awesome selfie stick

IMG_2296POSTCARD 150: Delhi: To start with, it felt like a small insect bite. The painful part was just out of my vision on the back of my shoulder – impossible to see it in the mirror, so I ask Jiab to come and take a look. She studies the mark on my shoulder and says, “it’s a…” (pause), silence for a moment – looking at it thoughtfully, “It’s a…” (can’t think of the English word). I find a small hand mirror and try to see my reflection in the large bathroom mirror. Twisted around, contorted and awkward, but still can’t see it so I ask Jiab to tell me what she thinks it looks like. She says, “peempo” (pimple) her voice is so close to my ear it’s like she’s shouting. Then, silence, focused on trying to squeeze it with fingertips… doesn’t answer my questions because one can’t squeeze pimples and speak English at the same time. I can hear her holding her breath, small sounds of effort: mmmnh… but I find it’s too painful; get the phone out of my pocket, go to the camera app and ask her to take a photo of it. She takes a close-up: click! Shows it to me… oh, I see! It’s not “peempo” (pimple), singular; it’s pimples, plural. Many of them… and then I’m aware they reach up under my hair too.

We go to see the doc, show him the unpleasant skin rash and tell him about the headache and neck pain all the time. He takes one look and says: herpes zoster virus, it’s Shingles – Jiab says chingo… in Thai they call it ngoo sawatdi (snake says hello again). The doc tells me it’s the chicken pox virus we get when we’re children that remains dormant in the body for decades, then “wakes up,” or reactivates. Why? Maybe because I just came back from four weeks in Scotland, fresh hilltop air, and must have lost the immunity to infection I’d acquired as a long-term resident foreigner in South Asia. Who knows… it just comes back.

This is how it is for me now, headache, pulsating on and off, all over the right side of the head and neck. Doc gave me ant-viral tabs, ointment and pain med, saying it’s a neural reaction to the skin lesions, and (interestingly) the nerves below the surface of the skin tell the brain there’s pain inside the body. This sets off major alarm systems and you feel it deep inside. I have to get around the fact it’s telling me all the wrong things about the location of the pain – stated also with a kind of urgency, like, Pay attention! This is serious… so I’m starting to worry it’s a brain tumor. And it’s not that, it’s actually in the upper skin layers.

Sometimes I sit on the meditation cushion and wait for quietness to come; thinking and thought has its own momentum, takes time to settle down, then the openness to the pain experience is just totally there for a moment. There’s the default sense of self: hey, this must be happening to ‘me!’ then an initial frantic search for an alternative that runs on automatic takes it out of the normal context. Mind does a bypass, and for an instant the pain is not happening to anyone – there’s no ‘me’ engaging with these thoughts. The awareness that a thought was just there, but now nothing remains except the awareness that I can’t remember what it was… and the sensation of pain, like the hummmm of an old fluorescent tube light that needs to be replaced.

‘The mind is the canvas on which our thoughts are projected and is part of consciousness. Our body is a holographic projection of our consciousness.’ [B. M. Hegde, cardiologist]


Photo source: PnnB on Thai social network

48 thoughts on “awesome selfie stick

  1. It could be worse. A friend of mine just got shingles in his face. He has been signed off from work for several weeks. Hopefully you’ll have a speedy recovery and it won’t interfere with your life too much. Feel better!

    • I did have horror images of it getting into the eyes… so far it has stayed in the same place, expanding a bit on the head so it’s now about at the crown. Then all the way down my right side to the shoulder, including parts of the ear and neck. Hoping it’ll not take several weeks (!) but thanks for the info and your support.

  2. Yeah, isn’t it funny how much the severity of pain varies according to where we perceive it.

    I get ankylosing spondylitis and find that if I consciously refer the pain to the soft tissue of my lower back instead of the spine itself it’s much easier to bear. I learned the trick from a physiotherapist friend who manages her tension headaches in a similar way. Unfortunately that doesn’t work for my iritis (uveitis). I just can’t get that pain out of my eyeballs into somewhere that seems less serious.

    • I had to look that one up. A serious condition, and if you’re managing that level of discomfort you must know it’s a kind of no-choice situation, giving-in to it. I’m saying this from what I can remember of the abominable abdominal surgery I had 20 years ago in Thailand. There’s just no getting away from it, you have to walk straight in there and find a way through. For me, though, it all came to an end and I went into recovery, can’t imagine a strategy developing to deal with it in the long term. Your comment suggests a familiarity with pain I don’t have, other than the Buddhist no-self detachment I’m trying to explain here – it’s not happening to any’one’. There is no ‘me’ it’s happening to…

  3. Ooh, I ‘m sorry to hear that. That must be so painful.
    Are you open to alternative treatment? A homeopath once told me that Variolinum used to cure about 95% of his patients with shingles.

    I enjoy your reflections on a pain that is not happening to anyone. Still, I think that something could be done about this pain. Finding something to cure the pain will just happen. I hope. Or rather hoping happens.

    Anyway, I hope you get better soon.
    Best wishes,

    • Amazing to read about Variolinum, it sounds really extreme to me – not being familiar with this kind of thing. Also because of it’s used to treat smallpox and has been around since 16th C. Wow, sorry I’m maybe feeling a bit hopeless at the moment, but thanks for this info. It makes fascinating reading and I’ll look into it a bit more and see what the availability is like for where I am in North India…

      • If these remedies hit the nail on the head, they can work really fast. I have heard of cases where Variolinum was given to the patient with shingles.
        And the symptoms vanished so fast that the ‘old school doctor’ said , “This cannot have been shingles. If it is gone now, it cannot have been shingles.”

        Homeopathy is big in India. I hope you will find it.
        Otherwise, maybe Helios ships it?

      • Thanks Karin, I just discovered there are a few homeopathic chemists in central Delhi where they sell it over the counter I assume? So it sounds good to me now I’ve read a bit more, I’ll check it out tomorrow morning, too late in the day here and the traffic is not good. So that gives me new hope, thanks again. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

      • Maybe they need to order it.
        Hopefully, they will recommend a potency. I would avoid a lower one like C6, as it can lead to uncomfortable initial aggravations.
        C30 or maybe LM 6 dilution would be my choice.
        I send you all best wishes for your health.

      • You are very welcome.

        Ok, so this is potency C30? Awesome that they have it in stock.
        Have they recommended how often to take it?

        I would make sure not overdose it. I would take it once, two to five of these granules dry on the tongue, and then wait day and see what happens. If the remedy is the right one, there should be a remarkable improvement.

        Then only repeat the dose if the improvement stops or if there is a relapse.
        But don’t repeat too early during fast improvement. This would be as counterproductive as putting your hand into the spikes of a fast turning wheel in order to make it turn faster.

        I hope that you belong to the 95% where variolinum is the fitting remedy.

        And, disclaimer, I am no homeopath, just an interested lay person…
        You try everything at your own risk,and so on

        But it is worth a try.

        My thoughts are with you.

      • Yes, C30. India is a good place for medicine of all kinds, I’m coming to realise. They said 3 granules three or four times a day. I already took one dose. It’s nearly bedtime here so I’ll not take any more, as you suggest, wait and see…

      • Knowing how often to repeat is tricky. I would wait until you wake up next morning and then judge from the result whether to repeat it.
        Repeating too early and too often can cause a relapse of symptoms as well as so called ‘proving symptoms’. I have experienced both and am therefore cautious.

        I hope that it works.
        If necessary ( because we have used up more than ten comments back and forth in wordpress, for example) feel free to contact me via my contact form on my blog.

      • Additional note to Karin and anyone else interested in the homeopathic Variolinum, it has had an noticable effect on the condition and I feel very much better this morning… grateful for this release

      • I did not get the last comment of this thread displayed in my reader and am not able to respond there.
        This is probably because WP does not display more than 10 comments in a thread?
        I was glad to hear that you are better now.

      • Hi Karin, I noticed there’s this kind of confusion in WP when there are long threads. So, I’m replying to this message, partly to see where it comes in the thread, and to say things are so far okay. I’ll be in touch at your contact address. Thank you

    • Well, I thought about posting the photo Jiab took of the skin condition but decided it looked really too yukky… so there was the other one she had on her Thai social network that sums things up in the ‘developing’ world. I’m amazed at the response, within an hour I have some homeopathic med to take, thanks to Karin

      • Thanks for the support – deep in the distant past for me, no memory of chicken pox. Reminds me of the song by the Coasters:
        Measles make you bumpy
        And mumps’ll make you lumpy
        And chicken pox’ll make you jump and twitch
        A common cold’ll fool ya
        And whooping cough’ll cool ya
        But poison ivy, Lord’ll make you itch!!
        You’re gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion
        You’ll be scratchin’ like a hound
        The minute you start to mess around

  4. When I sit it generally takes about 20 minutes for my mind body to settle

    I had shingles in my forties, but it was quite mild; an irritation rather than an actual pain. One of my work colleagues was pregnant so I even got some time time off as sick leave. 🙂

    As for pain: I find that when I simply acknowledge it and move on if I return a few minutes later is it has gone or at least diminished to a manageable level. Dr. Hegde’s words are spot on. Thank you for spreading them.

    Sabbe satta sukhitta hontu.

    • Thanks Ben, I spent some time this morning on YouTube listening to a few variations of the melodic and healing: ‘sabbe satta sukhi hontu.’ When I sit, there are times when it takes only a moment for the mind/body to settle, a special kind of urgency – unexpected and I don’t quite know what to do with it other than just stay there and watch the questions arise and disappear… difficult to stay there for long. It’s not always like that. Often it involves creating sufficient distance in order to examine each thought as it arises, seeing it all in a gradual slow-motion. Sometimes I can’t do it at all and have to give up… clear awareness of things, whatever, is necessary.
      When I sit with the pain of shingles (I have it now in my sixties) it’s sometimes a desperate experience; no escape, no alternative but to acknowledge it as you say here – so intense there’s a clear sense of hovering, really not wanting to be there, but transfixed somehow, a hypnotic kind of instant stepping-into-it. The holding disperses and there are these periods when it has at least diminished to a manageable level and I’m okay for a little while.
      Today I’m very much better thanks to Karin’s homeopathic remedy Variolinum (see discussion above). May all beings be happy and well…

      • Yeah, I’ve found mindfulness as therapy to be of pretty limited application. The problem is that when I need it – due to physical or psychological disturbance – is when I’m least able to do it. During my depression the fact I couldn’t meditate for much of the time contributed to my despair.

        Maybe if I’d practiced more often when I was well it would have been easier when I wasn’t. Or maybe meditation is for meditation and not for other stuff at all.

      • This is it, sometimes there’s just the 1st Noble Truth and that’s as far as we can go, watching the reaction to it (I don’t want it to be like this), and aware of that. It’s enough. I’m reminded of the teaching about the 5 Hindrances, particularly 5. Doubt (vicikicchā)

      • Well, I really started to seriously meditate when I felt in depression, some years ago, trying don’t fall in drogues anti-depression (and also trying to not lose my work). And it runs very well for me, really. Since then, I meditate every day at the morning, for 20-40 minutes. Yet is true that I had to try some meditation techniques since I found the one good for me. Perhaps that’s your case, you didn’t find the adequate one for you. One thing I’m sure: meditation is for life, not for escape of life.

      • There’s a skill in being able to get the energy together to sit in meditation when you are in a state of depression. Or it might be that you can have that sense of conviction about seeing how the mind works, after some years of meditation practice. So that you have sufficient insight even if you don’t sit regularly…

      • Maybe you’re right; I ever had been interested in spirituality, even in my very young days. So when I was in depression, I preferred try meditation seriously instead go to the doctor. It was a risky bet, because doctors say depression must be medically treated, but was good for me.

  5. Hopefully the virus will be stopped very soon; is well known the better “medicine” against viruses is the self-defences of our body, all the other stuff are merely helps for overcome the pain and the symptoms. So think about to improve your defences, you know, healthy food, sleep well, etc etc .
    About meditation, mindfulness, etc and pain, well, our mind is connected with our body, so the pain of the body also affects our mind; therefore is difficult meditate when our body is suffering. As cabrogal suggest, only when we are enough advanced, we no longer identify with our little mind, but with a clear and spacious Mind, and even beyond, with pure awareness, so, who are suffering? Not us. Only our body.

    • Thanks for your kind words. Homeopathic medicine is unfamiliar to me although I have good friends who tell me about it. I’m grateful to Karin for the suggestion to use Variolinum C30. It had an effect immediately. Also it started me thinking about these natural processes of the body; a solution to the problem already exists, you only need to find the wisdom to know how to apply it. It depends on some kind of quality of faith or conviction… a certainty. This is I think what you’re saying here about the power of meditation – that ‘knowing’ I am not my body…

    • Thank you for these well-wishes, the skin rash is going now and headaches are less intense… the magic cure may be a homeopathic remedy recommended by Karin (see above), the condition has changed since I started taking that

  6. Tiramit,

    Hoping you feel better soon and am grateful from afar for Karin’s insights into this difficulty. What an amazing community to be part of here on WP!

    The use of the cell phone is amazing. A few years ago you would have had to rig up a system of 2-4 mirrors to see what was going on… 🙂

    Wishing you blessings and well-being, friend–

    • Thanks Michael. How much things have changed in the last decade. It is amazing isn’t it, how Karin’s intervention took such a short time to implement. I asked people in the house here in Delhi about homeopathic medicine and somebody knew of a place, jumped in the car and I had the medicine within 1 hour. I checked back with Karin in Germany and she gave me the dosage and further advice. That was it, done, and by the next day I started to feel better…

  7. Hope you feel much better real soon. Glad for the homeopathic reprieve. Shingles is very painful. Hard to meditate while in pain. Sometimes just going “into” the pain takes the fight away. I am not reading blogs, nor blogging but wanted to check in on you. Am lost in a whirlwind of Indian culture, frequent migraines and psych med adjustments. No poetry but good meditations. Maybe there is hope. You’re still in my Reiki group Friday mornings around 9 AM EDT. Feel better. 😓 Ellen

    • Good to hear from you Ellen, and I hope there are some reasonably calm intervals for you during this stormy time. I am getting better after the homeopathic medicine. The rash is disappearing, pain is still there; an overwhelming experience that repeats over and over, as a result you become less and less shocked by it. That helps a bit, and I’m inclined to think it’s gradually easing. I shall remember your Reiki group energy Friday 9AM EDT, and I’m grateful for your kind thoughts…

    • Hi Kimberly, the skin lesions have dried up but there’s still that neural pain and headaches, less intense. Can’t imagine what it’s like to have it twice! Although Jiab tells me the name for shingles in Thai is ngoo sawadi (snake says hello again). I’ve read that this homeopathic remedy I’m taking Variolinum, has a preventative effect, here’s hoping…

      • From what I understand, shingles affects an area on only one side of the body and is likely to lessen and disappear in a couple of weeks. I see on the internet Lupus is more of a heavy dude, autoantibodies attack and destroy healthy tissue, inflammation, pain, and damage to various parts of the body. It sounds like you’re an invalid now until it goes away… take care of yourself, my thoughts are with you.

  8. I am sorry to hear that ..How are you feeling now brother ? . My mom has it few years ago and I can feel how painful it is. I am praying for your speedy recovery . Lots of love

    • Thank you Alisha, it’s coming to an end now. Three weeks of stabbing pain and now there are these times of breakthrough into a huge landscape of no-pain, ease and gentleness. The whole thing has been an immense experience…

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