Meditation has changed my life. It has helped me manage my mast cell activation symptoms, bizarre reactions to chemicals, dampen an explosive temper and get over the fear of food, and it’s certainly not an exaggeration to say that I have meditation to thank for minimising my food intolerances/reactions to food. How? Most likely a region of my brain called the limbic system was somehow triggered to remain “on” following a particularly harrowing experience with food and has spent the next few years hyper-analysing every morsel for its potential to hurt me. That’s what I think anyway.
But, as I say over and over again to those with histamine intolerance – “it’s not about the food”. Focusing on the food rather than understanding the role of hormones, digestive enzymes, mast cell instability and the brain’s determination to detect and avoid things that make us ill or it perceives could kill us, is not to see the wood for the trees. So to exclusively focus on what food is having which effect on the body is likely creating a situation where the brain amplifies every tiny glitch into a monster symptom.
That’s where mediation comes in. Learning to manage the body’s flight or fight response to food, even the harmless triggers, in my case has involved seriously chilling out in the kitchen and at the dinner table. Letting go, understanding that I can’t, nor do I wish to, control every single thing about my diet and my environment, is what I decided I wanted out of mediation. And so I worked towards it. What I did learn to control however was my body’s response to (harmless) triggers. You certainly won’t find me arguing that commercial dishwashing liquid, make up or tap water is particularly safe – I’ve just accepted that the enormous effort it took to avoid all these things and more importantly tell people over and over again how sick I would get if I did was actually making me sicker. I was talking myself into an illness.
That’s where the Silva Method of meditation and healing comes in. For the last six months I have spent 15 minutes – 1 hr daily practising taking myself to a deep level of relaxation where I am able to kill my worst reactions and visualise myself not reacting to foods and chemicals. While there are many ways to meditate, it’s the one that allowed me to understand that I can go deep, really deep, and even control pain. I’ve used it for everything from getting rid of migraines, to stopping myself from passing out after vitamin B12 injections and even controlling minor reactions to food (which I am NOT endorsing – a minor reaction can turn deadly for many).
So now please bear with me while I explain something really quickly before I move onto the event that changed my life: I’ve been exploring how to bring down the cost of my books while still supporting my work, the hours I spend (daily) answering people’s email questions and the incredible number of hours I spend on research. So far I’ve been pumping money in from my real job so that I can run all of this. Right now I write, design, format, market and sell the books (as well as providing customer support), in addition to running the blog, paying for servers, designers, web support (though I do much of that myself). What kept coming up over and over in my conversations with friends in marketing was affiliate sales. A spot of good luck led to my being approved as a Silva Method affiliate (the system I have employed to try and control my reactions for the last six months) just as they rolled out an INCREDIBLE offer at a 70% discount of what I paid for mine! Check out the Silva Method here. But listen, if it’s too much money or you prefer to work on meditation alone, there are any number of great books on mindfulness meditation out there. That’s how I started out my journey. Silva just allows me to go deeper and faster than I ever have before.
Back to what I was talking about. Given that I am always worried someone will get hurt following the path I have chosen for myself, I have till now not shared the event that changed my life. The one that gave me complete control over my condition. I want to make absolutely clear that what happened wasn’t the result of a choice, but rather being completely out of options.
Please do not try this at home. Do not try it without consulting a doctor. Just don’t try it ok? I could never forgive myself if something happened to you.
Ok, now you may read on.
The incident that changed everything…
Kenya, we travelled down a dirt road for 20 minutes to reach this beautiful house on the beach to have a party. Blaring music, drunken dancing (not me!). I have suddenly taking poorly. Not wanting to spoil the party by leaving, I try to chill on a sun lounger by the water’s edge. Suddenly wracked by waves of nausea, the dreaded “warm brain” I haven’t experienced in years, and a sudden out of body feeling; I decide that yakking my guts up on the impromptu dance floor might be more of a buzzkill, so with my heart about to jump out of my chest, I begin weaving my way up the path to the bedroom. A sideways glance at a mirror on the staircase frightens the life out of me.
Correction – it looks like the life has already been frightened out of me. My lips are snow white, my skin so pale it’s verging on translucence. I can no longer feel my fingers or toes and my brain/head has passed from warm to ice cold – which frightens me immensely. I clutch the bathroom sink as my lips pass from white to blue. My heart rate shoots up and as I debate my next move, suddenly a vortex opens at my feet, sucking the life force out of me, starting at my head, all the way down to my feet like one of those 3D sci-fi movies where you’re taken through a wormhole.
I take a brief time out from terror to assess my situation. I am alone and no one downstairs can hear me. We are at least an hour’s drive from a doctor and in any case no one is sober enough to drive me. A cartoon-like dimming of my vision is now in motion and I realise this is it – I am going to die. I’ve been here before, but this time there’s no hospital or competent doctor within reach.
I begin trying to make my peace with it, having collapsed into a ball on the floor. I tell myself that at least all this suffering will be over and that the person I love the most will finally have a “normal” life with someone who is healthy, someone to make him happy – when suddenly he appears at the doorway.
Not quite immediately realising what’s going on, thinking I’ve left the party in a huff, he comes over to take me in his arms, no doubt to convince me to come back down to the party.
“This is it,” I croak. “I’m dying.”
He suddenly scoops me up into his arms, propping me up from behind. I can feel my heart trying to match the perpetually chilled out beating of his; it’s enough to remind me that I’ve spent the last few months training for (not quite) this very moment.
And so I begin. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Breathe. I recall what the mastocytosis doctors in Spain told me. Stress is what gets you. Kill the stress. Lie down. Epi. I have no epi so killing the stress hormones is my only hope.
Suddenly determined, I tell myself I’m not going to die – I’m going to bliss out to the point where it can’t hurt me. I can’t bring my fingers together to trigger the deepest relaxation method I have been practicing, but still I 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Breathe. Exhale.
I’m not going to die.
My man whispers lovingly into my ear. Reassurances that this will pass. Breathe. Exhale. Breathe again. It’s like walking. One step at a time. Remembering that it’s just one breath after the other till the path becomes clear. I visualise the room in front of me; each corner, the furniture – willing my eyes to see again. I know it’s not my eyes – it’s my brain. I switch to seeing a massive nuclear reactor style dial in my brain marked “shock” being turned from the danger zone back to 0.
Slowly the vision returns. I feel the strength and the calm of my man flowing through me and breathe in life. I visualise drawing my life force back into me.
Finally I’m able to lower myself onto the bed and pass out in complete exhaustion.
Now please remember, this is only my personal experience. I do not in any way advocate the use of meditation for something as serious as this situation. I literally had no options open to me, so I decided to focus on what I could control. The role of stress and mast cell release has been well documented in the work of National Institutes of Health funded researcher Dr Theoharides at Tufts, Boston.