On May of 2009, my carefully constructed walls began tumbling down. I remember standing in line at a store when I suddenly lost my balance. I knew something was terribly wrong, but I somehow leaned against a wall, slid down and fainted. An ambulance brought me to the hospital, where I was given fluids and told it was most likely exhaustion and dehydration, and that I would be alright. When I got home, things rapidly deteriorated. I was so weak, I could barely walk. I couldn’t eat or sleep, feel my hands or feet and my heart fluttered wildly. I felt like I was going to pass out several times each day. I was frightened, because I never experienced a panic attack in my life. Instinctively, I did what I could to protect myself. I immediately cut out alcohol and caffeine and made appointments with doctors, among them an internist, a heart specialist and a neurologist. Numerous tests showed nothing abnormal. The doctors offered empty theories, but no concrete answers. Finally, a naturopathic doctor offered the diagnosis of adrenal exhaustion. But through the months of pain and fear, I had realized that underneath the diagnosis lay something much greater than any medical doctor could hypothesize. It was my spirit that needed healing. I had always heard amazing stories about Hippocrates in my own vegan organic community, calling it the “Mecca of Healing.” A close friend came to visit me who discovered what I was going through. He had been to Hippocrates numerous times and offered me the gift of three weeks at Hippocrates! With a concerned look on his face, he said, “If you go, you may hate me for the first few days. But if you commit to the program, it will change your life. Trust me.” I thought he was giving me the gift of a raw food retreat and some time to rest. But what I soon found out was that he was offering me the gift of self-healing.
At Hippocrates, I learned that Love is the most powerful of all medicines. In loving my self, I rediscovered true self-worth. Not the material kind but the type that comes from self-knowledge. I realized that someone special in my life had seen it, and was just waiting for me to see it for myself. Giving and receiving love unconditionally, as an expression of our shared humanity, moves mountains and heals hearts.
Upon my arrival, I was struck by the simple beauty and peacefulness of the grounds and the kindness and sincerity of the staff. At the time, I was so physically exhausted that all I could do was listen carefully to the information to get me safely to my room. The first few days I tried to keep my old routines in place with my cell phone an arm’s length away. Still, I dutifully followed the program, juicing my wheatgrass, chewing my sprouts and being a good “student.” But soon, I began to feel a change. As my body adjusted to life without food or drink as a “drug,” the sweet wheatgrass juice began to taste like sunshine itself. I began to feel my rhythm slow and deepen. I became aligned with the common desire each one of us shares: to be well, to learn, to feel at peace, to heal, to feel connection with the earth and each another. I met someone new everyday. Whether a fellow guest or staff member, each moved me, touched me, surprised me or taught me. Outside of my comfort zone, I opened up to what was truly happening in each moment. Each time I felt myself wanting to retreat back to that old comfort zone, I made a commitment to face the fear and do one challenging thing each day.
A turning point happened during a group therapy session when some very brave women had the courage to speak to me about how they perceived me. There were women from all walks of life, each struggling with specific physical illness or challenges and each experiencing her own shapes and colors of fear. But during that session very little was said about diagnosis. Instead, hearts opened, tears flowed, memories and regrets were uncovered naked and vulnerable. And there was laughter. The raw diet, full of life and goodness, was cleansing and nourishing my body. This was exactly what I needed. But it’s not just what we put into the body that defines our health; it’s our approach to the entirety of our lives and our willingness to face our truths. At Hippocrates I witnessed many profound healings. While the diet was an integral and vital part of the program, it was the changes each of these brave souls underwent which truly initiated the transformation. It was in that room, telling our “bigger” stories, where my heart began to heal. On that day I knew that in time my body would heal too.
After returning to my usual life in New York, I was deeply changed. It is not always easy to describe the experience of Hippocrates. Many people noticed the change on the outside: I lost weight, I was brown from the sun, my eyes were clear and I had energy. “What did you eat?” was the most frequent question I was asked. “Oh, sprouts and wheatgrass,” I would answer. But the Hippocrates experience is so much more than that. What I truly learned at Hippocrates, I would have to say that I learned to recognize true bravery in others and to acknowledge bravery in myself. I know that true beauty comes from within. I learned that ecstasy can be found floating in a pool under the stars with no thought of setting an alarm for the morning. I learned that one’s elimination habits are a perfectly acceptable dinner conversation. I learned that a raw diet heavily accented with turmeric and cayenne creates a very interesting aromatic underarm perfume. I learned how to clean wheatgrass stains off the ceiling in the bathroom. I guess you could say I learned to recognize the divine in the mundane.
At Hippocrates, I got back in touch with the natural beauty of my body, in the rhythm of how it works. I learned that daily rituals designed to create harmony and health in life are sacred and deserve our attention as much as anything else we’re doing. I learned to stop trying to save everyone else. The greatest gift you can give another is bearing witness, and walking with them side by side. I learned to reconnect with the source of life. I learned that “nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” Our food choices are sometimes powerful expressions of self-love, or self-annihilation. It is an act of self-love to feed our bodies foods that help balance our energy, help our cells and organs do their work, and create harmony emotionally. And here’s a little secret: The simple, sun-filled foods are actually delicious! It’s one of my life’s blessings. So what can you do? Find your life’s blessings and let them feed you.
I also learned that we are not alone and we need one another. We are all connected, from the tiniest insect to the most majestic tree. At Hippocrates, I developed confidence that I can heal myself. Some of the most gifted healers I have ever met work at Hippocrates. Remarkably, in each encounter or treatment with them, I was gently reminded that everything I needed was already inside of me. And I began to co-create my own healing. I have learned to listen to what my body was trying to tell me through the symptoms of illness. And I now feel gratitude for the condition—the illness—that saved my life. At Hippocrates, we are reminded what we already know. We just needed to relearn these healthy lessons and adapt to them, gracefully. I listened, and I am forever grateful.
Vol 30 Issue 1 page 15