Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.
Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing. There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much wildlife.
Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.
We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.
The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.
My daughter trying her hardest to do YOGA
We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.
Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.
Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.
In the late fall of 2008, I got sick. Very sick. Stress was undoubtedly a huge contributing factor. I was teaching high school History at a Title 1 school, halfway through a very demanding year-long yoga teacher training program, raising my son, and to top it off, I was newly married and walking on eggshells, suspicious that my (now ex) husband had some sort of severe mental illness (which was absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying).
Needless to say, it was too much for me to handle, and my body let me know. One morning when I was teaching, i felt a stab of burning pain in my right shoulder and chest. In pain and panic, I left the classroom, got a substitute and headed to the Dr. The pain I felt was so intense, burning, stabbing, unrelenting torture. After many days and many different Drs, a rash appeared, and a neurologist finally informed me that I in fact had shingles. He said it was very uncommon for anyone my age to develop shingles unless they were under severe stress or had a compromised immune system. He scheduled an MRI, and said it was possible I had some sort of autoimmune disease. He mentioned lupus, rhemetoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, and even lyme disease.. The MRI revealed I had some lesions on my spine, and the Dr said it was possible I had multiple sclerosis. There is supposed to be a link between shingles and MS. I was put on 8 weeks of medical leave, and given several medications, with strong side effects.
The rash came and went fairly quickly, but the pain I felt from the Shingles was constant agony for months. If my hair brushed against my shoulder, I cried out in pain. The only thing that I can compare it to, is childbirth. I understand i had a very severe case of shingles. Months later, I still was in pain. The neurologist explained that I had in fact developed PHN, and would likely feel the pain in those affected nerves for a very long time.
During that time, I got skinny, and i mean really skinny. I lost nearly thirty pounds and weighed a whopping 90 pounds. During that time,there was a point where I realized it was up to me to heal. I started juicing regularly, eating more fruits and vegetables. I quit my job teaching, and started focusing more on my yoga practice.
It was also during that time, that I became more aware of how certain foods affected my body. I noticed that when I needed to sleep or was fighting some sort of cold or infection,my right shoulder would start hurting again.
Even now, many years later, when i feel run down or eat junk food, the first place i feel it, is in my right shoulder. My right shoulder serves as an alarm, a warning bell, letting me know it is time to load up on herbs, vegetable juices, healthy food, vitamins, and REST.
It has taken me years to truly love and respect my body. It has scars, cellulite, thick black leg hair, and some chin hair too. But it is beautiful. It is my temple. The place where my soul resides.
It is up to us to pick up on the signals our bodies send. It is up to us to discover what we need to heal. It is up to us to go inside and LISTEN.
Self Care and self love.
With much gratitude for my temple and my right shoulder alert system. -Tiff