Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Living with Illness

Are You Afraid of Committing to a Practice?

For those of us who took music lessons as a kid the mantra our parents repeated, even screamed, was “practice makes perfect”.  How many of us lifted our instruments with less than full enthusiasm or belief that we would become virtuosos?  Tony Robbins says that “repetition is the mother of mastery”.  It’s interesting that as adults we don’t look at mastery as something to achieve.  We’re caught up in the idea of gaining as many skills as possible to pad the resume, but what if we became masters?

We hear a lot about the mind, body, spirit connection and yet many of us spend our time focusing on the physical aspects of our health challenge.  We become masters at filling the pill box, taking naps and visiting the doctor.  Is that how you want to live as a master?  If we were to shift our focus to become masters of our spiritual life would the impact of our health challenge be lessened?  I believe that to be true and I’ll share with you how I arrived at this conclusion.

It’s not a surprise that most of us facing a chronic or life-threatening illness are challenged emotionally at different points in the disease process.  We look for quick ways to feel better and that usually entails pharmaceuticals.  I’m definitely an advocate of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, but without something to complement the physical are you selling yourself short?  A practice, in this case a spiritual practice, is something done to create peace in the heart and soul.  It’s the activity, sacred space, meditation you engage in that brings calm and acceptance to the challenging situation.

When I was in graduate school to become a psychotherapist we had a community counseling center so the students could engage in psychotherapy training.  The center screened the clients thoroughly to make sure they weren’t either court ordered or suicidal for legal purposes.  We began our work in the counseling center our first week in school.  One of the students asked the professor why they were starting us out so quickly since we didn’t have any official training.  There was a fear in the voice of my fellow student.  The professor responded gently and said, “It’s not like medicine, you’re not going to kill the patient, at worst you’ll be ineffective”.  That was certainly a reality check.  The same is true for engaging and committing to a spiritual practice, at best it will help enormously and at worst it will be ineffective.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Are you on board yet?

Personally I find peace and comfort in the arts.  I’m a textile artist and my art reflects the deep questions I ask myself about how my physical, emotional and spiritual life can dance together in harmony.  I also find that writing is a great outlet allowing the deeper question to emerge.  Once the questions reveal themselves I’m free to explore how they impact my quality of life and I can make adjustments.  I try hard to write this blog Monday through Friday.  It’s important that I do something with regularity and conviction.  I am certainly on a mission and will continue because all of you are a part of my community.

Ask yourself what would be your first choice for a spiritual practice.  I know lots of people who could mentor you through a process.  Kim Rosen, poet extraordinaire www.kimrosen.net , truly elicits the deep questions through poetry in her workshops.  Sarah Haskell, a weaver and community organizer has started a project called “Woven Voices”, www.sarahhaskell.com.  Jenny Finn, a woman with the grace of a gazelle engages in spiritual movement practices, www.somamovement.org.  These are just a few people and there are many more out there who use the arts to engage in spiritual healing.

If you’re the outdoors type then make hiking a spiritual practice.  The point I’m trying to make is that whatever you love can become a spiritual practice.  It’s about the intention you set for engaging in the experience.  It’s your commitment and devotion that reaps the rewards I’ve been describing.  Once again…do you have anything to lose?

What’s your spiritual practice?  How does it help you with your health challenge?  What obstacles have you overcome to keep up your commitment?  Let’s spread the wealth in our community!

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