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 art and healing, creativity and health

Accessing New Creativity For Telling Your Story

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

It’s that time of year when some of my old favorite and new favorite reality shows are on television.  My old standby is “So You Think You Can Dance”.  I think those young dancers are amazing, have enormous talent, and speak volumes with their bodies.  My new favorite is “The Voice”, because the show is geared to talented people regardless of age, and the selection is based on their voice, not a stereotype of what a successful singer should look like.  The key in both of these shows is that the contestants are true to their craft.  They tell a story, express themselves, and are following their passion…it’s their oxygen.

I understand that with all my heart.  As a textile artist I work hard at telling my story through my art.  I know that I’m not a painter, sculptor, or performing artist.  It’s not about a comfort zone, but an acknowledgment of my gifts and talents.  So why am I thinking about doing something different?  I’m not looking to shift the focus of art, but add to my repertoire.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to expand my story telling options.  Aside from my textile art I try to write on this blog Monday thru Friday.  This writing is a practice for me because it allows me to share my thoughts, create an exchange of ideas, and provide resources that may be helpful on your journey to health and healing.  So what’s the problem?  No problem.  I know that I’m a very verbal person.  I like to tell stories and doing it verbally is easy whether it’s to one person or 500 people.  I’ve been looking for other methods of accessing hidden secrets in my soul.

When I was in my dissertation class, one of my classmates is doing a Doctor of Ministry and her dissertation is about the collages she’s created and how they impact her life and her spiritual journey.  I’ve started toying with the idea of creating collages.  It’s an artistic voice, isn’t about artistic talent, and gets me out of my head because it’s nonverbal.  The more we can uncover what lies deeper in our minds and our hearts the greater pool of internal resources we have for health and healing.  It’s not about substituting but adding to my arsenal of self-expression.

How will you access deeper aspects of yourself?  What might emerge when you open yourself up to the possibility of greater self-expression?  How do you utilize this outward expression of your soul on your journey to wellness?  I’d love to know what creative endeavors may capture your intrigue and aid you on your path to getting better or well.  Share your story below or send me an email at greg@survivingstrong.com

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Why Do They Dance?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

I was working out-of-town  the past four months and didn’t have a television in my temporary digs.  Believe it or not I didn’t miss it, but now I’m back home and of course the television is readily available.  One of the things I do love about the media, in all its forms, is the opportunity to pick up little nuggets that are great to ponder.

If you’ve read the blog you’ll know that I’m a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTUCD).   I think it’s an amazing competition, even for a non-dancer such as myself, and gives these passionate dancers a platform to move their careers forward.  What struck me this week was the commercial for the new season.  The commercial shows dancers doing what they do best…dance, and then the big question, “Why do they dance?”, followed by the bigger question, “Why do you breathe?”

When I saw the question I was stopped in my tracks.  These dancers (not the crazy ones you see during the auditions) have devoted much of their lives to their art.  They have sacrificed time, injury (at times), money, and devotion to becoming better dancers.  It’s not just something they do; it’s something they are.

If you ask artists I believe you’ll find this to be true, that creating something is vital to their health and well-being, not to mention their sanity.  I know when I get out-of-sorts I’m sent to my studio, guess it’s better than psychotropic meds.

You may not be an artist dedicated to creating works of art, choreographing the next ballet to be performed at Lincoln Center, or the next great screenwriter/director/actor; but you do have creativity.  We seek beauty in our lives.  We’re caught by a beautiful flower, a lovely plate of food, an amazing piece of clothing, not to mention paintings, sculpture and the rest of the art mediums.  We doodle on our notepads at work, buy colorful pens to write with because their fun, and decorate our homes to reflect our style and taste.

Our creative tendencies are part of our story.  Art may not be your lifeline to the world, but finding an outlet to continue telling your story is imperative to health and healing.  The shelves at bookstores are lined with books about famous people who tell their illness story.  They feel the need to share their experience and have us serve as a witness to their journey.

When I hang a piece of art I hope others will share my story, create their own story, and then see how our worlds interact.  We may not all be artists, but we have or do something that is our lifeline to our health and well-being…what’s yours?  Are you actively engaged in the activity that brings joy and meaning to your world?  How does it impact your efforts to get better or well?

I’d love to hear how you tell your story….simply hit the comment button and let us know or you can e-mail it to me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Who Are Your Muses?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

Inspiration is an incredible thing to experience because it opens us up to ever-expanding possibility.  The Ancient Greeks depended on the Nine Muses as their source of inspiration.  I had the enormous pleasure and honor to study with Angeles Arrien the author of, The Nine Muses.  The book is a great reference book for understanding the power of the muses, and how they can be brought into your life at any time and for any purpose.

I could go on and on about the use of art as a healing practice, but I really want to focus on you and what inspires you.  It’s great for me to share my passions, but that doesn’t mean it will be yours and for the muses to aid you in health and healing, the passions need to be yours, something personal.  The muses in Ancient Greek had specific art forms they were responsible for such as dance, writing, song, music, etc.  Each muse could be invoked when needed and this provided comfort and a foundation for the creation of all things beautiful.

When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness many believe all creativity and inspiration are thrown out the window.  They experience life as a chore and lose the beauty in everything around them.  This is a time to pick up your creativity and utilize it not only for strategies to promote wellness, but to use your voice (figuratively and literally) to promote health and encourage the body to remember times of wellness.

I encourage you to keep a book of inspiration.  I like to start with quotes because they capture the essence of a thought in something memorable.  Once I have the ideas I begin to think about shapes and colors that I find appealing or catch my attention in the moment.  I also focus on shapes because they themselves have meaning.  I like to use circles because they represent wholeness and they make me thing of bubbles and bubbles are fun.  My art is meaningful and playful.  It allows me to tell my story about my life experience.

My muses are music and the great outdoors, at least during the warm weather.  I find myself spending a lot of time at the Botanic Garden because it represent beauty, complexity and simplicity, and of course possibility.  I feel educated and inspired.  Last but not least, I find the garden to be a place of refuge because there are plenty of places  to sit and reflect.  I always bring my camera so I can capture the moments I want to use as a reference, the muse.

What inspires you?  Which of the muses might you invoke to help you capitalize on your inner potential of wellness?  I’d love to see your creations and so would the rest of the world.

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

Are You A Quick Study?

We all know there is no prep course for what follows the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness.  There is no diagnosis on this planet that is, could be, or should be planned for so why would there be a prep course.  In actuality there is a prep course and that prep course is life.  You’ve been given opportunities every day prior to your diagnosis and now following your diagnosis to put your first.  You are presented with opportunities to create new priorities and develop new life agendas.

So how do you prepare for what lies ahead following the diagnosis?  We look for the magic bullet.  The one thing that will transform our experience from devastating to tolerable and then move on to the big crescendo of living a flourishing life.  What can you do to make this happen?

When kids are in need of tutoring we give them tools to succeed and yet when a person is diagnosed with an illness we often allow them to fend for themselves; that’s not very fair.  One of the methods used to prompt or reinforce ideas for kids is a flash card system.  Why isn’t there a flash card system for those facing a health challenge?  We know from learning theory that repetition imprints information on our brains.  One of the tenets of education is “repetition for emphasis”.  During a time of chaos and confusion don’t you feel that repetition of key principles would help reinforce a health and healing mindset?

The idea is to create a system for yourself that isn’t contrived, but something that assimilated into your being and becomes second nature.  If you’re able to make it part of you it won’t feel forced and you’ll have access to the health and healing principles whenever you need them.  Don’t make this process more difficult than it needs to be.  Constructing a set of flash cards can be as quick as getting a stack of index cards and writing in big letters key words or phrases that will keep you on track regarding your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

The flash cards should be used to reinforce your feelings of partnership with your healthcare team.  They should reflect your strong sense of desire and determination to get well.  It’s crucial that you put cards in that will reflect your belief in your own healing abilities.  Give yourself every opportunity to succeed and become a quick study by using tools like your personal flash card system.

Posted in after the diagnosis, art and healing, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Having a Voice, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Open Yourself to New Opportunities

I’m amazed at the transformation we’re all capable of achieving.  We all have talents that are often hidden at it takes some dynamic force to unearth those talents and let the light shine on them.  I recently experienced this from a dynamic individual I met at my most recent educational endeavor.  My retreat roommate, Jake McArthur (www.cairncrest.com), is a poet extraordinaire.  One evening he read a number of his poems and then began to tell about how his love of poetry influenced and I hope enriched the lives of others.

Jake is a hospice volunteer.  He was asked to visit a hospice patient who is living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Jake would go and visit this woman reading to her countless books.  One day he asked if she would like to hear some poetry.  He would read poetry from some of our great poets, occasionally slipping in some of his own work.  One day he asked her if she had ever written poetry or would consider writing poetry.  (Sidenote: This woman’s ALS is greatly advanced.  She has no motor skills.  Communication is made through technology that follows a beam to a keyboard and slowly words are created).

Despite the challenges of writing, the client began writing poetry.  At first the poetry was generic.  Eventually Jake asked if she would like to write about something more personal…her ALS.  I had the privlege to witness the reading of this woman’s poetry.  The work is strong, emotional, genuine, inspiring and moving–an irony since no part of her body moves physically.

Through Jake’s example, she has reignited her voice.  The words bring a strength that many facing any life-threatening illness would believe had been long gone.  She is an example of how the creative forces can provide the path to perseverance.  She’s willing to grab any micron of joyful experience through her poetry.

I’m honored to have been witness to her story.  I’m in awe of Jake’s commitment to volunteerism and to sharing his passion with us.  His example of creative passion is contagious.  Creativity is a healing force, don’t let it slip past you.

Posted in Personal Conviction, Self-Nurture

No Time for Rest

Many would like to think that the holiday season and the New Year are times to relax and take a break.  That’s in an ideal world where what we want and what we have are often two different things.  When contending with a life-altering illness the health issue never takes a holiday.  It’s not like you can go on vacation from your illness, although there are times when your doctor deems it appropriate to take a drug holiday, but that’s something different.

 Many aren’t able to understand why we don’t seem any different.  Maybe it’s the daily reminder of the the pill bottles in the cabinet that serve to keep our battle in front of our face that makes a difference.  So what can we do if we can’t rest from fighting our fights?  We can be gentle to and with ourselves.  It’s possible to give yourself a gift of kindness.  It’s free and you can give yourself that gift any time of day or night.

I don’t recommend trying to explain to the world why this time of year isn’t any different for you, but reflect on your courage.  It makes me think of the holiday special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  In the show after the Grinch realizes he didn’t rob the villagers of their Christmas spirit his heart grows three times in size.  This is why it’s important to develop your own definition of courage and experience it in your body.

I’m a firm believer in loud and unabashed self-expression.  Express yourself creatively.  Wear a funky sweater or hat.  Write a poem that you can use as a personal mantra.  Play some music and dance like you’re trying to awaken every cell in your body.  Paint, sculpt, sew, knit…do whatever gets you to express yourself and shows off your uniqueness.

Let me know how you’re expressing yourself and share it with the world.  It’s one way you not only be a role model, but a goal model for those just beginning their journey.