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Lyme and Exercise

The monkey mind and the mandala

Lets talk about the body/mind connection.

How does it work, exactly? For starters, let's consider the monkey mind.

At any given moment, we all have a load of chit-chat streaming through our thoughts.

You recognize this phenomena: the familiar little monkey mind skittering up, down and all around your inner landscape, ceaselessly chattering, never at rest.

What's your monkey mind saying?

Do you ever get quiet and listen?

It may be repeating worries, fears, or other negative memes. I know mine does. Sometimes it gets the upper hand, like in the middle of the night when I'm lying awake, and it seems like everybody else on earth and their dog is snoozing peacefully.

Can this inner voice and its repetition of fears create underlying physical stress?

Some healers believe that negative thoughts, repeated ad nauseum by our monkey minds, can actually soften the way for infection in our bodies. I don’t know for sure.

One thing that's for sure is the amazing connection between the body and mind. One way to access and strengthen this body/mind connection is to draw. This is where art – the act of making art, that is – can actually help open the doors to healing.

Yep. Just pick up a colored pencil or marker, nudge your inner kid awake, and just draw.

Or you might want to try coloring in a delicious looking coloring book of mandalas. Coloring book for adults! What a country.

The claim is that many people who are ill or in the throws of a healing crisis find the act of coloring is quite helpful.

Hold on. Coloring is good for you?

Now we’re talking.

Mandala studies shows that when you are coloring, your conscious mind is turned off. The chatter is turned down at least. Similar to being in a dream state.

As the standard chatter recedes, your unconscious mind, which is vastly larger than the conscious tip of the iceberg, is able to get a word in edgewise. Answers to conundrums may suddenly pop into your mind. You may receive key information about the next step on your healing journey, because healing mechanisms can be triggered by the simple act of coloring.

When I heard about this, my inner coloring-book lover did a happy dance.

If there are inherent lessons in illness, I suspect it has to do with realizing that we must give 100% participation in our own cure. It's learning to accept that we've embarked on the hero’s journey.

A hero who has stepped onto a landmine and can't move off.

So let's face it. The hero needs tools. And maybe a fistful of colored markers.

Any kind of coloring will work. However, mandalas are special for many reasons, and probably the best kind of design to bring harmony to your senses because of their circular symmetry.

Try it.

You might think it's pure synchronicity, but while you are fully concentrating on coloring, you may be given a reprieve from your pain. If it works and you feel better, who cares if it's synchronicity or if it's some sort of mandala magic?

Art saves lives.

At the very least, it can calm the monkey mind for a few minutes and give us a break from its tiresome chatter.

With practice, it may strengthen the bridge between that vast part of us that is perfectly well, not affected by disease, and give our body the rest it needs to heal deeply.

No matter what the doctors say, no matter what anybody else says, no one lives inside our bodies but us.

Only we can really know how we feel, what we need, and in any given moment, what can make us healthier. Our bodies are magnificent, and capable of self-repair and self-healing beyond our wildest imaginings. I believe this.


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How I survived the Herx

Ten years ago, one day in July, 2005, I was sick with Lyme, and vacillating between extremes. I was feeling pretty positive most of the day, symptoms not horrible, merely terrible…a big improvement.

But at that moment, my naturopath called, and our conversation sent me into a mental funk.

Through the brain fog, I strained to comprehend what he was suggesting.

He explained that he really didn’t want to prescribe antibiotics. But in the next breath he said that because I was not out of the woods, I really must use them.

He said antibiotics were crucial now, because there was a neurological involvement we must address. Neuroborrellia.

He recommended intravenous antibiotics, and thought I should have an IV for the next several weeks. That meant getting a catheter stuck into my arm and bringing home a portable IV stand with a bag. Then I would be injecting myself with antibiotics every day.

The thought of having a tube stuck into my arm me depressed me to no end. But the problem was, there was evidence that with Lyme disease, long-term antibiotics are effective. In fact, they may be the only way to prevent symptoms from returning.

It was a conundrum. I felt like I was being pulled in two directions at once. I did not want the catheter. I did not want to stay on antibiotics. I dreaded the Herx. But, I did want to kill the spirochetes, and I did want to get completely well.

Evan, however, was convinced that I was coming along really well. He was my systems-thinking cheerleader.

“Look at the numbers,” he said. “You have only been on the antibiotics for twelve days. You added a second antibiotic on Friday. Okay, so you herxed in misery. But instead of seeing that as bad,” he said, “look at it this way. The Herx proves the antibiotics are doing their job. They're killing the spirochetes efficiently.”

And it turned out that he was right. Doctors call it a die off. The Herx is one of the ways of measuring the effectiveness of the antibiotics. It’s a case of the cure being as bad as the illness.

Spirochetes — the original survivalists
Spirochetes are ancient organisms, eons older than dinosaurs. Over the ages they have had nothing else to do but refine their survival techniques.

For such minuscule critters, they’ve got a sophisticated arsenal of ways to keep from detected by your immune system. They can armor themselves with cysts to keep the antibiotics from reaching them, and morph into other forms, thus playing hide ’n seek in your tissues, muscles, organs, and brain.

The spirochetes are the villains, and the last thing they want is for the Terminator — your immune system — to locate and destroy them.

Fight back! Why anaerobic exercise helps
Lyme spirochetes thrive in a cold, low body temperature. I was beginning to get the idea that I would have to fight back, and fight hard. As much as possible, I started to include therapies and lifestyle changes that would increase my core body temp.

The good news is that Borrelia burgdorferi are anaerobic organisms and can't survive in a high oxygen environment.

My plan to fight back began to take shape back then. It started off pretty slowly I admit. Surviving the Herxes was easier said than done. I drank a whole lot of water with lemon. I slept. I endured and persevered, like you are doing.

Don't let the Herx scare you
I knew in my heart that the more I could manage to raise my core body temperature, the more the spirochetes I could kill. It was my main goal, to kill them, and to try to not kill myself with a Herx.

It wasn't easy trying to get enough exercise. I had a hard time standing up, let alone walking around the neighborhood. But I kept at it, determined to be as proactive in my healing as I could.

Today, ten years to the month from my diagnosis, I'm a martial artist, with two solid years of practice logged on my journey from Borreliosis to black belt.

You don't have to join a Taekwondo school. You don't have to sweat through hours of hot yoga, play basketball, dance, or climb steep mountainsides if you don't want to. But you do have to make a plan to be as proactive in your own healing as you possibly can. The doctors can only do so much. The rest is really up to you.

Did I ever get the IV antibiotics?

In the end, the decision was made for me. I couldn’t afford it, so I passed. These days, I might have been tempted, since now I've got health insurance. But in 2005, it simply wasn’t a choice.

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Chronic Inflamation

Chronic inflammation is the troll under the bridge. It's the nasty culprit creating a dangerous—even deadly--environment in our bodies. Inflammation is at the heart of a long list of disease, including Alzheimer's, asthma, multiple sclerosis, gout, fibromyalgia, cancer, and Lyme. Chronic inflammation can exist inside our bodies for years, suddenly wrecking havoc in our heart, kidneys, or liver.

So what's causing it? I've been reading Kenneth Singleton's terrific book, The Lyme Disease Solution. As he explains, when Lyme bacteria or its co-infections infect the body, the same as when other microorganisms attack--such as parasites, fungi, mold, and viruses—inflammation results. Sometimes you can see it. Sometimes you can't. As I understand it, a little bit of inflammation goes a long way. It is our immune system's natural reaction to infection. A cut on a finger is painful. It swells a bit and turns red. These factors indicate that the immune system is doing its job. White blood cells rush like EMTs to the site of the action. In a healthy person, the infection is stopped. The redness fades and the swelling goes down as the cut mends.

However, if the bacteria isn't killed by the actions of the immune system, the inflammation can become chronic.

“...whenever we are dealing with chronic infections like Lyme, we must be careful not only to treat a person with appropriate antibiotics, but also to address the chronic inflammation problems that have been triggered by Lyme.” Singleton, K. The Lyme Disease Solution (pp. 186-187). Kindle Edition.


The Do's and Don'ts
First, the don'ts. Don't give a helping hand to the inflammation troll. The following activities suppress or kill the endorphins that will help you heal.


Smoking. If you smoke, quit! Here's your good excuse.
Drinking alcohol. Same goes here.
Consuming fried foods, doughnuts, pastries. If it doesn't build healthy cells, it isn't good for you.
Consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Fifty pounds or more overweight.
Nursing a victim mentality and a negative attitude.
Being unable to forgive.
Averaging less than seven hours sleep per night.
Not drinking enough water.
Little to no sun exposure.

The good news? We can take action to prevent the inflammation troll from ruining our party. With shifts in dietary, lifestyle, and exercise routines, inflammation can be reduced or eliminated. The immune system produces these wonderful little gizmos called endorphins. They assist the NK (Natural Killer) cells in fighting the bad guys.

There's a short list of helpers to make our immune systems create more endorphins. You're gonna like it: Belly laughter, massage, chocolate, acupuncture, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. Eat fresh veggies, salmon (or Omega 3-s/Fish oil supplement), range-fed or organic meat consumption, and healthy oils, like olive. Indian curry, in particular the spice turmeric (curcumin), is a well-known anti-inflammatory agent. (However, please consult your doctor to see turmeric is okay for you. People with gallstones are not advised to consume turmeric.)

On the long list, you'll recognize these emotional and cultural keys that assist endorphin production, as well. We've seen them all before, but they're not trite. Not by a long shot. Indeed, these common-sense tips are central to healing body and mind:

Count your blessings.
Cultivate a positive outlook, and a spirit of generosity and giving.
Take time daily to pray and/or meditate—rejuvenate your spirit.
Do some deep breathing in fresh air.
If possible, get exposure to sunlight for ten minutes a day.
And nurture healthy relationships and social circles. You know, the kind that fluffs your feathers and fills up your love and laughter reserves. Seek out the company of people who make you feel good, not drained.

Antibiotics are necessary to kill the Lyme bacteria. Yet in many cases, they are not enough to return the body back to homeostasis, its natural state of balance. This is where lifestyle and dietary changes are needed to help us get a handle on inflammation.

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