My boyfriend and I recently went for a hike in a local park, only to be confronted by a barricaded parking lot, with the words, “Park Closed.” Dismayed yet not daunted, we continued driving down the perimeter of the park, until we came across an opening in the chain link fence – not a deviant-sized hole, mind you, but a legitimate trail entrance. The last we’d heard, our state continued to permit hiking with social distancing. We were confused by the sign, though, and nervous about the possibility of getting arrested.
We decided to take a chance – finding an off-road parking spot half a mile away, and walking back to the entrance. I was anxious for the first 15 minutes or so on the trail, talking to my boyfriend in hushed tones. “Why do you keep whispering?” he asked. “I don’t want to call attention to us,” I replied. Who knew? Maybe police were lurking behind the trees, waiting to ambush miscreant hikers like us. Ultimately, however, I relaxed, and we enjoyed having an entire county park to ourselves – which likely would have happened, even without the barricade. Not only do we live in a rural area, where one nary comes across a fellow hiker, but my boyfriend and I mindfully chose to head out close to sunset, when it would be especially unlikely for us to encounter anyone.
Regardless, after a three-mile hike through the woods, we returned home feeling peaceful and refreshed, in our bodies and souls. I actually moved from the big city to the heart of nature four years ago, for that very reason: Nature heals me. Over the years, spending ample time in nature, then moving to it, actively contributed to my ability to lower my cholesterol and blood sugar levels, increase my physical strength and reduce my pain, and even stop the growth of and began shrinking cancer – all without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgery. Nature is my medicine, an imperative part of my mind-body-spirit regimen of self-care.
So who is the government to say that my access to park trails is any less essential than my access to grocery stores or doctors?
Rather than barring citizens from nature, the government should be encouraging us to spend time in it – problem-solving how to do so safely, of course – so that we don’t end up with a “cure” that’s worse than the original problem. Back in the 1970s, during the OPEC crisis and resulting gas shortage, the government ordered that cars with even and odd license plate numbers would alternate what days they bought gas, and the government additionally launched an intensive educational campaign on energy conservation, resulting in people changing their behavior – walking and taking public transportation where they did not truly need to be driving. The government did not simply say, “Sorry, no gas for you,” because driving, and therefore gas, were recognized as critical to our lives (whether or not that was actually the case).
When we prioritize something, we make a point of figuring out how to revolve everything else around it – bringing our intelligence and creativity to the situation, and coming up with innovative solutions. So should the government be hiring a think tank to figure out how to make nature accessible to everyone – especially during this time.
The Coronavirus is causing widespread stress and fear, in turn activating the sympathetic nervous system – in which one’s adrenaline is depleted and immune system is compromised, making one all the more susceptible to catching and succumbing to a virus. Scientific research has proven that spending time in nature activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which engages the body’s innate healing mechanisms – lowering both blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, and helping stress-related problems, like anxiety and depression.
Forcing people to stay at home is the opposite of what we need – either to power up our immune systems, so as to prevent getting the virus, or to minimize the impact of the virus if it takes hold. All the more so when those homes are in cramped quarters of a noisy city, or when those homes are unsafe places. Additionally threatening to arrest people who disobey orders – as has happened in various states – simply adds fuel to the fire, leading US citizens not only to be in lockdown, but to be locked in fight/flight mode.
This impediment to our ability to practice self-care is sure to cause a domino effect of personal and public health crises. Already we have seen a 25% rise in domestic violence calls. I predict that statistic is just the beginning of a long-term negative impact across the spectrum of mental and physical health considerations.
Rather than responding to the Coronavirus with fear and avoidance, we need to respond to it with intelligence and engagement. In addition to spending time in nature, we need to learn and implement other self-care practices that boost our immune system – such as taking vitamins and supplements that have been proven effective in doing so. To this end, I call on the medical community and government to educate people on a host of self-care practices, and additionally, to subsidize these measures, to make them accessible and affordable.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I chose to explore it as an opportunity for healing and transformation in every aspect of my life. In addition to spending more time in nature, I radically changed my diet – going all-organic and vegan, with no gluten, soy, fried foods or sweeteners of any kind; I juiced daily and even went on two month-long juice fasts; I took 20 or so immune-boosting supplements daily; and I engaged in the spectrum of mind-body-spirit practices – dancing barefoot in my living room, meditating with guided imagery CDs, cuddling with loved ones; and playing music with my band, Iraqis in Pajamas. Together, these measures cold-stopped the growth of cancer a decade ago and began shrinking it five years later.
When approached with the right mindset, illness paradoxically can open the door to enhanced wellness. Seizing the opportunity for such transformation, however, requires a radical shift – not only in mindset, but also in allocation of financial resources. Sadly, neither shift seems forthcoming in the current medical or governmental model, so what has been going on with cancer is now going on with Coronavirus as well – leading to unnecessary suffering and death.
Despite the 1,000-plus scientific studies in peer-reviewed medical journals, proving the efficacy of lifestyle medicine in healing from cancer – as documented in the NY Times bestselling book, Radical Remission, by Kelly Turner PhD; and despite the fact that the “war on cancer” – waged through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery – has been an utter failure, with the incidence and mortality rates for cancer higher now than when this war was declared half a century ago, lifestyle medicine is not recognized as “real medicine,” whereas pharmaceuticals and surgery are. As an upshot, those facing a cancer diagnosis are bullied into choosing conventional medical treatment, either from fear-mongering or economic pressure.
In my case, one of the two doctors who initially diagnosed me told me, flat-out, that I would die if I did not get surgery, adding that I could not “think my way out of cancer.” Shortly after, my out-of-pocket healthcare costs skyrocketed to as much as $84,000 a year, from my all-organic diet, supplements, juicing, bodywork, natural and organic bath/beauty/home products, holistic nutrition consultations, and integrative oncology consultations, never mind the lost work hours required for preparing every single one of my meals from raw ingredients and for taking time to engage in mind-body-spirit lifestyle practices. Over the past decade, I easily have invested $1 million in healing from cancer holistically.
Fortunately, I am the scrappy sort, and I already had established myself as a media professional prior to the diagnosis. So through launching a public relations company and working tirelessly for years building said company, I was able to more or less pull it off. Within three years, I was hovering around the six-digit income mark, putting me in the top 9% of American income-earners. Still, despite a lifestyle that was otherwise very modest, I could not meet all the expenses, and I had to rely on credit cards for most of the past decade, taking me down the rabbit hole of financial debt.
We desperately need a medical paradigm shift and reworking of our cultural values – not only for Coronavirus, but for all chronic health issues and medical crises. Health care needs to be just that: health care, not sick care. We need to be proactive instead of reactive, looking at what people can do and amplifying that ability, instead of focusing on what is outside people’s control and quivering in our collective boots about it. We need to empower individuals with knowledge, tools, and resources, instead of dismissing the innate healing intelligence of the human body and bullying people into outsourcing care to “the experts.” We need to Make America Healthy Again, by ensuring that mind-body-spirit practices and fresh, organic, and whole foods are at least as widespread and subsidized as pharmaceuticals and surgery, to prevent the need for the latter in the first place. And as part of these efforts, we need to ensure that our most vulnerable populations – the elderly, sick, and poor – are given top priority in the allocation of resources.
My hope is that the current medical and social crises will lead us toward nature and into self-care, instead of away from them. As I have discovered in my own life, and as a friend of mine summarized in her personal motto: When approached with the right mindset, a breakdown is an opportunity for a breakthrough.
Note to readers:
If you value the experience and perspective I offer in this blog post, please share it on your social media platforms, so that it reaches the greatest number of people, through a grassroots effort. Please also post your thoughts in the comment field below, to help generate thought-provoking social dialogue. Remember to be respectful and constructive, even when you are expressing a critique or challenging someone’s viewpoint!
In addition, over the past year, I have been reworking my life so that I can offer to everyone the benefit of my own journey of healing and transformation. If you would like to find out more about it, read My Grand Healing Adventure. If you would like inspiration and guidance on how to self-heal and implement mind-body-spirit practices for stepping into your greatest Being, contact me for any of the following:
- personal + professional coaching
- singing + storytelling performances
- music, dance, + lifestyle medicine classes
- public relations management services
Lastly, if you’d like to become a patron of my band, please visit our Patreon site!