Aside from the obvious advantages of a 12-step program if one needs it, I’m forever grateful for the phrases used in the program as they become part of our everyday lexicon. It’s amazing how quickly certain sayings catch on, not surprising is that they catch on because they hit the nail on the head or fill a gap making the day easier to cope with.
What’s the saying I’m referring to? “Progress not perfection!” It’s a simple thought and yet brings in so much hope that anything is possible. It’s about keeping your consciousness looking in a forward direction. It’s about taking responsibility for your choices so that you’re more inclined to think about your choices instead of simply reacting.
As you face your life altering health issues remember that as pilgrims you are called to walk a journey that many in your circles will never face…at least that’s what we all hope for, but allowing them in your life will give you the support you need to make progress. The pilgrim’s heart is all about progress, the incremental movement in our heart and soul, ultimately culminating in progress of our physical being (I didn’t say cure).
My hope for you is that you allow your inner pilgrim to be a compass for your journey. You may be walking parallel paths to someone else with a life altering condition but your journey is personal, after-all it’s yours! Reap the benefits of walking with others and use that information, support, education and hope to fuel your own progress.
When receiving a medical diagnosis one of the action steps often entails staying in the hospital. We all know that hospital gowns are not the most fashion forward garments made and they don’t scream modesty. Doesn’t the medical community believe that dignity helps in healing? Don’t patients deserve to not be dressed to look the part of the sick one?
Donna Karan, one of America’s leading fashion designers is taking on the challenge. Her husband had been diagnosed with lung cancer and of course he spent lots of time in the hospital. It has been some time since his death and she had taken on the role of fashion advocate for patients at Memorial Hospital in New York. She began her journey at this hospital because it is where her husband was treated.
She is working with the administration to create a hospital gowns that don’t make the person sicker when they wear it! Her idea is to be part of a movement that gives patients tools to help them heal themselves. She has adopted the pilgrim’s heart. Donna Karan is on her own pilgrimage born out of personal experience and developing a personal mastery and understanding about what it takes to heal. As with any pilgrimage there is initial excitement and that often meets with challenges but having personal conviction is the best tool to overcome the challenge.
We’re proud to have Donna Karan walking this world as a pilgrim. Her world view will help many and will be a living testament for her valiant way her husband fought his disease.
I recently attended the Sacred Activism conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sponsored by Wisdom University. It was a great experience and there were lots of organizations exhibiting about how they are making a difference in the world. One of the booths was for a magazine “Authentic Living”.
I decided to put my name in the hat for the drawing. The prize would be a book which I love. Can never have too many books! Fortunately I was one of the winners. The book I won is one I already had and instead of asking to exchange it I was gracious for the offering but now I have two of the books.
I can’t explain why I would say something. I can’t explain why I felt that the gift in and of itself prevented me from speaking up especially since I was the first of four to claim my prize. It really is a mystery to me and one that concerns me because if I give up my voice here…where else do I give up my voice.
As pilgrims we need to be able to have accept gifts and be gracious but not if it leads to self-sacrifice. I’m grateful for the gift, just wish I would have asked for one of the books I didn’t have; but now I know and next time I’ll do better!
Imagine being the focus of everyone’s attention. It might not be overwhelming if there are two or three people in the room, but what if there are thousands like at a sporting event? How much focused attention would you be able to soak in and not be ashamed, embarrassed, overwhelmed and simply felt joy?
John Beltzer gives that opportunity to children with serious illness. He has created an organization that creates individualized, personalized one-of-a-kind songs for kids with serious illness. The organization Songs of Love, www.songsoflove.com, was featured on television and immediately made my mind begin racing about the possibilities for life enhancement beyond the traditional therapies. Having a song that focuses on you, your gifts and talents and the love you bring to others would be the best shot in the arm anyone could ever receive.
As pilgrims it’s important to find others who support us in our mission. At the same time it is important that we support those who bring a smile, laughter or temporary relief from strife into our lives. It’s not often that Sherpas make themselves known in everyday life so when they do take advantage of the gifts they have to offer.
Anyone who knows me knows that when I attend functions I have a tendency to sit in the back of the room. It’s been my way of being anonymous and yet I have been known to be a bit noisy in the back of the room, trying not to be anonymous. It’s a seesaw kind of relationship and I know that many face the same challenges when they are deciding how they want to show up in the world.
This past weekend I attended the Sacred Activism Conference in Tulsa, OK. The first day I sat in the middle of the audience, but always on the end so I can make a quick escape if necessary. On day two and then day three I moved up to the front of the auditorium. I sat in the second row (first row was reserved for members of the panel). When they got up to do their thing I was now in the front row of the audience. It felt great because I was more engaged.
What I began to realize is that when I am not sitting front and center it means that I am not connected to the event, talk, meeting, etc. Being able to be present made it easier to approach the presenters following the sessions. It made me feel more a part of the community that inclusion was what this conference was about. I knew that my self-inclusion had to go hand-in-hand with the group’s inclusion of me.
As I look at those facing the challenges of illness use your personal level of self-inclusivity as a barometer for the importance you give to an event. Notice what gets your attention! Notice what you want to be a part of ! Notice how being more present lessens your feelings of isolation and anonymity.
I’m certain going to be more aware of how I show up…won’t you show up with me?
Good Morning America (GMA) told a story about a gentleman in England who was diagnosed with end stage pancreatic cancer. Upon hearing the news he decided to truly live like he was dying. He went out and sold his clothes, sold his car and gave everything else away. He went out for expensive dinners and was trying to do what the financial advisors Motley Fools recommend…Die Broke.
Fortunately for him after a year the doctors realized that he didn’t have end stage pancreatic cancer, but pancreatitis a condition which can be treated. Unfortunately he’s broke, has no possessions and is considering suing the medical provider for the cost of the year of spending. It’s this reason that as pilgrims we need to learn to ask questions. It’s crucial that we feel we have an equal partnership with our medical providers. The first question I wonder is did he have a second opinion.
I can’t imagine the anguish he suffered thinking his life was to be counted in days. I can’t imagine the relief when he found out he wasn’t going to die. I can’t imagine how he reconciles this in his head…but I can imagine what possibilities lie before him as he has a renewed chance at life.
I’ve worked in the field of medical psychosocial care for twenty years. I have supported thousands of people through their journey when facing an illness and yet there are some illnesses that don’t receive the attention of others. We are aware of the host of celebrities with breast cancer, we hear about Montel Williams life with MS, Michael J. Fox has been a face attached to Parkinson’s disease and these are just a few of the consciousness raising moments the general public is privy to.
In the past week I’ve been told about two recent deaths from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), what many know as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I went to the ALS website and found out that May is ALS awareness month. There are many events around the country and legislative forums related to funding throughout the month.
The disease was first described by a French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot back in 1869. Although there are continual advancements there isn’t a lot of awareness and you have to wonder how that translated into research dollars and other types of support. It wasn’t until I went through the website that I found the “famous” people who have bravely faced this disease.
How does the increase in consciousness help us when you’re looking for resources to overcome the challenges of an illness. What is it that keeps certain illness quieter than others and is it time to turn up the volume when access to funding for things like stem cell research or gene therapy could unlock the mysteries? This is why escaping anonymity is so vital not only to our life as pilgrims, but in the access gained in the larger arena. How will you make your voice heard?
We are forever bombarded with articles and news stories about the state of the medical profession in Western societies. The system is always overloaded, under financed, and overwhelmed in trying to provide care for anyone. I see this within medical institutions when people looking to see a specialist are waiting four months to get an appointment. I know for myself that it may be four months on paper, but in my life it would seem and has seemed like an eternity, an eternity that I have to live through.
My real concern is not about the wait although that’s important, but because our medical professionals are so busy how do we know that we really get the full ten minutes we’re allotted in the system. I’m not saying that we should keep an eye on the clock, but I am suggesting the importance of you and your medical provider being present together throughout the appointment.
There is lots of scientific literature and books about being “mindful”. As I interview those with illnesses I’m wondering how our doctors would respond if we tried to practice mindfulness during our appointment. Is it possible to create a sacred space within the doctor’s office? Could we invoke some level of control over our appointment by suggesting to our medical provider that we both get centered for a moment making the interaction more human and relationship based and gets both us and our providers to match energetic forces as we tackle the big questions about test results, examinations and treatments.
Would we absorb more and become more responsible patients if we had the doctor’s attention to the degree that the two of us are really the only one’s in the world….just for those ten minutes. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m considering it as a way to give both my medical provider and myself a gift, the gift of presence.
There are people you hear about, read about and meet who will take your breath away. They walk this world as beacons of hope. The most common factor amongst all these people is their belief in their ability to persevere. They have made a commitment to the world that they will take each challenge individually and come up with a way to make peace with the challenge and alternatives to overcome the challenge.
One of the guests on Oprah’s show yesterday was a young man…Rudy. Rudy was born with a birth defect that left his legs underdeveloped and as he grew wanting to do more he was limited. The recommendation was for Rudy to have both legs amputated just below the knee so that he could be fitted with prosthetics and resume his life.
Rudy’s declaration was to represent the United States in the para-Olympics in Greece in 2004. Rudy won a gold medal in the para-Olympics. His ability to convey his determination was masterful. He was asked about his personal motto or mantra he uses to continue moving forward on his journey. His response, in a calm, confident manner was “A brave heart is a powerful weapon.”
What if we as pilgrims walked through this world with a brave heart? What would it mean to have a brave heart when we’re faced with life and death decisions? How can we manifest a brave heart and what are the signs you’re moving in that direction. One thing I know is that people who live life with a pilgrim’s heart have determination. They aren’t in it for the short term pay off, they’re in it for the long term gains and rewards and know that nothing comes without personal investment.
I honor Rudy and all those who walk this world with a brave heart…it’s what makes life in these difficult times more peaceful, meaningful and hopeful.
Small acts can have huge impact. As you visit your doctor(s) ever wonder what they’re thinking? I’ve been going to doctors for over thirty years…I’ve been poked, prodded, medicated, etc. but what I find is that when my medical provider hears the words beyond what’s coming out of my mouth I achieve huge results.
I heard an interview with Jerome Groopman in March about his new book “How Doctors Think”. He told the story on the air and it’s in the books introduction about a young woman who for fifteen years battled and illness, had more tests and specialists review her charts to find what was really wrong until she went to the Gastroenterologist, Dr. Falchuk. He had the stack of charts waiting for her arrival. When she walked in he put them to the side and made a very simple request…to tell him about her journey from the beginning. He listened with a “Beginner’s Mind” and the result, after fifteen years of anguish, was a correct diagnosis.
Ever wonder if you’re really being heard by your doctor? I had an appointment with my doctor two weeks ago and we were discussing my current treatment regimen when without me telling him he was aware of the times that I have a flare and was willing to work with me to minimize the backslide. He wanted to know what I felt made the biggest difference and then gave me assurance about the length of time I could be on my current treatment without long-term negative impact.
Years ago I had a doctor who was part of a large HMO and after he got to know me he noticed that I was disillusioned with the progress I was making and the frustration I was expressing…things I thought I kept to myself rather successfully (oops). He called me to say that there may be other things besides conventional medical wisdom that would benefit me, he had reserved a book for me at a bookstore on Ayurvedic Medicine. He was kind to go beyond his “traditional” medical arena, but he heard something in my voice that prompted him to reach out and believe that I would be receptive to alternative treatment strategies.
Do you have someone who “hears” you? Are you only treated for what the doctor can physically see or is there enough of a relationship (professional of course) that the doctor can see beyond the surface? Sometimes that’s the difference between optimal wellness and the plateau stage. Are you up to having a voice so that your medical provider sees you and not just your illness? The choice is yours…but I can tell you from personal experience, trial and error and feedback that saying what I need gets me what I need. I can’t expect the medical provider to read my mind.