Lessons from Gluten & the 3 Greatest Teachers of Your Life

There is something about traveling that makes me very contemplative. Being catapulted out of familiar routines and away from familiar faces. Feeling like a bit of flotsam bobbing down this huge city and its millions of people and the smells of grilling meat, baking bread, cigarette smoke and exhaust commingling.

A part of me thinks that the more we know and experience, we come to see how little we actually do know. How the mystery overwhelms the known like the ocean swallows a wave. That thought led me to, who or what are the things that have taught me the most? There are numerous examples. Any person you meet or witness has something to teach you, the slightest and chanciest of contact can be profound.

Three examples that I’ve been ruminating over this week:

  1. The one you love the most: most especially if you are not attached to running this person’s life, deep love shows us our boundaries and how to stretch past them. It puts us in touch with the tenderest and juiciest parts of ourselves, which in turn leaves us in touch with our vulnerability. Through our vulnerability, we really all are equal, aren’t we? People we love can show us to very deep places inside, for better or for worse.
  2. The one who hurt you the most: rejection, pain, shame, humiliation, heartbreak are the teachers that are no respecter of persons – they equivocally slice us to the bone. In the moment, it can be difficult to turn it around and say, “wow, what a great teaching I am getting” but with time and perspective the darkest times contain the silver lining – a grey lining – that ultimately makes us stronger, better, more resilient. The deepest holes can turn into the most elevated gifts.
  3. The one who believes in you the most: these are the angels who carry us when we absolutely cannot see the path forward. Their sheer goodwill and support can be a battering ram against self doubt and self depreciation. They hold the flame when we can’t or won’t. Even if they have no idea exactly what it is we do. Knowing that someone has your back makes you turn around and wonder, “what is it that makes me worth it?” Can you find it? It’s there, when you sit with it long enough. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t be able to see it.

Teachers don’t necessarily have to be people, they can be things too.

Two of my greatest teachers have been physical pain and gluten. I find it ironic, being in my field, but that’s the truth. I don’t lie here, this forum is “Dear Diary”.

The two overlapped. I used to suffer from migraines, still prone to headache, though these are two different beasts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself hugging a toilet, barfing so hard I could see stars, because I had such intense pain and pressure I thought my right eye would fall out of my head into the toilet. Ploink!

There is something about this type of pain, a type of inescapable nowhere to go/nothing to do/just barf it out and be glad when you catch a breath pain that created in me a state of lucidity. My mind would stop. I think it was the start of learning how to meditate. The running train of “Oh my god make it stop I can’t take it it has to stop”?that stopped. I couldn’t make pain stop, it was. I actually could handle pain, especially if I wasn’t freaking out internally. Pain didn’t “have” to stop, it didn’t have to do anything. It just was. These times were some of my most peaceful. I understand how nutty that will sound to some of you. The internal chatter went to twilight, but I wasn’t sleeping. Was I seeing the origin of time or were those stars there because I was going to black out? Didn’t matter.

I have shared the time at a friend’s wedding that made me eliminate gluten for good. It also had to do with vomiting. So, I stopped eating gluten. Migraines receded. It never struck me to connect the two together until I cut gluten from my diet. Ploink! Got it now.

Gluten was tipping my headaches into migraine territory. Gluten was something I willingly ate. I did it. I did it to myself. I hurt me, not gluten. Not pain. Pain is just pain without the mental-emotional flurry that goes with it. I hurt myself, pain just showed me the truth of it. Just like that, I became my own teacher. I knew what I had to do to help keep my body feeling good. It was me that was the problem. I was just catching up to it now. There was an innocence to it, something I didn’t know until I directly experienced it.

Without that kick in the face, how would I have ever known? That is why I respect the pain as I do the pleasure. Both are informative. Both are transient. Both morph into one another as a new moon waxes into a full and then reverses course.

This process unfolded over years. It wasn’t pretty or fast or easy, but it has helped shape who I am writing this to you, right now, lone girl in Istanbul with less than 20 Turkish words at her disposal, but nonetheless working and sitting with people here.

Have you experienced a transformative breakthrough in relationship to food or pain or love or someone’s belief in you? I would love to hear from you via e-mail, and of course I’m always available on the Fix Your Digestion Facebook page.

Here’s to pain as a teacher & really being your own best teacher.

In Health and Gratitude,


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