Stand on Your Head, Drink Milk & Honey (or How to Be a Dharma Bum*, Volume 1)

*NOTE: I do not actually fancy myself a Dharma Bum and most certainly do not deem myself qualified to write instructions on How to Be a Dharma Bum. I am just a simple book-reader experimenting with taking excerpts too literally.

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For my final installment of today’s Kerouac deluge, I present my takeaway-of-the-week from the pages of The Dharma Bums.

In the book, our narrator, Raymond Smith, suffers from thrombophlebitis—which, according to, is “when a blood clot causes swelling in one or more of your veins, typically in your legs. Rarely, thrombophlebitis (sometimes called phlebitis) can affect veins in your arms or neck.” Suggested treatments include medication and surgery.

Fortunately, Ray Smith finds relief through this prescription from a “an idealistic hobo” he meets while waiting for a train:

‘Just stand on your head three mintues a day, or mebbe five minutes. Every morning, when I get up whether it’s in a riverbottom or right on a train that’s rollin along, I put a little mat on the floor and I stand on my head and count to five hundred, that’s about three minutes isn’t it? … Also, before you go to bed at night, have hot milk and honey, I always have a little jar of honey’ (he fished one out from his pack) ‘and I put the milk in a can and the honey, and heat it over the fire, and drink it. Just those two things.’

And wouldn’t you know it, that plan did the trick, as indicated in the next paragraph:

I vowed to take his advice because he was Buddha. The result was that in about three months, my phlebitis disappeared completely, and didn’t show up ever again, which is amazing. 

He vows, as well, never to forget this wise Buddha bum, a healer he found “in the nowhere industrial formations of an America that is still magic America.”

Oooh, I love that last part. And so, in honor of my ‘America that is still magic America,’ I’ve decided I might as well preemptively address any potential condition I might not yet know about that might someday need miracle curing. I have decided that three months at this house is a perfect timeframe to experiment with three months of the above treatment plan. I have, however, made the following adjustments:

* Sometimes, I do shoulder-stands instead of headstands because I think, perhaps, my form could use some work

* Usually, I let a three-minute-and-change Dolly Parton song (one of many from her boxed set acoustic collection) be my timer rather than counting to five hundred like the Buddha

* I choose to microwave my milk and honey

* Today, I rebelled by showering and getting dressed before doing my headstand—but I’m back to fist-thing-in-the-morning tomorrow

Ten days in and, well, I feel pretty great. True, there are a lot of other changed variables at play in my life these past ten days, but, you know… it’s a much more manageable three-month goal than the daily-running/meditation-guruing/library-devouring ambitious I entertained on the plane ride down here. Sometimes, you just have to start somewhere…

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