I'm back from South Africa and have been back, dealing with a mean jet lag.
The last image from that mythic and historical country is from my last morning there, in Cape Town. I took a boat out to Robben Island. The last stop on the tour of the island which was used as a penal colony as well as a leper colony from the time of the first takeover by the Dutch, was Nelson Mandela's old cell. It was the size of the shanty town "houses" that run alongside the Cape Town International Airport. They're tiny. I thought about the size of Nelson Mandela's spirit and how it could not be caged here. I thought about his integrity despite years of terrible tests of injustice. He didn't give in to the illusion of false power, to his own self-doubts which were monsters imported by colonization. His spirit prevailed. It could not be destroyed. That prevailing love is what I carried back with me.
Tonight re-reading some of Carolyn Myss', Anatomy of the Spirit for healing of certain conditions. Here's one of my favorite stories.
“I met a woman named Ruth while I was conducting a weeklong workshop in Mexico. Ruth was staying at the same hotel—she was not part of my workshop. She was wheelchair-bound due to crippling arthritis, a case as extreme as I have ever seen.
One morning I got up uncharacteristically early and went out to the patio with a cup of coffee to make notes for my lecture that day. I noticed Ruth sitting by herself, listening to classical music with an old tape recorder. I had met her the day before, but this morning I couldn’t stop staring at her, although I didn’t think she noticed because she had her back to me. I was wondering how she coped with her terribly crippled body, which had also become obese because of her inability to move. Suddenly she turned her head, smiled and said, ”You’re wondering how I manage to live in this body, aren’t you?”
I was so stunned that I couldn’t cover my tracks. “You caught me, Ruth,” I said. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
“Well, come on over here, and I’ll tell you.”
As I pulled my chair up to hers, this seventy-five-year-old woman said to me, “You like New Age music?”
I nodded, and she said, “Good, I’ll put this tape on while I tell you about myself.”
With Kitaro playing in the background, this remarkable Jewish woman told me her story. “I was widowed when I was thirty-eight years old, left with two daughters to support and few ways to do it. I became the most manipulative person you could ever imagine. I never stole anything, but I came close to it.
“When my older daughter was twenty-two, she joined a Buddhist community. I raised my girls in a traditional Jewish household in New York City, and she enters a Buddhist community! Every time she came over to visit me, I asked her, ‘How could you do this to me? After all I’ve given up for you, how could you? We must have had that conversation a hundred times. Then one day she looked at me and asked me, ‘Mom, are my clothes dirty? Am I unclean in some way? Am I doing anything that offends you?’
“I said, ‘You must be on drugs. That’s it—they’ve got on drugs.’ She responded. ‘Yes, I’ve tried drugs.’ So you know what I said to her then? I said, ‘Get me some,’ and she did. She brought me some LSD. I was fifty-five years old, and I dropped acid.
I nearly fell out of my chair. I could hardly picture her taking LSD.
She continued,”Do you believe in angels?”
“Yes, of course,” I said.
“Good, because that’s what happened to me next. I took the LSD, and I had an out-of-body experience. I found myself floating above my body, lighter than air itself. And I met this lovely being who said she was my angel. She complained to me, ‘Ruthie, Ruthie, do you know how difficult it is to be your angel?’
“I said I’d never thought about it, and my angel said, ‘Let me show you what you look like to me.’ And then she pointed to my double—only my double was completely tied up in thousands of rubber bands. My angel said, ‘That’s how you look to me. Each one of those rubber bands is a fear that is controlling you. You have so many fears that you can never hear me trying to talk to you, to tell you that I’ve got everything under control.’
“Then my angel said, ‘Here’s a pair of scissors. Why don’t you cut all those rubber bands and free yourself?’ And that’s just what I did. I clipped every single one of them, and with each one I cut, I felt this unbelievable surge of energy come into my body. Then my angel said, ‘Now don’t you feel better?’ I told her that I felt lighter than air and happier than I had ever felt in my life. I couldn’t stop laughing. My angel said, ‘You’re going to have to get back in your body now, but before you do, I have to show you something.’
“She showed me the future, and I saw myself full of arthritis. She couldn’t tell me why I would have to endure this condition, just that I would have to. But she said she would be with me every step of the way. Then she put me back into my body. I told my daughter everything that had happened, and both of us laughed almost continually for two months. She had I have been close ever since that experience. When this arthritic condition began ten years ago, I thought, oh well, this isn’t being crippled. I was far more crippled when I could walk; I was always so afraid of being alone, of taking care of myself, that I wanted to keep my daughters near me so I would never have to take care of myself. But after that experience I never felt afraid again. I believe that my physical condition is to remind me never to have fear. Now I talk to my angel every day, and I still laugh more each day than I ever did before.”