Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Fear…It Doesn’t Do a Body Good

Fear is a topic that we talk about as something to “get over”. We’re told to face our fears, overcome our fears, and accept our fears and learn to cope with them. Why are we so fixated on fear? We know from years of research that fear creates metabolic changes. It paralyzes us emotionally and stunts us spiritually. If you go search “fear” on Amazon there are 150,052 entries for you to peruse. Do you have that much time and energy to resolve fear?

We tout the benefits of being above the animal kingdom with the ability to think and reason; perhaps that’s what’s getting in our way from health and healing! You can face your fear and do it anyway according to Susan Jeffers, but that may be easier said than done. What if we took on the Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment, would that be easier?

I was browsing Panache Desai’s book Discovering Your Soul Signature and he discusses fear. He shares, “Fear is an energy. It is an experience. But holding on to fear is unique to our human nature. Consider this: Every living being feels its fear and shake sit off. Cows, deer, fox, even bears-they all feel fear and move on. But we humans don’t. We accumulate fear. We hoard it and store it in our bodies.” That’s eye opening! How can we learn to interact with fear like water rolling off a duck; experience it in the moment as a message, but let it go once it served its purpose.

I believe in fear as a messenger. I first read Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear in 1996. His positive spin on fear as a personal and cultural alert system sits well with me. He wrote his book in the wake of the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City. In addition, the news had a number of stories of disgruntled employees returning and killing those at the location of their previous employers.   Pay attention to fear. The visceral response is real and is attempting to get your attention.

Fear has a place just not center stage. Utilize fear if it allows you to be in the moment, but holding on to it keeps you in the past. Take a lesson from the cow, the deer, and the fox and allow fear to bring your focus to a particular threat, but don’t allow that threat to color every aspect of your life!

Facing adversity and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to release fear through creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Lessons from the road Part 4: Pay Attention to Change

The drive across country took me three days. The driving time gives me a lot of time to think, listen to interviews on the radio, and take in the sights of the country. When traveling during the warmer months there is a lot of road construction underway. What comes with road construction? Detours!!!

At the end of 2013 I drove home (to Colorado) from the Pittsburgh area. I had been on I-80 just like last week and there was a detour in the Indiana/Illinois area. Unfortunately I-80 was closed and I had to take the detour on I-90 and rejoin I-80 down the road. As it would happen, I wasn’t paying attention and I missed the return to I-80. It took me over two hours on I-90 to find my way back to the correct road. I even asked a toll booth attendant how to get to I-80 and her directions took me in a complete circle ending up back at that same toll booth….Arghhhhhhh!!!!!!!

On this journey I knew that there was a detour and was acutely aware of the detour signs. Lo and behold, I found I-80 without any difficulties cutting two hours off my travel time. I had learned my lesson about paying attention to the smallest details when driving. The detour signs were small and hidden, and if I hadn’t been aware of my previous mistake I might still be driving around the Chicago area in a fugue.

The same is true in our lives. Life presents interruptions that cause distress. It’s up to us whether or not we learn from these detours. How many people do you know who have made the same wrong turn over and over again thinking they’ll get it right without changing their actions? It’s important to learn from our missteps. It’s important to be aware that change requires attention. It’s important to move cautiously through new territory or understand that there’s a huge potential that you’ll be lost taking your time and energy.

When we pay attention on any journey, whether it is on an interstate made of pavement or the interstate of your life, we reach our destination with less stress. We are available to notice the nuances that present themselves allowing us to make subtle shifts in our plans and giving us new opportunities to learn.

Feeling lost or undirected?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore the road of life in a creative way?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Interior Designers, The New Motivational Experts?

We know that where you live impacts how you live. Your environment effects how you move through our day. Your home should be your sanctuary. It should provide shelter, comfort, protection, and even inspiration. Needless to say I was surprised when I was watching an episode of Fixer Upper on HGTV. The designing team, a husband and wife, were transforming the space of a single woman. It’s one thing to do the major renovations, but what about the actual decorating?

Interior designers are not only worried about the configuration of the space, but the aesthetics. The accessories are just as important as a sofa. They are looking for ways to create a complete experience. In this episode the designer decided to put an inspirational phrase on the wall, “Today is a good day for a good day!” It shouldn’t be a surprise how delighted the homeowner was with a mantra front and center in her living space. Is that what we need, an interior designer to become our new gurus? Obviously I’m being facetious, but how do you remind yourself of the importance of a positive attitude when facing a challenge?

The evidence is in that the body and mind work together. It’s important that we infuse our cells with positive energy giving each of us the much-needed boost when facing adversity. It seems that we have short memories when it comes to keeping positive. It takes work, that’s a fact. However, can we afford to let negativity rule our actions and decisions?

We all find ways to keep positivity in our consciousness. Creativity is one way to increase positivity. Ultimate self-expression allows us to celebrate what is working in our lives and release what is holding us back by telling our stories. Exercise reinforces the message of self-care. Volunteerism punctuates our connection to compassion. It doesn’t need to be a saying on the wall, but finding some way(s) of keeping positivity in your consciousness will alter your brain chemistry. You’ll find new solutions to your challenges, and will create new opportunities for growth.

Today’s thought, “Today is a good day for a good day!!!!”

Facing adversity in your life?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to develop creative strategies for having a good day?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, creativity and health, Empowerment, living with chronic illness

Who Are the Legends In Your Life?

Legends, those people in our lives that blazed a trail before us.   These are the people whose work, ideas, and personhood, inspire us. They are the people whose shoulders we stand on. How do you know who the legends are in your life? The legends in your life are the people you make reference to on a continual basis. They are the people who let you now the path may be hard, but it’s worth it.

I’ve had the pleasure, honor, and joy of having legends in my life. Fortunately, some are still living, but recently two legends have left this earth. Angeles Arrien, a noted cultural anthropologist was the professor of the first class I took when I started my doctoral program.

Arrien was teaching The Nine Muses. The course explored the mythological and current implications of creativity. We looked at the many ways we can all use our stories and realize that our stories are told in an individual way. I followed Arrien’s work for years. Fortunately I had the opportunity to have a full circle experience with my legend; she was the external examiner for my oral defense. Having Arrien read my work, dive deep with me about the material, and offer ways to utilize the information moving forward was the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

Unfortunately Angeles Arrien died on April 24. She asked that instead of memorials that anyone who wanted to commemorate her life to light a candle, every month for the next year, on the date of her death. It gives me the opportunity to connect with her and her work on a regular basis. It also gives me the opportunity to honor the impact she had on my life and work.

The same can be said for another American treasure, Dr. Maya Angelou. A poet, singer, actor, producer, teacher, etc. broke barriers, inspired many, and provided us with a life story that, although difficult, shined brightly as she overcame adversity. If you watch anything that Oprah has done you know that Angelou was a legend to her. Her favorite lesson from Angelou is, “When you know better, you do better”.

This weekend to honor Angelou’s life, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) has been showing programming about the legend. One of the rebroadcasts was of Oprah’s Legends Ball. The Legends Ball brought legends in the African American community such as Maya Angelou, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson, etc. In addition, she had the Youngins’ who included Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, etc. Celebrating the continuum of talent, experience, and possibility is critical for all of us. Having those moments of honoring those who come before us punctuates the decisions we make in our lives to follow a particular path.

Where am I going with all of this? I believe we need to honor the legends in our lives. Identifying why specific people past and present are important to you gives you the opportunity to continue on your own journey and do so with the blessing of those who walked the path before you.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Interest about the impact Art has on Healing?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Empowerment, Life Motivation, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, overcoming adversity

What Star Trek and the Wild Wild West Have in Common

“Space…The final frontier”, those immortal words at the start of each episode of Star Trek. The show had some very progressive themes given the decade it was aired. Looking back and reflecting one of the most memorable episodes, aside from the Tribbles, was “The Empath”. Perhaps that episode sticks with me given the profession I chose, but it truly set the stage for many conversations in years to come.

Star Trek was set in the future, but what about the past? When we (in the United States) landed on the shores of America, there was plenty of land to explore. The frontiersman would go west exploring and hoping to create a life with plenty of opportunity. Like space, those traveling west didn’t believe in boundaries. The only thing in the foreground of the experience was possibility.

Most of us don’t know our own frontiers. We fall into lives of routine and safety. It isn’t until we’re faced with a challenge like the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness that we look to see what’s beyond our self-imposed boundaries. I think about the group of women with breast cancer or breast cancer survivors who climb mountains, awaiting the magic of reaching the summit. I’m not suggesting that you climb a mountain, but what frontiers have you yet to explore?

Perhaps there’s something you’d like to study that requires you go back to school, a new frontier. What if you feel like you have a book within you but you haven’t put the first word down on paper, a new frontier. The amazing thing about our frontiers is that they are infinite.

I worked in Buffalo, NY for six months and was amazed at how many of the folks I encountered were born and raised in Buffalo. I was having a conversation with a woman who had returned from visiting her oldest son who was stationed in Clarksville, Tennessee. She shared that she had another son, a high school senior, and she made him a deal regarding college. She told him he could apply to any college he wanted but it couldn’t be in Buffalo (there are plenty of colleges in Buffalo). Her reasoning was that she wanted her son to know that there was a world out there beyond Buffalo’s city limits. If after school he wanted to return to Buffalo to work and raise a family that was fine. She was determined to push his boundaries and invoke the frontier mentality!

Facing adversity, such as the diagnosis of an illness, shouldn’t just be about survival. It should be about body, mind, and spirit expansion. It’s the opportunity to live on the edge (not between life and death, although for some that might be the case) literally and figuratively. Our only boundaries are the ones we set usually out of fear (read the post “Fear In All Its Glory”). Don’t let fear get in the way of what’s possible! Explore your frontiers!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in how Art aids in physical, emotional, and spiritual healing?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Spirituality and Health

Is the Dalai Lama the Pied Piper Out of Misery?

There is a lot of misery in the world. If misery didn’t exist, the news outlets would have nothing to report. Could it be that our psyches would feel incomplete without misery? They do say that we can’t have one thing without its opposite, so are they saying we can’t have happiness without misery?

In a post last week I shared the story of Stephen Sutton, the teen who died at the age of 19 after a four-year battle with bowel cancer. Out what some might say was his personal misery emerged the Teenage Cancer Trust (teenagecancertrust.org). A little over a year ago I shared the story of Zach Sobiech whose song “Clouds”, caught the attention of millions on YouTube, expressing joy in the time he was given on this earth. How can we judge another’s misery? Do we project our experience of misery onto others?

The Dalai Lama has a prayer, “For as long as space exists and sentiment endures, may I, too, remain to dispel misery in the world.” When I first read this prayer I felt a deep connection to the Dalai Lama’s mission.

I’ve spent my entire adult life working with those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. It’s not always easy. I remember one day when four of my clients died on the same day. It was heart wrenching. I had never experienced that much loss simultaneously. I would share information like this with my mother and she would ask why did I stay in this field of work. Her big question was always, “Why can’t you just work with people who shop too much?”

I’m no Dalai Lama, prophet, or diviner. I’m simply a guy who knows in his heart of hearts that I was born to diminish the suffering or challenges faced by those diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness. I’ve been on this path since I was a child when I held my first Ronald McDonald Muscular Dystrophy Carnival in the backyard of the apartment building where we lived.

There is a saying that pain is unavoidable but misery is optional. I often wonder if that was someone who hadn’t tapped into his or her own pain and misery. How we frame things is key to our experience. How we frame things is based on our personal histories; the experiences that give us a context or provide meaning.

I’ll continue on this journey to end misery not because it’s noble, but because it’s coded in my DNA. I’ll seek out avenues for those facing challenges to emerge with dignity. I’m determined to provide opportunities for anyone facing a challenge to reframe their experience, if they so desire. I hope you’ll join me as I engage the prayer by the Dalai Lama as part of my life’s mission!

Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in Art and Healing? Join me at http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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

Who’s Being Tested When Facing Adversity?

The question “who is being tested?” has been hanging over my head for weeks. I read Robin Roberts book Everybody’s Got Something and she makes reference to her more recent diagnosis of MDS (myelodyspastic syndrome), like her breast cancer diagnosis as a test. Perhaps she was referring to a test of her spirit, her faith, or her body, but still she framed it as a test.

Roberts book is not the first book, talk, or movie that makes reference to a life challenge as a test. We discuss adversity in the context of a test as if it were something we’ve been studying for years and we’re now ready for the test. How is it possible that you got selected for this test? How will you know if you pass the test? Some believe if they are healed, then they passed the test. This doesn’t sit well with me because that implies paying penance, or needing to prove something to the Universe.

Don’t you think it’s possible that you’re not the one being tested? Couldn’t you just be a vehicle for who/what is really being tested? How would you feel if you knew you were a catalyst for great change because you were diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, or some other form of adversity? Are you willing to be a change agent? How is this possible?

If you want to stand on the side of being tested, let’s look at who is really being tested. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness maybe the scientists are being tested to come up with new research and medications for clinical trials. Maybe the medical community is being tested to find ways of improving their diagnostic techniques or their level of compassion.

Isn’t it possible that the religious, faith, or spiritual community is being tested to see if they walk their talk? In a world full of contradiction, the test might be to see if these communities can put into action what they say we “should” be doing when members of our communities are facing adversity.

It’s possible to take it one step further, seeing if our inner circle of family and friends are willing to stand by us as we walk through the health and healing pilgrimage. Research often shows that illness is the reason some couples get divorced because the healthy spouse can’t handle the pressure, stress, or incapacity of their spouse. Who’s really being tested by the illness diagnosis?

Are we so self-centered to automatically assume that we’re the one being tested? Have we been conditioned to believe that a diagnosis tests our faith, devotion, or ability to persevere? I believe there are other ways to exhibit these character traits other than facing adversity. Let’s reframe the challenges we face!

Seeking education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com