A trip to Ecuador a few years ago took me deep into the Amazon basin for an immersion in jungle flora and fauna. Wearing tall rubber Wellington boots for protection, my husband and I slogged along muddy jungle trails behind a young guide who wielded a machete like a professor with a pointer.
When he aimed the blade at a plant beside us, we paused for an explanation. Among members of his community the leaves of this plant were highly valued as a powerful antidote against the perils of a “mal viento,” he explained. “Mal viento?” I asked. “Bad wind?” I‘d come to Ecuador to study Spanish but this phrase exceeded my vocabulary. As I understood his response, “mal viento” seemed as much a spiritual malady as a physical one. More like a curse than a digestive problem.
The story, I remember clearly, but not the plant. Too bad because I’d like to employ that medicinal herb today to counter the bad wind that has blown another nasty, drippy winter cold my way—the second in just two months. (I know it’s petty to complain, but bear with me. My nostrils are chapped and I’m out of sorts.)
Without a medicinal cure for the “mal viento” at hand, I’ve been forced to rely on “cognitive override” to stir up more favorable winds. If you’ve read The Spirited Walker, you know that “cognitive override” is one of my favorite athletic tools. It refers to the ability to use your intellectual knowledge to boost a sagging spirit. It means choosing to do what you know is good for you even when you feel like crawling under the bed.
So for three days now, my walks have been driven by cognitive override and limited to 15 minutes each. That’s just enough movement to stir up circulation without exhausting energy. Enough to introduce a flow of good air and revive the spirit. But it’s not easy. It’s an act of will and trust.
Robert Thayer, the research psychologist who introduced me to the term “cognitive override,” calls it the key to every successful exercise program. I hope it’s also the key to a change in the wind. Blow me some healing, please.
For more on Cognitive Override, take a look at page 25 in The Spirited Walker.
Or, try page 39 in Healing Walks for Hard Times. I think you’ll find it a healthy antidote for the bad winds of lethargy.