Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

What Does Hope Look Like To You?

Art and Healing Wednesday…

We are such a verbal culture and we use words to describe everything.  What if you could only communicate non-verbally?  Would you be able to represent a thought, a feeling, or an experience without words?  That’s exactly what the art students at Chaparral High School in Parker, CO (my home town) were asked to do. 

Jude Keller, the manager of volunteer services at Parker Adventist Hospital teamed up with the high school and asked them to create a piece of art in response to the following quote:

     It is the singular gift

     We cannot destroy in ourselves

     the argument that refutes death,

     The genius that invents the future.

      ~ Lisel Mueller

Yes, hope is an amazing experience.  It fuels our potential for health and healing.  It is the catalyst to continue on the pilgrimage to wellness.  The students created works that were inspirational and insightful.  It’s incredible important that we begin encouraging the exploration of hope in our young people because it’s a crazy world and we don’t know when we’ll need to rely on our inner storehouse of hope to get through a challenge.

When I spoke with Jude Keller she told me that she hopes to make this an annual event with the high school.  It is forward thinking of a hospital to encourage the community to become part of its healing team.  It’s this type of collaboration that lets each and every person in the community who comes to this hospital know that there are others who are holding a healing space for them.  No one ever wants to go to the hospital (except maybe if you’re having a baby), but feeling the healing energy that accompanies these works of art is priceless.

I feel fortunate to live in a community like the one served by Parker Adventist Hospital because they understand and support the healing power of art and creativity.  They exhibit this commitment not only in the art that is hanging but in the building’s architecture and obviously as in the case of Ms. Keller, in the people they employ.

How do you visualize hope?  Does the word spark any colors or textures?  Does it conjure up landscapes or cosmic representations?  Playing with your own representation of hope in a creative fashion is a great way to explore your beliefs.  Knowing what hope looks like will serve you in so many arenas, but especially if you are faced with a health challenge.  Give it a try…I hope you never face a health challenge, but if you do you’ll already have the foundation of hope at your fingertips.



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

Are You an Illness Whisperer?

Life is full of choices.  When we get surveys we always have to check a box that represents something about us, but is it accurate?  What if we’re more than just one thing (other than gender and age)?  We get caught up in being one thing and one thing only, but we’re multi-dimensional and following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness you become even more dimensional with new roles and experiences.

The fact of the matter is that you’re both a lion and a lion tamer?  It’s like the person who is a horse whisperer, being diagnosed with an illness engages you to become an illness whisperer.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that there’s a level of trust you develop with your own self.  It means that you are committed to a process that fosters and expands the possibilities for health and healing.  As a lion tamer the vision is beating the illness into submission, and that’s what treatment may do, but it’s not what you as the container are trusted to do in these instances.  Your body, mind, and spirit trust you to preserve the integrity of the self, seeking solutions to your health challenge while continuously looking for ways to improve your quality of life.

There are times when it’s important to be the lion and come out with the biggest roar possible.  Being the kingdom of your domain is important because your health is your responsibility and recruiting the best people to guide you in that process is critical for health and healing.  Your lion persona asks that you have an inner confidence, not that you’ll come up with the answer or cure for your illness; but that you have the bravado and the intent to do everything in your power to create change, both internally and externally.

Don’t get caught in one role.  Make sure that you allow yourself the flexibility to step into the shoes of person you need to be in any given moment.  This isn’t about dominance and submission, but about trust and cooperation.  Your body, mind, and spirit need to work as the driving force on your journey to wellness.

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

Has Spring Sprung?

It’s been a couple of weeks since daylight savings time began and I don’t know about you but I’m loving the extra sunlight.  There is something about turning the clocks forward that offers hope.  The hope that spring is coming and that means emergence and renewal.  We are provided hope that the next season is coming and going forward in time is a testament to your strength and conviction to live your life to the fullest after being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness.

This time of year is symbolic in so many ways so taking the opportunity to explore its personal meaning for you is a good place to begin.  As spring approaches (even though technically it’s already here) what thoughts and emotions are in the spotlight?  What associations do you make with the spring season and how does that show up in your daily life?

The landscaping company came this past week and aerated the lawn.  Now it’s time to fertilize and rake away the dried grass that won’t return new and revived.  It’s these types of rituals that come with the season or renewal.  What do you need to do to prepare your mind, body, and spirit for the new season?  New seasons don’t only need to correspond to the weather or time of year; we can create our own seasons.  Maybe your season changes when you finish a course of treatment; that would feel like spring.  Perhaps a flare has subsided and the angst that comes with the flare has subsided; that would feel like spring.  It’s even possible that you’ve had a spiritual awakening; that would definitely feel like spring.

The process of renewal is part of your journey to health and healing.  It provides you with the support and encouragement to continue on your journey.  It brings you the idea that living in the place of possibility is not only within reach, but essential to the healing process. 

How do you manifest spring in your life?  What does spring feel like, smell like, taste like, sound like, and look like?  How does it get translated into real life occurences on your journey to wellness?

Posted in Caregiving

From the Bible to Real Life

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

For centuries, scholars from around the world have been working tirelessly to interpret the Bible.  One of the big questions that has been used over and over in modern times is the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  It’s a great question and one that probably brings up a lot of feelings for you, especially now that you’re a caregiver/wellness partner, but it’s a question that’s important to ponder.

Actually I think all questions are important to ponder (I guess that’s my attempt at living in the question), but this question seems to strike a nerve for many and for various reasons.  The biggest is that most people feel it’s tough simply being responsible for themselves without having the responsibility of watching out for another.  Let’s take it one step further and ask, “Is it being my brother’s keeper, or are we interdependent as a species and brother keeping is really second nature or part of the cosmic consciousness?”

For some that question may ease their burdens and for others this puts them in the midst of the struggle.  Think of it like quicksand, the most you fight it, the more it will devour you.  What if you relaxed into it?  How would your life change as a caregiver if you didn’t feel resistance either from the person you’re caring for or from within?  That feeling of a tug-o-war is frustrating and doesn’t forward your personal mission of health and healing much less being a cheerleader and a catalyst for wellness for the patient.

I’m not sure how religious scholars interpret the “brother’s keeper” lesson, but it does bring up a lot of questions about morality, values, and our interconnectedness.  It punctuates the importance of having people in your life, even if it’s not a relationship about responsibility, but simply being connected (not sure how you can be connected but not responsible…leave that for another discussion).  Whether or not you feel as if you’re “your brother’s keeper” or not, there is a knowing about the journey to wellness that propels you to share your thoughts about the path to be taken, isn’t that “brother keeping”?

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

Does the Body Ever Get Bored?

This is probably going to start off as one of the odder posts I’ve written, but sometimes I have these weird thoughts that stick in my brain.  It began after feeding the dogs this morning and wondering how a dog can eat the same thing every day for their entire life.  At least wild animals switch-up their diets, but at the hands of us humans, our domesticated friends may get a slight flavor change-up but the diet seems pretty steady…and if nothing else reliable.

This got me to begin wondering about our bodies.  If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness does a flare mean the body is bored with the treatment?  My wondering about this issue is twofold.  I just coming out of a flare that I couldn’t describe and I have an appointment this afternoon with the doctor so I’m in my, “let’s examine this phenomenon” stage.  I guess I’m asking the same questions that scientists and pharmaceutical R&D teams around the world are asking and that is, “Why does a treatment stop working?”

It’s an important question and given the research on mind-body medicine, the mind-body connection, and the impact of emotions on our physical lives one that must be explored in-depth.  I was speaking with a client yesterday who is experiencing acid reflux and stomach spasms.  One of the key factors in her life is an enormous amount of stress.  The body will take over making decisions for your if you don’t listen and heed its warning.

While discussing her current circumstance we developed a way to off-set the impact that stress is having on her body.  There are two key ingredients, laughter and relaxation.   The laughter is important because of the hormones it releases, and the relaxation part is a no brainer.

The main concern in the relaxation piece is not finding time to meditate or breathe, but creating a multi-sensory experience.  It’s not enough just to rest, but combine some type of relaxation/breathing with soothing sounds, in her case a warm heating pad placed on her stomach to relax the spasms, a candle that is appealing but not overpowering and other sensory stimulations that add to the experience.

We’re multi-sensory beings and our responses need to take that into consideration.  It emphasizes the fact that we’re multi-faceted and one solution often is not the cure-all, but it is often a good start.  Be inclusive when developing stress busting regimens and remember that stress has a huge negative impact on the immune system.  Give yourself every opportunity on the road to health and healing; it will also keep the body from becoming bored.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Life As A Canvas

Welcome to the first Art and Health Wednesday…

I didn’t start life out as an artist, I mean I didn’t intend to be an artist although the arts were always included as a part of my life.  I started as a young musician.  My first instrument at the age of 9 was the bass fiddle.  Believe it or not, little me was playing the bass fiddle.  As I got older I moved into the choir and spent the rest of my middle school, high school, and college years singing in the choir.  When applying to college my intended major was music therapy but there were only six school in the country offering a program at the time and I didn’t have the theory skills to make it as a music major.

Over time I became a quilter.  I love the tactile experience and was making quilts that were contemporary in nature, but not artistic.  I became an okay technician and then I found a group of art quilters.  My work and my life changed because for the first time I was going to create works that spoke of my life experience and from my soul.  It allowed me to be unconventional (which I am) while telling great stories.  I had found a tribe that would not only mentor me, but educate and support my endeavors.

Where is all this going?  I found my voice and for those facing a chronic or life-altering illness you may feel as if your voice is being drowned out.  I say, change how you use your voice and art is a sure way to be seen and heard.  I’m not talking about art therapy, although I do believe it has its purpose and place.  I’m talking about the raw nature of creating something unique that’s your and yours alone.  Something that is the ultimate self-expression of your experience.

It’s amazing what happens when you see your story in a new context.  I have friends who have battled illness and danced their way to health and healing.  Others I have met along the way use poetry, sculpture, yes even music to discard the unwanted emotional and spiritual baggage and create a new world view.

Your work doesn’t need to hang in galleries or museums; it needs to hang in your heart.  Don’t waste any time, go out and begin creating an original work of art that is your contribution to the ongoing dialogue of health and healing.