Lying on bed

The term “gravity attack” is not in any dictionary that I own. As to the time, place and manner of its coinage I know nothing. I first heard it used by one of the presenters at a conference I attended many years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its use brought forth laughter from the one thousand assembled, but I wonder how many could have explained just why they were laughing.

Gravity, as we are all aware, is the force that holds us and the rest of creation on the surface of this planet. It’s defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “the quality of having weight” or “the gravitational attraction of the mass of the Earth, the moon or a planet for bodies at or near its surface.” But what is a “gravity attack”? Sure the force of gravity doesn’t attack human beings or anything else on the planet! So what have we here? An eternal enigma?

No. My recent experience of what can only be described as a “gravity attack” clarified the term for me. Perhaps an account of this experience will do the same for you. It all started one morning in June when I woke up with a severe throat infection. I immediately began treating it with heavy doses of vitamin C, extra fluids and plenty of rest. After several days it began to abate and I sought to resume normal activity. Within a few hours it was back again, just as painful as before and this time accompanied by feelings of extreme fatigue which shortly turned into utter exhaustion. I resumed vitamin C, fluids, rest and even underwent a four-day fast. The throat pattern eventually cleared. But the exhaustion remained and remained and remained.

Day followed day and week followed week, when it seemed I could do nothing more than maintain a prone position on my bed or, on “good” days when I could manage to walk ninety feet, on my chaise lounge outside. Needless to say, over the weeks I tried everything: vitamin C, vitamin E, brewer’s yeast, dessicated liver, spirulina, fresh vegetable juices, a high-fibre diet, comfrey-pepsin tablets, various herbal tea formulations, cayenne pepper, colonic irrigations, massage therapy, meditation, special breathing exercises, chanting and, of course, prayer. I even read books on miraculous cures. None of this was to any avail whatsoever. Adding to the frustration was the fact that no one, including a medical doctor, could find anything obviously wrong with me.

This energy crisis continued for two months, with only one brief respite: by what almost seemed to me to be some kind of divine dispensation I found enough strength to attend the above mentioned conference in Vancouver. This offered a glimmer of hope that someday I might resemble a living person again.  But upon returning to Colorado the former malaise set in once more. I recall standing in front of the mirror with barely enough strength to put on a necktie. Bending over to pick something up was a supreme ordeal. Even the thought of getting up to change channels on the TV was tiring. (Thank God, I now have a remote!) My weight plummeted to some thirty-five pounds under what is considered to be normal for my height. My closest friends and I were at our wits’ end. Which, as some are aware, may be the beginning of wisdom.

On the day after my alarmed parents jokingly and not so jokingly threatened to forcibly take me to a specialist, I had an hour’s conversation with a trusted mentor, a man whose integrity and sensitivity would qualify him for sainthood were he of that persuasion. After enumerating all of my physical symptoms and the dietary and other measures designed to deal with them, I awaited his reply. It came in the form of a question: “And what do you have going here?”

“Here? Where? What do you mean?” What he meant was, what are my immediate responsibilities on Sunrise Ranch, the spiritual community where I was living at the time, and how am I handling them? While I fully expected to spend our time discussing physical causes such as adrenal insufficiency, intestinal blockage and low blood sugar, to my astonishment and consternation we spent an hour considering whether I was offering sufficient value into my work on Sunrise Ranch! Had he missed the point entirely?

For several days following the conversation I was puzzled, if not bewildered. The implication—that I was not giving value where it was needed and that this had something to do with my condition—seemed utterly preposterous. But one afternoon as I reclined on my lounge chair gazing at cloud formations I suddenly realized it was all true. For several months my mind had indeed been somewhere else: contemplating the future, imagining myself in other environments, busy with a miscellany of spiritual projects that I hoped would materialize some day. Handling my immediate responsibilities had virtually become a matter of going through the motions until I could leave for some kind of service elsewhere—vital service elsewhere to be sure, but still elsewhere, which might as well be nowhere.

“Arise, take up thy bed and walk.” These words seemed to form in the clouds, compelling instant choice. And so, ignoring the stiffness and pain, I arose, picked up the lounge chair and put it away. The “gravity attack” was over.

Habitual failure to express life in the circumstance at hand, to give value right here instead of out there, progressively weakens the physical capacity to the point where it can no longer resist the force of gravity. The resulting disease may be given a variety of names but it is all a manifestation of the same thing—a “gravity attack.” The most effective way to handle such an attack is not, as most seem to think, by a change of diet, a change of climate or a change of psychiatrists. The key is a change of attitude. A person no longer reclines on a lounge chair, waiting for energy to return so that he can proceed with a self-determined course of action. He rises up, gives energy into whatever task is at hand (and it’s quite essential that some of these tasks be physical) and thereby generates the energy he needs to move in the way that life opens before him.

It has been several years since I got to my feet in defiance of gravity and selected “give value” as my ever-present mantra. Energy has returned in abundance. Weight and strength have also been added. It’s good to be alive again.

Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-five years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

image: on a bed via shutterstock