In the "Begin with the end in play - Health and Wellbeing" workshop, Stephen shares his personal experiences of ill-health, and how he used his understanding of natural healing processes to regain wellness.
Two illnesses in particular highlight Stephen's experiences with chronic and debilitating conditions;
- The following is an extract from Stephen's book Be and Become, revealing the extent of one illness he had in late 1988, while travelling through Southern Europe. *Please be aware the following extract contains swearing and obscenities*"When in Turkey I became very ill with suspected food poisoning (which seemed then to be the catalyst for a subsequent serious illness in the months following). The following verbatim account from my diary on the way home to Australia in 1988 reflects the gravity of my condition at the time:Tuesday 25th 10.40 a.m. (Athens time, over the Indian Ocean):
Jesus, I’m stuffed. Very ill.
Symptoms—sharp pain in chest causing me much difficulty to breath, sore, locked jaw, general stiffness and soreness through whole body, including neck, arms, bum, legs, back etc. Also have just been to the toilet & noticed a sort of crustiness to the beginning of flow. Also a slight burning sensation when passing urine ...
and a few days later after having returned home to Australia:Thursday 27th 2.50 p.m. (on bed at Mum and Dad’s)
Christ, I don’t believe it. I’m even more ratshit than last entry. Now, almost completely immobile. Fuck I’m sore. I cannot any longer get out of bed. Incredible ...
The “stiffness” included my inability to raise my arms above shoulder height or turn my head. My jaw was locked shut to the extent that I could only consume liquids. I can remember it was almost impossible to brush my teeth. I was exceptionally tired and suffered shortness of breath after mild exertion, caused by such simple activities as getting out of bed, for which I needed assistance. The tiredness was compounded by the fact that I managed very little sleep due to extensive pain throughout my body.
All manner of tests were conducted but the only conclusive factor determining that I was quite ill was a very high red blood cell sedimentation rate (ESR) which was over six times higher than the maximum figure considered normal or healthy. The ESR is the speed with which red blood cells settle in a sample of blood, and the higher the figure the greater the severity of illness.
I had lost considerable weight and I looked very ill. Two nurses I knew through friends and family each suggested that I should have been hospitalized. In fact one of the nurses commented that I looked worse than her terminally ill cancer patients. Some friends have since shared with me that they honestly thought I was going to die.
Nevertheless, I refused medical treatment such as the cortisone injections recommended by the family doctor. Instead I decided that I would trust myself and feel how best to resolve my serious health problems. It was a time when my beliefs about the nature of my reality were strained to the limits. In various workshops I had learned how to control pain by focussing on the area in trouble and “relaxing” the area. I suppose it was the mental equivalent of applying a local anaesthetic. But this was different—my whole body was in considerable pain. What was I supposed to do—apply a general anaesthetic? That experience raised interesting questions for me regarding the relevance of meditation in general or at least in the context of it being a panacea for my problems...
It took me around six months to reasonably recover from that illness but, even after a myriad of tests and doctors, no one could suggest the reason for the illness. The only hint of the nature of my condition occurred almost a year after my illness when I saw a film based on Norman Cousins’ book “Anatomy of An Illness.” The film portrayed him as having suffered an uncanny similarity of symptoms to me, right down to the locked jaw, high ESR rate, and almost complete immobility of movement. Even his method of getting well was almost exactly the same as mine—insisting on high vitamin C intake and fresh food...
He obviously had similar beliefs regarding responsibility for one’s health because his wellness methodology included watching Marx Brothers movies, believing that one’s positive attitude was paramount to good health."
- In the late 1990s, while writing his first book, Stephen was forced to attend the Sydney Eye Hospital with a serious, painful eye condition, diagnosed as acute Iritis. (Iritis can lead to permanent blindness). The initial treatment of steroidal eye-drops failed to relieve the condition, leaving the only remaining course of treatment requiring needle injections directly into the eye. He took a few minutes to focus his awareness and intent for wellness, thereby avoiding the need for injections, and thereafter naturally recovering to regain wellness.
These are a few examples (among others) of how he has used the processes and understanding to intuitively feel how to naturally gain wellness, in the midst of severe pain and distress.
In recent years, Stephen has received medical confirmation of having ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative genetic condition (autoimmune disease) that mainly affects joints in the spine and the sacroilium in the pelvis, causing eventual fusion of the spine. This condition is also associated with a range of conditions afflicting skin, heart and eyes (as detailed above).
As a result of the genetic cards Stephen has been dealt, he has, as one might expect, a special interest in the role of genetics, beliefs and creative processes that can help achieve health and wellbeing, despite debilitating circumstances.