When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes seven years ago, I was in such a good place in my life and felt so optimistic about everything that I hardly saw it as a problem. I remember thinking “Ok, so I have to keep checking my blood sugar, watch what I eat and inject insulin … no big deal, other than that, I'll keep living my life in the same way.” I felt that I just needed to focus on the positive and that way I could avoid any suffering that diabetes could produce.
But there's a difference between being optimistic and believing that our lives can continue unaltered after a chronic illness like diabetes. It turns out that it just wasn't ONLY about checking my blood sugar, watching what I ate and injecting insulin. It was about a new way of approaching life, including the direct realization of how fragile this life is, and how raw this realm of existence is. It took me about a year until it REALLY hit me. It was clearer and clearer that when I tried to live my life in the same way, I just didn't feel as energetic and vibrant as before. Then I broke down and felt like a part of me was gone for ever, that part was my health. I started to harvest this idea that no matter what I did, I WOULD NEVER BE HEALED. That thought was and is a very poisonous one. Every time I see diabetes as this this sentence of eternal unhealthiness and I create this fixed identity of an unhealthy person, a deep sorrow fills my being and living becomes a burden.
Early this year a friend of mine that has been working with traditional doctors in the Amazon (read Shamans) traveled to the jungle and asked which plants could help me. They told her and also taught her how to prepare some medicine with them. Then a beautiful chain of loving hands, including hers, her teacher and her mother contributed to me getting this medicine. I was very thankful and did everything I was told to do. I appreciated all the effort and felt it was my duty to prepare and drink this medicine. However, after a couple of weeks I didn't notice any significant changes in my numbers, I was still full of high and lows that left me totally exhausted and sometimes depressed. Then the thought came “why even do this? I'm still sick and will be until I die, this is pointless … I WILL NEVER BE HEALED.”
I had had encounters with sacred plants and traditional doctors before I was diagnosed, specially through a beverage called Yagé (based on the Ayahuasca plant) which has been broadly used on the Amazon region as a source of healing and wisdom by the native communities, probably for centuries.
It was very powerful and revealing when I took Yagé. I know this is a sensitive issue and I don't pretend to push any belief system on anyone regarding this sort of practices, I can only speak about my own experience, and in my case, I can state that there is definitively an amazing wisdom there. So I was regretting the fact that I can't do it anymore. This is because when you take Yagé, you move into a very altered state of consciousness and managing low or high blood sugars can be impossible in this situation. So unfortunately for us diabetics, Yagé is off limits.
But sacred plants have powers beyond our logical way of relating to reality, and something quite amazing happened the last time my friend took it (and frankly “amazing” doesn't do justice to what took place) It turns out that during her sacred journey, she started to feel SHE WAS ME, yes she literally felt that, her body was my body and her mind was my mind. I know this sounds insane, but neither she or I could find better words to describe it, so bear with me for a while please.
What happened next is that my friend (experiencing herself as me) started to feel this huge sadness, and began to cry like a helpless baby, shouting “WHY, WHY, WHY?” totally inundated with anger towards life - just like it happened to me when the full weight of the disease hit me. As she was doing this, the plant was showing her (or me) some medicinal plants and beverages, but “I” just kept saying “why should I do that? its pointless, even if I take the medicine I'll still be sick, and that wont ever change!!”
When you take this sacred journeys, you get messages in different ways, the plant “speaks” to you but not in words, is a kind of knowing that goes beyond language, more like an epiphany. But this time, the plant literally spoke to my friend, which in this case means that the plant spoke to me, with very clear words, and said:
“HEALING DOESN'T ALWAYS MEAN TO REMOVE THE DISEASE, IT MEANS TO PLACE LOVE IN THE WOUNDS"
When she told me this I immediately began to cry, those words went right into my heart and liberated me from the idea that having a chronic illness meant eternal unhealthiness. Yes, healing doesn't always mean to remove the disease, placing love in the wounds IS healing. After that moment I have a new framework for my diabetes, every time I have a “bad” number I try to see it as an opportunity to heal, as a chance to put love in my wounds, both my physical wounds as imbalances in my body, and my psychological wounds as thoughts of anger, sadness, despair and unworthiness.
This practice brings the gift of nurturing compassion and wisdom, through it we can realize directly that this precious human life is fragile and finite. No matter how hard we work at it, the disease of mortality is one that can not be removed, so all of us need to be healed by placing love in our wounds. Seeing this has the power to turn around the perceptions we have about ourselves and the world. Maybe mortality and all other “diseases” can be seen differently, not as sentences of eternal unhealthiness, but as wake up calls to appreciate our life as it is in this very moment, and to realize our infinite capacity to love and be loved.
(This article was written with boundless gratitude towards Iiwa Ishoo)