Sometimes when we are suffering from a dis-ease of the mind or the body, upon initial treatment, the symptoms may get worse before they get better.
This is something that came up while I observed the Out Patient Clinic today. A patient had returned to the clinic for psoriasis. She had previously been offered a treatment plan. At first the regimen seemed to be working as both the dry sores on her legs and her headaches were slowly receding.
However, suddenly, she said her symptoms seemed to spike back to where they had been originally. She immediately stopped all her prescribed treatments without consultation. With no treatment at all, all her symptoms worsened as before. Eventually she brought herself back to the clinic.
This is when Dr. Ravi said to me, "sometimes this initial worsening can be seen as a good sign. Because she stopped right away, of course, we cannot know."
Of course this can be taken in many ways. It is always good to follow intuition when we feel a course of treatment is not serving us. But, it is cruitial to be clear who is deciding.
By whom I mean which part of our mind is responsible for the decision. Is it the rational one or is it the reactive one?
Sometimes a deep instictive voice has us stop something right away, but often we bail when we are simply feeling averse or mistrusting.
I mention this now because when I arrived at this Clinic, technically I had no idea what I had signed up for. I did however have an assumption of how I would get whatever it is I was getting.
When I arrived, it did not go this way, seemingly at all.
Every day I watched my mind attempt to pursuade itself that I was being patient, that I could wait and see, that perhaps it would improve but truthfully I was even hardly doing that.
Yes, I was still here, "making the best of things," but this is not really a positive application of any process. This is actually me saying, "this is not what I wanted but I'll suck it up."
I told myself I would give it 5 days before I would create an alternative plan. For 3 days I was very quiet externally, but my mind was feverishly flipping back and forth : stay go stay go go go go stay stay stay. With suddenness, I would regain my composure over this vacillation, momentarily enjoying the actual moment of my life. However, eventually without me knowing, the heat in my head would rise again : stay go go go stay stay stay....
On the 4th day I spent all my free time researching an escape plan. I had about 4 escape plans going at once by the 6th day. Depending on which of my friends you talked to you, you would have a different idea of what my next move would be. Some would believe I had decided to stay, while others would believe I had decided to go.
And yet still, despite all this time consumed by weighing these options with the most rational voice I could muster, still I did not know what I wanted to do : stay go stay go go go go stay. Every morning, no every minute, I literally was of a different mind.
I often struggle making decisions between what appears to be two opposites. In this situation staying and going became those opposites. In reality they are not opposites. Staying and going are actually just parallel experiences. They may even be identical.
Around the 8th day I felt like I was going to cry. I felt isolated and bored and secretive. All these decisions were creating harsh opinions about where I was, about the place that was hosting me, about my qualifications in regards to even being here. I decided to say something to Dr. Ravi, to connect and be honest. I wanted to ask him for direction. I wanted to know if he thought this experience was benefiting me based on my incoming knowledge.
I tilted my head back slightly to prevent tears from sliding down my face. I asked him. His response was simple, "yes,. Make more of an effort with the Doctors. Be more present here, watch treatments, ask questions." He said, "no one here will give you any information if you do not ask."
I said, okay, thank you and went to lunch.
I really do not like feeling in the way. One of the elements I am currently working through is to assume that if I am invited somewhere, I am inherentely not in the way. This is still very hard.
At lunch, I purposely sat on the doctors side of the eating area. Like a teenager in a John Hughes movie, I mustered the courage to ask the Doctor next to me a question about the OP that day. She answered. Then there was silence again. I asked another question. She answered. Silence. We did this at least 10 times.
It felt so painful. The conversation was awkward to me and forced. Effortful, embarassing. I felt out on a limb.
Yet magically, the mood shifted and suddenly it was a conversation. After what felt like hours, but was probably minutes, this Doctor relaxed and then so did I.
I felt empowered. "I am here," I realized, "we can all benefit from this experience. And there is nothing to lose."
I asked to come to her treatments. I asked her questions. I actively sought other Doctors and watched their treatments and asked them questions. I started to learn Malaylum.
I got involved.
All the stress of the decision making was based in this. Be More Present Here is so incredibly active. To be present does not just meant to sit still or to live at this Ashram. If we are going to watch our breath in meditation or live somewhere in particlar, we must actually watch we must actually live! They are verbs!!
Be More Present Here means have a presence here. Participate. Actually show interest so that more people than I can tell.
We all have our own perceptions of what is fast, of what is slow, of what is appropriate, and what is not. It is so valuable to be able to discern which one is our tendency and then note what is the tendency of the situation. My tendency is fast, the tendency at this Ashram is slow.
The more I can truly comprehend this and openly adapt myself, the more joyful the experience. Adapting after all is actively living. It is actively seeing. It is Being Present Here.
You see, I did not want to leave, I just wanted to be included.
I thought I was making an effort before because I felt exhausted and depleted. I assumed by this depletion I was expending energy that must have been constructive. How many times is this true for us all?
And here, this of course was not the case, as it often is not. I was expending energy, sure, and it was effortful, but as I mentioned at the beginning, it was neither a productive nor positive energy expenditure. You can see this because I was spinning out, stuck between two things, two beliefs, and nothing was becoming clearer. In fact, the opposite was true. So needless to say after this conversation, things began to change. It was as if the fever broke and my life here began to return to ease.
Each day something new was added. Doctors were inviting me to lunch and on walks. We had study sessions in my room, I have taught some of them yoga. I have learned about their families. They have offered me books to read.
Suddenly whereas previously I had nothing to do, now, I now cannot find enough hours in the day to do what I want to do. And I am excited. So excited.
The symptoms of my dis-ease certainly worsened at the intial intake. If I had quit at this time, I would not be here now.
This is always such a hard lesson because both voices - the one that says stay and the one that says go - both sound like instinct. It is really challenging to discern which one is truth and which one is immitating truth.
The only medicine is to actually wait and see, without decision, without the weighing of options. To actually wait. To actually see. Like a scientist. The experience is more like floating on water.
Because at the beginning of this experience, I decided to thrash in order to stay afloat, the situation felt more dire than it was.
The irony is that the end result is me in the same place of the original plan. Here.
My course of treatment got worse before it got better. And it seems in this case, it was a very good thing.