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Archive for the ‘Living with Illness’ Category

Illness is a difficult experience and is usually something that is dealt with in the privacy of one’s home. I guess that times are changing because there seems to be a new trend on television; shows revolving around illness. I guess the networks and cable have had a topic epiphany; it’s chic to be sick.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m watching the two shows that have come to my attention. While watching the shows I’m riding on the coattails of the writers looking at the themes they are bringing to consciousness giving the public an insiders view of illness.

This summer saw ABC Family launched Chasing Life, the story of a twenty-four year old just starting out in her career as a reporter who is diagnosed with leukemia. Of course there are a few side stories that make it a drama, but it does touch on the process of being diagnosed, going through tests, the social ramifications of the diagnosis, and at the end of the season the start of treatment.

The show punctuates the common themes of denial after a diagnosis, how illness interrupts life’s plans, and the importance of having a support group/team to help you through the process of health and healing. I commend ABC Family for taking on this precarious topic. It’s not a mainstream storyline, but the cable network is exploring real life scenarios giving us a glimpse of the world of illness.

The other show that began this past week is the Red Band Society. Fox is taking on the topic of illness amongst kids who are in a long-term inpatient Children’s Hospital. The show has only aired one episode so it’s difficult to know how the storylines will progress. We’re only getting the back stories of the patients and it may take some time to see how the writers attack the multiple issues related to serious illness.

I’m glad that shows are beginning to emerge around the theme of illness. Illness is something that will touch all of our lives. My hope is that these shows will give us a platform to discuss these topics that are usually taboo. I hope these shows will give those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness to seek support from groups, a therapist, a coach, or spiritual director.

Making illness the central theme of a show takes guts. I hope the shows make it because we need this type of cultural exposure to the issues surrounding illness and healing!

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

Want to explore health and healing through creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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Are we all looking for change? Change seems to be a buzzword, but I’m not sure what it’s a buzzword for. Change leads us to think about improvement, correction of going off course, or ways to become fabulous. We all know people in our history who have changed the world; Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Marie Curie come to mind. Are you up for that type of responsibility?

I was watching the new Fox show Red Band Society (a must watch) and the writers captured the true nature of change in a single line, “You don’t have to change the world, you just have to change your world.” Can you think of a simpler thought? It scales the amount of effort needed and increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve greater results.

When facing any type of life interruption we’re called to make changes. It would be nice to keep the status quo, but often that was a factor that led to the interruption.   Change isn’t bad and if done consciously and with commitment we can move further along on our health and healing journey.

I know there have been many times in my life when I wanted or needed to feel responsible for changing the world. I felt weighed down and overwhelmed. I sabotaged myself because the goal was so grandiose and unrealistic that sabotage seemed to rescue me from me. I feel fortunate to have adopted the idea from the Red Band Society prior to the line being spoken on last night’s show. Having responsibility for me allows me to make noticeable changes and in turn that overflows to the people, organizations, and community around me.

Going back to school was one of the most important ways that I changed my own life. I met people, encountered ideas, and engaged in activities that enriched and expanded my consciousness. I submerged myself in a passion of studying art and healing and that brings joy to my life. It was a long journey but the result was a degree and connections to others who are making personal changes and impacting their own communities.

How will you change your world? What is one thing you can do today to begin the change process? Let us know and let’s start a conversation about how we can all change our own world!

Looking to make changes in your life and need education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore change through creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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What happens if everyone including you believed that our life would take a specific direction and then a twist of fate changes that direction? What if everything you worked for crashes and burns and you have to reinvent yourself? Know anyone like this? Well if you follow football then you do know someone in this position, Tim Tebow.

Tebow, the young player with enormous promise had a difficult time in the NFL. As it turned out his professional career as a player was short lived, but he has reinvented himself. During his time in the NFL his fame, constant news coverage, and his faith led him to create a foundation helping children going through tough times. Proof of this “Phoenix rising from the ashes”, Tebow is now part of the team on ABC’s Good Morning America. His segment has been titled Motivate Me Monday!

The first down of Tebow’s segment was a hit. The story showed the resilience of ten-year-old Devon Jackson. Jackson was diagnosed with meningitis at age eight and had both feet amputated six inches below the knee. His passion for football was intercepted but not for long. The young athlete learned to walk on prosthetics, but he was still benched from playing because he couldn’t run until someone donated a pair of blades returning the young football player to the playing field.

Jackson shows amazing resilience. When asked about what he loves about being able to play he shared, “I love the way the wind feels in my face.” When I heard the young athletes experience I thought about what do I take for granted in my daily life. If something as simple as the wind in one’s face is a blessing then what else are we allowing passing us by without noticing the magic of the experience?

The segment showed that both young and a bit older can recreate a life of gratitude. Tebow and Jackson both took adverse situations and utilized their strength and resilience to achieve greater life experiences. Devon Jackson is Tebow’s starter and that makes Tebow a great coach, inspiration, and motivator. I hope I can take the lesson from Tebow’s playbook and utilize my own strengths motivating others to enhanced health and healing!

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

Want to play to your strengths creatively?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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I facilitate a dissertation support group call for those embarking on this exciting journey of academic exploration. I love the group experience because I get as much as I receive, and it keeps me in the loop with emerging thought leaders. I love hearing the topics the students are taking on for their monumental projects, and as each topic is revealed I become entranced by the concept of possibility.

Learning to me is all about possibility. It’s the one aspect of our lives that requires dedication and attention. Learning is a conscious process that serves not only our brains, but influences our lives in so many ways. The experience of learning provides solutions for the challenges that stand in our way. They are the clues we seek out when curiosity keeps tickling our brain. More importantly, learning helps us heal. It allows us to shake bad habits, establish new habits, and expands our thinking and our worldly experiences.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” The idea of “live as if you were to die tomorrow” has been prominent in our age of spiritual awakening. Tim McGraw’s song Live Like You Were Dying epitomized that notion. There have been books about “living in the now” and a host of movies emphasizing the same point. But what about “learning like we are going to live forever”?

Learning is what keeps us engaged. Researchers show that one of the ways to ward off Alzheimer’s disease is to keep learning new things. Learning a new language, learning to knit, learning to play an instrument creates new neural pathways. It allows us think different. It expands our repertoire of experience providing us with new stories to tell.

The “practice” of learning refreshes our soul. It challenges us and provides us with new opportunities for mastery.   Learning is the rich soil of possibility. It allows us to take on the role of student. A place where we are nurtured encouraged, and anything is possible. It calls us to participate fully, expend some energy, and make space for something new.

We can’t fix or fight every challenge presented to us, but we can learn how to cope. We can learn new ways of approaching these challenges lessening the burdens. We must learn to enrich the lives we’ve been given. Making the most we’ve been given is part of the rent we pay for living on this planet. Keep learning and tell me what you find!

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

Want to learn something new?  Expand your healing horizons through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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Everyone loves a party because they’re fun! Parties give us a chance to spend time with friends, eat good food, and most of all laugh. Parties are often about celebrations. Celebrations are the markers for important moments in life, birthdays, graduations, and weddings. When you’re at a party you’re present. You’re living in the moment and that heightens the experience.

If life were a party what would it look like? Many of us sit around waiting for life to offer us an invitation to participate, but what if that invitation doesn’t come? First of all don’t sit at the proverbial mailbox waiting for the invitation to come; crash the party.

I think back to an episode of Friends that punctuates this point.   The character Monica (played by Courtney Cox) was wound very tight. She had some real OCD type qualities making her feel a bit boxed in with limited amounts of possibility and fun. Then she gets her credit card statement and she realizes that someone had stolen her credit card. The amazing thing is that the criminal was using the card to live life to its fullest. The criminal was taking dance classes, going on horseback rides, and a host of other life engaging activities. Monica says, “she’s living the life I want to live.”

What would it look like if you crashed the party we call life? Are there things you want to do but something is holding you back? It’s sad because many of us wait until we face a challenge such an illness to awaken our body, mind, and spirit to the possibilities life has to offer. Do you want to sit back and wait for something bad to happen to activate your inner party crasher? Isn’t it better to engage in a life that fills your soul? I’m not only talking about having fun, but working in a job that feeds you instead of robbing your body, mind, and spirit of precious nutrients.

This isn’t about turning your life upside down, but engaging in the precious life you’ve been given. Party crashing life means that you take an active role instead of simply floating along and allowing life to determine the path you’ll take. Party crashing life puts you in the driver’s seat, so party on!

Diagnosed with an illness and want to learn to be a party crasher?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to expand your party crashing by engaging in art to aid healing?  Visit http://www.timetolifecreatively.com

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I just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. My parents brought the family together to spend time together and celebrate us as a family. The trip was fantastic! It’s great when you can spend time with people you love, know, and have your back. Being with people who are a lifeline reinforces our connection beyond our bodies. It provides us with a context for our lives and allows us to practice the art of giving and receiving.

I’m a water baby. I’m a cancer so I love the water. I lived on the east coast the first twenty-five years of my life, and the west coast the next fourteen years. Access to the water is life affirming. Currently I live in the Rocky Mountains at six thousand feet so any time I can see the ocean I’m ecstatic.

Ecstasy has its price. Upon getting to the beach I submerged myself in the ocean. I was in the water for quite a while. My family joked that if they wanted to visit with me they’d have to go to my office in the water. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

I knew I was sunburned even though I had on sunscreen. I didn’t reapply often enough and wasn’t wearing a shirt so my shoulders and upper back became sunburned. Actually, they became more than sunburned because after leaving the water the blisters began to appear. My back and shoulders were covered with blisters waiting to burst. I did this to myself and that pissed me off, but I couldn’t turn back the clock.

I wore multiple shirts keeping the blisters clean and dry. The big surprise when it was time for bed. As I tried to sleep the pain was excruciating. I changed positions trying to relieve the pressure on the blisters but my body was in full revolt. I was no longer in control, my body was at the reins and it wasn’t pretty. I needed a plan, a solution, a resolution to the pain.

I realized that the only way to get out of the pain was to go into the pain. I had to immerse myself in the pain. I had to be one with the pain. I dove in! As I was sitting up in bed I befriended the pain. I was focusing on my breath and settled down living in the journey. Trust me it wasn’t easy, but it did quiet my mind and my body. My body understood that although I had accosted it; I was trying to make amends. I wasn’t ignoring my body (not that I could even if I tried), but I was in the trenches experiencing the pain from the pain’s point-of-view.

This journey lasted for three nights. Unlike many of you experiencing chronic pain, mine was time limited. I did learn valuable lessons. I learned that my body, mind, and spirit working together create amazing results. I gave myself the gift of diving deep and emerging with a new understanding of pain and it’s relation to my body. I have come to appreciate the unity of merging with the what’s going on in my body.

Fortunately the experience didn’t damper my trip at all. I got back in the water after a few days very protected and for a very short period of time, but I also know that salt water heals the skin. In my case it heals the body, the mind, and the spirit. I not only had a fabulous trip with my family, but I learned new things about my own capacity for renewal and resiliency. I learned new ways of coping when facing adversity. I have a new appreciation for what the body can handle!

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

See how Art impacts Healing, visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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We hear a lot about mindfulness and engaging in the practice of mindfulness, but have you seen the impact for yourself? We’re told over and over that mindfulness is the key to inner peace, allowing us to focus on what’s important. If you’re one of the skeptics allow me to share my most recent finding.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the importance of meditation as outlined by Dan Harris in 10% Happier. Harris had a panic attack while reporting on Good Morning America. After much soul searching, psychiatrist visits, and retreats he concluded that meditation is the one thing that brings him to center and has improved his life.

I’m a seeker. I love learning new things, exploring the things that capture my attention, and expand what I think is possible. I look for reporters that are covering topics we would like to breeze by because they make us uncomfortable. Lisa Ling is one of those reporters. Ling’s show Our America with Lisa Ling, airs on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), tackles tough issues that we grapple with every day. Her latest show was about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

There are fifteen million people in the United States diagnosed with ADHD, most of them children. It’s disruptive to the lives of the children and their families. It leaves school systems feeling helpless and at odds with how to provide an education to these kids without interfering with their regular school programs. The episode followed those who are taking medication, as many do, and a case where an alternative to medication was used.

Wilson, a child with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder was struggling through school. Things got so bad that in the second grade he told his mother that if he had to go back to school he was going to commit suicide. Fortunately his mother, an educator, hired an education advocate and they found salvation at The Hunter School.

The Hunter School is a unique boarding and therapeutic school helping young children with ADHD, Anxiety, Sensory and related conditions(taken from their website, www.hunterschool.org). The first shift in perspective came from the administrator. She reframed ADHD as a diagnosis to calling these children Energetically Sensitive.  It shifted the cloud hanging over these kids to blue skies of hope.

The school is truly unique. The student teacher ratio is 1:3, unheard of in the American education system. The school takes a holistic approach, no medication. In its place the children are taught to meditate. They are guided in techniques to center themselves. If a child is disruptive in the classroom he or she is taken out of the class and brought to the mindful room where the student and the teacher work on refocusing, centering, and strategizing about ways to regain control.

Wilson, the student I spoke about earlier is thriving. He lives at the school during the week. His life has totally changed. He feels re-invented. He’s learned to structure his life so it’s manageable. He is renewed body, mind, and spirit. He eloquently discusses his new lease on life.

I understand that not every child has access to an educational institution like The Hunter School, but the school model is one we need to explore. The next question is if it works for kids, what could the impact be for adults. Dan Harris talks about the impact of going on a ten-day silent retreat and other meditation revelations.

I’m not saying that mindfulness is a cure for everything, but explore it. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, angry or simply out-of-sorts, explore the impact of mindfulness. As always I’m not saying this is the definitive answer. You should always consult with a therapist, coach, or spiritual director to explore your options so your choices are made with informed consent.

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

Exploring how Art impacts healing the body, mind, and spirit?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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