This is a tale of what feels to me like a miraculous healing. It is also about the amazing flow of life (Carl Jung would call this synchronicity), travel woes and wonders in the Seychelles, a hike along an ancient coast, an unfortunate fall and the methods of a cocky chiro/physiotherapist known as the miracle worker in South Africa.
I don’t necessarily want to go back to Adam and Eve but let’s make a bee-line for the very beginning of this story. So here goes: In October 2008 I flew to Praslin island in the Seychelles, one of my favourite places in the world and an island I was visiting for the 5th time for a 'writing' holiday. My laptop with half the manuscript of my book was in my back pack - just as well. South African Airways lost my luggage with all my carefully selected special holiday foods. I was staying in a self catering apartment L’Hirondelle, the same one I always visit, right on the Cote D’Or beach overlooking St Pierre Islet. Maya Angelou, famous United States author and civil rights activist, said in a recent live interview with her life long friend Oprah that, “You can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
I am afraid to say that on the first day in Paradise without my clothes, my food and my toiletries, I was not scoring high on the Buddhist non – attachment scale. Even worse, I totally forgot the Wu Wei Zen code: to meet each moment spontaneously as it arises, without resistance! I have to say in my favour though, that by the third day my spiritual training of the past 7 years started kicking in and I accepted the calamity and resolutely decided to make the most of my two week holiday. The highlight of this trip, which I had pre-booked, was a flight to the most northerly island in the Seychelles, Bird Island, and a day and night with full board in the Bird Island Lodge, the only hotel on this 170 acre coral cay consisting of 24 eco friendly bungalows all overlooking the turquoise coloured sea. This was my island number 40 and I really wanted it to be special or rather “roaring”. Bird Island’s hospitality, its simplicity and total earthliness made my fortieth visit to an island something to remember. Not only did the Island win the Green Planet Award for Environmental Management and Good Practice a few times; it was also named as the 7th best place to go to in the world for true eco-tourism by the BBC wildlife magazine in December 2006.
Besides the warm clear tropical waters, the clean fresh air with its distinctive bird sweet/sour guano smell and the unpretentiousness of the island; the best for me was the food! On arrival that afternoon at four, I was really starving, not having had lunch and not much for breakfast either. On my walk around the island, first north to see the breeding sooty tern colony (at over 700 000 pairs of Sooty terns, this is the largest colony in the world that is accessible to tourists), then to the eastern coral reef for a refreshing swim and then down south along the airstrip, I suddenly spotted a ripe paw paw hanging out of reach at the top of a tree. This was irresistible to my hungry stomach. I got hold of a long stick and managed to manoeuvre the yellow paw paw until it fell off. Sitting down unceremoniously on the uneven grass patches of the airstrip, I broke the paw paw in half and without further a-do devoured the succulent insides of the fruit. It was simply delicious. And what was more, that evening I could sit out under the stars and enjoy a variety of fresh produce and local cuisine served in friendly buffet style at the open air restaurant, all paid for.
To keep the story short, I eventually returned home to Cape Town and while training for the upcoming Jailbreak Ironman Triathlon in December, experienced a total seizure of my gluteus muscles. My kinesiologist said my Vitamin E levels were dangerously low, hence my inability to run freely as usual. I don’t know if my less than adequate, unconventional and beyond my control eating arrangements in the Seychelles brought this shortage about, but I immediately tried to rectify it by religiously taking my omega tablets, adding a multivitamin per day, plus eating more green veggies and eggs. We did some PNF stretches for my hamstrings and I got through the Ironman okay, winning the 50+ age group, although my running was below its normal par. At this Jailbreak Ironman held on the Brandvlei Prison grounds each finisher gets a key as a medal at the end of the race so we can “escape” from prison; I celebrated my 'freedom' by going on a hike called the Swart Tobie (Black Oyster Catcher) with old friends along the sea on the West Coast. On the third day our tents were pitched on a high escarpment above the sea and while making my way down the steep gravel road to wash down at the sea, my right leg slipped and I had a really awkward fall. Nothing was badly hurt but I could feel that I had upset my right knee, which had the cartilage removed donkey’s years ago. The next week while trying to run the Old Year Eve’s 8 kilometre race, I totally seized up; I was so tight in my buttocks, I could hardly run. I got hold of a physio runner mate on New Year’s Day and she arranged for one of her experienced physiotherapists to treat me the next morning. After the second treatment on the Monday I was allowed to venture out for a run. I was definitely feeling a bit looser but still tight with a niggling nerve in my right leg playing up.
So here enters the miraculous "chance occurrence of events". Arriving home, my intention was to phone my old chiropractor to set up an appointment. There was one message on my phone; from a fellow runner whom I last saw at the winter trail series night race. She was phoning from Vermaaklikheid, an isolated spot with about four houses on a river which is a good four and a half hour drive from Cape Town. She wanted me to give her Douglas Heel’s number. I didn't know Douglas Heel, but the name did ring a bell. I phoned my friend Craig and asked him if the guy who got him walking again after a back disc injury was Douglas Heel – yes his surname is indeed Heel, no pun intended. Craig told me again how the doctors had wanted to operate: he was totally immobilized and then his wife got him an appointment with Douglas and the next day he could walk. I confirmed that this man and his miracle treatment was indeed a chiropractor as well as a physiotherapist. This synchronicity I simply could not ignore! Within half an hour I had an appointment with Douglas for the next morning at 10 o’clock. That he was in, was itself a miracle. He is normally overseas on a sport assignment with some football or golf team.
Arriving at his rooms, I was told by this young healer in his thirties (short but energetic) how he knocked out a world class heavy weight boxer with one little tick to the head at the correct nerve spot. He has worked with the Miami Dolphin’s football team as well as with the Springbok rugby team, optimizing their performance by correcting their muscle imbalances. He calls 'his method' muscle activation (see www.muscleactivation.co.za). It is based on the nerve switch points in the body; he basically releases all tension first in the stomach, then in the neck (the two neck points are the same release points that are used by the shamans in the Amazon – see Alberto Villoldo’s book Shaman, Healer, Sage) and lastly in the jaw, as well as a few other points if it is necessary and beneficial for the client. Boy oh boy did he hurt me; I nearly went through the roof when he started on my stomach release point. He demonstrated to me that my psoas muscle (the hip flexor and one of the most important stabilizer muscles in the body) could not press his arms apart. After doing the release around my belly button, my psoas was back in working form and I could easily press his arms apart. So he continued to demonstrate my revived muscle functioning as well as better stretch ability after each release. Each release was accompanied by a loud holler from myself to be able to bear the pain – talk about Middle Age pain bench treatments! On the front page of his website Douglas quotes the fact that he increased a gym manager’s leg press ability from 140 kg to 220 kg in less than 5 minutes by activating the correct muscles.
The next day, Thursday, I gave my punished body some chance to recover. On the Friday morning I was in the heated pool at the gym to have a good swim workout. Afterwards I went upstairs to the gym for my normal stretches and my strength exercises. There is a small tartan track on this floor. I took my shoes off and proceeded to gently jog around the track to see if the miracle healer (and sadist) had done me any good. I felt loose and totally free, my gluteus muscles were firing again, and I went faster and faster. By the fourth lap I was literally sprinting madly and running beautifully; I felt totally exhilarated and would have shouted for joy if I was on my own. The pain of the previous day was worth it!
Now whether it was just the muscle activation, or a combination of the physio treatment and also my heartfelt prayers to be healed, I can’t say. I am currently reading the informative book “Spontaneous Healing” by American physician Dr Andrew Weil, where he quotes numerous instances of miracle healings. Dr Weil says that he does see a clear role of the mind in healing. I think faith in a Higher Power as well as acceptance of one’s illness, can well provide the mental shift that unlocks a surprising healing process.
For me it is about the eternal balance that exists in our magnificent cosmos. On the Swart Tobie coastal hike we had an experienced geologist in the group. He could tell the names of the various gemstones and rocks along this ancient coast and pointed out to us that thousands of years ago the sea was 40 meters higher than at present; the huge banks of sea shells on the escarpment corroborated this truth. The second day of the hike our guide showed us a mangrove fossil forest of roots and solidified plants; sure validation that this once was a tropical area. A while ago I had an interesting chat with a doctor of climatology from Oxford University who studied urine samples of dassies in the caves of the Cedar berg Wilderness area which are within a 200 kilometre radius of where we were hiking. This doctor said that it was once much warmer on the earth (the earth is now 13,7 milliard years old according to most scientists) and that he does not really believe in the “global warming” theory. The earth is a magnificent self- balancing organism and he explained that if there is more carbon dioxide gas in the air the leaves of the trees and plants adapt and they develop more pores to dispose of the extra gas in the night. We are all aware that in sunlight the plants split water into oxygen, protons and electrons. This photosynthesis process by cyanobacteria was responsible for the appearance of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere two billion years ago and photosynthesis by plants maintains the oxygen levels today.
I could understand why the geologist on our hike said the worst thing we are doing today is destroying the rainforests of the earth and cutting down trees unnecessarily in favour of development. He regarded the rainforests as the “lungs” of the earth. To him the burning of fossil fuels was of less essence; it is a natural substance of the earth’s core anyway.
Seeing various remnants of much older civilizations that have been around on this coast, I felt really small and insignificant but also totally in awe of the timelessness and the magnificence of all of creation. The earth has existed for so long; and so has mankind. Within the whole structure of the vast cosmos there is a mechanism that moves continuously in the direction of life and health, always towards greater balance. All of us have this miraculous power within us; sometimes it just takes others to unlock it for us.
To conclude my story with the cat finally out of the bag (and the bee out of my bonnet); in the same interview Oprah asked Maya Angelou what she thought of growing older. Her answer was that it is “exciting”. Regarding body changes, she said that there were many, occurring every day… like her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist first! As long as we can laugh about the miracle of life, we can remain young in mind.
While running pain free and rhythmically for miles on a deserted white beach on my holiday in Arniston at the beginning of 2009; I marvelled at life and the wonder of synchronicities that can befall us on the spiritual path. Of course I was running more slowly than 20 years ago, but the enjoyment and the freedom of movement was still exhilarating. It is my wish that all of you find your miracle healer in the near future to restore you to a wonderful life where the best is yet to come! And for those of you who wonder, my lost luggage with all the food intact, arrived 2 days after my arrival in Cape Town, all the way from Entebbe airport in Uganda!
"It is enough to know that indeed I AM, and that with a single spark of My mystic nature I uphold and pervade the entire cosmos." (from the Bhagavad - Gita).
- Po, Huang. 1958. The Zen teachings of Huang Po - translated by John Blofeld
- Villoldo, Alberto. 2001. Shaman, Healer, Sage.
- Weil, Andrew. 2008. Spontaneous Healing.
- www.muscleactivation.co.za (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A shortened version of this article was published as "Muscle Miracles" in Kindred Spirit July/August 2009 page 89/90.
This article was published in Odyssey in the Feb/March 2010 issue, pages 26-29.