Healing Trip #1 - Floyd, Virginia
“Is it just me, or did my hair grow overnight?”
I am standing on tiptoes trying to find her over the top of the car. Everything is covered in dew as the sun starts to peek over the mountain tops. I am grateful I threw on a pair of socks and boots just before we pulled away from RVA the day before.
“Oh my gosh!” she exclaims so loudly that I fear she will drop the coffee she just painstakingly made over our little camp stove. “Do you think the mountain air did that??”
It seems too good to be true, but the obvious answer has to be yes.
* * *
I first went to Floyd last year when it seemed to me like it was the thing a “serious yoga student” should do. I took all the flow classes and all the inversion classes and left excited about my asana practice and feeling like I had found my teacher. It was what I needed then, and it was something I couldn’t wait to recreate the next year.
So as soon as tickets were available, I scooped mine up. I had no idea then that cancer was looming just beyond the horizon or what the weekend would really be all about.
* * *
As we headed to Floyd, I told God I would be open to whatever healing opportunities he provided me. That first morning, I encountered a crystal healer who taught me to use a pendulum to connect more directly with God and gave me more insight into using stones in my day-to-day life. Later that day, a teacher I had met briefly the year before taught a yoga dance workshop. We wandered to the creek after, snuggling up to marvel at how our stories paralleled in so many ways. Before we parted, she shared a beautiful visualization I could begin using to heal the damage chemo had done to my bone marrow.
By the time that first evening came around, I knew God was doing things in this space.
* * *
Our first night at camp, I made my friend explore the healing pavilion with me. We had passed a sign for a guy who worked with sound healing. I knew I would be back there the next day.
So the next afternoon, I headed over to find my musician. As he showed me what he does, he explained that he began working with sound therapy after his father was diagnosed with cancer. He offered to give me a session, and I agreed.
He does his work in the back of a beaten up van – the same one he lives in outside of Asheville, North Carolina. As I crawled in back to lie down on the platform bed he’d installed back there, I took in all the instruments that surrounded me. Chimes and gongs and harps covered the side walls and ceilings of the space and I could see that he was surrounded by flutes and horns. As I settled in on my back, my feet facing him, I heard him close us in – the space quickly becoming pitch black. I closed my eyes, but probably didn’t need to.
For the next hour, he played through them all, surrounding me in waves of sound. The noises reverberated off the walls and ceilings of the van, quaking through my stationary body. About half way through, he pulled out a didgeridoo and began to play it along each of the chakras of my body – the pitch changing as he moved from one to the next.
When we were finally done and I stepped back out into the fading sunlight, it was as if parts of my body that had been locked were burst wide open. He had unlocked something – but I wasn’t sure what.
* * *
I was milling about waiting to meet up with a guy who had offered to make time to practice some reiki on me.
Okay – lets back up. What is reiki? In short, it’s a form of hands on healing that heals the body, mind, and spirit. Its based on the premise that energy flows between us (and the rest of the world) and that someone whose energy is low or off balance – causing illness of some kind – may be brought back into balance utilizing the energy of another. Many of the reiki healers I have worked with also see images and colors during their sessions that give insight into what I still need to heal or am working on healing, or they may discover things about my past that I have blocked.
I had told a sweet friend that I was feeling very off balance starting on day two. I attributed it to having gotten off schedule with my reiki sessions in RVA and missing two sessions with my intuitive due to scheduling conflicts on both our ends. She had met a few people who practice reiki earlier in the day and offered to see if they would work with me. So I had planned to meet one in the field to figure out when we could work together.
Instead, his friend found me first. Did I want to do some reiki? Could his other friend help too?
And the next thing I knew, the three of us were headed toward camp.
As we meandered through the field, me filling them in on my story, we made a pit stop at the second healer’s tent. He had been brewing some kind of medicinal tea for three days (I wish I remembered now what it was) that they had me drink before we continued on to where we’d have our session. This was the point when I knew I was legitimately up for anything if God was putting it in front of me. Strange tea of unknown origin that’s been steeping in a stranger’s tent for days? Why not!
As we got set up, I was feeling as unbalanced as ever. It felt like a boulder was lodged in my chest and nothing would move it. We used a massage table for this session, and they had me lie face down – if you’ve ever had a massage you can picture it easily, my face in the hole at the top.
They worked on me for about thirty minutes. About twenty minutes in, they were standing on opposite ends of my body – one with his hands on my head and the other with his hands on my feet. I had been breathing deeply and consistently in and out through my nose when suddenly, it felt as if my mouth was forced open and all that energy from my chest was cast out. I can only compare it to the stories in the Bible of demons being cast out. All of the heavy darkness flew away and has not returned since.
* * *
I had skipped most of the asana based classes this year, my body feeling achy and weak just one month out from chemo. But I decided to at least sit in the tent as MC Yogi led his final class of the weekend. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by many of the women God had brought into my life during this walk. Some were brand new to my life, some had been in it tangentially before, all of them I could no longer live without.
As we eased into savasana, he spoke of living with gratitude for each day, or not taking for granted the fact we have opened our eyes, of letting go and living with love. Tears rolled down my cheeks as her hand found mine. I had never been one for girlfriends – always assuming that somehow the love of a man was more priceless, more necessary, more powerful. In that moment – surrounded by this remarkable tribe, I knew I was wrong.
Love would heal this. But not the kind I thought.
* * *
“Hey! We were supposed to find each other yesterday!”
It was the originally intended reiki healer.
“Do you still want to do some work?”
We headed toward a clearing in the forest – setting up in a shady patch surrounded by brilliant sun. For more than an hour he transmitted such beautiful light into me, singing gorgeous songs of surrender and letting go and the flight of birds. We only stopped because a class needed our space.
Gathering our belongings, we wandered into the woods where we sat knee to knee sharing all the thoughts and images that had passed between us during this remarkably powerful session. My heart had opened up and let go of so much and it was as if he provided me with the wings necessary to fly to the next phase of this journey.
“Give me your number and I’ll keep working with you,” he said as we finally meandered back toward camp. “I want to see where this journey takes you.”
* * *
As we were packing up camp in the early hours of dawn, it noticed that I hadn’t felt any pain in my abdomen since our second day at camp. And the bloating that had been constantly plaguing me (and causing consistent worry about the return of the ascites that would indicate the continued presence of cancer) had vanished.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” I asked her in the car about half way through our trek home. “Do you think being in Floyd could really have healed those things?”
We agreed there was no other explanation.
“I think you need to consider that you really are supposed to use these things to cure yourself,” she tells me. “Its risky, but if they think the chemo didn’t work, what do you really have to lose?”
Nothing, I agreed with her. I had absolutely nothing to lose.
And if those days in the mountains were an indicator, I had everything to gain.