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Hip Sobriety School, Day 24

"Today I give myself a break."

Today's mantra is right after my own heart. If there's anything I'm really really good at doing, it's giving myself a break. Linda and I are off to Ben's Bells to paint a riot of colors on ceramic flowers or construct bells or empty the trash or whatever they might need. I've been talking about going there for months, possibly a couple of years, so this is my chance to break through and get hooked. The world is filled with so many worthwhile causes and endeavors, but the kindness theme and whimsical creations and the sheer randomness of Ben's Bells sings to me in the way few things do.

So in keeping with our mantra and in light of my busy schedule over the next few days, I decided to post some older pieces I've written along the way. Since my spiritual teacher Paula popped up here a day or two ago, the experience with psychic surgeons that she brought into my life seems like a radical, wondrous place to start. For lack of a better title, I called this one Going Under the Finger.

I was stunned at the sight of Paula that bright Saturday morning—moving freely around her yard, hosing off the patio, glowing with vitality. I had stopped to see if she needed groceries and expected to find her hobbling in a state of exhaustion. The journey back to Arizona from the Philippines would have been grueling for anyone, much less someone nearly 70. But the woman I was seeing was not the Paula who left. With her dimpled smile beaming, she lifted up the corner of her long dress and waved her ankle in a circle—the ankle that had been so grotesquely swollen, so angry with deep purple and red discoloration, was identical to the healthy one.

Paula had broken her ankle in a fall several months earlier, an injury that required intensive surgery and hardware installation. The aftermath was tortuous and the pain was constant. Knowing that the break was not healing and the pins had to come out, she decided to trust her fate to the miraculous yet suspect world of psychic surgery. Supposedly, these gifted healers can perform surgery without anesthetic or antiseptic conditions and with very little bleeding, penetrating the body tissues using their bare hands.

One of her friends had just returned from such a visit so the contact was made and it was game on.  I don’t know what hopes I had for her pilgrimage, some relief perhaps—but this, this was stretching my sensibilities. The surge of strength and vitality was palpable. Paula wrapped up the garden hose and ushered me inside, where she opened a black box filled with her souvenir metal pins and shared the story. She went through a number of surgeries during her week's stay, not only on the injured ankle but a few random places and most importantly, her heart. According to the healer, one artery was 90 percent clogged and two others at 75 percent. Paula said it was the only surgery that hurt, almost unbearable, and the moment he opened up the arteries she saw blood gushing in streams before he closed. Holy shit.

Paula had promised to host this small band of healers in her home and set up a full schedule of appointments the next time they traveled to America. An offer they accepted. Since I was involved in preparations and logistics for the event, I had nearly two days to watch these fellows at work—and for them to work on me during the quiet lulls. I was only 29 and my list of complaints were few, but a recent backpacking trip had damaged the cartilage in my knees and my left breast had developed a painfully annoying and slightly worrisome cyst.

It was unnerving to hop up on the “table bed” with no inkling about what these guys were going to do. I had already heard stories about them removing eyeballs from their sockets, so hearing “I’m going to work on your eyes now” set off silent inner screams. Just resting on the bed, I was awash in the sensation of entering an electrical field, alive and pulsating. But even that sensation paled in comparison to the power of the white-hot energy that poured from the those hands into my eyes and forehead—and knees. I have no idea why my eyes were even an issue, but over the course of a week the soreness and tenderness in my knees slowly vanished. Many others reported similar residual effects, some within a couple of hours and others over days or weeks.

 The troublesome, painful cyst was another story. That would require “going in”—words that set my last nerve on end. At the moment of entry, he said “Start praying now,” which for me amounted to “Oh God!” repeated silently and frantically. My mind was swimming in disbelief, reeling back and forth between the surrealism of what was happening and the physical discomfort—which brushed up against painful but never crossed the line. No scalpel, no blood. Just those fingers moving in and through the tissues, pulling out a stringy, irregular, yellowish blob.

He momentarily paraded the prize in front of me with a grin before dumping it into a receptacle beside the bed. Was I skeptical? Who wouldn’t be? I knew that psychic surgeons had been accused of “palming,” of hiding chicken innards under the table and showing them to the client as proof of the surgery. But it was the aftermath that convinced me: From the day he did the surgery, the lump and the constant, annoying pain were no longer there.

First came the undeniable feeling of a constant rush of blood to that area, the body’s natural response to any type of trauma or even a small flesh wound. A small scar line remained, which they said only occurs in more sensitive areas. Had the surgery been on my arm or leg, it’s unlikely that any scar would have been visible. The sensation of increased blood flow lessened gradually over a period of several days, and within a week came the itching we always associate with the final stages of wound healing.

In my final act as Doubting Thomas, I made an appointment with the gynecologist who had diagnosed the cyst and decided to put it “on watch” rather than take any drastic action. I studied the increasingly puzzled look on his face as his fingers deftly moved back and forth over the area. He finally asked me to point out where it was because he was having trouble locating it. When I assured him that he was in the right place, he gave it another go or two and then shook his head and said it was no longer there. A moment of silence hung between us, and then he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sometimes cysts just go away. And this one must have.”

No, I never told him. Why bother.

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