I was recently pushed past my percieved limits during an 11 day Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) treatment immersion. I love Ayurveda because it is precise, it has been researched and proven effective for thousands of years, and it’s all herbal, so it is in total alignment with the natural order. It targets restoring the body’s innate balance, so that it then heals itself. My series of treatments were similar to Pancha Karma, if you want to Google that to get some idea, but tailored to my specific health issues. Think hours a day, every day, filled with massages with various medicinal herbal substances, steam treatments, purges, and drinking, swishing, and snorting various herbally medicated substances. Day One was heaven, but by Day Three it had devolved into a hellish passive endurance test of being poked, prodded, and pummeled, and there were nine days still to go.
On Day Six, I felt like they broke me. I was shattered. I couldn’t imagine continuing. The thought of facing more treatments for another five days was terrifying, and sent me into a deep sense of despair. I could feel how vital these treatments were to my physical health, but how? How could I endure more of this?? “Just get through this day.” was the thought I clung to. That day, I was so exhausted I fell into a semi-comatose state between waking and sleeping for hours back in my room, even though I had been advised not to nap. I couldn’t help it. I physically couldn’t move or track my exterior environment.
That day was a turning point. The next day was hard, but not quite so hard. The day after that was pure hell, and I wondered again if I could make it three more days. This time, other results of the treatments were making themselves known on the non-physical plane, and there was an inner spaciousness that I’d not felt before. Because of that, I knew I would continue, even when everything inside of me begged to stop. I was so impressed with what was emerging, my insight that day was “Everyone should push past their limits and see what opens up. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
As soon as I thought that, I mentally surveyed my social and familial landscape, and I recanted. “No. That’s not right.” That’s the problem with the way most of us are living today. Everyone I know, including me, is pushing past their limits, over, and over, and over again. We are getting depleted, and so is the planet. I dug deeper to unpack that, and this is what I found:
Yes, pushing past our limits, to where we feel utterly destroyed, is powerful. Allowing ourselves to fall apart and letting something new emerge is cathartic and opens up whole new areas of capability in a person. This is the whole idea behind Boot Camp in the military. The government knows how much someone’s capacity can be expanded by that process, but to whose gain? Certainly not the individual’s, and not the collective’s, either. They weaponize it. Yes, the individual gets a new sense of power and mastery, but it’s ultimately used for nefarious purposes. I think we will have to stop measuring our value propositions by individual gain, and start measuring them by how sustainable our actions are, individually and collectively. I think our very survival depends on it.
Pushing past our limits for the wrong reasons is toxic and only benefits those controlling the playing field and rigging the game. There is a reason Fear of Missing Out is a thing; it sells things and enslaves people. People push to work more hours to bring home more money to buy more things or attend more events, until their tongues are dragging the ground, and they don’t receive any real sustenance doing any of those things. What is the point? To line other people’s pockets? To support people who are amassing obscene wealth and are engaged in unprecedented resource extraction and pollution that is going to destroy our habitat soon? No, thank you. I’ll pass.
Pushing past our limits for the right reasons opens up capacities and capabilities we have no idea we hold within ourselves. These capacities and capabilities enhance and expand our ability to sense the interconnectedness of all nature and get a glimpse of the essence of reality and our place in it. We can regain our sense of connection with the Source, and from there contribute to the benefit of all beings.
So, what are the right reasons? Anything with therapeutic value. Do it for you. Your health. Gather up your courage and your faith, make whatever arrangements necessary to step outside of your normal life obligations, and take the plunge into the landscape beyond what you thought you could endure. Don’t do it to simply eliminate any particular symptoms. No, that’s just a trap. In my case, quieting the symptoms allowed the root problem to gain a foothold unheeded. Pick something that goes beneath the symptoms, and enhances the core systems that run your body, and the symptoms will naturally fall away. Just know your life will never be the same again. And would that really be a bad thing? Are you truly completely fulfilled and sustained? If so, great; no need to do anything further.
For therapeutic reasons, I highly recommend cautiously and mindfully pushing yourself past your known limits, allowing yourself to be totally shattered, and see what possibilities emerge. In my case, the cavernous wellsprings that have opened up are allowing me to experience the flow of energy and light on the inner planes in a way I never have before. It’s a visceral and visible experience. It’s tangible and intangible at the same time. The feeling is indescribable.
While the treatments were ongoing, I was clinging to every survival tactic I knew of, just to get through them. I moaned and groaned when I thought I couldn’t take any more, and was buoyed along by the energetic love and support of my friends. Whinging helps me to cope, but it doesn’t come close to painting an accurate picture.
Most of the treatments were passive. I was intensely bored, yet I had no energy to do anything after I returned home, and my instructions were to rest. Not that I had any choice, mind you. I struggled just to keep doing my simple spiritual practices; forget the intense ones, there was no way. On Day Six, the day I felt shattered, I started a simple five element offering to my altar deity after I emerged from my stupor just to pass the time, even though I could barely lift my arm. When I was finished, a mere 10 minutes later, my entire existence had transformed. Nothing weighed me down. I was free.
“Oh, wow. Look at that. Big things must be happening.” Yes. Yes, indeed. Big things WERE happening. Oh, the things I have seen! And felt! Now that the treatments are over and I have returned to the land of the living, I’ll be sharing some of my more enlightening experiences, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I offer you a question to ponder: For what reasons are you pushing yourself to your limits or beyond? I know you are; it’s epidemic in our society. None of us are immune. Do those reasons truly benefit you and your loved ones? Do they benefit or contribute to the sustainability of our human society?
Self-care retreats that are purely time away from routine, for recharging and recreation, are nice, but do they make any meaningful, ongoing difference in the quality of your life? I believe those types of getaways are like treating the symptom instead of the root cause, and have little chance of producing lasting benefit. It’s an interesting example of privilege: Become successful and amass enough wealth to go on a self-care journey to relieve yourself from the stress of amassing that wealth. It’s an entrapping downward spiral, indeed. I’m fairly certain life wasn’t meant to be lived this way.
On a final note, I offer unlimited gratitude to myself for the strength, courage, and faith it took for me to complete this journey. My physical body was in much worse condition than I thought when I started, and so was my spiritual body. These treatments have completely altered my trajectory and expected life span on this planet. It takes huge faith to undertake such a journey, and faith comes from direct experience. I encourage you to go on your own journey into the Source of your being and find what lies beyond your known horizon. Blessed travels to you.
Addendum: This is in no way a bad reflection on my therapeutic team. They were WONDERFUL. The compassionate way they provided care was far more skillful than anything I’ve experienced in any of the four other Ayurvedic treatment centers I’ve been a patient in. This was about my limitations, only.