For about six years now, I’ve had a condition called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), which basically means I develop a very rapid heartbeat when I stand up, making me dizzy and (occasionally) faint. It’s not a life-threatening condition and luckily I only have it mildly, so it’s just a nuisance more than anything else.
Although there isn’t a cure for POTS, in most cases it does go away very gradually, and over the past year I have noticed my symptoms improve little by little. But even more recently, since I’ve started practising paganism, I’ve noticed my symptoms improving a lot. I haven’t had a near-fainting episode for months (I used to have them several times a week), and it used to be the norm for me to experience visual distortions or have moments when I couldn’t understand what someone was saying to me – this is really, really rare now. I’ve been experiencing more normality than I have done for the past six years, and it’s really only been this good since I started following the Pagan path.
Now, I don’t think that the gods have miraculously healed me as some kind of “reward” for my new-found devotion; not at all. I am neither important enough not devout enough to warrant that! And there’s plenty of other people out there with far more serious conditions out there who live a far more pious life and they never recover. I don’t honestly think we can give the gods 100% responsibility for our own personal well-being.
What I do think is that the very act of following a religion can be extremely beneficial mentally and physically. Performing ritual and prayer is relaxing, comforting and at the same time invigorating. Prayer gives you the opportunity to reflect on your day, your life and your loved ones, which is all very healthy. And the feeling that you are actually in contact with the divine, and getting in touch with the spirits of the earth, nature and the universe itself, is wonderful. And this feeling of serenity, inspiration and purpose is excellent for stimulating the brain’s pleasure centres, giving your body a big old healing dose of endorphins.
What’s more, the Pagan lifestyle is inherently a healthy one. It encourages healthy eating, getting outside the house, and staying active through ritual, crafts and other activities that help to connect you with nature’s forces. Since getting into Paganism, I’ve been taking more walks in nature, gotten into to a little gardening, attended more Pagan-related moots and events, and generally been more active. And all of this, I believe, has really helped me recover.
Of course, all this can be applied not just to paganism, or even to religion – any way of life that makes you passionate and inspires you to live a more healthy and fulfilling lifestyle is inevitably going to make you feel good. But different things work for different people, and for me, it’s paganism.
And if, just if, the gods really do help those who try to help themselves (as I mentioned in my previous Earth Day post), perhaps I have been lucky enough to have been blessed by the powers that be with a helping, healing hand. If that is the case, I thank you.