My Excellent Alternative Adventure
by Eugene Linden
MY PERSONAL ODYSSEY through alternative therapies began innocently in the late 1970s at a summer picnic in Canaan, Conn. One of the guests, a new age true believer, overheard me say I was convinced that coffee was making my hands feel clammy though my doctor had scoffed at the connection. “You’re allergic to caffeine, just like my husband,” she said, and cheerfully proceeded to predict a succession of problems that would eventually leave me a twitching wreck. O.K., I said, irritated, but how would I stay awake to finish the book I was working on? “Try beer,” offered another convert. “Drinking one every hour won’t get you plastered, and it has a lot of protein and carbohydrates.” I nodded appreciatively: this was the kind of alternative diet I could live with.
The beer actually worked, but I gave it up because I got tired of explaining that I really was heading off to write as I departed each evening with a six-pack tucked under my arm. On the other hand, the clamminess and poor concentration disappeared immediately when I gave up caffeine, and I discovered that fear of bill collectors is an adequate late night stimulant. This first dip into the waters of alternative health left me open to the suggestion, a few years later, that I try chiropractic to treat my persistent lower-back pain. “Go see Christoph,” said one of my regular squash opponents. “He’ll give you a line of eastern philosophy, but he knows bones.” Since I dreaded the doctor-recommended alternative of heavy pain-killers and two weeks of immobilization, I decided to risk it.
At first I found Christoph’s messianic zeal as off-putting as the detached manner of the doctor at my H.M.O. When Christoph checked my “energy centers,” my mind summoned up horror stories of patients crippled by chiropractic quacks. Deficiencies in my sixth (or was it fifth?) “chakra” notwithstanding, once Christoph had finished his Procrustean pullings, crackings and pushings, the pain was gone and I felt 20 Ibs lighter.
Moreover, when not venturing into mysticism, Christoph offered a lucid explanation of the asymmetry in my hip that as causing muscles in my back and legs to tighten in compensation. At his recommendation, I gave up carrying my wallet in my back pocket. I returned at later dates with a banged-up shoulder and a stiff neck. Each time I left feeling improved, while politely agreeing to manage my charkas better.
As with chiropractic, I turned to acupuncture out of distaste for the recommended medical treatment. In 1983, I injured my knee in a wind-surfing accident. After scanning X rays, an emergency-room doctor immobilized my leg, gave me a pair of crutches and suggested surgery. Before going ahead, I decided to invest $60.00 and visit an elderly Chinese acupuncturist recommended by a decidedly non-New Age investment banker in New York City. I do not like needles, but I like surgery even less; as it turned out, the worst of the experience was feeling a mild electric tingling. Forty minutes later, I gingerly tried the knee to discover that the pain and most of the swelling had vanished. As I threw away my crutches, Sally Dan admonished me to avoid alcohol and sex for 24 hours.
Like many people, I currently use a mix-and-match approach to medical problems. Antibiotics work far faster than the herbal cures I have tried for bronchitis, and I have discovered that not all chiropractors and acupuncturist’s have the gifts of Christoph and Dan. Still, if I judge that the risks are low, I am willing to experiment.
It was in this spirit that I visited an Israeli healer . Suffering from a persistent tickling in my right ear that had me convinced that some rain-forest bug had set up household in my head. I decided to see “bio-energist” Ze’ev Kolman . A kindly man. Kolman first studied my “aura,” looking for perturbations, and then set to work by simply moving his hands and my skin, and a pleasant tickling in the bothersome ear. At one point, I felt a whooshing sensation, as though something was leaving the ear.
Kolman says the energy comes from the cosmos; critics say healers of his ilk use gadgets that generate static electricity. I doubt this is the case with Kolman , since I was on the lookout for chicanery. On the other hand, while a session with Kolman left me with a great feeling of well-being, I have no idea what in fact was transmitted from his hands to my body and what role his healing played in my recovery. That’s the problem with alternative therapy; you have to take a leap of faith. But sometimes that leap seems less daunting than the one expected by conventional doctors.
Original date of article: November 4, 1991