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Oh My Nose

On the eve of the new moon, I started performing nasal irrigation while washing up in the morning. I didn’t prepare myself with instructions or research on how to do it. I just felt the need, and so I did. My only tool was a syringe that I got from the animal hospital. On the syringe, it said, “Veterinary use only.”

With the syringe, I pumped warm tap water into my nostril. Then the water dripped down into the bathroom sink, which was not what I had in mind. I wanted the water to flow down into my mouth. That was how my ailing mother did it when I was a young girl watching her from our kitchen door. She had no tool. Only a normal drinking cup. She would tilt her head back to allow the water to drain into her mouth.

That sight was particularly memorable to me, though at the time I only watched her in silence. We didn’t talk about her sickness. Because we simply never talked. But as I watched her, I understood a couple of things. One of the things was that she was desperate to try anything that could offer a chance of bringing her health back. Another thing was that her default reaction to pain and suffering was silence.

I think I know why that sight was so vivid in my memory. All the pain and suffering that was never communicated, was shown in her actions. How many tears did that simple act represent? And it was particularly memorable to me also because I had an aversion to getting water into my nostrils. When water hit the back of my nasal passages, it hurt! So when I watched my mother do that, with no expression of pain or irritation, I had mixed feelings.

Even as an adult, I still very much dislike having water in my nostrils. In fact, I simply dislike having anything in my nostrils! When I had my COVID-19 swab test done, I nearly punched the nurse, though I managed to restrain myself and instead tried to wiggle my toes and feet, and when that didn’t make it any easier for me, I squealed and eventually grabbed the nurse’s arm, though all along she tried to calm me down. It still hurt for a while after she pulled out the stick. I pinched my nose, hoping that it would hurt less that way. Aside from the pain, I felt the nasal passage cleared up quite a bit. It was quite thrilling to have such free flow of air! I almost wished that the nurse could do the test to both of my nostrils!

With such an extreme reaction to having something in my nostrils, I was still compelled to perform the nasal irrigation. And I did it with no preparation—psychological preparation like working up the courage. I surprised myself! But what happened a couple days prior had led me up to the unexpected procedure.

My nose was especially dry and clogged up in the last two nights before the procedure. Even with waking up in the middle of the night to drink water did nothing to hydrate the dryness. On one night, I could barely breathe through my nose, and falling asleep was difficult because I had to breathe through my mouth which was a bit unnatural for me. Eventually when morning came, with or without sleep, I tried to blow out the dried mucus, but it was unusually difficult. I had never felt like this before. I blew so hard my eyeballs almost flew out of their sockets.

Hence you can appreciate the sudden nasal irrigation!

And let me tell you the difference between before and after. It was like the difference between heaven and earth!

The immediate result was that I could breathe a lot more air into my lungs, with a lot less effort! It’s like being locked up in the dungeon for ages and then suddenly being released into the sun. For the rest of that day, I continued to feel good. My mood was bright. Everything I did, I felt joy. Just breathing alone was joyful.

I googled the internet to read up on the procedure (I have a tendency to do things in reverse order). The internet said, use saline solution. Alternatively, use non-iodized salt. Well, I didn’t have neither.

The next morning, I prepared salt water, with iodized salt from my kitchen. It hurt! Too much salt. I rinsed my nostrils with tap water. So soothing! I diluted the salt water. I tried draining the water from one nostril into the other, rather than into my mouth, after I googled the instruction. That didn’t hurt. It is only when the water travels from my nose to my mouth, close to the roof of the mouth is the location where it stings.

After the irrigation, I tried massaging a couple of acupoints in an attempt to moisturize my nostrils, because I realized that the procedure only relieves the symptom of dryness, without addressing the root cause. Although I was tempted to research on herbal remedies, I had an inkling that this blockage of fluid flow might be related to some emotional blockages.

Rumi once said, “As you start to walk on the path, the path will appear.” Since this new hygiene procedure coincided with the new moon, I feel that I am on a path to uncover more about this aspect of my health. And I take on this path with optimism and excitement, eager to discover what each new day may unveil.

An adventure does not have to start with the foot. It can begin with the nose too.

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