I know full well the anxiety that comes with a health crisis. In October of 2016, I was struck with a mysterious illness, including severe flu-like symptoms, that came out of nowhere and kept me bedridden for days and weeks. I went to and from my family doctor several times, who ran a battery of tests and bloodwork, only to find no conclusive results.

Over the next few months, I would get well enough to go back to work for a few weeks only to crash again, each time a little bit harder. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was completely depleted and forced to go on medical leave. The same family doctor who I had been seeing for the past three months finally diagnosed me with “depression and anxiety.” He released me from his care, told me that there was nothing more that he could do for me.

I felt hopeless beyond despair, isolated, and alone. I suffered from intense fevers, night sweats, chills, hallucinations, body aches, and panic attacks. I felt like I was losing my mind, and I was terrified because no one could give me a reason for my health collapse.

It was a season of uncertainty and isolation, much like we are all experiencing today.

At that point I realized that if I were going to get better, I was going to have to become my own health advocate. My health was in my hands. And thus, the journey to regeneration began.

A friend of mine referred me to a Functional Medicine doctor to whom I am forever grateful. Functional Medicine is a systems & biology–based approach to healthcare that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Essentially, functional medicine is like the “organic farming” approach to healthcare—holistic, and focused on the big picture.

My new doctor began to search root causes of my health collapse, which he ultimately identified (through proper testing) was Lyme Disease. Rather than further decimating my microbiome and immune system with traditional antibiotics, he used a combination of natural detoxification therapies and herbs, along with a diet and lifestyle plan to get me on the path to recovery.

My doctor helped me to understand how the body operates as an ecosystem, and that my job was to bring the ecosystem back into balance. Essentially, “farming” my body back to full health.

What he helped me to see and understand is that overcoming Lyme disease (or any chronic illness), had to become a new way of life. So, I began to treat each decision each day as an incremental step towards full health. My health was now in my control.

My approach to healing became a daily rhythm: morning meditation, journaling, prayer, movement, proper rest and sleep, and deep breathing. I focused on making nourishing, organic meals that restored my energy and wellbeing, and drank plenty of pure water.

Little by little I recovered to full health, and as a result, my entire life was set in a new direction. A more beautiful and healthier life than I ever thought possible. Ultimately, that experience led me to do the work that I am doing today with Rodale Institute. This season of darkness, despair, and isolation led me to a new community. A sense of wholeness and belonging. I was healed to be a healer.

As we face the uncertainties of the Coronavirus, and are called to a time of isolation, I challenge all of us to reframe this moment. We are living in “the moment before the moment,” where we do not yet have all of the answers. These times can create feelings of deep anxiety and unrest.

But I would challenge all of us to see this season as a time to slow down, to pause, to reflect, and to heal. We can all use this time to focus on our health, to begin to regenerate our bodies, and to create more resilience and vitality. If we do not create these rhythms in our life, they get forced upon us. Sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for really scary reasons.

So, there may be in all of this, an invitation for us to disrupt the endless push. Within this “shock to the system” that we are all just beginning to face, there may be an invitation for all of us to stop and pause. To let the field lie fallow or to establish a cover crop.

If we embrace the principles of regenerative organic agriculture, and apply them to our own bodies, we can take control of our health. We are all being called to farm our bodies right now, and to focus on our wellbeing. We are being invited to change the way that we live. To stop consuming and to regenerate. To turn this moment of isolation into a new kind of community, a rebirthing moment for humanity.

What if we all took this season as a moment to reinvent human and planetary health, one person at a time?

Your health is in your control. Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Drink 64 oz of clean water daily to flush toxins from the body and revitalize your cells. (No plastic bottles, please!) And promote clean water in your community by supporting organic farmers who don’t leach toxic chemicals into our vital water supply.
  2. Consume fresh, organic, nourishing food. Avoid sugar and processed food which weaken the immune system.
  3. Visit a local farm or farmer’s market: supporting farmers in our community and securing a local food system will strengthen our communities, revitalize our local economies, and make us more resilient against future pandemics. And like other small businesses, many farmers will be hurt by restaurant and market closings and can use your support. You could even consider signing up for an organic CSA this season, helping farmers receive a cashflow at this critical time.
  4. Reconnect with nature: take time to get outside, breathe fresh air, take your shoes off and feel the soil on your feet, get into the sun and absorb the Vitamin D which strengthens our immune system.
  5. Plant a garden: getting your hands in the soil and growing your own food is one of the healthiest acts that you can do for yourself and for your family.
  6. Rest, rejuvenate, meditate, get quiet, pause.
  7. Connect with a community: Rodale Institute is a is a community of pioneers who are passionate about healing people and the planet through regenerative organic agriculture. Join the movement!

During the darkest days of my health collapse, I took great solace in poetry. It was a healer and companion that gave me rich meaning during the most difficult times. I would like to share one poem in particular with all of you, my fellow healers. You are not alone, we are in this together, and we will reclaim our vitality and wholeness. Because our health is in our hands.

The Peace of the Wild Things
Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world and am free.

Regeneration is not only an approach to agriculture. It is a way of living. Thank you for joining us in healing the world.

Please leave your comments below about your own health journey, what inspires you about regenerating your health and the planet, or tips for taking control of your health. Looking to build community? We also encourage you to continue the conversation in our new Facebook discussion group.

Jeff Tkach Headshot

Jeff Tkach is Rodale Institute’s Chief Impact Officer. Prior to working at the Institute, Jeff was the Managing Director, Vice President for Rodale’s Organic Life and Prevention. From 2009-2013, he served as Organic Gardening’s associate publisher and publisher. Jeff earned a degree in business marketing from Kutztown University and a postgraduate “Authentic Leadership Certificate” from Naropa University in Boulder, CO.

7 thoughts on “Your Health Is In Your Hands

  1. Your story really resonates with me as I went for over three months of pain and sickness before being diagnosed with Lyme Disease. And this was in Maine, one of the epicenters of this disease. Despite a rash (full body not bullseye), flulike symptoms and back pain, no doctor even thought to administer a blood test. I read Dr Rawl’s book and started taking an herbal regimen to heal my gut and boost my immune system and after six and a half months I am feeling well. What an eye opening experience this has been,

    1. Molly, Thank you for sharing your story and your words of encouragement. I worked with Dr. Rawls and his team throughout my journey. I followed his diet protocol and I still take a number of his herbs each day. Nature has the power to heal!

  2. What a great and inspirational story. Thank you!! I’m just back from the Canadian Fair Trade Network conference (and probably the last pubic event for the foreseeable future up here), where i presented on Climate Change, Regenerative Organic Agriculture (in coffee) and the role that FAIR trade businesses can play to promote win-win-win-win practices. I often refer to the human biome to help people understand the role that micro-organisms play in restoring health and balance in soils. But now — I’m pointing to the miraculous recovery in soils, due to restoring the balance of lfe, to remind people of the importance of restoring the health and balance of the microbes in our bodies… and thereby strengthening our natural capacity to resist infection.

  3. Almost 2 years ago I was diagnosed with Graves. I have always been a proponent of closer-to-the-earth living and lots of what that entails, but am now living more into those beliefs. I heard your podcast with Rob Bell and it spoke to strongly to me. Thanks for sharing your story- so very inspiring! I think many of those who cannot find healing in the traditional medical community are the ones who lead us in new ways.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story! As you mentioned is often the case, my journey to the “organic world” began with an illness journey that conventional medicine couldn’t help. I first worked with an environmental medicine doctor and now work with doctors and practitioners at a functional medicine practice. It’s hard to believe there was ever another way for me. BTW…I love that poem! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing your story of hope so we all can take control of our lives during this time.

  6. When WW2 was over my family lived in a low cost housing project in New York. Someone moved in either up or down stairs and brought with them bed bugs. My mother in her innocence sprayed my bed nightly with black flag and I slept in a wet bed full of chemicals. In my old age I have a mild case of parkinson’s. When my son entered school he was diagnosed with ADD. The medicine made him sick so I took it away to the garbage. That was in 1966, I then began to explore the consequences of the food we eat. When I was old enough my Husband and I bought bare land and started to homestead. We began in 1982 and started organic farm. Through the teachings of the Rodales and all their contributors we learned and began to teach organics and off grid living. I am now in my mid 70’s and growing as always, organically of course. Good food, good water, clean air,a healthy life and one that is fulfilled.

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