One great marshmallow of snow stretches out from over the buried tips of my skis. The air is cold. I feel it crystallize in my nostrils with each breath. I have spent considerable energy getting here, and respect the ache of my quadriceps that tells me I have put an extra bit of exertion on top of a tradition that would normally have me resting at home after the previous day.
There is a quiet stillness here. I don't believe I would even notice music playing in my ears. I adjust my goggles, gaze out at an endless Powderhorn horizon, nod at my friend, and push off. Immediately, the bubbling thoughts of my mind distill metallic into a clear focus of breath and pulsing skis. A rhythmicity comes automatically from the muscle memory of my youth, manifesting waves as I ride the crest and trough of each turn, gazing ahead to the path of least resistance.
I find it, and acknowledge the trees as they move past my gaze, each one a star drifting into the past, a space traveler moving through the serenity of the cosmos. I laugh a little at how absurd this sounds. Some brainiac grad students at a leading university have argued compellingly that moving at the speed of light would actually look more like a soft white glow than the streaks of star systems moving by in a "Star Wars" journey. I am glad to accept either explanation, feeling the calmness of my movements, knowing that this is deep medicine for me.
Eventually, I stop. Other messages creep into my awareness. Is that a touch of arthritis I feel in my low back? Oh yes, there it is, I remember this. I did this skiing some years ago. I'll bet I did it many times over. I remember that it is at its worst first thing in the morning, like a rusty hinge that needs a few squeaky motions before it self-lubricates and eases up the morning protests. If I were sitting on the couch, I tell myself, it would be hurting more. Yes, that's true.
My breath communicates the effort I have expended and my eyes find another mystery skier who has appeared in my awareness, having her own experience of clarity. Or not. I wonder how her passage went. Did she clarify a stuck emotion? Did she process a difficult experience? Or did she simply smile at the world of white?
My back brings me back to the present. Ouch, that does hurt. And then I remember some things I already know about my back. It likes to be hydrated, so that the cartilage is juicy and well-padded to cushion the occasional drop. It likes glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, MSM, Boswellia serrata (Indian Frankincense), Curcuma longa (Turmeric), Harpagophytuym procumbens (Devil's Claw), attention and respect.
I am grateful that I ingested these healing substances this morning, make a mental note that my back is better when I take them and grumpy when I do not. I recall that my back is already starting to benefit from the unique rejuvenation known as yoga. I had let this practice settle into a winter slumber, and am only recently starting its reawakening.
I have sought help for this injury. Kirk Apt at Healing Horizons has begun his Rolfing Structural Integration, and with knowing hands he evaluates and measures the state of my back, then invites it with subtle impulses to relax and release. I rest so deeply during his session that I catch myself snoring several times.
Analii Cunningham and her Movement Therapies Life Alliance have also helped me to commence the unwinding process. Her subtle technique has already revealed itself as deeply therapeutic, inviting an opening and recovery to the old grievances I had stored away, the "issues in the tissues," as my instructor Dr. Lise Alschuler used to say. This kind of movement therapy is completely different to the masculine attempts my unconscious would say, is demonstrating how much of a man I really am. Stronger, faster, more aggressive. My back says no way. Give me slower, quieter, more amicable. Give me softness, receptiveness. I listen. Analii has me hold a gentle pose for three minutes. I walk softly around the room, holding another pose, this time longer. I leave the session feeling wonderfully worked, even exhausted. I sleep well.
Morning comes and the old rusty hinge returns. Shucks. I take a dose of my own medicine, realizing this really is going to take some persistence. I sip on coffee, recognizing that one cup will bring a smile, that three cups brings an extra ache wherever an injury is present. There is no conspiracy here. It's only my choices and I, each time I walk into the kitchen. There will be days where the last thing I want is to get off my rather comfortable couch or tear away from another spellbinding chapter. This is also a choice, and I know the cost of too much sedation. And so I drag my butt outside to do whatever, and suddenly my back hurts a bit less, and I am reminded however briefly, of the medicine I give myself when it's time to move.
Dr. Christopher Lepisto graduated as a naturopathic doctor (ND) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.