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Slow Down: What a Joy—How Illness Can Support Growth

Last week, I suddenly got very sick—something that many of us have, unfortunately, recently experienced! I was unable to eat or get out of bed, and I also felt really sorry for myself. Although the sudden illness ended up passing in a few days, I was afraid that I'd be sick forever.

My concern was partly because of something that happened several years ago. I was living in Africa, and became suddenly ill. My symptoms improved after a few weeks, but I was horribly tired. I couldn’t even get off the couch—a drastic change from my busy life as a mother, doctor and teacher!

My doctor diagnosed and treated me, but the fatigue persisted. It was often hard to know which of my symptoms were related to my body, which came from my emotional state, and which were from my anxious, foggy mind.

Finally, I saw that I had a choice: I could sink into depression, or I could look at my situation as an opportunity to understand more. I visited different healers in several countries, and tried remedies from different traditions and backgrounds. Some helped to increase my energy, some helped my mood, and others didn’t seem to do much. I compared each modality, looking at the effect it had on my outlook, energy, and vitality.

Throughout this process, I practiced Breema bodywork and Self-Breema exercises. Breema nurtures the connection between body and mind, increasing receptivity to higher dimensions of consciousness. I discovered that the energy I had counted on to take care of my daily activities was limited, and quickly used up. But, in the moments where body, mind, and feelings were connected, I was connected to a different "reservoir" of energy, bountiful and unaffected by my illness. I could connect to an inner vitality and found the energy to keep searching for health—even when feeling exhausted and frustrated!

As the year progressed, I began to relate to my body in a new way. Though I didn’t know exactly when I would feel better, I was learning to actually experience health, and how to work with my emotions when they were disturbed. This led to some major life changes, including moving with my family to California. New possibilities presented themselves, supporting both my career and my desire to understand myself and the meaning of my life.

Difficult events can make us more fearful and reactive. If we become identified with our story, we get stuck in a dysfunctional pattern of thoughts and feelings. With the right support, however, the same events can help us receive life in a new way. Something meaningful can be extracted from every situation and every person we encounter. We can gradually develop an ability to discern what is needed in each moment to increase harmony.

This outlook guides my practice of medicine. Health is no longer simply an absence of disease, but rather being in harmony with the world around you. And harmony isn’t something static—it's the process of finding and returning to balance.

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