“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond,
and must be polished,
or the luster of it will never appear.”
February Greetings Friends!
It’s been a busy month, hasn’t it? It feels a little odd for a usually quiet little month like February, but I think this year has much in store for us and the pre-spring tugs at growth are starting earlier!
My hope is that this year is less about ripping up the rugs and bringing to the surface everything swept under them, and more about the space and time to integrate what has come up. You know, good old growth and healing.
One way we can start to integrate what has come up in our own lives is to look at the messages we receive in the form of health issues and ailments, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual – from the smallest of stubbed toes (more on this later!) to the largest of the big hairy chronic health stuff.
We can all relate to something here – and begin to shift our perspective to see these ailments not only as terrible inconveniences to get through, but more as a vital part of the grander process of the polishing of the soul.
Consider for a moment that, like a diamond, you too start out in a ‘less-polished’ state and it is only through the application of extreme pressure, a bit of heat, and the passage of time that your true brightness really begins to shine.
But, unlike the diamond, we have the added responsibility of free will and the option to completely get in our own way and stunt the process from completing. Oops.
To avoid that, we can choose to be conscious partners to our own process of growth and healing! A process that leads us from a random pile of carbon atoms to a lustrous, fully integrated, shining diamond.
1. The Unpolished Stone
The comedian Lewis Black has a funny bit about contracting some insane health malady to which the doctor diagnoses:
“I don’t know…but it’s going around.”
There seems to be a certain kind of health calamity “going around” for many of us these days, and I’m not just referring to that whole pandemic situation.
Have you noticed it too?
If you’re unfamiliar, the technical term for this particular health malady is:
It’s those dramatic new health issues coming out of seemingly nowhere, the old issues flaring back up for the first time in years, the chronic issues that somehow manage to get worse.
As I mentioned in my January newsletter, my year started off with having covid for the first few weeks as well as giving myself a mild head injury. Then just days before the end of the month, January proved to have one more trick up its sleeve when I ended up with a bowel obstruction that brought me to the ER and afforded me a one-night stay in the hospital!
While I am no stranger to dramatic gut issues, I haven’t dealt with anything related to Crohn’s disease in six years since the last surgery in 2016. So this one came out of left field.
You see what happened then, right? January was just a full-on case of the Shit-hit-thefanitis.
So while waiting for the first couple weeks of February to get in for a colonoscopy to gather some additional information from under the hood, I had a lot of time to eat a moderately sad low-fiber diet and ponder the meaning of it all.
And while pondering, I was realizing how many other people I keep hearing from dealing with their own version of Shit-hit-thefanitis – be it their physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health.
Could these issues be part of something grander? A polishing of the soul perhaps? An unleashing of our luster?
2. Our Multi-Faceted Selves:
Integrating ALL of our parts & asking the ‘why’ questions
I think it’s important to look at any health issue from many angles and levels. The level of the physical, yes; and also the level of the mental, emotional, energetic, the soul and the spiritual.
Much like a diamond, too we are multi-faceted beings!
As for the physical level, after the bowel obstruction I tried something new to help reduce what I assumed was post-covid inflammation in my own body – I went into a vitamin drip clinic and got shot up with a high dose of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant for reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system.
It took about five minutes and while I didn’t notice any change right away, the following day I found that the strange icy-hot gut sensations and ability to feel my food moving through my gut were much less. About a week later, I noticed the odd sensations and feelings of inflammation were totally gone.
We do know that both covid and the vaccine can be inflammatory, so most of us by now have been touched by one or the other, or both. It doesn’t mean you’re screwed, but it is good to take this factor into account and do what you can to reduce inflammation in your whole body as inflammation can be a huge underlying factor in a lot of health issues.
Now! Onward to some of the other levels that I personally find even more impactful.
I want to point out how a health issue really NEVER has to stop at the level of the physical, and if you stop there, you might really be missing out on some awesome opportunities for true growth and deeper healing.
Remember to attend to all of your many facets.
What?! you say, but some things must be purely physical. Like let’s say you stub your toe and now it hurts. Purely physical, yes?
Well maybe the immediate source of the pain is purely physical, but why did you stub your toe? Were you rushing around and not connected to the present moment? Were you in your head and not paying attention to your physical surroundings? Is this a pattern in your life?
I’ll use myself as an example here. There was a recent twenty-four hour period in which I hit my head (yes, again) on a shelf, poured boiling tea on my fingers, and picked up a still hot pan with my bare hands.
Am I often in my head thinking about something else and not paying attention to what I’m doing? Yes. Do I tend to break things or injure myself when I’m moving too quickly? Yes.
So, what if your stubbed toe from our hypothetical example was a little painful reminder urging you to slow down, notice your surroundings, and be more present to each moment? Aside from stubbing your toes less often, making that sort of shift could drastically change how you show up to your whole life.
And that’s just a little temporary toe pain. What if the messages we receive – in the form of little accidents or nagging health maladies – get louder and more intense if we fail to heed the lessons?
And – what if the cause isn’t quite so clear as a stubbed toe?
Do we stop to consider that the health issues we’re experiencing could be rooted in causes that are mental, emotional, or energetic? How will we ever truly solve the issue if we don’t get at the root? Won’t it just fester and show up again, or show up somewhere else in our body?
How many of us live our lives purely at the level of the physical, neglect our other facets, and miss the opportunities for growth – the ‘polishing of the soul’ – that constantly come to us?
Many of us live our lives primarily from our logical left-brains, but…don’t forget you have an entire other side of your brain as well!
One change we can start to make to activate our intuitive right-brain that knows how to look beneath the surface of an issue and make those unseen connections is this: every time something unpleasant happens with your health – even if it’s as seemingly small as a stubbed toe – ask yourself three things:
Why this? Why now? What’s the lesson?
3. Transformation Under Pressure: When Chronic Illness Finds Us
But what if the unpleasant health event is much, much bigger than a stubbed toe and won’t resolve within thirty minutes and seems to be tearing apart your whole sense of being from the inside out?
Ah yes, the big hairy chronic stuff.
The other day I came across an interesting quote in a book I’m reading called Growing Big Dreams by Robert Moss:
“It’s been said that illness is the Western form of meditation. Calamity may be a universal gateway to transformation, if we are able to recognize the educational opportunity, seize it, and use it to break through rather than break down.”
I texted this idea to a couple close friends of mine, each going through their own chronic health trials; the snippet below is the response from one of them:
Friend: Illness is the western form of meditation. Wild idea!!
Me: Yeah totally
Friend: As in, other cultures use meditation INSTEAD of illness as the gateway to transformation?!
Friend: Seems like we’ve made the wrong choice.
Right?! It seems like we’re making the wrong choice here if we’re choosing illness instead of meditation as our vehicle for transformation!
That is a crazy idea, isn’t it? Is our western culture so hellbent on doing, doing, doing with no time or space for something as still and seemingly boring as meditation that our only hope for experiencing transformational shifts is through getting sick?
But another way to look at it?
Maybe it’s not really a choice at all. We can’t always stop illness from occurring. No matter how hard we try to control our environments and control what we put into our bodies and control our thoughts, sometimes illness – calamity – just finds us.
Instead of feeling like we’re at its mercy, and instead of fighting against it, and instead of trying to keep it away from the core of our being…what if we let go, accepted what is, and allowed the illness or calamity to take us apart and put us back together in a whole new way? What if we allowed it to transform us?
Much like a diamond is formed over millions of years, this isn’t easy work. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But making this shift in perception allows us to realize that perhaps what is happening is in service to something bigger; something that is happening for us, not to us, as spiritual teacher Byron Katie likes to say.
You’ve probably heard that other diamond saying attributed to Henry Kissinger… “a diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”
So maybe these health calamities are really initiating us into a grander experience of our lives and the fullest expression of our gifts and purpose.
4. But It Doesn’t Happen Overnight:
Closed Doors, Course Corrections & Blocks on the Path
In the same book mentioned earlier by Robert Moss, he goes on to posit the idea that: “what is in your way may be your way.”
Illness or health crisis always feels like it’s in the way. I’ve been there so, so many times. It NEVER comes at a good time!
The first time I suffered from a Crohn’s flare up was when I was right in the middle of creating my dream business about 12 years ago.
I took time off from my then-job to really focus on opening a tea shop! But the universe had a different idea and I ended up in the hospital getting a Crohn’s diagnosis. I patched up my health and six months later I gave it another go – I again took time off from my job to focus on opening that tea shop! Second Crohn’s flare up, worse than the first, back in the hospital.
That time I saw the block for what it was – a course correction. I decided to pause on that path and let something else unfold.
It was because of those Crohn’s episodes that I needed to modify many things about my life including my style of yoga practice which led me to yin yoga – and I later decided to become trained to teach it.
It was because of Crohn’s disease that I became more fascinated with the healing role of nutrition – and then enrolled in a program to become a certified nutritional consultant.
And then no matter how much I changed, restricted and restricted further my diet, and no matter how many supplements I took, and no matter how much yin yoga I practiced, and no matter how much acupuncture I underwent, and no matter how many natural doctors I saw – I still ended up five years later with a perforated intestine needing three surgeries and medication.
And I thought WELL WTF. Another seeming block on the path.
But it was precisely because nothing had worked the way I wanted it to despite all my perfectionistic efforts to control the outcome, and all my worst fears about medication and surgery came true, that I had to keep looking deeper, at the levels of the mental and emotional to discover who and how I am – and eventually became a certified personality profiler to understand myself and others at the level of our thoughts and emotions.
And then I realized that it wasn’t about just one tool or the other, it was about the interplay of all of these facets working together. And it was because even with all these amazing tools I eventually found myself and my clients still running into our own blocks that I realized we still hadn’t gone all the way to the bottom level – so I recently enrolled in the shamanic energy healing training program in order to learn to release the stories, the trauma, the entrenched patterns at the level of the energy body or soul.
And I continue to be amazed at the levels of healing I am lucky enough to experience and share with others precisely because of all these “blocks” on my path!
But what if I had never suffered from those Crohn’s flare ups all those years ago? What in the world would I be doing with my life and how different would it look?
Maybe I would have opened that tea shop and maybe I would have eventually realized it wasn’t the right fit. It did use some of my skills and I was good at it and passionate about tea, but it I now know it wasn’t in service to my highest gifts and calling.
Sometimes the universe closes a door for us on purpose, so that we don’t have to spend our time doing what’s not right for us. It feels confusing and painful while it’s happening, but usually, if we stop the forward charging for just a moment and check in with our deepest knowing, on some level we too know that whatever it is isn’t the right fit for us either. Sometimes we know it right away, and sometimes we come to understand it later on.
And sometimes the universe puts a block on our path not to close the door, but in order to force us to grow. The path is still good, but we have to find a better way, more in alignment with who and how we are. Maybe the block forces us to step into our power, to find our confidence; or to slow down, to pause and do some healing work of releasing the past in order to better move forward into our future.
As Robert Moss says, it takes practice to know whether a block on our path is a course correction or an opportunity to lean in and grow. I think he’s referring to a practice in listening to our intuition, our deep inner knowing.
And in our practice, sometimes we will get it wrong. But that’s ok because the universe will just try again. It took two major health blocks on my path to opening a tea shop for me to pause, ponder, and reassess: is this really the path for me? The first time, I kept forging ahead hoping it was just unfortunate timing. The second time as the message got louder and the block got bigger, I knew then that it wasn’t just coincidental timing and there was a much bigger message at play.
5. This is How You Shift:
Awkward, messy, conflicted, exuberant & wild
As always, while my own latest health Shit-hit-thefanitis played out over this past month, my initial thoughts were: What terrible timing! I don’t want to deal with this! I’ve got important things to get done here!
But because a health crisis forces us to slow down and pause, I eventually used the time and space to ponder, to check in with my intuition, to look below the surface.
Life plays out in a magical web of interconnection and sometimes what’s happening doesn’t make any immediate sense in the moment, but if we can trust that it’s all happening according to some greater plan for our highest good – we can afford ourselves some much needed peace.
So despite the bad timing and the setbacks and the pain, I felt that this time, the block – the health issue – wasn’t a course correction. The path still felt good.
Back in the days of trying to create a tea shop every action felt like such an effort, like I was acting alone to pave my way. In contrast to this particular moment where it feels like there is some magnetic force in my life drawing the right people and opportunities to me, allowing me to play on my path and be led into something grander. So, if not a course correction, it must be a lesson of growth, a time to lean into what is.
Perhaps the lesson is simply in accepting what is and not judging it or wishing it away. I drew an oracle card recently from a deck called The Shaman’s Dream Oracle that said: “Stop asking for things to be perfect. Awkward, messy, conflicted, exuberant, and wild is how you shift. Trust this process.”
It’s reminding me that difficult things can destroy you, and they will if what we bring to the process is our perfection, our control, our lack of trust and hope – or they can transform you, if only we can allow it to be a messy and wild adventure.
What will you choose in your own life when the blocks appear, when the shit hits the fan, when the messages get louder? Will you let it destroy you or will you tune in, heed the messages and let it transform you?
Like the diamond, I hope you’ll choose to transform.