Painful Discoveries for the Curious Soul

By JiJi Russell

There I sat, nearly two weeks into a back injury. Precious little accomplished during my days off work for the holidays. Oh, the drawers and closets that I was going to organize. The meals I’d make ahead; the new crafts I’d do with the kids. The exercise! Not much of that happened. And my back still ached.

We all want to start off the New Year with revived energy and a new plan for ourselves, right? This spontaneous and severely painful injury was not complying with my plans in the least. Even so, I could not help but retain a spark of curious optimism. The inner journey on these days beckoned me toward new spiritual growth. In wintertime, during the coldest of days, during the constant being in my family, it’s as if a hush blanketed me, my mind revealing some of the gifts of meditative training. A new perspective emerged. (It has to do with God and the nature of the Universe, but I’ll save that conversation till we can meet for tea.)

For now I thought I would share with you some of the resources that have made a deep and lasting impression on me in my perpetual quest for physical and spiritual truth. Some of these came to me early on, some more recently. They all hold a special place in my personal mind-body-spirit enfoldment. Yours to explore if you wish.

1) Yoga Mind, Body, and Spirit: A Return to Wholeness, an introductory book on yoga by instructor Donna Farhi. This terrifically written and illustrated book never ceases to reveal some wonderful insight into the practice of yoga. No matter that it was the first book on the topic that I ever read, cover to cover, 14 years ago.

2) The Harrow and the Harvest, music by Gillian Welch. Because whatever challenges I face, I know that they ain’t quite like the stuff of this brilliant artist’s deeply moving songs.

3), the website of Geo Derick, a Berryville-area clinical herbalist and health coach. Find recipes for delicious healing foods like Turmeric Chai Tea. Discover hand-crafted herbal tinctures, salves, and teas that Geo makes herself from the best stuff on Earth. Find Geo’s picks for trustworthy brands and suppliers for a D.I.Y. approach to natural health.

4) The Bhagavad Gita. Don’t stop reading here because you can’t pronounce it or it seems inaccessible—it’s Bhuh-guh-vudd GUEE-taah. This ancient poem from Hindu literature (circa 500–200 B.C.E.) provides intriguing spiritual instructions for any seeker of God or the Divine. It describes, with a stunningly contemporary perspective, the nature and essence of God; the inner conflicts of man; and the value of aspiring to a truth that surmounts any trial or tribulation of Earthly living.

5) American Primitive, poems by Mary Oliver. Who else could describe the “First Snow” with such contemplative vision, as in the opening lines of the poem by that name:

The snow

began here

this morning and all day

continued, its white

rhetoric everywhere

calling us back to why, how,

whence such beauty and what

the meaning; such

an oracular fever  . . .

Happy New Year. Here’s to vibrant health . . . and something to keep you optimistic even when your plans for yourself fall through.

Author’s addendum, Jan. 9: The back problem disappeared nearly as fast as it came on. I applied a deep yoga stretch, coupled with targeted breathing and meditation. After about five minutes knocking at the edge of pain, the compromised sacroiliac joint re-adjusted, and the pain dissolved. That was three days ago. All is still well.