Suddenly I saw a rainbow . . .

            I grew up barefoot and suntanned in a southwestern town that was spread between the mountains and the valley. When I opened the front door, I could smell evergreens growing on the Sandia mountains thirty miles away. My eyes were filled with sunshine and I walked quietly upon the earth. My desert home protected me like one of its own, a lizard that loves to be lazy. Then one day I took flight.

            After attending the University of Paris, I moved to New York. There I studied traditional Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine and had a professional health practice. That knowledge gave me great freedom of choice: I ignored health fads and medical scare tactics, living as my Grandmother and most of her generation had. For years now, I have used traditional Asian medicine to prevent and cure illness, pain, and life’s shocks for myself and many people. I have also used it myself to stay young.

            Working in a private practice at home, there aren’t the usual barriers between you and other people that are common in HMOs. No back-up crew comes running to assist you in emergencies or help you with details and paperwork. You base your advice on your solid training, research, and experience. You speak from the heart and rely on your gut instincts. At times you may even duel the angel of death. Many who come to you for help see you as their only hope after spending years and fortunes on medical therapies, which have drained their vitality and spirit. They want a miracle. This allows you to really get to know people. 

            In the mid-1980s, I began traveling to Asia in order to share my first-hand experience of traditional medicine with my clients and students. I lived in tiny villages, visited remote jungles, and witnessed the full impact of Asian medicine in its homeland. I encountered poverty, civil wars, and floods. Crowded trains, poor food, and pollution made travel difficult, but the world of traditional healing that I witnessed was priceless. In Chinese hospitals, whose hallways smelled of poor sanitation, I’ve worked along side doctors who used acupuncture and herbs to cure diseases considered “incurable” to Western medicine. Asia was marvelous, splendid and shocking. Walking through teaming streets, I would be awed by a glimpse of an exquisite Chinese face but then recoil from the sight of a goiter or a mangled eye. 

            I became a writer in order to bring the ancient world of healing home and make it American. In my books I talk to people as though they are sitting in front of me. I encourage them to look at, listen to and understand their vital energy, to see how it influences their mind and heart. Only then can they become their own best healer. Preventing illness and exhaustion requires a greater awareness and dedication then we know. Often we have to become sick before we can make progress. But dealing with that imbalance opens many doors, I have learned.

            Books demand a great deal of energy. Writers become crippled hunched over their computers. They collect fat, wrinkles, and stomach aches daily from assimilating juicy paragraphs while drinking coffee. One of my writer friends calls it an “uglifying” profession. At least, I drink pots of green tea to reduce cholesterol and prevent fibroids and take handfuls of herbal pills to keep me alert and prevent poor circulation and indigestion.

            Like vast numbers of private entrepreneurs who sit for hours on-line, or composing text, or doing business deals by computer, I take vacations with a lap-top. I never experienced chronic physical pain until I spent months crunched over my writing, usually several books-in-progress. Mornings, I awoke with a numb hand and tennis elbow from typing. Hawthorn capsules strengthened my heart and braced my courage. That lead to a chapter in this book on curing computer-related pains such as carpal tunnel syndrome, poor leg circulation, and backaches with natural remedies.

            Aging comes from stress, fatigue, and illness, also from disappointment, frustration, envy, hatred, apathy, and bad life choices. Each addiction, divorce, personal loss or spiritual compromise ages us. I have met young people with black circles under their eyes who were exhausted and old because of cigarette and drug habits begun in their teens. These are not the only addictions: other people after taking anti-depressant or blood pressure drugs have developed weight gain and sexual incapacity. The more we involve ourselves in a magic bullet approach--a ”this is the only answer for everybody” method--the farther away we get from our innate sense of identity and worth.

            To begin personal renewal, you need to reconnect with the positive individual you once were or the person you wish to become. That realization existed during a moment in your life when you felt strong and fully alive, when you realized that anything is possible. I remember awakening early one morning to swim in the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico, sunbathing on a pyramid in Oaxaca while watching iguanas, or sitting atop the Dawn Temple in Bangkok. At such moments I felt omnipotent yet part of the earth.

            You may have felt the same surge of power when you hit your first home run or stood on top of a building in a ghetto. Inside you a lion roared. Age does not really matter, because energy and vitality generate life force. Improving your vitality can help you to change. You may work in an office, at a profession, or stay home to raise your children: your life can have new meaning when you acknowledge the Original You., the optimistic source of your inspiration and values.            

            We may never go home again to childhood’s heaven or hell. The Original You --not an inner child--is tempered by personal experience. It represents your highest ideals and goals. Sometimes optimism requires an act of will. You may say, “I have to look younger, feel stronger and develop positive habits because my life requires it.” Too often we give up our ideals because we do not have the stamina to carry them through.

            Baby boomers, born in the shadow of the World Wars, who suffered an awkward sexual awakening in the fifties, grew into first marriages, many of which ended like Viet Nam in ruin, who sought the mixed blessings of technology or the wisdom of the ancients or who floundered in addictions and illness--are hard hit with the problems of aging. Our parents may accept rocking chairs or retirement communities, but many of us yearn for the lost Age of Aquarius, when the moon was in the seventh house, when Jupiter aligned with Mars, when peace descended on the planet and love could rule the stars.  How can we recapture our joyful inspiration?

            I explored several alternatives. First, I decided to try one of the most popular current trends in anti-aging therapies--the rejuvenation get-away. In two days I was eating dates under a Joshua tree in the Mohave desert. I still felt puffy and stiff from sitting at a desk, but I could hear birds singing, and the sweet, warm desert air breathed life into me. I’d flown to a far away paradise celebrated in movies and song--California. Writing an article for a health magazine, I decided to interview a doctor famous for vitamin and hormone therapies, beauty-magic-bullets that are supposed to take off inches and years. Dr. Pill’s spa offered raw fruits, vegetables and inspirational lectures from his staff. I never actually met the doctor.

            Some fashionable doctors have made their reputations giving patients high doses of synthetic hormones. The drugs’ long term side-effects are not well-known but may include increased facial hair and acne in women and prostate cancer or heart disease in men. Of course, the hormones can affect estrogen and testosterone levels. It is as though their advocates prefer brief, but attractive lives. There had to be a better way to rejuvenate. I wanted something I could do every day at home to improve my beauty and longevity, not just a whopper bill once in a lifetime. A magic bullet is more than a popular cure that is supposed to have miraculous results. It is a treatment that works without your participation. Because you are passive, you can become dependant. Most people seek a fast solution to their problems. For that reason, the magic bullet can become an addiction. In a sense, modern laboratory testing, which assumes that given a certain substance we all react the same, is conducive of fads.

            When you’ve exhausted physical and spiritual vitality, it is best to heal your heart. When the heart energy is smooth and strong, improvement is possible--you can feel at home in your body and mind.

            Mother’s place in Albuquerque is an adobe spa, complete with home cooking and mountain views. I flew home for a week of Hungarian loving and finally began to mend. Everything I know about being a beautiful woman comes from Mother. Her feminine courage, generosity and sweetness have been an inspiration. After surviving cancer by using a combination of eastern and western medicine, she started a new business painting murals. She’s in her eighties and always up to something. There’s likely to be a painting on an easel in the spare room and brown bread baking in the oven. When I arrived, I found her in the restaurant next door, standing on a ladder, painting a twenty-foot mural of wild flowers. Her wisps of white hair were pulled back with a red kerchief.

            Her garden was a profusion of bright color: blue pansies, stately white tulips, pink desert willow and evening primrose, velvety purple iris and yellow forsythia and poppies. Mornings, we took walks along the Bosque del Apache. Springtime in the Rockies has always been a healing salve to my spirit. These earth elements give me strength--the scent of pinon pine and red clay after a rain, the thrill of sunset over watermelon-colored mountains. A sense memory shot through me with lightning force. I wanted to celebrate Easter, even though it had passed, with a pilgrimage to a village high in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. I drove to Truchas near Taos to visit Sabinita, the herbalist.

            I love herbal witches all over the world. I find them in marketplaces and huts from Thailand to Latin America. I follow them in jungles and deserts and listen, always listen. They speak the oldest language: they whisper of creation as they gather roots or berries to make pills and plasters. They dry leaves and catch lizards. Their hands are old and eyes deep from guarding many secrets.

            Sabinita is asthmatic and walks with a limp. Every Sunday she walks ten miles to attend Mass at the sanctuario. She’ll take a bus a hundred miles to find herbs for her patients. She has cured many illnesses, some say even cancer. In her herb shed she was drying snakebroom for arthritis and yerba de zorilla for cramps. She smiled and invited me to stay with her.

            The village is so small that when you look over the ridge of the mountain you lose sight of it. Truchas is perched on a rock halfway in space. Days, it’s washed with dazzling sun and adobe mud. Evenings, the crickets’ buzz mingles with sage and pinon smoke. A warm breeze blows from the west. I sat on the edge of a precipice and imagined a rainbow.

            If you are wise, you take time to periodically re-examine your life goals. Alone in the mountains, weary from work, far from the city and friends, I wondered, “What have I done with my life? Am I satisfied? How can I change things for the better? What in my experience has been truly worthwhile?” I touched red ocher clay at my feet and felt warm sunshine relax my face. I inhaled fragrance of pinon pine and sage. In that instant, I saw, felt, tasted, and blended with the sun-filled energy of the southwest. I sensed the part of it that had made me. I could begin from there to rebuild my strength.

            Throughout my lifetime, I have cherished natural medicines made from exotic roots, fungus, sea shells and plants, garden herbs, and spices. I have traveled the world seeking wise, ancient healing and spiritual traditions. Natural medicines make it possible for you to become young, dynamic, and fruitful because they increase life force. They provide a way for us to become part of the living earth. Their rejuvenation miracles are available to you.