Imagine being alone in the wilderness, far away from people, and contracting a dreadful disease from rats!
That happened to me, wild-camping in Greece at a cost some 30-40 km from Athens. This is the story of my ten-day inner journey from sickness to health.
On 30 July 2007, my girlfriend dropped me at a spot that seemed remote enough for my retreat, and the deal was she would pick me up a week later.
I tucked my small tent away deep into bushes under pine trees, small and sturdy due to constant wind and barren rocky terrain. I had to crawl through a narrow “tunnel” to a shady area that would shelter my windsurfing gear and my tent for a week to come.
I crawled in and out a couple of times, dragging all my stuff inside, and when the evening came I cooked some dinner on a small gas stove. I ate, did the dishes, and went to sleep.
I woke up with a horrific headache and fever. It felt as if I had a ball of fire in my mouth. My entire body hurt. I had no idea what happened.
I spent the whole morning lying down, but the problem was I only had a very thin mat to lie on. My entire body hurt just from pressing against the hard surface. I walked a kilometer and a half to the nearest road and looked for some carboard or anything that I could tuck under my mat to make it even a bit softer.
I walked another kilometer or so to a small camp—it was exhausting in the state I was in. Luckily, next to a trash bin I found a large sponge mattress, stinky as hell, but mat nonetheless! I dragged it back with my last drops of strength, I lifted the tent and tucked it under, adding a plastic foil in-between to cover the stink.
With a soft “bed”, I fell fast asleep in the middle of the day.
I woke up feverish sometime at night and stared into the sky, my body aching, mouth burning. I decided to fast until the symptoms disappeared.
I noticed something moving on the tree above me; there was more movement around the tent, in the bush—everywhere actually! I listened carefully and recognized it—it was rats!
That’s how I must have contracted the disease. I ate not having washed my hands properly! But where are all these rats coming from?!
I could hardly move; my body was in dire pain.
In the morning I did all the breathing exercises I knew of, acupressure and self-massage, I walked to the sea and rinsed my mouth with the seawater. I noticed a couple sitting a hundred meters away in the direction of the road and I crouched so they wouldn’t see me. I also noticed a lot of trash everywhere on the rocky beach. That’s what must have attracted the rats! Where did all this trash come from?
My body felt awful. I went back to my tent. I sat down and meditated.
take a breath.
Close your eyes,
All is well …
I woke up feeling a lot better. The pain and fever were ceasing. I repeated my acupressure treatment, breathing exercises, visualizations, I rinsed my mouth with the seawater many times during the day. Fasting helped a lot.
I went to the place where the couple was sitting two days ago. They left behind food wrappings with leftovers still inside, coffee cups, plastic bottles, and even newspaper! They just stood up and left. I felt bad about it.
In the afternoon the wind picked up. I did 30 minutes of windsurfing and it felt good. The mucous membrane in my mouth still burnt so breathing with my mouth open was soothing to my gums and tongue. I rested and went early to sleep.
I ran out of drinking water. I had to go get some at a tiny shop next to the camp three kilometers away. I really enjoyed walking.
Before heading back I grabbed a few trash bags that were lying in the trash bin, emptied their content into the bin and took them back with me. I did a thorough cleanup of the entire beach around my little “nest” filling all four big bags that I brought with me.
My body still hurt a bit, but the fever was gone, I guess. I never really measured my temperature, how could I? I continued fasting and doing my intricate healing protocol. And windsurfing was awesome!
On my fifth day of consuming nothing but water, my body was bursting with energy! I took the plastic bags I had filled with garbage the day before, tied them onto both ends of a long stick, placed the stick over my shoulders and carried the heavy load to the trash.
Finally, I felt strong enough to take my sponge mat to the sea, wash it thoroughly and let it dry in the wind.
My mouth felt really strange with the mucous membrane coming off and feeling itchy. Rubbing my teeth against my tongue even gently caused bleeding. Luckily, I had no one to speak to so I kept my face and mouth as idle as I could.
For the first time after many days, I slept well and deep.
My girlfriend texted me, she’d be late due to technical problems with her van. I’ll be stuck in my quarantine for at least two more days! I smiled … Two more days of blissful solitude and fasting. Yay!
I went on a long run, some 15 km. My mouth was gradually healing. Windsurfing was fabulous again!
I started speaking to myself and singing to give my mouth some exercise. I still didn’t eat.
On the first day of the fast, I said to myself I’d eat only when all the symptoms ceased. Water was tasty enough and I wasn’t hungry for anything else.
I spent two to three hours a day doing my healing routines. I was completely alone with myself. No reading, no writing, no internet. Just pure introspection with the world around me as my mirror.
My girlfriend texted me she’d come in the afternoon the next day. She asked did I want anything. I texted her back: Watermellon!
8 days of fasting filled me with so much energy. I ran 15 km again, windsurfed, stretched, did my daily routines even as I was reaching full health. My mouth was healing rapidly.
I noticed there were hardly any rats running around my tent that night. Maybe cleaning the beach helped?
I went on a very long walk, all the way to some villas, probably 10 km away. I found almost ripe grapes and I decided to break my fasting with three grapes. I just sucked the juice out of them and spat out the skin.
In the late afternoon, when my girlfriend arrived, I ate a small piece of watermelon. My eyes and body were radiant. She couldn’t believe when I explained what I went through. What my presence was telling was a completely different story; only a few last remaining “bubbles” on my gums, as if from a burn, were the proof that I didn’t make the story up.
Over the next few days, I gradually started eating again. A few bites of raw fruits and vegetables first, and later adding cooked food.
How did I heal?
As I look back, I understand the disease was a call to a journey of inner cleansing and strengthening. All in all, it was delightful exactly because of all the drama it entailed.
I haven’t panicked even for a moment. Yes, the thought of death did cross my mind a few times when I woke up in the middle of the night with rats ominously squeaking less than a foot from my ear, wind blasting through the pines’ crowns, and my body hurting like hell. But that’s no different from any other day in my life — a thought of death is always there in a bittersweet sobering way; that’s how I choose to live.
And that’s how I chose to face my disease. I didn’t fight it, I looked away from its scary eyes and focused on nurturing my inner vitality with every method I knew of, most of all: fasting, breathing, embracing myself lovingly, observing the unfolding of events as if they were happening to someone else, and living on.
Cleaning the beach was a crucial part of my inner cleansing, not just because of its therapeutic effect on my mind through my subjective conviction that it helps. No, inner and outer states go hand in hand.
Masanobu Fukuoka said so beautifully:
When people see a green tree, they all think that green trees are beautiful. Threes leave a sense of peace. When the wind ripples the surface of the water, the spirit becomes restless. Go to the mountains, and a sense of the mountains arises. Travel to a lake, and one feels the spirit of the water. These emotions all arise from nature. Go somewhere where nature has been disturbed and I doubt that anything but disturbed emotions will arise.
My inner state mirrored nature itself. I wouldn’t be well if nature wasn’t well. When I healed myself and nature by strengthening vitality in both realms, my actions were sacred—even if I would have died.
What keeps you alive?
Do you feel sorry for yourself these days in your quarantine? Are you bored? Is the internet too slow? Are you afraid your doctors won’t be able to keep you alive? Are you hiding from the threat of death?
Do you even know what life is?
The best cure for every disease is vitality—inner and outer. A vital and healthy society is what we should strive for, don’t you agree? When a virus comes it points out where our vitality is low and the best remedy is to strengthen the vitality.
To keep up your vitality you need a will to live, a power of choice, and a mental ability not take yourself nor anyone else too seriously. If you’re truly alive, it doesn’t matter whether you’ll live or die.
Saving “lives” of half-dead people, unprepared and incapable to resist agents of death slowly crawling up their neck, plugging them to machines that will prolong their “lives” for a few months, is no victory at all. Or if you save a young man, it’s no victory sending him back to his bleak home with polluted air, polluted water, polluted relationships, polluted economy, polluted purpose.
A victory would be imbuing people with vitality and cleaning their homes. Can you see how they’re becoming cleaner now that the world has stopped? Not antiseptic clean, but unpolluted, vital, full of life.
A victory would be teaching inner sovereignty where people understand each disease is a conversation with God and no government can or should interfere with that conversation without the person’s consent.
When I realize my vitality is no match to the disease, maybe it’s simply my time, and I can die gracefully, because I choose so, not because a government agency decided I’m obsolete.
If we keep wrecking our own vitality and that of our natural environment, defeating a virus is not a virtuous act. It’s a virulent act of self-disgrace and self-destruction.
Our civilization reminds me of zombifying brain-manipulating viruses and fungi that cause weird behaviors in insects. Humans don’t seem to think clearly and work for their own interests and the welfare of the living planet they inhabit. Their brains are severely manipulated and they don’t know what they’re doing.
So, you want to survive the virus? Which one? The one in your brain or the one in your fear? Or both? In either case, stop thinking about them and boost your personal vitality and the vitality of your home. How? Well, that’s your own conversation with God and you have to take care of it yourself.