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Gut Health

Gut Health

La’akea members from left to right, Judy Dolmatch, Dona Willoughby, Biko Long, Tracy Matfin, and baby Ai’ala.

 

Author: Dona Willoughby
Published in Communities Magazine Issue #145

As I sit by the Bay, my mind and body are immersed in the beauty above, below, behind, and in front of me. The fluffy white clouds change shape as they float past stunning Mauna Kea Volcano with its verdant green hills terracing down in sleepy Hilo Town. My shoulders relax as I receive a massage from the warm sun. Green sea turtles pop their heads up for air as they gracefully swim along the lava rocks in the azure blue Pacific Ocean. Sounds of the gentle rhythmic waves, calls of a sea bird, a dove, and a cardinal surround me like a blanket, adding to my sense of peace and tranquility.

A magical rain sprawl approaches, encompasses, and passes me by.

As I stand in awe of Mother Nature, my cell phone rings. My friend and lover, thousands of miles away, has picked this opportune time to call. I hope our conversation will be as intimate and beautiful as my surroundings. After a brief catch up, he asks how I feel about his being absent? I choose my words carefully while being honest, transparent, and avoiding blame. I reveal my feeling of anxiety while realizing that I have a need for clarity. I make a clear request for him to tell me when he will return. He attempts to answer my request by saying he “possibly might return.” I feel my heart speed up and my gut become tight. “Triggered” is the word we use at La’akea Community for my reaction. When someone is triggered, they have an overwhelming emotional response and may not be rational. We practice Marshal Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) at La’akea. In NVC, the Jackal is used to portray the moralistic, critical, judgmental, blaming voice many of us internalized when we were small. I hear my internal jackal voice screaming “POSSIBLY??? Possibly you could return tomorrow or 10 years from tomorrow. Just say, ‘No, you won’t give me any clarity.’” The conversation ends in turmoil.

I close my eyes and take some deep breaths. I return to an inner state of peace before beginning to flow through the 12 community errands I set out to complete earlier in the morning. I make sure to include a swim in the ocean before returning home to La’akea.

It is my turn to prepare dinner. I have no reason to rush. I enjoy walking out to the garden and harvesting all kinds of fresh greens, taro, beans, squash, and eggs. As I get into the flow of cooking, I note an uncomfortable feeling still menacing my gut from my earlier phone conversation. Instead of repressing the feeling, I take note, and decide to do something later to relieve it. I serve a freshly prepared feast, and receive multiple praises from community members. My needs for appreciation and value are filled.

During dinner, I make a request to receive attention from a fellow community member. He agrees. I need to decide what form of attention I want to receive. One option is Peer Counseling, in which all members of La’akea have been trained. A Peer Counseling session consists of both parties giving undivided loving presence to the other one for an allotted amount of time. Peer counselors suggest ways their clients may work on issues, but they do not give advice.

I decide I want to tell my story, enjoy free-flowing conversation, and be given advice.

Another community member asks if she can join in our exchange when dinner is completed. Two loving persons listen as I tell about my earlier phone conversation and how I reacted. I find myself being held and stroked from head to toe. I’m given positive feedback about my lover, my relationship, and myself, along with compassionate suggestions. I feel the knot inside my gut release. My need for safety, understanding, physical attention, and to know that I matter is met.

My jackal voice has changed to a giraffe voice (also described in NVC). Giraffes have the largest heart of any land animal. My giraffe voice gives me empathy for having feelings and needing beautiful clarity. My giraffe ears try to hear my lover’s feelings and needs and connect with him at a heart level.

Darkness has descended. I slowly head back to my sleeping cabin. No light is needed; my feet are familiar with the path. I sense the foliage and smell the night-blooming jasmine along the way. My heart is so open it invites the stars in and they accompany me to bed, soothing me into a deep, tranquil sleep.

I awake with the dawn refreshed and rejuvenated, and complete my meditation and Ashtanga Yoga practice before community check-in at 8:30. During check-in we make plans for the day, find out what folks’ needs are, and try to make arrangements for all needs to be met. I prepare a breakfast smoothie using coconut juice, fresh greens, bananas, and herbs I gathered from the land, including high calcium hibiscus and gota cola, known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) “to make you live forever.”

As I attend the morning work party, involving physical work on our land to sustain ourselves in food, I catch myself hurrying, an old habit of mine. I remember there is no deadline, and that nothing horrible will happen if someone waits. I let my shoulders, forehead, and mind relax as I slow my pace.

After a lunch filled with camaraderie and laughter, I retire to my sleeping hut. I review my copy of Healthy at a Hundred by John Robbins. The book is a study of four cultures in which people live to ages past 100 and are still vibrant and healthy.

How does our La’akea culture compare to cultures of long-living healthy people? Similarities I note include close loving relationships with lots of loving interactions; lack of loneliness; living close to nature; fresh non- processed food; work that does not entail emotional stress; regular exercise; clean air and water; following biological rhythms; joy and laughter.

Although I may someday reach the point that I am no longer triggered by life’s events, I feel happy to live in a community/culture where I am encouraged to share my feelings and where my needs are respected. I appreciate having community members who use the tools of Nonviolent Communication and Peer Counseling to promote self-growth and effective resolution of emotional issues. I feel grateful that at La’akea we seem to cultivate habits similar to cultures who enjoy long, rich (in love and support), healthy lives.

One Response to Gut Health

  1. bradleydean says:

    Dona:
    Nice article, thanks for sharing. My gut felt better just reading it!
    Peace,
    bradleydean

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