Being Sage: A Meditation on Choice & Healing

Amanda Ngoho Reavey

 

The whole world is medicine. Where do you find yourself?

–Zen Master Yunmen, 9th Century China

 

I have always been a deeply spiritual person. I believe we are all interrelated both to each other and to the land. I believe we are at a fork in the road for the future of humanity. That we have to make a collective decision about one of the biggest issues that we have ever faced as a species. And whatever choice we make will have huge positive or negative ramifications. And I believe that choice begins in the heart of each and every individual person.

 

I remember laying in the ivy one day in Boulder, Colorado, staring up at the sky and touching the tulip, which leaned towards me, as if it were purring. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, but I was present. Completely in the moment. Suddenly, I realized that this relationship was one of mutual trust because, if I wanted to, I could destroy this tulip: pluck the petals, cut the stem, pull out the roots. But for whatever reason, decided not to. This was a choice.

 

I also realized that the choice began with my mind and my body. While I ultimately did not destroy the tulip, it did occur to me that I could. The whole thing, which lasted no longer than a few seconds, at best a minute, felt profound. An insight, perhaps, to the nature of humanity. What makes us choose one way or the other?

 

For many years I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, but refused to take medication for it. For me, I wanted to find the root of the issue. Was there something else? Taking note of a few close friends who were changing their diets, discovering allergies, I decided I needed to see a nutritionist. Of course, there’s a difference between knowing something must change and changing it. After a couple of years of not following through (it was either too far away – I don’t drive – or too expensive or I was too afraid of doctors), I made it my 2016 New Year’s Resolution.

 

As luck would have it, I voiced this commitment at my friend’s friend’s house and she happened to be a nutritionist. She gave me her card. It felt like fate and though it took all year, I finally went to see her in October. The first thing she said was, “hey, don’t worry, you fulfilled your resolution before the year’s up.” She was non-traditional, and I trusted that. I told her how I would crash in the afternoons, needing a pot of coffee to get through the day; how I was always tired when I woke up; how my emotions would go way up and way down. I took a blood test and an adrenal stress test. Turns out I was low on iron, deficient in vitamin D, allergic to gluten and needed to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet. Immediately, I began a vitamin regime (11 pills per day) and cut out anything with gluten, dairy and soy. It was probably one of the roughest detoxes I’ve ever been through. My body ached to the point that it hurt to sit on a chair for a long period of time and it hurt to stand for a long period of time and it was difficult to sleep, but I am stubborn about not taking aspirin or ibuprofen. For those first two weeks of, I cried almost every day.

 

But now, four months later, my head is clearer, I don’t need coffee to get through the day, I feel stronger, my emotional health is better…. And I’m not even done with the detoxing…. Getting my body back into balance will take at least one year, but I’m probably looking at two.

 

I think back to that choice with the tulip. There is a newfound reverence for life. The tulip already knows what it needs regarding nutrition. It bends towards the sun, its roots grow towards the most fertile, nutrient-rich soil. It doesn’t complain or avoid or apologize. It simply does what it needs to do to survive. When in danger, it warns its friends and they take the proper precautions. It is what it is.

 

But for us, because we have choice, it is what we allow it to be. In the essay “Three Dimensions of Ecology: Soil, Soul and Society,” Satish Kumar said, “what we do to nature we do to ourselves.” I chose not to destroy the tulip. I chose not to destroy myself. Perhaps if we all do the same as individuals, we can make the right choice as a collective.

 

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