A life lived in fear is a life half lived.
HOUSTON, Summer 1987: A silver film filtered the glare of the grueling Houston sun as I stared out at busy Richmond Avenue. Like a mirror, the reflective glass revealed my blue eyes and my six-foot, four-inch frame, tanned and fit from my years at the landscaping company, curled into an uncomfortable chair. But my eyes didn’t linger on my reflection long, darting nervously around the room, as opposed to my foot tapping the floor and my hands gripping the arms of the chair.
As I sat and waited at The Montrose Clinic for the results of an HIV-AIDS test, I sensed the very walls around me thrumming with fear: the fear of all the other men and women who waited here for the news that they might be sick, that they might die. Once I understood that a virus caused AIDS I assumed I too would die of it one day. And why not: I tended bar through the wildest nights, and until recently injected speed directly into my veins.
The past ten years had disappeared in a fog of drugs, booze, and parties. My grandmother remembered me as a quiet and polite child, and I was still shy when I entered El Centro Junior College in downtown Dallas during the late 1970s. College introduced me to psychology, philosophy and the human potential movement, and I loved what I heard. I dropped premed in favor of psychology. I also experimented with methamphetamines: “uppers” or “speed.” Certain I had life figured out, I danced away from the chairmanship of the student council, from selection as a prominent student of the year, and a potential scholarship to Southern Methodist University, eventually dropping out entirely to deal drugs.
Drugs and alcohol reduced my shyness. For the first time I felt I “belonged,” and all it took was a few hits of speed to join the “in” crowd. I failed miserably as a drug dealer, giving away more crystal meth than I sold, but I had fun, laughs and good times.
My popularity soared when I moved to Houston and became bartender to the fabulous. Everyone knew me; I was famous (or infamous). I was also a mess. I caught hepatitis B at a cocaine “shooting party” and shared needles with friends who had already died from AIDS. Finally, in early 1987 I hit rock bottom. Unable to trust the love of friends and family, I succumbed to self-imposed isolation and became desperate with fear and loneliness. I knew I needed help or I would kill myself.
Fortunately, my friend Gary D. took me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and the hope I heard there gave me the courage to make some changes in my own life. I began life anew, clean and sober. The next step was facing the truth about my HIV status. My roommate at the time, Dr. Wayne, kept assuring me that I seemed too healthy to be HIV positive, and so I finally surrendered to a test. Hoping against all odds to hear good news, I sat anxiously in the clinic and waited, looking out the window.
Then, a miracle. Despite all the bad choices I’d made, I am HIV negative. Stammering my thanks to the counselor, my mind cleared as the anxiety drained from my body. Relief flooded my senses with a rush of energy. I felt ecstatic, bristling with energy. I knew I experienced a miracle, to be healthy in the face of so much sickness and death—I’d been given a reprieve from the executioner. I walked into the Houston sunlight not noticing the scorching heat.
Many of us have had these moments of crisis, instances in which a split second determines the course of our lives: waiting for the results of a biopsy, the fracturing news of divorce, the cold certainty of death, selection for a favored job, a hair’s breadth from termination. The “coulda, woulda, shouldas” crowd in to remind us of our choices. In these moments we are naked, vulnerable to absolute truth. Blessedly, not all of us have faced the executioner as I have. But life is a choice. Day in and day out we are pelted with options, some of them harsh, each with its own consequences. So I left The Montrose Clinic that day knowing that Mystery had placed her hand on me. That the gifts I’d been given in this life should no longer be squandered. The choice offered me was to live, to use my knack for talking and writing and healing to make a difference in my life and my world. I have felt that fierce burning of purpose ever since.
Flash forward a few months: I was waiting impatiently at the information desk of Whole Foods Market, an organic grocery store. To pass the time I picked up a brochure for a local massage school. I read about the benefits of massage and a career in helping other people. As I stood there the Voice from deep within me said, “You can do this.” I was surprised at the Voice’s clarity. As a child I knew things before they happened. I often felt and understood things that other people didn’t seem to notice. As I grew up, the more I trusted and followed my hunches, and the more I relied on them for guidance. Eventually my intuition evolved into a voice deep in my mind, encouraging me to overcome my doubts and believe in my capabilities.
Sobriety agreed with me. The dull fog I lived in for so many years lifted. My original plan was to return to college and finish my undergraduate degree in psychology, then obtain a Master’s in social work and start a counseling practice. Yet here I stood in the grocery store, hearing the Voice and knowing my life had taken a new twist.
After checking out the local massage scene I enrolled at the Winters School. Over the next six months Nancy Winters and her friends, Joe Lindley, Debbie Starrett, Don La Guarta, Pete Lidvall and Dr. Liang, introduced me to the wonderful world of massage. For them massage was not just therapeutic touch, it was a spiritual practice. I explored the place where my body (long ignored), my mind (long indulged), my feelings (long buried), and my spirit (long denied) were interconnected. I experienced how touch called forth forgotten memories and soothed my mind, so that my body could heal and my heart could open. As my mind relaxed I began to unlock the shackles of fear that confined my life. Through massage therapy I learned how to awaken my body and call forth all the dormant energies at the center of my life, how to discipline my mind, to express and acknowledge my emotions—in brief, how to caress my spirit and let it soar.
Our yearning for the answers to questions like, “Who am I? What is the meaning of life? How can I be happy? What’s my life purpose?” (or as the song asks, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”) calls us to explore and seek the heart of our relationships, to understand the mystical experience of truth. We are all taking that journey together, and occasionally our paths cross. Simply by reading this book you have signaled your willingness to stretch and reach for happiness and healing. I hope I can reinforce that resolve by encouraging you to move your body and thereby hear your own inner voice, for the best teachings in the world are useless without action.
We are often victims of our conflicting desires, and how we reconcile those desires defines the path of our happiness. For instance, I have always believed in monogamous relationships, but once I lived with a man who believed in open marriages. It was never about who was right or wrong, but what was important to me. On the one hand I wanted a life with him, but such a life went against my convictions. After much struggle I chose the way that was true for me, realizing that my deepest beliefs were more important than any of the other gifts we shared.
Fear no longer paralyzes me but instead serves as a warning signal that I have a choice. I wrote Body Brilliance as a testament to love and healing: that by sharing the story of my journey to overcome fear and pain I could offer you the exercises and practices that continue to inspire and sustain me. I sincerely hope that they will give you the courage to embrace a fuller, richer and happier life of your own.
Love your way, ad
Alan Davidson, founder of
and author of Body Brilliance:
Mastering Your Five Vital
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Dedicated to our healthy, happy, and prosperous world through the full enlightenment of every human being.
Through Your Body
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