Posted in after the diagnosis, art and healing, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, creativity and health, Storytelling

Paint Your Life

I’m very attracted to the idea and philosophy of “Art and Healing”.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, we are all creative in our own way and those unique abilities allow us the greatest gift in life, ultimate self-expression.  One of the questions I asked all the artists in the interviews was whether or not they had created a self-portrait.  Overwhelmingly the answer was yes, but a few didn’t feel comfortable doing a self-portrait as a result of their health challenge,

Visual artists will most likely paint, sculpt, or create a self-portrait artistically.  They may sketch in a journal or on large pieces of paper, but that really isn’t the only way to do a self-portrait.  What if we painted our life with words or through choreography?  What if you we wrote a song that personifies our health and healing journey?  Painting your life doesn’t have to be colorful because you squeezed color out of tube or picked up a crayon; it can be colorful because your add color with the words you choose, the textures you create based on your life experience, and framed by your hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Painting your life requires that you dig deep.  It means coming home to that place in your heart and soul that exemplifies the best you.  Your self-portrait is a reflection of your experiences, but also the attributes and strengths that allow you thrive in this crazy world, especially following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own self-portrait and what it would look like on the design wall.  I feel like it would be a mixed media piece with fiber being the predominant material used, but I also envision words, lots of words printed on the fabric surrounding whatever figure I translate onto the piece.  It’s something I believe I will do in the coming months because there is something magical, for me, in projecting myself outside my own body with all its challenges, it’s still my body and my life!

I’d love to see your self-portraits.  Feel free to email them to me at greg@survivingstrong.com.  Let the self-portrait fest begin!

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Posted in living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Spirituality and Health, Storytelling

Hildegard of Bingen in God’s Hotel

Prior to moving to Colorado I lived in the Bay Area for fourteen years.  I’ve been involved with health and healing since I started graduate school and that’s where my heart still resides.  I moved to the Bay Area from the east coast in 1986 at what would become the AIDS crisis at a time when medications weren’t very effective and people were dying all the time.

I’d met a woman who was a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital.  It was a very old building and was considered an almshouse, a place for those who were poor and very sick.  For many, it became San Francisco’s AIDS hospital/hospice with its looming old structure tucked away, almost like a haunted mansion.  I always wondered about Laguna Honda, but never delved into its mysteries.

Then I ran across Victoria Sweet’s book, God’s Hotel.  She’s a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital and has been for more than twenty years.  I could go on and on about the hospital, but it’s Dr. Sweet’s attraction to Hildegard of Bingen that caught my attention.

Hildegard of Bingen was a nun, mystic, medical provider who lived in the 12th century.  Dr. Sweet, after years of medical school and training went and received her PhD in history and social medicine focusing on the work of Hildegard of Bingen.  What Dr. Sweet shares is Bingen’s philosophy about the prescription of time when it comes to treating a patient.  She also comments on how Bingen’s triumvirate of care, Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merry were methods of treatment not just comic relief as we might believe today.

Dr. Sweet’s devotion to invoking the essence of time into her treatment plans, as much as she was allowed in modern medicine is a tribute to her knowledge of Hildegard of Bingen’s methodologies, and her believe in the human body and the human spirit in healing.

One of the beautiful aspects of “God’s Hotel” is how Dr. Sweet describes her personal pilgrimage.  In addition to walking the Santiago de Compostela, she discusses her personal pilgrimages experiences by her interactions with staff and patients at Laguna Honda.

So what do you think about Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merry?  In case you’re wondering it’s about diet, rest, and joy.  The book is a great read not only for the history of Laguna Honda Hospital, but for the incredible devotion Victoria Sweet takes us on both personally and professionally.  She’s the type of doctor we all wish we had.

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

The Healing Olympics

We’ve all been watching the London Olympics for the past two weeks.  It’s amazing to watch these athletes compete in these often grueling events only to turn around and compete in yet another event.  Just thinking about their schedules, training routines, and level of concentration is exhausting.  Every so often there are new sports added to the Olympics like women’s boxing in the current Olympic games.  What if Health and Healing were an Olympic sport…would you be a gold medal winner?

I guess what I’m asking is, in your life, since your diagnosis, what roles have you taken on?  What commitments have you made to yourself propel yourself on your journey to wellness?  How do you “train” to increase your chances at getting better or getting well?

It’s a daunting task and if we put as much time into health and healing that Olympic athletes put into training for their chance at the gold medal would your life be different.  I know that following your diagnosis you may not have the physical stamina to “train” for your journey to wellness, but what about your emotional and spiritual training…what are you doing, how often are you doing it, and what results are you seeing?

Athletic training is grueling, intense, and for me, overwhelming.  However, when it comes to my state of mind, my preparedness for the challenges that are placed before me with my health, and the things I want and need to accomplish, taking on improving upon, turning up the volume on my body, mind, spirit connection becomes the focus of my attention.

Physical training requires that you engage in physical activity regularly.  When you don’t train for a while you don’t pick up where you left off because the body took time off and needs to rebuild to the previous level.  The same is true with your emotional and spiritual self.  If you have taken a leave from your spiritual practice, or creating a safe place for expressing your emotional self, it requires taking a step back and then moving forward.  Continuity is your ally, and it requires that you do your part in the health and healing process.

What are you willing to commit to in your quest for the “Health and Healing” gold medal?  What have you wanted to do that will bring you peace of mind, physical, emotional and spiritual unity or a simply a sense of hope?  What will it take for you to train like an Olympic athlete to increase the possibility of getting better or getting well?  What will it feel like when you stand on the medal podium and your personal anthem is sung singing your praises for a job well done?

 

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

Did You Read the Fine Print?

Every legal document has those little letters at the bottom that list all the exclusions for an offer.  When you see an infomercial once again little print with the qualifiers for the sale.  Certain stores have no return or limited return policies and then do so only with a receipt in given number of days.  So what do you know about the terms of your life?  Did you read the fine print?

The truth is that there is a “no return” policy on your life.  You don’t get to bring your body back to a place where they can exchange it for a new model or to a repair shop to be brought back to its pre-diagnosis condition.  It doesn’t matter how hard you try, there is no customer service, warranty office, or complaint department when it comes to your life; so what are you going to do with your life now that you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?

There’s really only one solution and that is to create your own division of health and healing.  You will need to create a “department of optimism and hope”.  This division of your life is responsible for promoting wellness on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels.  It will require your physical and spiritual presence so you can be aware and implement those programs that this division creates on your journey to wellness!

What will you do keep this division of your life alive and well?  How will you foster an atmosphere of positivity and hope?  Since you have a no return policy on your life, you have to create a new life philosophy; one that increases productivity both physically and spiritually.  It needs to foster growth on the emotional and spiritual levels.  This new division is the cornerstone for health and healing.   It serves as the catalyst for a living life with this “new normal”.

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

Wake Up….PLEASE!!

Every morning the alarm clock goes off reminding me it’s time to wake-up.  I hit snooze once before getting up and starting my day.  I’m one of those people who like to take naps, not possible because work gets in the way, but staying awake is obviously an important aspect of one’s life.

I started thinking about my years in college and all those who tried to stay awake to study and took No-Doz.  They fought to stay awake, but really were they were doing was staying up, not awake.  Then I began to think about our lives today and how many people are taking No-Doz in life and simply exist, not living.

I guess what I’m really wondering, is there a way to stay conscious, equating to staying awake?  Are there times in our lives when we find ourselves dozing, not paying attention and as a result things slip by us unnoticed?  I find this happens when I’m knitting, which I use as a spiritual practice, I go on auto-pilot not paying attention and lo and behold I make a mistake.  It’s almost as if I need to be like a race horse and put on blinders to stay focused, but don’t know how I would do that with my mind.

Now turning to your health, being “awake” means paying attention to what’s going on with your body, mind, and spirit.  Are you aware of how your body is feeling?  Are you aware of any changes that you need to notify your medical team about?  These are important questions because you take an inventory of the physical body you can head off potential problems if you let them go too far.  The same goes for your emotional and spiritual life.  If you allow sadness/depression to spiral out-of-control, unchecked you become prone to feeling hopeless impacting your journey to health and healing.

What will you do today to start your “stay awake” efforts?  How will you remain conscious through your day?  I encourage you to take note of your level of consciousness and see if staying “awake” serves as a catalyst for health and healing.

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

Better Get Your Hard Hat

When you walk the streets of a city you often see fenced areas with signs that say, “Construction Zone”.  We often take specific actions when we see these signs.  There are some people who will look into the construction site to see what’s “becoming”, while others will cross over to the other side of the street to avoid the noise, the dust, and the fear of something falling on them.

Construction zones are clearly metaphors for what we create in our lives.  Ever watch demolition teams implode a building to make room for something bigger and grander?  It’s very exciting to see a building fall in on itself, only to know that once the rubble is cleared, there will be something new rising out of the dust, like a Phoenix!

So what are you thinking about as you read this post about construction zones?  I was reading this morning and there was a story of a fourth grade teacher who said to the kids in her class, “You’re either on the destruction team or you’re on the construction tea in your life, and you gotta choose now.”

You are empowered to choose whether your life will be marked by acts of destruction or construction following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness.  We are placed before a fork in the road and need to make decisions based on the information we’ve acquired, the level of hope and possibility we experience, and the level of commitment we have to our journey to health and healing.

When I refer to the destruction or construction team, I’m not discussing just the physical body, but the mind and spirit as well.  I found this week that I was in a bit of funk and realized that I had to extricate myself from the negative people around me because they were weighing me down emotionally and spiritually.  I was choosing, much to my dismay, to be part of the destruction team…needless to say I made some changes.

I am choosing to be part of the construction team of my life.  I’m actively taking actions that will improve my mind/body health.  I encourage you to put on your hard hat and get to work creating a construction zone for health and healing!

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

Are You Having a Moment?

I’m always on the lookout for words, phrases or images that sparks my curiosity.  I love it when I see or hear something that gives me pause and serves as a catalyst for asking a question.  It was in one of those searches that I came across the following Zen proverb, “Let go or be dragged.”

When you read this don’t you immediately get a visual image?  The impact of the proverb is almost visceral.  It provides you with such pause that it forces you to make a choice in the moment, and every moment when you may have a difficult decision.  I guess what it’s really asking is, “Can you release/surrender your attachment to what was, or be dragged along kicking and screaming trying to hold on to what is no longer reality?”

I can tell you that there have been many instances in my life when I have dug in my heels and was as resistant to change or transformation as anyone else I’ve ever met.  I’m sure in the moment I was feeling like no one can tell me what to do, or knows better than me…I was obviously proven wrong.

As you’re reading this consider that you’re holding onto for dear life.  Look at what is holding you hostage to the point where you’re stronghold is causing you more pain than serving your higher good.  If you were to let go what freedom or release might you experience?  How would that serve your journey to health and healing?

The difficult part of the process is that you may feel that by letting go you’ll be injured because the visual is holding on to a runaway horse and if you let go you’d be injured.  However when it comes to decisions regarding your health and healing, holding on to old antiquated beliefs, clinging to old wives tales, or basing your decisions on the lives of others keeps dragging you down a path that injurious to your body, mind, and spirit.

Let go and allow the “new normal” to be embraced so you aren’t feeling limited or restricted.  Give yourself the gift of letting go so you can reserve your resources for living in the world of possibility.

I’d love to hear about one of your “letting go” moments….either share your experience in the comment box below or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com.