I was twenty years old, living in Brookline, MA, and beginning my second year of undergrad studies at Berklee College of Music. Standing in my kitchen, I was laying out that day’s doses of a variety of pharmaceuticals: grainy, mustard-colored ellipses mixed with the tiniest of chalky white circles. Azulfadine, plaquenil, prednisone. I was receiving gold shots every other week, which didn’t give me a million dollar ass, but did ensure I could only sleep pain-free on one side of my body for the following week.
There was nothing special about that day, except that I very suddenly saw no endgame for these pills, this medicine. I had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which would pendulate from moderate to severe from age 13, and I had suddenly decided that I wasn’t going to keep doing things the same way. In that moment, I realized – no, I remembered – that I have tremendous capacity and I could reclaim all the strength and power I had given away to other people, systems, and authorities in the previous five years. And I woke up.
No one was watching this momentous realization. No trumpets, no fireworks, no medal was awarded. These are the moments of our lives when no one is watching, but they change us at our very core. When we look up from these moments, the world literally looks, feels, moves, smells differently.
In the very next moment, I tossed all the pills in the trash (disclaimer: not a wise environmental choice, and an admittedly questionable biological one). Afterwards, my symptoms lessened by at least 50%. I filled my bookshelves with such stereotypical self-help titles such as “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. I went to the gym and started moving, feeling, and trusting this body. And I knew I couldn’t change my body without understanding why my mind was in a state of continual stress.
This isn’t a horror story about modern medicine, and it isn’t a feel-good story about alternative medicine. It’s a straight-up love story about what happens when we stop, breathe, question, listen, and ultimately fall back into our selves again. The details may be individual, but the story arc is universal.
There were probably hundreds of tiny thoughts, experiences and encounters that led up to that moment. And I have come to believe deeply in these small battles, insights, and curiosities. We cultivate them every day, and when we place our focus on growing these small moments of our lives, they become a roaring voice in how we perceive, believe, and live in our bodies and the world.
I want to invite you to share in some of the practices that happen in these small moments, that grow our capacity for moments of awakening.