Friday, July 23, 2021

Self-Healing is the Move You Don't Want to Do

This is part of a series of postings on self-healing, which you can access via the "Self-Healing" tag which appears in the Slog’s left margin below "Popular Entries".

When people inquire about my health, I never know what to say. My genetics are shit, so I've been afflicted with way more than my share of issues, but after 50 years of ardent yoga practice, I have a knack for self-healing. I've escaped, Houdini-style, from myriad dire scenarios. And I feel pretty great. The peak of good health...even though it's all held together with staples and duct tape, and I need to do a thing for my back and a thing for my feet and things for my neck, etc, etc, etc.

I've dodged many supposedly incurable conditions, never aiming for anything grand, just grappling with physical puzzles, one after another, necessity mothering invention. I'll be cataloging my tricks and tips in case anyone out there can benefit.

I consider memory issues a health problem, so I've tagged my two recent posts on memory (one about opening extra slots and the other about recovering forgotten info) accordingly. Both were developed via my standard approach to self-healing, which I'm about to outline.

This posting is nominally about curing tendinitis and arthritis (both incurable) and blasting through meditation plateaus, but, on a higher level, it shows how I came up with the fixes, so you can do the same.
 You'll need vast patience and worrisome levels of persistence. One must be an extreme contrarian to try hard while living among lazy, comfortable, self-satisfied rich people. There's not much inertia to draw from!

Despite my success with self-healing, it's a realm where I'm extremely slow, and have never sped up. Nothing smart, snappy, effortless. Never a snazzy "TA-DAH!". It takes me a year or two to figure out each Move, and when I do it's always cloddishly simple. The Move never involves praying to Akhkhazu or grinding owl molars or concocting some perfect blend of rare herbs. It's dopey, coarse stuff like "try it while hung over" or "do the tiniest possible stretches" or "work the part that hurts". Most importantly, it's inevitably the thing you didn't want to do. That's why people don't ordinarily stumble onto these fixes. Self-healing most often involves the move you don't want to do.

Again, there's nothing smart about it. I’m a syrupy-thick dim bulb amid myriad hotshots too lazy to make an effort. One thing about me: I make the effort. Remember, I'm an ant. And, as I keep mentioning,
Life consists of a series of revisitations to tired cliches, certain with each new pass that we now really understand them. And so it is with Edison's "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration." That quotation used to conjure up images of wild-eyed fanatics banging hammers in garages in the middle of the night. But it's just a matter of normal people blithely but indefatigably putting out. The Colorado River, etcher of the Grand Canyon, is just some shitty little river. The best among us are shitty little rivers. To me, that's what Edison was saying.
Ok, here goes.

Curing Tendinitis

Note: I'm trying to explain how I came up with the cure more than how to implement it yourself. Stay tuned for better instruction in an upcoming posting.

I was suffering from awful tendinitis (likely Carpal tunnel, as well) in my hands and wrists from holding a heavy instrument all night and typing all day. As a longtime yogi, my instinct was to try stretching. But nothing worked, and I realized that that was expected. Millions of people have repetitive stress issues, so every conceivable stretch has been tried thousands of times. If one could stretch one's way out of this pain, it would have been noted.

My younger self once sent my future self a tip: always try flipping it. Don't try to be clever. Don't orchestrate it. Just, whenever you're stuck, capriciously flip things upside-down, inside-out, whatever. You may not find an instant eureka, but you'll view the issue freshly, opening up landscapes of possibility (this was an early exploration of perceptual framing, the deliberate shifting of perspective).

Big yoga stretches wouldn't work. So what about tiny ones? It didn't make sense, but I didn't need it to make sense. This was an exercise in creativity. A flip. So I playfully tried my familiar stretches at 1/1000th scale. Teeny-tiny. And then shrunk it even further, until they were invisible. Nothing visibly moved, yet there was discernible action. My hand might look stationary, but, under the skin, there was sloshing. I found I could make it smaller and more subtle still, until there was only intentional movement (fully engaged; i.e. poised to move).

It worked. Knocked out all pain, and the smaller the better. Sometimes it returns, and I can knock it back out again in 15 seconds flat.
This works for all tendon and other soft tissue and nerve pain. Muscular pain responds best to conventional stretches.
I've tried instructing others, but it's like teaching orangutangs to read. Way too subtle. People either do big fat careless stretches, or else they stare at their motionless hands, "wishing" or "visualizing" or god knows what. I urge them to remain engaged - don't just imagine movement, actually do it....but tiny. It's hard, because it's something different, and people don't cotton to "different" (we’re deluded enough to presuppose we’d cure the incurable with something familiar!). So they get confused and bored, and would prefer to pay a specialist $$$$ for ineffective treatment (nothing out there works for this), risking side effects, than spend a full minute entertaining Jim's weird thingee.

Anything familiar has been tried to death. You must go the other way and try moves nobody does. Moves that seem alien and counterintuitive. Or uncomfortable moves you’d normally resist. This next one is a great example of an uncomfortable move.

Mojo Rising

Valentines Day 2005. I am very badly hungover, can barely move. I'd been meditating twice per day for years, and made great progress (my resting heart rate's slowed by 25%, and I was surviving an untenable work situation with relative equanimity). And the thing with meditation is that you have to commit to never missing a session. The practice must slot in as top priority.

Hungover people don't want to exercise. Or socialize. Or work. But what they really really don't want to do is sit up straight intoning a mantra for twenty minutes. That's literally the very last thing hungover people want to do. And so it never happens!

Also, diligent meditators aren’t usually the insouciant type. Me, I was a devoted meditator who loved craft beer (drinking for the flavor, not the high), making me an edge case. And for centuries you weren't taught meditation until you'd made certain lifestyle commitments, alcohol abstinence being the most common. So it is really really really really edge case behavior to meditate while hungover. I doubt it's happened more than 1000 times in the history of Earth.

But this day I sat up and meditated, and within moments, coils of molten liquid energy snaked up my back, fueling an ecstacy lasting for weeks (it's never fully died down). If the experience could be compressed into pill form, it would easily sell for $100,000 per pill.

Since then, whenever I plateau in meditation, I deliberately get hungover so I can blast past it (my theory: the body gathers powerful healing/detoxifying inertia from hangover recovery, and meditation rides that tailwind). It’s not always ecstatic, sometimes it’s just peaceful. But it always breaks the logjam. 
Note: don't try this until you've established a strong meditation practice for a couple of years (I do this - and also this and eventually added this and this and this - but I recommend skipping the author's other writings and his online forums). And don’t do it too often. Maybe once every year or two, tops.
Curing Arthritis

I was immobilized for a full year due to foot problems. You name it: plantar tear, capsulitis, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, and nerve damage, all at once. Recovery would take 3-6 months with likely setbacks, given that the plantar tear could easily re-tear, resetting my recovery clock.

Very long story short, at the one year mark, I realized the remaining pain was entirely arthritis, which often appears in under-used limbs, joints, and extremities.

You can simply try to put the arthritic bodypart to use, but there's a vicious circle. The arthritis pain discourages you. And if you try to brute force it, you'll keep suffering ad infinitum. Eventually, it will wear you down, and you'll settle into immobilization...which worsens the arthritis. It's ghastly.

After several MRIs and lots of ginger experimentation, I was finally certain I wouldn't reinjure the tear, and I did the very last thing my poor tormented feet wanted: I stretched and contracted the bejesus out of them in every direction. Not suble movements. Great big ones. Since it was the last thing I wanted to do, it was also the last thing arthritis sufferers ever try. And it worked. Perfectly.

Except, that is, for one toe, which remained painful. One solitary throbbing toe. I hemmed and hawed, plotted and experimented, but I could not figure out a way to contract/stretch this specific toe until one day I became consciously aware that I was avoiding a certain move that hurt even a little more. Nothing excruciating, nothing I contemplated with dread. I just kinda didn't wanna, so I hadn’t. I did it, and, ka-ching, the toe was fine and I'm once again walking 7 miles at a stretch. I feel like a condemned prisoner set free.

The incurable arthritis has been wiped away like magic, though it returns daily, requiring me to redo my Moves, stretching and contracting in all the wrong ways. It's mildly painful (I'm used to it!), and I'm careful not to overdo it - to unnaturally over-stretch (it's not the pain, per se, that fixes it!). I earn a sublime 24 hour pain timeout via 30 seconds of clenching and wriggling.

To clarify: stoically walking around on an arthritic foot will provoke pain forever. You need to go a step further and systematically clench and stretch every part of the foot. Then walking and other activity will be pain free…at least for a day or so. Obviously, ask your doctor first. S/he will doubt the effectiveness, but can help ensure you don’t create fresh problems.


I've done a bunch more self-healing, as well. This posting offers the master key, explaining how to go about it. But I'll be posting fixes for actual maladies.

See this follow-up posting, explaining why I'm being vague about how to stretch (or micro-stretch) for tendinitis and arthritis, and riffing about why sometimes slow-mindedness is a feature, not a bug.

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