Transforming the Body into a Sanctuary

By Guest Blogger   |  24Comments|

Photo Credit: Hillary Harvey

By Jeffrey Davis

I don’t have time to feel ill. At least, that used to be my attitude. I didn’t ignore a head cold or sinus infection. I just had my acupuncturist wife pin me down to perk me up, practiced a few key yoga postures, and moved on. Dis-ease desisted. But then a tick bit me in the gut and kicked my attitude in the butt.

That was in June 2008. A bullring mark and three weeks of antibiotics later, lightning struck our farmhouse, triggering a fire that seared my library and files and left us without a home for fifteen months. In October, while living in a rental, we got pregnant. From October to March, I fought like a lawyer with the home insurance company. In May 2009, another tick bit me. Test results said I was positively positive for Lyme—again. In July, our daughter arrived. And in October 2009, we returned home.

During that time, I awoke each morning feeling old. My arms tingled. My head felt as if I had chugged a pint of Southern Comfort the night before, even though my most toxic beverage was white tea. Even worse, muscular aches pulsed in ever-moving spots—from my neck to my right forearm to my left thumb pad. When I’d press on the ache, I’d release a belch like Pavarotti with gas. Gas seemed to lodge in my hamstrings, my trapezius, my pinkie finger. (I’m not exaggerating). My morning yoga sessions would have been comical if they didn’t seem so pathetic. By mid-morning I could function, but my body moved as if driving 55 mph in second gear.

Even once we moved home, my energy was sapped. Yet I was 44 years old, gray-haired, and holding a baby girl in my arms who would graduate from high school with a belching 62-year-old father. I needed help.

Do you remember that baby bird searching for its mother in the Dr. Seuss book asking “Are you my mommy?” That was me as I traveled around last winter asking one healer after another, “Are you my healer?” My wife stuck me with needles, fed me nasty bitter teas, and said to cut out dairy, wheat, and sugar. My doctor shook his head and said, “You might be one of those few people who has residual symptoms of Lyme even after you’ve been properly treated. Be patient. It’ll pass. And your wife’s right about the diet.” “And the belching?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. A chiropractor told me to stay away from wheat and gave me a supplement called Miracle Mineral Supplement. (“I didn’t name it,” he apologized when my eyebrows rose. “But it works.”) An energy healer told me to daydream more.

I followed everyone’s advice, and all of it helped. Among other distresses, the antibiotics might have triggered four decades of toxic accumulation of dairy, wheat, and sugar. After two months with a newly purified diet, I started to get my chi back.

Still, I sensed I needed to go more deeply into healing. I kept asking myself, “Just how good can you feel? Can you really dedicate your life to feeling so optimal that you can be of even more service to your loved ones and the world? Just how good can you feel?”

The big shift came this past December. I had let myself be ill for a year and a half. With the new year approaching and my baby growing, one morning I asked myself: “What’s my dharma for 2010? What quality of body do I need to manifest that dharma?”

Dharma is a lofty word sometimes translated as “wisdom,” “the Buddha’s collected wisdom,” or “duty” (in the sense of your unique duty, not your obligations). But in this context, I translate it as “that which calls you to act well in the world.” So sometimes I rephrased it, “What is calling me to act well in the world in 2010?”

I’d see images of my daughter and wife, and of myself flowing with the students I teach at retreats and workshops and with my writing clients. I saw myself flowing at the desk as a writer. Put simply, I had work to do in 2010. Crazy, sexy work involving living creatively, tracking wonder, and being available—and helping thousands of others do the same.

Dharma is not just mind work. My body played (and plays) a seminal role in dharma becoming manifest. So what quality of body did my dharma need? “Vitality,” I heard over and over. Every morning since then, I have sat, moved, and breathed with those questions. They led me to develop a new sequence of yoga postures and, especially, breathing tools designed to open specific blocked parts of my body and invigorate my limbs.

This yoga-meditation stuff works. My true self wants to reside and be comfortable in this house of a body. Yoga-meditation practice makes this house of a body a sanctuary for the self to reside, replenish, and ultimately express itself. The house is less crowded. A life force moves through it more effortlessly than it has in years. Less belching. More space and spaciousness.

I try to be more patient now with my body, its quirks, and inevitable change. I try to take my time with and learn from illness and dis-ease. And woe to glutens, dairy, and sugar—I thank the ticks for that enlightenment!

I also received the gift of a new mantra: Inspired action. Surrendered outcome. Harnessed breath work reminds me of this mantra throughout the day: Inhale inspired action. Exhale surrendered outcome. The self and body tell me: Give every action everything you have. And then let go. Teach with gusto. Write with verve. Papa with heart.

And let go. Students move on. Words vanish. And that little girl, well, she will leave one day.

Yoga continues to be my muse. I show up for her, and each morning she’s always there, on the mat or in the crib, waiting for me.

Jeffrey Davis teaches Yoga as Muse workshops, retreats, and facilitator training throughout North America. He serves as a creativity consultant and writing coach for clients around the world through his organization Center to Page, LLC, is author of The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing, and blogs about wonder and living creatively for

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24 responses to Transforming the Body into a Sanctuary
  1. Thanks so much for this, Jeffrey. It really made me think of what my own dharma is.

  2. That was such a pleasure to read. Thank you.

  3. Jeff,
    Inspired action. Surrendered outcome. I’m digesting your new mantra. It’s just what I need these days. Thank you.


  4. Thank you for this affirmation of our inate potential, creativity, healing and permission to let go.

  5. Also, we’ve been in regular phone contact during this difficult health period and you never mentioned your Lyme disease. A quiet carrier of difficulties you seem to be…

  6. Indu said on May 31, 2010

    Makes so much sense…

    Thank you Jeffrey..

  7. sg said on May 31, 2010

    Inspiring! Thank you.

  8. Thank you Jeffrey for sharing your journey to a better health! Trying to figure out a mantra for myself!

  9. Jeffrey,
    As a yoga teacher and cancer survivor, this really struck a chord with me – thanks for your words of wisdom. :)

  10. Thank you Jeffrey, that really hit home for me! I had Lyme for years, not knowing. It was no fun, but it tought me a lot. I just started a small company cooking vegan organic fresh food for people who have no time of energy to make it themselves. But I need to take care of myself to. This blog will go somewhere in my kitchen to remind me! Inspired action, surrendered outcome. That will stick! TNX so much!

  11. Beth said on May 31, 2010

    Thank you, Jeffrey. This post really struck a chord with me.

  12. Meg said on May 31, 2010

    Thank you so much Jeffrey for this post – it came at I time that I really needed to hear it (constant health problems myself & a cold right now to top it all off). You’ve inspired me to see just how good I can feel and to embark on a journey to better health. Thank you again.

  13. Hi, Everyone: Thank you for your rich, warm affirmations. Wow – what a pleasant way to close a full day. Your responses affirm that the mantra – Inspired Outcome; Surrendered Outcome – resonates with you. Really, it’s such a powerful reminder that we can bring to our days, breath after breath, action after action. Leslie – ha, you’re right: I am a quiet carrier of difficulties. Only recently have I “let on” to clients who have experienced chronic physical ailments. Romke: Your company sounds fantastic! So many of us need help with just the most fundamental basics of feeling and acting upon our best – namely, diet and mental witnessing/breathing/intentional acting. Thanks for your contributions.


  14. Kat said on June 1, 2010

    What did the burping turn out to be? I have had this for years, and no one can tell me what it is. Just as you described, gas lodges in places you don’t think would be possible, and it comes out as a belch when the area is pressed. Have you solved this problem, and if so, how? Thank you!!!

  15. Dear Jeffrey,

    I frequently read this site but never post. Through tears, I want to extend my most heartfelt thanks. For the past eight years, I have been attempting to cure chronic eczema and pain from lifelong scoliosis. I have recently been through a very similar path to yours and found my light at the end of the tunnel in yoga. Slowly, and with support from so many brilliant facets which I am ever grateful for, I have begun to heal. I WILL give every action everything I have. And I WILL then let go. Because I have had incredible encounters with people such as yourself who have shown me how along my own path. Thank you.

    –Casi C.

  16. How absolutely beautiful, just what I needed today. Thank you beyond. Will be meditating on this in my yoga practice tomorrow, with all love, Grace xxxx

  17. This was AMAZING! Thank you so much for writing this. It was a pleasure to read.

  18. Dear Kat:
    You know, you’re only the second person to confirm my regional-specific gas-belching phenomenon. And, really, none of the doctors/healers had a clue. Except my wife, who might have been accurate in correlating it with a gluten reaction.

    I still have occasional belching when I practice Yoga, but not as severely since I’ve radically modified my consumption of food and my input/output of thoughts.

    I met another person who has the same belching problem and the same gluten reaction that was triggered by the oxy antibiotics we each took in response to Lyme. Our hunch is that the antibiotics triggered the gluten reaction or, in my case, exacerbated an existing but fairly dormant condition.

    I’m curious if you have ever had Lyme and if so if you took antibiotics as part of your treatment. My doctor pretty much refuses to acknowledge any possible correlations.

    Finally, in my case, a “stress complex” of factors – uncharacteristic depression, trying to get pregnant with my wife, Lyme, the antibiotics, the house fire and aftermath – all likely contributed to this condition within a few months.

    My practice sustains me. What a gift.

  19. Kasi, Grace, Keriann: Thank you for your kind words. Kasi, I’m very excited for you and for those you potentially touch that see light. It’s remarkably empowering – and possibly daunting with that empowerment – to have this practice.

  20. Dear mr.Davis,

    After 10 years of weird symptoms I finally discovered I have Lyme’s Disease.
    I’ve been off sugars and artificial sweeteners for a while but I have to cut out dairy&yeast too and probably gluten,bc an hour after I ate something I become very tired and get very cold.
    I just don’t know where to start;how to plan my meals and what to eat,bc the problem’s that the lyme is causing major psychological issues like depression,anxiety and an eating vs. exercising disorder.In my current diet I know what to eat to not gain weight or lose some fat,so changing my diet makes me very nervous bc I feel I lose control and need to compulsively exercise to keep the fat off even though I’m tired.So,the lyme is keeping me in a psychological depressing vacuum.
    It’s messing with my head&emotions so much,that I’m even starting to get some suicidal tenencies though I’m not like that at all! I just don’t have any futureperspective’s like I’m watching myself from the sidelines bc I have no control over my emtions anymore.
    Anyway,I’d really appreciate it if you could share some insights as to what you eat/ate in a day….also 3 meals or 5 to 6 small meals?

  21. Ok, first of all wow! I know you had this posted quite awhile back, but it so closely touches on where I am now that I have to respond (It also took me about a year and a half to get here).

    I have been dealing with Lyme and a few other coinfections since June of 2009. I am still on antibiotic treatments. I also developed issues with gluten, starchy foods, sugar etc and had to do some major reworkings of my diet because at some points I seemed to had lost the ability to digest much of anything … and that sure did not help with the fatigue issues. Anyhow …

    At my last doctor’s appointment, I finally really acknowledged that I had been sick for quite a while. Sure I had felt awful for some time, but I never acknowledged it as the chronic illness it was. Finally allowing myself to look that reality right in the face has lead to me asking, how much better can I feel? And it’s allowed me to actively pursue feeling better.

    I’ve regained the energy and motivation to MOVE once again. My joints WILL physically bend again. Oh, sweet relief! I’m finally wanting to be COMFORTABLE in my own body again and knowing that is possible. I’m learning to be patient with my new range of motion.

    And now I’m looking for a yoga instructor in my area :)

  22. Dutchie: My apologies for only just now seeing your response! There’s no notification to me of when new posts are made here.

    First, get outside help. A smart therapist who’s grounded in cognitive therapy might really help. Seek a smart yoga teacher who is both in the practices of pranayama (breathing exercises), yoga therapy, and yoga psychology & mindfulness. These things do help.

    My diet: breakfast: gluten-free cereal flakes or gluten-free oatmeal or gluten-free bagels (Sami’s Bakery – check out online) or eggs (yes, I eat eggs). Lunch: two sandwiches on Sami’s gluten free bread with greens, goat’s cheese (not bad on digestion like cow’s), carrots, and hummus. Dinner: varies. My wife fortunately is an awesome cook. There are LOTS of good cookbooks you can find with yummy gluten-free recipes.

    My work now is to build up my immunity so I will not always be so food-sensitive.

    Anyway, thanks to you and Natalie for your accounts. I’m going to print them out and take them to my doctor who has not acknowledged the link to Lyme at all.

    Natalie: Good luck in finding a yoga teacher. See my notes above. I had a very similar pattern of it taking me almost two years before I said, “Hey! You’re sick. You’re not just feeling tired.”


  23. Jeffrey, this is such an inspiring piece. The body wants to be well, and good for you for supporting it, and searching what is right for you. Peace and best wishes, Alice

  24. Wow, I really needed this today. It was so encouraging! I’m going to have to do some soul-searching(if you will) soon. This has inspired me. Thank you so much. I hope I can find what’s right for me, and that my soon-to-be yoga classes are helpful.