Who is that lady? Aurora, that's who.
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
“I Sing The Body Electric” Walt Whitman
To quote another poet whose unapologetic sexuality is part of his palette, Leonard Cohen says, “My body aches in places where it used to play.” I wonder if his soul aches as well?
Without enumerating the tedious specifics, my body has—since my HIV diagnosis more than a quarter of a century ago—been ravaged by various insidious offshoots of the virus and the sneaky side effects of the life-saving drugs. In some instances—like the vicious peripheral neuropathy in my feet that is incrementally sneaking up my legs—the verdict is out on whether the condition is a symptom of HIV or a byproduct of the multitudinous drugs I’ve been ingesting for these many years.
And now, even though I’m in my sixty-fourth year (“Will you still love me” the Beatles asked, “when I’m sixty-four?”), I tend to blame everything on HIV —from an ingrown toenail to cataracts—when the real culprit is age.
So I arrived in
with a case of sciatica that has been lingering for nearly two months (officially
not HIV-related, by the way). I’d gone to my regular doctor, to the chiropractor,
to an acupuncturist—all providing temporary relief from either drugs and/or the
human touch. Santa Fe
are as many “healers” as there are turquoise bracelets? I set out to find one
of the town’s preeminent in the field. Her name is Santa Fe which immediately conjures the
glamorous but decidedly witchy character that Agnes Moorehead embodied in the
popular Sixties television series, Bewitched.
Mitch agreed to drive me since it’s about a twenty minute ride from campus and a bit off the beaten track. But even his GPS was able to identify the “dirt road” that
instructed would precede our entrance through the turquoise gates. Aurora
Mitch and I howled in laughter all the way there. What was I doing? What did I expect? Would it be all airy-fairy or would
actually perform a magical massage and
rid me of my sciatica? By the time we traversed to the dirt road, which contained
a small, opaque lake, we had written several scenarios, most of them veering
toward the lurid. We had arrived at the blue gates which were a bit rusted but
nevertheless opened and beckoning. Aurora
Since we arrived early, I insisted that Mitch drop me off and not linger. “I’ll read a bit of Walt while I wait,” I said, pointing to a rickety chair situated in the blazing sun.
Mitch was no longer laughing. “Hey, man, just in case,” he said, “take my phone number and give me yours.” As we did the phone exchange, I glanced up at the huge curtain-less window on the second floor of
’s isolated dwelling. Aurora
“Mitch! Look at the very center on the ledge of the window.”
As if determinedly placed by a propmaster, for optimum theatrical effect, was a bottle of lotion, glistening in the
“Dude, you are in for it,” Mitch proposed. It did faintly resemble the cinematic opening shot of a Stephen King movie. I insisted my buddy leave; I was ready for my closeup.
Santa Fe Clouds
“What is the pain saying to you?”
asked, looking at me with mystical intensity through oceanic azure eyes. And it
went from there—for the next three hours, I was both psychologically
(spiritually, if you will) examined and physically contorted. Aurora
But the most significant aspect of
approach was her concentration on the coexistence of the soul and the body;
this mergence is where, she feels, one needs to put their energies in order to
heal. Yes, the synchronicity between Whitman’s mantra and the healer’s was
stunning. The soul, she said, sometimes “wobbles” outside of the body and needs
to be allowed inside if we desire wholeness.
She astutely suggested that I have taken on the pain of others. “You might be carrying their pain in your hip and leg where the sciatica attacks,” she said. I could not disagree; my daughter, my brother, and even some of my students come immediately into focus.
“Give it back to them. They need to experience the pain, not you. You are getting in the way of their healing and learning movement forward.
I admitted that I compound the pain by blaming myself, ruminating that I've done something to deserve the sciatica. Interestingly enough, I never blamed myself for getting HIV—maybe, in part, because I likely seroconverted from negative to positive before there was much information as to how one becomes infected. There remains, more than twenty-five years later, contradictory opinions on that subject.
“Don’t blame yourself,”
said, in a soothing but emphatic voice. “Be curious.” Hmmm. “Ask yourself, ‘Why
am I feeling the pain? Is there something my body—or soul—is saying to me?’” I
wonder—no, I am curious—if what I’m experiencing is a manifestation of
Her massage technique is masterful, verbally defining the body-soul geography while elaborating in detail about each of the areas that she physically manipulated. In that regard, it was the most specific treatment I’ve ever received.
I realized, however, that it had grown much later than I had anticipated and asked if I could take a moment to call Mitch and assuage any anxiety that he might be feeling.
“Everything is cool, I’ll be in class on time,” I said. “
is driving me back.” Aurora
would your healer also graciously act as chauffer.) Santa Fe
I made it back to the seminar, a bit discombobulated, feeling like I’d been lobotomized rather than healed. Little did I realize that I’d need my brain, my heart and my courage (all those goodies Dorothy got on her way to Oz)—not to mention my soul—for the next “chapter” of my Whitman saga.
This is part three of a five-part series.