May the following reflections from Sleeping Beauty and my ten year journey with vertigo serve to perhaps see our current world wide situation in a different light.
The boats have come to shore, tied up to their anchor, quietly waiting.
A soft blanket of clouds moves into the inlet
Tucking Sleeping Beauty in for a good rest
The Sun (Ra) is ready to go down
But he is still out of reach
Not quite ready to touch her face yet
As the days grow longer
Slowly and steadily
He will move closer
Closer and closer
Until Ra touches her forehead
And kisses her awake
Her Lessons in facing illness
The past ten years Sleeping Beauty has quietly steeped me with her guidance and lessons. Living right across from her, I would often look to her to find calm and peace, to be soothed by her beauty, to be moved to a state of awe and wonder.
Vertigo first appeared in my life in February 2010.
I remember the first episode clearly, coming out of nowhere, my vision started to swirl so fast, all I could do was lay down as quick as I could and try to find stillness in the swirling. I had to will not only my body but also my eyes to stillness, for even moving my eyes under my closed eyelids caused nausea.
Episodes would arrive without notice, sometimes with months of peace and quiet in between, sometimes for days and weeks on end without much relief.
At first all I did was to wish the vertigo to go away and tried everything I could to make it go away. I took medicines to try and deal with the nausea, and continue life as if nothing was happening.
I would continue to paddle across into town, oblivious to Sleeping Beauty's message.
I visited doctors to try and understand what was happening. I learnt this was not the usual vertigo that most people experience, this was a rare form caused by an imbalance of pressure of water in the inner ear. It was labeled 'Menieres Disease' and even the ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist at St.Pauls hospital in Vancouver admitted this to be the most poorly understood disease in her field. She offered a few options, from medicine to injection of medicine into the inner ear, to surgery. None of them guaranteed to heal or would have major and permanent damaging effect on the hearing in my right ear.
During these years, yoga was my steady go-to support, oblivious to Sleeping Beauty's message.
I thought I could continue. My daily practice turned into a job, by teaching classes in town, opening Sun Studio.
With each episode of vertigo, my family was affected. From one moment to the next I would not be available. I would crawl up the stairs to lay in bed, unable to move, bucket beside me. At times Lief and Sol would have to cook their own dinner, entertain themselves for a full day, while Tracy would be at work and I would be in bed, barely able to talk or give directions.
At times I wondered what I had done to deserve this. Wasn't I doing everything I could to make this illness go away? I tried to find the reason for it all. I thought if I would understand why this was happening to me, then I could cure it. At times I would enter this place of feeling a victim. and I would feel beaten down by it, as if I was punished for something.
Still I continued, juggling motherhood, family life, with yoga and running a business.
But after 4 years of teaching I was forced to reduce teaching Kundalini Yoga to the point that eventually I did not teach at all. I declared 2019 the year of being an artist in residence at home, on Robertson Island. I finally came to full stillness, for even the artwork came to a halt. Most days I would sit under a tree, leaning into its trunk, soaking up the peace and quiet, listening to the birds and sounds of the waves.
Finally after 8 years of vertigo knocking on my door, I started to hear Sleeping Beauty's message. I have been a slow learner.
Finally I heard her call for deep and complete surrender.
Not just in the moments of vertigo,
Not just in the moments when my ear is screaming at me
Not just when I'm made to stop by my physical body
No, I was asked to surrender all my activities, all movements that were not leading me to rest at home.