Written by Jonathan Aryeh Wayne, February 13, 2019
The mind can physically affect one’s body and manifest pain. This is something I experienced last month after a bout of severe anxiety that caused me to visit several different doctors in various hospitals. When I started feeling a pressure in my chest upon taking deep breaths back in mid-December, little did I know that the stress and anxiety I was feeling at the time had taken its toll on my overall physical health. At first I thought it was my lungs, since I had recently recovered from several weeks of bronchitis in November, so I had a chest x-ray and asthma breathing test taken. Then I thought it was my heart, so I had an electrocardiagram test performed. Soon afterwards, I thought it was the first sign of cancer, specifically maybe in my esophageus, as I lost my father last June to that same type of cancer. The pain got so bad, that I ended up walking into the ER where I eventually found myself lying in a hospital bed with electrodes attached to my chest hooked up to a heart monitor and an IV sticking out of my antecubital. Not only was I anxious about being in the ER, I happened to be placed in Room 32 in Shadyside Hospital, the same exact room where I visited my dad last year as he was dying from cancer. What on earth was I doing here, I asked myself. I’m only 40 years old, was this the age people start giving up and dying or something?
After 3 hours in the ER, I was discharged with a clean bill of health. The following week, I went to see an ENT specialist and he put a scope down my throat and said everything was normal. A few days later I had a EKG cardio stress test performed on a treadmill at another hospital. After inquiring about rib inflammation called “Costochondritis”, I finally I asked my doctor to be tested for Pericarditis, so I raced to the imaging center where I had more blood work done. When the results came back a week later, I was told all levels checked out normal. Weeks earlier, my personal care physician had told me that I was merely suffering from anxiety, something I couldn’t accept, much less believe. As more tests were taken and more results came back negative for diseases, I realized that, with logical deduction, my initial fears were unfounded. If it was really anxiety, then I knew I could defeat this, so I decided to spend the following week engaging in some relaxing activities. I went to see an aquaintance and was given a qi gong energy healing session. Another day, I received a 1 hour deep tissue massage from someone else. I also spent a lot of time at the Phipps Conservatory inhaling plant oxygen and “jungle bathing”, sitting by myself surrounded by flowers, orchids, trees, and other plants.
It wasn’t until one particular late afternoon while I was sitting in one of the two rocking chairs in the tropical forest conservatory, that I felt a sudden itch on my right index finger. I looked down and saw a mosquito had bitten me. From my recollection, it was the first time I had ever been bitten by a mosquito in Pittsburgh in January. The deep pain I had felt in my chest and throat slowly withered away over the next few days. Had this mosquito bite been the cure for my anxiety? The next day, I returned again to Phipps for more mosquito healing sessions. As I walked through the automatic glass doors that led me into the Cuban rainforest, I was greeted with warm clouds of water vapor and mist. The sounds of rushing waterfalls filled my ears, as sunshine infiltrated the thin canopy of trees. I sauntered down the cement pathway past the artificially created waterfalls and reproduced Cuban restaurant serving fake plastic salmon steaks and globs of gooey rice, and eventually found myself at the bottom of the tropical forest conservatory. As I chased the sun inch by inch sitting on the long, curved concrete bench, I looked up and saw water droplets hitting the palm trees and onto my blue jeans. A thin mist was emanating from the high pressure fog system and it was creating an artificial rain shower from the condensation on the tree canopy. Small puddles of water were becoming more noticeable just a few feet away from me, thanks to the manufactured weather system that had formed inside the tropical forest conservatory. On the other side of the curved benches, it was perfectly dry with not a trace of water. After the sunshower, I headed up to the elevated walkway where the rocking chairs awaited my return. The mosquitos were out in droves at this late hour, as the sun was setting over Mt. Washington. I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and imagined I was no longer in Pittsburgh, much less Pennsylvania, or for that matter, the United States of America. Not long after, I heard the faint buzz of another mosquito near my left ear and I bolted out of the rocking chair. In that same moment, the elevator across from me opened and an adult male with several children walked out of the doorway with shouts of excitement. As they saw me lunge into the air, the man accompanying his kids was terrified. Here was I, a tall man with an ungroomed, massive beard and suspiciously tinted eyeglasses halfway suspended in the air out of my mind appearing like a bear ready to attack. Little did they know, a mosquito was about to bite me in the ear lobe.
Fortunately, that moment of sheer terror did not cause my long term anxiety to return after I left the conservatory. I returned for a followup appointment with my doctor and proudly announced that my breathing pain and anxiety were no longer present. He looked at me in stunned silence and then smiled and asked me how I was able to accomplish this. For the next several minutes, I explained to him how I changed my mind and re-trained my brain to think differently, using logical deduction and positive affirmations. He said I was his only patient that he knew of that had such a high degree of mental discipline and that if I could heal myself, then I possibly could heal others as well. I told the doctor that I did not need drugs or counseling, and that nature and plant energies were more therapeutic than most people realized. If everyone had access to a unique, personal, geodesic-domed greenhouse containing greenery that surrounded their 180° field of vision, with a comfortable chair or chaise lounge, I believe more people could tap into this form of “nature bathing”. To me, nature is the highest form of mental healing, more than any drug created in a laboratory, and more than any placebo or any form of human persuasion. With nature, comes meditation, and with meditation comes great health. This therapy can be found anywhere trees grow in abundance, away from the audible sounds of human civilization. Though my doctor comes from a mainstream medical background that is firmly established in Western Society, I believe people are consciously waking up to alternative therapies. If all it takes is 4 hours sitting in an indoor tropical rainforest three days a week, with some mosquitos biting you to eliminate over 5 weeks of severe anxiety, I’ll happily accept that.