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How’s that you say? In “The Secret Teachings of Plants,” Stephen Harrod Buhner describes the self-organizing processes of an organism as being much like a clown riding a unicycle: “When a clown balances on a unicycle, he is always moving slightly this way and that in response to any perturbations that occur . . . Thus a clown sitting on top of a unicycle is an example of a dynamic system engaging in constant change in response to alterations in its environment–slightly moving all the time in order to keep balance.” This is true in the process of homeostasis, in which our bodies our constantly adapting to internal and external environments to keep a healthy balance of temperature, acid/alkaline ratios, sugar usage, etc. There are millions of adaptations that our bodies are making throughout a day to help keep us healthy. And if certain environmental factors overwhelm the adaptions, there’s going to a significant wobble.

Ironically, this past Sunday morning I was just celebrating the fact that I hadn’t got sick for a while, but little did I know that I was about wobble on my unicycle by the afternoon and catch a cold. Though there are probably several reasons why my immune system could not cease and desist the virus that snuck in, I can certainly point to my lack of restorative sleep the previous two nights. I was eating well and having relaxing, fun times–yet I was not getting enough rest and (most importantly) I was not in sync with my circadian rhythm. This threw me off my exquisite unicycle balance.

It is when I am sick that I become keenly aware of what perturbations, to borrow Buhner’s use of the word, affect my immune system. For example. by the time I arrived in Grand Central, I headed for the Times Square Shuttle by habit, though my intuition told to me to do otherwise. Once I sat down, I could understand why my intuition was giving me warning signals: the interior was completely plastered with ugly advertising for a Ninja Turtles movie and the seats were lined with Frito-Lay ads. As the train sat, I began to feel heavy, low and claustrophobic. Being sick, you would think I wouldn’t want to expend the extra energy to move, but I got out, left the subway and walked outside. This was much better. The sunlight and air made me feel lighter and healthier. I ended up taking the 5th Avenue bus down from 42nd street to 8th street. Though it was on cold on the bus, at least I could sit in the atmospheric ease of the bus rather than the bunker-like atmosphere of the subway. Just these small change helped my immune system feel a little stronger. And I could be a little steadier on my unicycle.

I’m not one to take over-the-counter medication and press on with life as usual when I am sick. I allow myself plenty of rest time and let my body find its balance once again. It feels more natural and right to me. However your approach might be, I think if we were to be a little more respectful to the grand and subtle perturbations in our daily life (emotional flow, diet, rest, surrounding environment, social interactions, music, touch, exercise, etc.), many of us would be able to stay a little more steadily on our unicycles.