Back on the healing path in April, 2021 we had a series of ‘weekend lockdowns’ yep, only locked down on weekends (???). And I had decided to step down off the prednisone which has to happen gradually lest you rebound back into the pain. Where I live is tranquil and our community on this ridge side of the sacred Mandango mountain that dominates the Valley calls itself the Hill Tribe, and 6 households live cooperatively centered around the Pyramid I co-created and built (and have blogged on) in 2012. The Pyramid was built and designed to attract and focus the energies of the Mandango. The Pyramid shaped bamboo frame and thatch covered roof (using scaled down dimensions of the Great Pyramid of Giza) is built over a 9m square earthen platform, the whole structure is in alignment along magnetic ley lines and the 4 directions very important to indigenous tradition. We share shamanic ceremonies there, plant medicine ceremonies, yoga and qi gong, meditation, women’s and men’s groups, workshops, sound healing offered by Hill Tribe members and people in the community.
Built with all natural materials the Pyramid is perfect for transformational activities; those that support people wishing to delve into their current illusion and evolve a different reality. As a natural structure, standing in a natural setting the Pyramid decays and needs renovation constantly, every-changing as is everything in our world. This representation of impermanence preludes non-attachment and non-judgement which are concepts inherent in nature and which while supported by traditions like Buddhism are so lost in our modern world. I believe this is largely where we have gone wrong as human societies, that we stopped living in and listening to nature. We have a running funding site to help support the ongoing rehabilitation of the Pyramid and I invite you to take a look and please donate if you can.
Lots of pix of the Pyramid here on the FB page @MandangoPyramid
What I wanted to say was that these lockdowns were in fact welcome weekend retreats for us, moments of calm. On each of the 4 successive weekends we the Hill Tribe led sessions in the Pyramid of movement medicine, meditation and breathwork, such a perfect way to be locked down! It is important for me to locate for you why this place has been so essential to my healing and why I travelled across the world and away from my sons to be here and do the necessary healing and be a healthier and better father. I couldn’t have picked a better place to ride out the Covid-ness affecting the world.
I joined and left a ‘polymayalic arthritis’ online forum, a support group for people with this ‘affliction’, recognizing that most of the people were resigned for life to their medicated condition and coping with that. I was not one of them, I had from the beginning understood that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that pharmaceutical medications were not the way forward. Life had been insanely busy and stressful and I took it that this condition of mine was the universe telling me to slow down and reflect on who I was and where I was headed. And I am forever grateful for all the lessons I continue to learn.
On my beautiful west facing terrace I started training with a new friend from Colombia, Daniel who embodies positivity, TRX and rubber bands for the isotonic approach. Many months of inactivity had caused my body to consider this weakened conditioning to be it’s ‘new normal’ and certainly on prednisone while I might have been pain free I still wasn’t anything like ‘back to normal’ in terms of strength and activity level. At this point I had been away from my sons’ for longer than I had thought and it didn’t seem like the end was coming anytime soon. In school in Switzerland and living with their Mum they were doing fine, each adapting differently to a new country and culture and curriculum and to my absence. It has been painful to be away from them, and I know that my resistance to reconciling this has not helped my healing but it has been part of the process and only recently as a result of heart-centered therapy have I learned possibly why this is so, I’ll save that for another blog.
The little Casita where I have been living
The training and nutrition regime was going well until one day I tweaked my left shoulder (another nemesis injury 11x dislocated) while training even though we were going slow and carefully, my body reacted saying it wasn’t ready yet. Then over 4 weeks, once I had stopped the prednisone and with the shoulder injury, pain slowly started to return. What I know now is that I hadn’t taken long enough to wean off the drug, mistake number 2. Closely followed by mistake number 3 when I did a 5 day water fast in week 4 without the commensurate colon cleanse, and I suspect toxins released during the fast that should have been flushed out, triggered again an inflammatory response and oh boy did I suffer. In late March, rebounding big-time, I fell back into pain and stiffness. There was more inner work to do.
This time I lasted 3 weeks losing mobility, independence, in constant pain, my spirit descended in a spiral again. In the early hopeful days as I was tapering off the prednisone and at the beginning of those 4 weeks I had been considering returning to Europe to be proximate to my boys and to try to set-up a wellness practice there. But that wasn’t to be. Instead in late April I reluctantly went back on prednisone and was again, nearly immediately ‘cured’. Amazing really the sense of being well again on this drug, and I realise that for many it is truly miraculous and I see why people stay on it. Unfortunately there is a plethora of side-effects of prednisone, some of them to the long-term detriment of the body’s integrity.
Skip to the chase. I remained on prednisone through May, June and July, I was on it during my son’s visit in July so that I was able to be pain free and mobile with them. The day they left I started to taper off again. This time the taper would take 2 months and by the end of September I was feeling like it was the moment to leave the drug altogether. I decided to stick only with the same diet and not take supplements of any kind so that my body could normalize and not be in anyway dependent on anything else besides what I was eating; food as medicine. I realised also that years of being ‘toxified’ were a part of my dilemma. I grew up through a time when fertilizers and pesticides were being introduced into the food chain, and when the genetic modification of food began. With respect to the scientific community and their efforts to improve crop yields and support farmers in poor countries, in the interest of ensuring the availability of food for more people, we have known since the ’70s that the real problem with food scarcity has always been global distribution, not production and that these methods of chemicalization and modification do not necessarily support population health. Another heady topic.
In addition I have spent much of my adult working life living in countries where there has been a lack of regulation in the use of chemicals in food production. I have lived in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Nepal and Myanmar where poverty, war and corruption have resulted in the poisoning of the earth. In Myanmar for example the entire Irrawaddy basin, a food basket of rich and fertile soil is toxic. Getting an organic grower certification there is impossible because the water source is contaminated with chemicals. Ironically in many cases low quality fertilizers and pesticides illegally transported from China thwart the efforts of countries to regulate such additives because they are cheaper, and farmers are mis-educated to use greater concentrations on crops than is needed. So who knows what I ingested and what has accumulated in my system over these years. Also growing up in Canada at a time when so many things were being experimented with in terms of increasing crop yields. Wheat or beef or chicken or soy, etc are far from the same as what I started off eating as a lad. Nowadays you can’t find GMO, glyphosate free wheat products on the shelf unless you go specifically for organics. Beef, chicken, pork and even (especially) salmon, anything ‘mono-cropped’ are all antibiotic, steroid and hormone ‘enhanced’. In Afghanistan, in 2003 I was in the north-west province of Farya, the Iranians were shipping containers full of robust frozen chickens to remote town markets, a welcome change from the scrawny farm-yard chickens you could get in the market. Yet by their size these were chickens highly inoculated, hormone supported, being force-fed chemicalized grains chickens. The bird flu scare halted the importation of these chickens probably to the betterment of the general population and my personal health.
Statistically we have seen a steady increase in cancers over the past 30 years, particularly in those who are over 45 years old today. We should not be at all surprised given the abuse of the food supply by corporate interests. I don’t think I am the only canary in the mine, I think we are many, a whole huge flock. I believe it is not in the ‘corporate’ (food industry), nor in the western medical community’s interest to see this because if it was, we would be seeing big changes in how we steward the earth, and how we cared for ourselves.
Add to all this I have unknowingly injured myself with two more insults: one the mercury amalgams in my teeth and whatever ails they might bring to heavy metal toxification of the body. Secondly I should not forget air toxicity; I have lived in some remarkably toxic cities, like Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and Yangon and it can’t be underscored how urban living in such places can only contribute to the toxification of body systems. Fortunately my lungs have had a break now and again with good lengths of time a year in East Timor, the coastal town of Dong Hoi in Vietnam where I lived for 2 years, and Vilcabamba here in Ecuador. I admit also to have been a more off than on smoker for much of my adult life and with long breaks, but still, that can’t have helped.
Here in the Sacred Valley of Ecuador there is a firm growing commitment on the part of farmers to grow chemical free food, the air is clean clean clean and it is the perfect place to detoxify and heal the body and spirit. And so through this time here I have eaten mainly organic foods. We are not educated about the importance of the health of our gut, and the effect of the damage done to a healthy gut biome by antibiotics. In 2003 I had an insidious pneumonia on the upper right lobe of my lungs and this was treated with nearly 3 weeks of rather harsh antibiotics. I believe my gut was destroyed then and as soon as the doctor could give me a clean bill of health, I ended up back in Afghanistan right at the time when those steroid chickens were available. Who knows what harms came to my system then, and with the various stressors of the job and poor availability of nutrient rich food, no probiotics, certainly I did nothing helpful to rebuild my gut.
Another digression, I know but to explore the understanding that our gut is our second brain is huge. In fact many would posit that our gut is our first brain and without a healthy gut we really cannot think straight, do a search on this! I would concur, and healing my gut has taken time. Post-prednisone I took extreme care to ensure a proper balance of pre and probiotics, fiber, plant and animal proteins and nutrients were in my diet; I was finally attending to my gut biome. I became more regular with my meditation practice, and through this crazy 2 years of the Covid pandemic, have made decisions from the heart, not from a place of fear and this has all helped me to see things much more clearly than would have been the case without such practices. I blogged about my perspective on the global Covid response in January.
In December my eldest son came for a visit, that lifted my spirits considerably and it cannot be understated how a positive frame of mind does wonders for reducing stress which in turn supports the immune system and thereby supports healing. I will be forever grateful that he made this trip (not easy as I describe in the ‘Stuck in Paradise blog below). Thank you son!
A key step that I took was to do a liver cleanse in January 2022, using a clever protocol from ‘the Medical Medium’ that I can tell you about if you ask. I highly recommend anyone over 45 start a regime of a least annual colon and liver and kidney cleanses to mitigate against the possibility of cancers or other diseases resulting from our years of toxification, and of course to reduce the likelihood of a ‘perfect storm’.
Here I am writing in March, 2022. I now understand that healing really has to take time and is not only about the physical state of being. I have been pain free for nearly 6 months, though weak from a year of nearly no physical activity and nervous about over-doing it to rebuild. A year ago I bought a vehicle, because what is only a 10 minute hillside walk from or to town had become too much and I was constantly tired. Recently, though the original knee dilemma has been largely unattended, I have started to walk down to town and started going to the gym to try to bulk up my quads and shoulders.
It has been a long path towards healing, though as my wise friends say, it took a lifetime to arrive at the place I’ve come from. I am grateful for this time and place, for the people who have challenged me and those who continue to support me. This journey has enhanced my understanding of what others go through, those in ‘chronic’ pain who come for some kind of respite. And I am more than before an ardent advocate for prevention. Nearly 9 years ago, when I turned 50, I posted on my FB to my friends ‘if you haven’t evolved a movement practice by now, it’s not too late’ and I stand by that. Conscious movement is critical, what we eat should be medicine not poison, we need to cleanse and to be healthy of body and we need to be healthy in mind.
To people in need of support on their journey I am available, and for others I would request that you share my website email address: email@example.com or message me on WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal: +(593)996545233 or FB/Instagram: @elementalwellnesstherapies with anyone you know who needs support, or just wants to start a meditation of movement practice.
The view from my desk
Finally to my sons who I speak to nearly daily and who have come to Vilcabamba twice in these past 15 months, please know that I left when I did because I had to, you know I miss you. I am rebuilding. I will come to Europe soon, who knows for how long, it depends what works and if I can find work. I have to go slow in the process of recovery because I don’t want to end up back down the rabbit hole of pain and despair. Despite whatever restrictions and all the challenges the current situation in Europe has thrown into the mix, I’ll be there. Meanwhile I’m building my quads like a ‘……’, great advice from my NZ physio friend who I was another man-mum in Kuala Lumpur 18 years ago!
I know it has been a challenging time for Cécile, single-parenting teens! And it is wonderful that she has been able to maintain the boys in comfort and safety. That I didn’t return when expected was not anticipated neither by me (or maybe it was a ‘be careful what you ask for’ by one or both of us moment?). At least an absence this long probably wasn’t ever thought of. The problematic of staying in arguably one of the most expensive constituencies in the world, was anyway untenable due to Covid so even if I was healthy I wouldn’t have been able to work.
The whole Covid overlay has meant that their Mum has spent more time working from home and except for the end of term last year the boys have been going to school since they started in Suisse back in Aug 2020, so that is something positive. As most of this generation of screen-committed teenagers do, they retreat to their rooms after raiding the fridge after school, and emerge from their dens to again forage for food at dinner-time and then retreat again. It means Mum is around the place. I taught them to cook, and they are quite good, skills that are already proving to serve them well! It has meant a lot for my healing to know the boys are thriving, performing well at school, not without health concerns for our youngest, but overall they are doing better than ok. I will blog again about my concerns for this generation through a period of ‘de-socialisation’ which doesn’t fit with our usual concept of a healthy environment for teens. Covid has kept kids at home and ‘off the streets’, for the most part, though at least on the street you’re getting some sunlight. Anyway, this too shall pass and they will be fine. I am sure of that.