerance for pain, but there is suffering that one need not endure without reason. Shingles will stop you in your tracks. At times the pain medicine works against that reality. It provides a false sense of wellness and vitality, inspiring action over rest, mobility over sedation. Toward the end of my illness, I’ve made a decision to use less Motrin, not because I have to, but in order to sit still with my pain, to withdraw into the place where my body can best heal itself, by stopping the activity that relentlessly drives me. Sitting still has given me time to digest the lessons learned and understand this disease. Here are my recommendations to you if you ever have the unfortunate plight of a Shingles attack:

  • Get a copy of the Balches’ Nutritional Healing and follow as many of their recommendations as you feel comfortable with.
  • Stock up on the highest milligram of Motrin possible to help with the pain. It really is unbearable.
  • Get real pain medicine, an opiate to help soothe the pain.
  • Invest in some Valerian tincture to help you sleep.
  • Sleep, rest and nap as much as possible. If you have sick leave, take it; you will no doubt need it.
  • Find out about the shingles vaccine. It’s available to individuals over 50. If you’re eligible for the vaccine, get it. Though I make this recommendation, I don’t know whether or how it works. Ask your own questions.
  • Get some Reiki or other body work as soon as you are able.
  • Stay away from children or anyone who has never had chickenpox.
  • Surround yourself with beauty, flowers or anything that will nurture your heart and soul. You will need to be uplifted.

As I recover my strength, my body and health, I continue to ask myself about why I felt ashamed to admit to this illness. I was reluctant to mention it to friends; I didn’t want my partner to tell people; I wouldn’t explain why I was out sick. The shame was emotionally crippling. Upon reflection, I see it has always been hard for me to appear weak, to ask for help, to say I can’t. Shingles made me vulnerable to the degree that all those things were true. I am weak. I need help. And, I can’t just keep going like nothing is happening. I’ve had to own all of this.

In the end, shingles seems like an extraordinary gift. I have had to stop and be still. I have had to listen and withdraw. My dreams have been vivid and portentous. I have had time to talk to the people I love. I have found refuge in myself. I know there are several other lessons that will be revealed to me through my healing process. I await these lessons with eagerness and an open heart and mind. This is one lesson I don’t want to repeat.

EFT Tapping: A Vaccine Against Microaggressions

We may be occasional targets, but we don’t have to live our lives as victims. We need immunity from the ills of stress caused by behavior, environment and other people. While we can’t always control those things, we do have personal power to shape our destinies. Like what understanding a growth mindset can do negatively stereotyped people, tapping can transform one’s bearing in the world. It’s certainly not a cure for the –isms of this world, but it can help us fortify ourselves against the harsh realities of daily life. Oppression and microagressions are everywhere. We may not know how to name microaggressions when they happen, but we always know when we’ve been hit by these subtle bigotries: tiny insults, slights, small physical or psychological attacks that leave us asking ourselves, “What just happened?” The benefits of EFT Tapping if you are a person of color, or in any marginalized group, can be enormous.

Let’s first examine why microaggressions are so harmful. Unlike blatant acts of bigotry and oppression, microaggressions are often difficult to define, deflect and interrupt. They’re also are a big problem because of the way the cumulative effects of microaggressions manifest like PTSD after years of a person being subjected to them.  The Atlantic, in a recent article, confirms the impact of racism on people of color. It reports that “discrimination raises the risk of many emotional and physical problems. Discrimination has been shown to increase the risk of stress, depression, the common cold, hypertensioncardiovascular diseasebreast cancer, and mortality.” Not only do direct acts of discrimination cause these problems, but the article goes on to explain that even knowing that one might encounter racism can lead to a heightened stress response. Boy, do I know what that’s like firsthand, having experienced physical sickness at the approach of a designated encounter, such as work or a meeting with a person who regularly committed microaggressions against me. Many of the diseases associated with microaggressions are a direct result of chronic stress, which breaks down our bodies, system by system. Read the article for yourself:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/how-racism-is-bad-for-our-bodies/273911/

Working in toxic environments, with racist people or even well-intentioned liberals who can’t seem to stop microaggressing against us, can really chip away at our well being. Therefore, it is EFT Tapping that can help us remember the fundamental message that needs to be programmed in us: one of total and complete self-love and self-acceptance. We need to be able to love ourselves in such a way that we are able to see and accept the love that is offered to us when it’s present, and to be able to seek out positive experiences and environments to offset the negative ones. Conversely, we can also see and accept when we are not getting what we need to thrive and be happy. Tapping can give us the courage to change our circumstances. Here are some of the affirmations I have used to help counteract the poisons of microaggressions and overt bigotry in my life:

  • I am a good person. Good things happen to and for me every day. I love myself fully and completely.
  • I am fully protected by light and love from any acts of microaggressions and oppression. I love myself fully and completely.
  • I am a gifted _____. My contributions are appreciated and acknowledged. I love myself fully and completely.

Obviously, these affirmations have no direct impact on the people who may be doing the harm. They merely strengthen the individual, helping us to see ourselves positively without internalizing the harmful messages being communicated to us.  This positive self-image creates a lasting energy.

The tapping can also be used to distress after an unhealthy encounter. It can help to return your heart rate to normal, providing clarity for reflection. I’ve often had to run to the bathroom at my previous job after meetings in which I was subjected to microaggressions and overt discrimination. I would tap myself into a calm and centered place, so I could return to the situation with dignity, and sometimes armed with the ability to interrupt and address the problem that same day without having to take the bad stuff home with me. There’s a great video on the Mercola website that teaches how to talk yourself down after a particularly egregious incident (Watch it here: http://eft.mercola.com/). This type of tapping works great if you’re thrown off balance and are feeling vulnerable; it’s essentially emergency triage. It is not the type of tapping that I’d recommend for daily practice. Unfortunately, some of us go to work places where we need to heal after every interaction. In that case, a new job, a new focus in your life might be necessary.

Preventative care can help get you through the battle grounds with minimum damage. The greatest danger from microaggressions is the cumulative effects of chronic stress, the stuff we don’t want to take home if we can help it. EFT Tapping can be a kind of vitamin against assaults, allowing us to deflect and fortify ourselves against routine attacks that would otherwise undermine our peace of mind. Tapping can help us be more resilient when confronting difficult situations, allowing us to bounce back to the clear and strong center of our identities. Knowing who you are can literally save your life.

A Remembering: Karma Yoga and an Encounter with a Powerful Reiki Master

I was first introduced to Reiki when I was just twenty-two. It was during a visit to Kripalu in the Berkshires of Massachusetts where I had gone to do “karma yoga” or devoted volunteer service. Kripalu has been instrumental in several transformations in my life, and that visit was not exception. I have gone there at various times in my life to heal and renew and have come away with many precious gifts. During the summer month that I spent there, I met people from all over the world who practiced almost everything you could name. I slept in a huge dorm room on a small cot-like bed. The other women around me, who were mostly doing their karma-yoga practices also, were there anywhere from a few days to six months. There was a nice habit amongst the guests to exchange gifts during the quiet hour before bedtime. At that time I only read tarot cards, but that was and is an incredibly popular modality, one which people would exchange almost any other service for. It means that I’ve been fortunate to have tried numerous healing arts in the past 23 years since the first tarot deck picked me.

One evening this older woman, Roslyn, a very quiet and self-possessed person, with a thick British accent, and I set our sights on one another. She was round in the sort of way that said mother to me, but she was not at all the mothering kind, which always fills with delight to recollect having this limiting image of woman-as-mother shattered at that age; it was liberating. She was frank and unobtrusive. Mostly she didn’t talk or chatter like some women did. She was mysterious. It was her aura that attracted my attention. We connected while scrubbing toilet bowls, cleaning mirror and shining faucets in silence. There is a certain level of respect and appreciation one develops for a person who can do those sorts of things, clean for others—yes, our mothers do it for us, but then we all must grow up— with integrity and care, despite that the service is technically “unpaid.” That is, after all, the entire point of karma yoga. One is meant to work off whatever debt is owed to the universe, each other or our past selves through service to one’s community. Karma yoga allows us to pay back or rebalance the flow of energy in our lifetimes through a commitment to doing whatever needs to be done, humbly, without recognition and without monetary compensation. It was while we were teamed up, working in silence that we were able to truly see the other person.

Like many gifted healers, Roslyn had an understanding of the high value of her abilities. I have really come to appreciate this perspective over the years. In fact, in exchange for our karma-yoga service, we slept and ate for free at the ashram. This is the notion that we should be fairly paid for the work we do. When Roslyn and I discovered that we could offer something to each other, we exchanged services. This was to be my first and probably most fantastic Reiki session yet. The word Reiki comes from the Japanese language and is really two compounded characters, Rei and Ki. Rei means spirit, and Ki stands for energy or life force. A Reiki Master is able to channel this energy and teach others how as well. It is said that Reiki is the same healing energy that Jesus Christ used to heal the sick.

What made my first session of Reiki so extraordinary was that Roslyn could see and sense things that had not been verbalized. She began our session by asking me about my wants, feelings and needs. We talked about my life and the things I was working on during my stay at Kripalu; then she asked me to lie down. She explained that she would place her hands on various points on my body, and that I would feel warmth flowing through me. She also asked me a series of questions during the laying on of hands, which I was to answer silently. As she asked me to visualize a powerful color, one that I find healing, she named it aloud. Next, she asked me to send her a mental image of a shape. Again, she announced it when she received the image I had sent. In my astonishment, I could hardly lie still, but I knew even then how rare such an interaction is, and I channeled my excitement into the Reiki. I can still vividly remember the magical images and sensations of that hour.

It was my special gift to get touched by a powerful Reiki Master. When we are given clear visions and can communicate without words, it has profound impact on our higher selves. It allows us to evolve onto higher planes, because we take each other to new levels. Once there, we can always return to those heights. The possibility is there forever, and not just for the individuals involved. That is the nature of evolution, including spirituality-based evolution. Now, some twenty years later, I’m finally coming back to Reiki. Recently I received my First-Degree Reiki transmission and have been practicing being a conduit for the healing energy. Roslyn comes back to my mind repeatedly as I navigate the challenges of learning a new modality. I have so many questions, so many obstacles to get through in order to get to her level. I see now that she possessed tremendous concentration, inner stillness and complete self-confidence. I also know that it is possible, with time and commitment, to attain her ability. For today, it is enough to hold this space within myself, to heal the parts of myself that I can with my gifts and abilities, knowing that everyone has to start somewhere.

by Edissa Nicolas

EFT Tapping: Healing for Every Day People

Who hasn’t been stuck in a cycle of replaying a painful conversation? Haven’t we all had bad days that have zapped our energy? Unfortunately I’ve gotten stuck in cycles that have lasted for years and months. Thank goodness some of my issues have evolved and changed over the years. Thank God I don’t have those year-long self-destructive periods anymore, like the ones I had during my teenage years and through my twenties. Still, life is not without its challenges, and I want and need to grow—spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. I want to feel that I am evolving and becoming the woman I’m meant to be in this moment. That is why I’ve decided to make the topic of my first post about  EFT Tapping Technique. It’s relatively close to the start of 2013 calendar year, and a new Lunar year, the Year of the Snake, is just weeks in. Many of us feel the calling to take care of our precious selves. We are looking for answers, community, and healing, and we are finding it in each other.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping has been so transformative for me, that I had to share it in my very first post. I have been tapping for approximately four months now. It is my daily practice, and I have found that it has created a shift in my consciousness, balancing my emotions and moving me forward in a positive direction on all levels of my being. Tapping is not counter-indicative to Western or Eastern medicine, nor does it have any religious aspects that may prevent a person from have a sound relationship with God.

Succinctly, Tapping has four primary uses  for healing. Here is the heart of this practice:

  • removal of negative emotions
  • reduce or eliminate pain
  • implement positive goals
  • reduce food cravings

My favorite definition for what is happening during tapping is that tapping is a kind of psychological acupressure. You tap along certain points along your head, upper torso and hands. (This site has the best diagram of the points: http://www.theenergytherapycentre.co.uk/tapping-points.htm) The foundation of all the work, regardless to whether you tap to control cravings, heal or plan forward, is creating the condition of total self-love and self-acceptance. My chiropractor, who was the person who introduced me to tapping, explained that the root of all healing is love, and that it is that love that heals us. This made and makes sense to me. It is a message that is reiterated in most religions throughout the world. Love one another, we are told. But  how can we love each other if we don’t love ourselves? Speaking from past experience, it is nearly impossible to do and causes much pain.

In tapping, one taps the designated points on the body while repeating affirmations.

Positive affirmations can transform your physiological conditions. What you say has to feel good both inside you and on the way out. Affirmations are an art. Elevate your language and your goals by naming and claiming your highest ideal, really reach for the best possible outcome. Do not sell yourself short. Every affirmation should return to the principle of total self-love.

A good script is essential to staying focused and positive. Some people will approach tapping in a spontaneous way. Personally, I think that is not effective in controlling the desired outcome. On a bad day, one when you haven’t slept the night before or when you’ve had a disagreement with someone you care about, it may alter, even slightly, your word choice and have dire consequences for you. The script will be there to keep you on track and redirect your day and condition to the goals you’ve already identified.

Here are some samples of affirmations:

  • I am a good person; good things happen to and for me because I love myself fully and completely.
  • I eat only healthy foods and vegetables. I love myself fully and completely.
  • I forgive __ and myself for any pain we have caused each other. I love myself fully and completely.

The possibilities are limitless. That is why it’s so important to identify your priorities. They will change over time, and you will need to modify them as you accomplish goals and shifts begin to happen in your life.

I will be with you on the journey. Expect these future postings about tapping:

  • Can tapping heal physical ailments?
  • How can tapping help targets of microaggressions?