I received an HIV + diagnosis from the Pasteur Institute in 1986, six months after the sudden death of my wife, during a heroin detox in Switzerland after years of drug and alcohol abuse during my life as a rock musician. I was lucky enough to be told by some nurses at the time that many Americans had chosen to change their diet, take up sport and learn to meditate or relax in order to reinforce their health - and were living well. The seed of hope was sown, but it was not sufficient to prevent the fear that started to poison my life over the next three years although I learned different relaxation techniques and regularly consulted a psychologist for support.
In 1989 I met Dr. Christian Tal Schaller in Geneva - a pioneer holistic practitioner and health educator, co-founder of a flourishing health education foundation and publisher of many books related to natural health including translation of "Roger's recovery from AIDS" by Bob Owen and other testimonies of recovery. This courageous pioneer and two other doctor colleagues had just published a book called "AIDS Hope" which was a synthesis of different holistic techniques used by HIV support groups and health practitioners around the world. There was a small paragraph about Peter Duesberg which did not hit home until a year later... The Geneva press, and the gay press ridiculed this book in subsequent reviews, but its contents provided an excellent basis for the apprenticeship which would change my life for ever.
After one year of meeting many new people and concepts I had learned that I was responsible for my health and discovered the philosophy of "treating the whole man", searching for the causes and reinforcing natural immunity rather than repressing the separate symptoms of illness. I recovered physical fitness and discovered a real sense of global well-being for the first time in my adult life.
During this period I started to change so many things in my life. I basically learned a lot of new tricks that had been around for a long time but were mostly hidden from general knowledge and were totally absent from the curriculum of my Public School education. Accepting that a strategy of change was essential and possible was perhaps the most difficult thing for my ego to swallow. Healing in its deepest sense is not a nice clean aseptisized process like taking a pill or undergoing surgery behind closed doors. A friend who self-healed from Cancer described the healing proc Íess as being like putting her life through a washing machine; it is a process where we can not hide the dirt that comes out and we need courage and humility to create support for ourselves and develop the love of ourselves and the patience that is vital. Fear of change and the unknown is always difficult to vanquish but is essential to growth. Are we perfectly formed human beings the day we leave home, school, apprenticeship, university or formal medical training for that matter, or is life a continual process of growth and learning - this is a choice that anyone may take. This is the grid of reference that I used to undertake some serious "work on myself" and how I published it in 1991:
Illness is a warning signal that one's way of life has deviated from a natural balance. Like a car that leaves the main road to join a progressively bumpy, muddy farm track that may lead to a precipice. This gives the individual the choice of identifying and ceasing the activities that have caused the imbalance. Combining both age-old and modern holistic techniques, one may learn to detoxify, regenerate and rebalance the human organism.
Another key to health is understanding that illness is caused by a breakdown in communication, both interior and exterior - becoming disconnected with our "soul", our very source. This creates toxicity and deficiency. This is the result of inadequate elimination of excess substances and emotions that the body, mind and spirit have accumulated through a lifetime of ignorance of other alternatives and of the means of nourishing the human being globally. In the light of self-discovery and research into the fundamental similarities in the self-healing approach of fellow survivors, I discovered a positive holistic approach to restore health which is based on the understanding that the human being is more than just a physical body. So for example, four basic aspects may be developed and harmonised as follows :
Physical : learning and experiencing optimum nutrition, fasting, exercise, breathing and adequate elimination. AMAROLI or auto-urine therapy cuts out the (pharmaceutical) middle-man as our own body creates exactly the right medicine for each individual. Getting close to nature - long walks in the forest, the mountains, the desert, the sea and the ocean; gardening and learning to grow sprouts at home; contemplating the perfection of the seasons which do not deny natural death during winter.
Emotional : learning to identify, express and release the pent-up emotion which impedes healthy co-habitation with other human beings and our environment. These emotions are often stocked from past trauma in both our bodies and our psyche thus diminishing our vital and creative energy. Learning to trust the support of a group, fire-walking, bunjee-jumping and solitary ten day fasts in the French Alps and the Californian desert were some of the means I used to confront fear and fear of being alone.
Mental : changing negative thought patterns through conscious positive thinking, creative visualisation and affirmative statements of well-being. Our conscience today is the result of all our accumulated thoughts. Saying "I love you" in the mirror and sticking meditation inspired positive thinking labels all round my flat for a couple of years.
Spiritual : accepting to relax and meditate in order to find one's own inner "still small voice" which bears authentic wisdom and guidance for more conscious living. Discovering how to feel "one" with life, and meditating on this rather than feeling separate and isolated. Learning and experiencing the power of prayer. Learning to take the time to discover that time does not exist!
These aspects need to be kept in harmony to create the dynamic we call health. Health is not a certificate or linear state that we earn at some point in life and then forget about: it is a constantly moving evolutionary dynamic; the ability to live fully in the present moment while appreciating the joy of learning incessantly to know oneself more fully.
I believe that the natural state of the human being is health and balance. After some three hundred years of materialistic development we have simply forgotten that nature provides us with a magnificent self-healing organism with which we transit and learn from the human experience. It is our destiny and birthright to awaken to the beauty of our authentic potential by learning to master our own health and lives and thereby discover our true place in nature.
This is a very basic guide based on my own experience that I hope will be of use to you. Use your imagination to adapt it to your own needs - we are nearly six billion unique human beings on planet Earth today! Read the opening quotation and take responsibility for your own life choices.
During this earlier period of apprenticeship I observed an interesting phenomenon that I feel is worth sharing with you. From 1986 to 1993 I underwent six-monthly blood tests and check-ups through an AIDS doctor in Geneva. By 1990 I was feeling in excellent health after a year of change and effort. But my T4 cells were at 250 - well down from the initial 1250 in 1986. What should I believe ? My own feeling of well-being and a real improvement in physical fitness and endurance - or the medicine which told me that I was advancing towards AIDS symptoms because my T4 cells were diminishing? I decided to trust my intuition and my new-found confidence in life.
In 1991, 1992 and 1993 I went to the USA to undergo detoxification by three week living food health education programmes in specialised centres in California and Florida. I used these stays to do blood analysis before and after while still continuing my bi-annual check-ups.
Returning each time I observed the following phenomenon: I felt wonderfully well - lucid, reoxygenated and fully fit. The T4 cells had diminished! The first time a well-intentioned classic doctor friend in Paris tried to frighten me by saying "yes but your T4 cells have gone down - so natural medicine doesn't work". Six months later the T4 cells were higher than the initial count before the cure. The next two years I repeated the same scenario - with the same result. Only that each time the T4 cells were higher than the year before! By 1993 I was up to 850 T4 cells.While meditating in a church in Paris somebody stole a bag containing all my medical papers since 1986. Please excuse my using such a cosmic joke to my own advantage, but I have never undergone "HIV analysis" since. I am quite confident in my own ability to listen to my body's own messages, although I will occasionally ask a doctor for (non-HIV) advice; this has worked well for me ever since. I believe that Continuum have carried out their own research into the non-specificity of T4 counting.
During the summer of 1990 I discovered an article in Policy Review entitled "Is the AIDS virus a science fiction" by Peter Duesberg and Bryan Ellison. This article was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to create a documented synthesis of survivor testimonies, successful therapies and philosophies of health, critical science and the point of view of many wise men such as Ghandi or Illich. The result was named "AIDS : The Apprenticeship", and this document became the cornerstone for five years of public conferences about the "survivors of AIDS", the apprenticeship of health and the "dissident" science that was being ignored and scorned by the establishment and the media. At the time I was the only HIV+ person in France to stand up and speak in public about the importance of health education for AIDS patients and the first to translate the dissident science and point of view into French. Among the "scoops" were Peter Duesberg and Bryan Ellison's 1990 Policy Review article, Neville Hodgkinson's Sunday Times "AIDS : Can we be Positive ?", the translation of Robert Willner's early 1992 manuscript "The Ultimate Deception" which we renamed "The AIDS Rip-off", Stefan Lanka's "HIV - Reality or Artefact" and a mass of other relevant material. The work continues today with the translation of certain important articles from "Rethinking and Reappraising AIDS", "Continuum", "HEAL" and other sources, and "L'Apprentissage" has become the most up-to-date dissident publication in the French language. All this work has been voluntary and many people have rallied to the cause with their excellent translations and computer work. Only the French natural health press have dared to publish some of the material.
During this period I have also learned to take the time for a private life full of experiences far removed from the crazy world of the AIDS dissident, and having the satisfaction of seeing old wounds within my family and my own life beginning to heal. Running round Europe and the USA giving conferences and looking after a full-time unpaid research and information network has not stopped me from undertaking many projects and fulfilling many dreams. Today I live with my girlfriend Sylvie (both of us HIV and healthy) and Sylvie's five year old boy Arthur (HIV+ to HIV- at one year old by avoiding fear and medication). We have been taking in HIV positives, their families, friends, caretakers, and a number of therapists who are seeking an alternative view of AIDS and responsible holistic health in general. It is important to us to take good care to gradually become integrated into the local community rather than creating a revolution by trumpeting "the AIDS scandal" - despite the fact that this is my profound conviction. We created a non-profit association on November 15th 1996 with myself and Sylvie, doctors, therapists, psychologists, priests and many supportive friends, some of whom are "HIV", who see that we are living well despite "HIV". We have also created the first French-language AIDS health newspaper and Website which have been inspired by Continuum, Reappraising AIDS and Heal - although allowing a platform for personal testimonies of self-healing and recovery remains our priority. We have held conferences, debates and screened some of the dissident videos here, and I have even taken up my trusty Fender bass again to play rock and blues with friends to raise money.
On a personal note I hav done my best to keep "working on myself" with different approaches and groups of people dedicated to self-development - this approach has transformed, and continues to transform my life since 1989. In the beginning my motivation was fear of AIDS, but around 1990 through my research - personal and exterior - my motivation became love of life. Today I have acquired a number of self-help tools which permit me less discipline (letting go) and more freedom than during the initial apprenticeship. In my opinion it is the incapacity to change which is the principal cause of illness - by this I mean that any rigid system that does not allow for the diversity of all life may eventually damage our health and well-being. Many of the means for detoxifying and regenerating the body are essential to restore lost health, but if they subsequently impede the freedom and adventurousness of the individual, I believe that they may then become a new source of dis-ease. Quantum physics demonstrate W that out of order chaos is born, and that out of chaos order is born. Learn to love yourself, love others, stay loose and stay alive.
Love to you all and long life and success to all those selfless and dedicated beings who give so much to bring an end to a tragic period in the history of medical "science". My hope is that the AIDS shambles will become a motor to create harmony between medicine based on treatment and preventive, education-based medicine. Authentic health education would reduce the amount of intervention due to degenerative disease which is the ultimate result of immune breakdown. Both are complementary and it is mainly financial criteria which are the obstacle - not because of the cost but from the loss of pharmaceutical profits. The war between the two forms of medical practice must cease if we are to survive this incredible period of explosion in human knowledge and consciousness.
"Science without conscience is ruin of the soul" - Rabelais.
My experience has been that AIDS has become my Acquired Inner Development Source and that HIV has become my Holistic Information Vehicle. In this way AIDS may become an aid to humanity. May you be blessed with the same gift from life.
Mark Griffiths, 3rd September 1997.
Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it. POLLY BERIEN BERENDS.
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