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

Something Caught My Eye

I’m very fortunate that over the past few years since I returned to school I have met some incredible people.  These individuals are not only smart (a given), but they are kind, growth oriented, and grounded in their place in the world.  I’m friends with many of them on Facebook and fortunate that they pass along their sage advice or things that caught their eye on the news, at conferences, or just in their daily interactions with others.

One of these wise folks posted on Facebook something a doctor had said about increasing your health and wellness.  The doctor recommended that one of the ways to increase peace in your life is to finish what you start.  It seems like such a simple thing, but too many of us are like cats; we follow and chase shiny things.  What does that mean in our everyday lives?  How does that impact us if we’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness?

If you’re feeling desperate or feeling limited in your options you may jump from one thing to another to try to get results.  Often, we don’t give things a chance because we’re caught up in a society that rewards and encourages immediate gratification.  How long does it take to get results?  That’s what many who go one diets ask themselves.  What about finding inner peace or calm, how long does that take?

I don’t know about you, but to some degree I believe I’ll always be in search of deepened enlightenment or self-actualization (Abraham Maslow doesn’t belive many if any of us will make it, but I have hope).  What does that mean?  It means that I have to continue a spiritual practice that gives my body, mind, and spirit the space to expand.  It means I have to provide myself with a space for compassion and connection.  I don’t jump from one thing to another; I stick with one thing that I believe in my heart brings me peace and the space for an open heart.  In my case it’s a creative endeavor.  I find that I can achieve these inner places by knitting or creating art.

I’ve been in Nashville now for a few months and I have completed to knitted shawls and I’m working on number three.  I get up a little early in the morning to knit before work and I knit when I come home from work.  It grounds me and gives me inner clarity.  If I were home I’d be in my studio working on a piece of art because that place of creativity allows my body, mind, and spirit to be creative in its own right…it allows the body, mind, and spirit to regenerate itself and come up with new opportunities for health and healing.

The 12-step  programs speak about “progress not perfection”.  This is one of the reasons that I don’t hop from one self-help mode to another.  I may not get it perfect, but I’m always making progress.   Working on completing projects is a good feeling.  It’s about endings and that allows for new beginnings.  I learn something every time I begin something new.

What do you need to complete?  How do you think making a point of completing things would increase your health and healing?

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

Do You Have Spiritual ADD?

I’ve worked with many clients over the years who are on a spiritual journey.  The catalyst for this journey is usually some pivotal life experience that was in the words of St. John of the Cross, a “dark night of the soul”.  Amazing how until we’re faced with a fork in the road or held out gun point “metaphorically” we sit on the fence waiting for the force that be make the decisions for us.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness would create a “dark night of the soul”.  The trouble is that for many, they begin a journey and are in such shock or disbelief that the only strategy they devise is to try everything they can to feel better or get well.  I’ve had clients in the past who try yoga, meditation, self-help books, meeting with a spiritual director, creative arts therapy and a couple of others all at the same time.  The question is how do you develop a spiritual practice when you’re trying to do everything at the same time?

I want you to think of the difference between a flood light and a laser.  They are both lights, but the focus of the laser makes it more powerful.  When you stay with one thing long enough to develop proficiency you begin to see results.  I believe people try too many things in the fear that they miss an opportunity for healing.  The reality is that all they are doing is distracting themselves from the true matter at hand, getting better or well.  There is no magic bullet, but if like medication; if you don’t take the full dose you’ll never get results!

How can you focus your attention?  What do you need to do to create a sacred space in your heart and soul to find peace?  Finding peace will allow your body to send healing energy to the parts of the body that need it the most.   I encourage you to pick something that will guide your spiritual journey.  I know that creating art is my form of spiritual practice.  When I’m away from home on assignment and don’t have my art studio at hand, I knit every morning.  I find a way to ground myself for the day so I can face the day with fresh eyes and an open heart.

If you choose the path of focus instead of spiritual ADD let me know what changes in your life.  If you have questions feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll continue the conversation.

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

Was Karen Carpenter Correct?

I woke up this morning to the sound of a tremendous rainstorm down here in Nashville.  I love the sound of the rain when it hits the roof; although driving in it is a pain.  I’m one of these people who free associates and when I heard the rain, the thought of it made me think of the line from a song from The Carpenters, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”  I know it’s a song, but I started to think why that may be the case.  The Monday thing I get since that’s when most of those who work outside the home go back to work, but the rainy day thing made me ask some questions.

So what is it about a rainy day that might get someone down?  I guess the gray day would be one contributing factor, and of course the inconvenience, especially if you have to leave the house.  However, a rainy day would definitely be better than no day…hopefully that’s a given.  But a rainy day gives you plenty of time for reflection.  It’s one of those times when the melodic sound of the rain can bring me into a meditative state, slowing me down and allowing me to be quiet for a time.  When I go out in the rain and I get wet it’s the tactile sensation that shocks me into an awake state allowing me to connect with nature.

Where does that leave us?  Well if this is the day we’re given, what are you going to do with it?  Are you going to allow it to get you down, or will you revel in it?  Are you willing to take a rainy day and a Monday and live it to the fullest?  How will you celebrate your rainy day whether it’s literal or figurative.  We all have rainy days on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, especially following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness.  Are you going to let it get you down, or can you transform it into a sunny day in your heart?  I guess that’s what we all need whether or not we’re facing a health challenge…sunny days in our heart!

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

Whatever You’re Holding In…Time to Let It Out

I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with a friend of mine last night.  We had a great meal and during dinner we began a conversation about a topic he’s passionate about.  We spent the next hour discussing our views, the possibilities, and just added to the questions we both held about this particular topic.  The evening was fascinating, but most importantly he got to tell me about his passions and expertise.  He was able to share his lifelong experiences revealing his path to date.

When I got home I began thinking about how many of us hold in our thoughts, ideas, or concerns because others may think we’re bizarre, crazy, or uninformed.  What would happen if we all began sharing our stories and there were people around willing to listen to our stories?  How would your life improve if you had someone bear witness to your life and your story?

Research has shown that when we feel heard, understood, and valued for our beliefs our immune function goes up.  This is especially important for those who have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness.  Once we let the cat out of the bag, we begin to attract others who have similar interests or beliefs.  This is reinforced in Kristel Nani’s book, “Sacred Choice”….she discusses what happens when we break with the tribe of our birth and how healing it is to find our tribe of choice.  These are critical decisions we have to make in our lives to improve not only the quality of our lives, but our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

What are you holding in that you haven’t shared with the world?  What do you need to release and give voice to that will make room for your to grow personally and professionally?  Once you release your passion and beliefs I know you’ll begin to attract those who have the same questions/beliefs but have also been concerned about sharing their story.  This is how we build community and having a community strengthens our body, mind, and spirit.  Feeling connected to others with similar beliefs and questions deepens our personal understanding and deepens our commitment to our passion.

Are you looking to delve deeper into your beliefs and expertise?  If so, begin by sharing your thoughts with one person you trust and see how it blossoms!

 

 

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

Awakenings

I often wonder if Henry David Thoreau was correct when he said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.  We live in a culture where repression is a way of life.  We’re afraid of “being who we really are” or concerned about being shunned for following the path decorated with our gifts and talents for the “brass ring”.  Many people are in relationships that are unfulfilling or troubled.  Then there are those who have been diagnosed with an illness and are still trying be the “good patient”.

Over the past few months I have met many people who have/are leading lives of quiet desperation.  However, they seem to have one thing in common; they saw a glimmering light that was a beacon to possibility.  As I watch these individuals I’m surprised at how the pendulum has swung and they are experiencing a freedom they never felt before.  There is a light in their eyes that is exuberant, but at the same time because it’s new and untested has to mindful that it doesn’t get away from the person.

I remember the first time I saw the movie with William Hurt, “The Doctor”.  Hurt plays a doctor who eventually gets diagnosed with cancer and the tables on his life are turned.  He meets a woman, another patient, who has abandoned the “shoulds” in her life and she takes him on an adventure of “Living” that he hadn’t experienced in any other time in his life.  The trouble is like Hurt’s character in the film, most people can’t handle that amount of newness or reclaimed life in one felt swoop.

Where does this leave us?  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness, I’ve heard many people live life as if they were given a gift.  What you do with that gift is entirely up to you, however learning to manage this new freedom, awakening, or unrepressed living can be as scary as a life of quiet desperation.  This is when it’s important to take baby steps.  When having this awakening try new things, that’s why a “bucket list” is so good because it’s a list of possibility.  See what’s on your list and attainable, and what things need to be worked toward to accomplish.

I hope you’ll think of this awakening as part of the continuum of life and full expression is the goal.  There is a disclaimer to all this…you don’t live in a vacuum, so be mindful that others in your life still have to adjust or find ways of sharing this awakening with you.  You still need support on your journey to wellness, but you may find some new pilgrims along your pilgrimage to health and healing who will be your sherpa through this confusing and exciting time.

Are you having an awakening?  Let me know so we can be on this journey together!

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

A Snapshot of Life

It has been a while since my last post and since then I had the good fortune to take a fabulous vacation to Europe. I went with a group of family and friends on a cruise in the Mediterranean. The ship stopped in 10 ports along the way and each one was more fabulous than the last. It was definitely a trip I’ll remember for the rest of my days.

I was going through the pictures, labeling them on the computer and realized something about the picture-taking adventure. I realized that there were times that I was so caught up in taking pictures that I missed the moment of awe. That moment when you’re standing in front of a statue, or the amazing architecture of a building and are just blown away by the enormity of the experience. As I went through he pictures I was able to capture some of the moments. I was able to close my eyes, take a breath and transport myself to the moment when I shot the picture through the view finder. The rush of excitement and amazement coursed through my veins. It’s an experience I’ll be able to keep forever and ever.

Then I began thinking about all those everyday moments we have when we’re potentially missing the awe of the moment. It might be the laugh you have with a good friend, the smell of an apple pie baking in the over, or the beauty of an amazing sunset. When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness the idea of living in the moment is difficult because as a culture we future trip. We want to get to the end of the journey; believing in our hearts that it will be for the good. However, what are you missing along the way. What moments, experiences, or opportunities are you robbing yourself of my not taking that moment to stop, stand still, and soak in the experience?

I hope you have the chance to tattoo memories or experiences into your consciousness so they will remain with you forever, however long that may be.  I pray that  you are able to be conscious enough to soak in the sights, smells, sensations of the experiences you have on a daily basis.  I understand how difficult that can be given our need to hurry and pack out day full of events, but in doing so what are we missing?  Isn’t it better to have fewer but more memorable experiences in our day?  Let me know what you think about this….

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

Crack Open a Fortune Cookie

I love Asian food.  I have a Chinese restaurant by my house that I frequent; the food is good and the owners terrific.  Of course, at the end of the meal, they bring out the check and the famous fortune cookies.  It’s always fun to play games with the fortune, but this day the fortune was short, sweet and to the point.  It said, “Any day above ground is a good day.”

Can you think of anything easier to believe in?  Any day you’re alive is a good day since the alternative is not that pleasing to most people.  Now I completely understand that for some facing a chronic or life-threatening illness just being alive and awake may not be any picnic.  For most, unless you’re facing the end of your days, have some hope that tomorrow may be better.

So my question to you is, “If you’re above ground today, what are you going to do to make it the best possible (given your circumstances?)”  I think about that question when I find myself in a downward spiral that seems to be endless.  It’s difficult to propel yourself up and out of negative thinking, so finding some type of anchor is important so that you can reel yourself back in to a better head space.

How will you spend your day above ground?  Perhaps go have Chinese food and find another fortune!

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

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Last night I indulged in one of the best reality shows on television, “So You Think You Can Dance”.  The show is up to the top 10 dancers and now these dancers, who were dancing with each other, are now dancing with an all-star from a previous season.  The stakes are higher as they begin to compete hard to win top honors.  One of the pieces last night was dark in its theme.  The piece was about a woman who was having a nightmare, and the male dancer (Rickie), the contestant, was the nightmare.  He danced the piece beautifully and then I starting thinking about what it means to be afraid of the dark.

In psychological terms we often talk about the “shadow”, the part of ourselves we push away because it’s not pretty, but it’s important to unlocking the clues about our true nature.  The dark doesn’t have to be a bad thing because for many it prompts us to take action, moving us closer to our desired results.  Anything that gets us up and going toward health and healing is a good thing.

How can the “dark” be a good thing?  This week I spoke with a client about a family situation regarding divorce.  The client prefaced the story by stating I shouldn’t be worried about possible negative actions; it’s only talk.  The client began to speak about a revenge fantasy.  I’m totally on board with revenge fantasies because they come from a place of authenticity in the soul.  It allows you to fantasize and release the negative energy that might be holding you back from getting better or well.  I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t have revenge fantasies, until they are given permission to have them and that they are good to have, then the flood gates open and the revenge fantasies flow.

The diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness propels many of us to the dark side.  The anger that often comes with the diagnosis of a health challenge sets these dark thoughts in motion, but releasing them allows the body to restore its sense of balance.  It’s like when we sweat allowing the body to cool down.  The dark thoughts/revenge fantasies allow the body and soul to cool down so you can focus on health and healing.

Remember, that to some degree we’re all afraid of the dark; you just need to create a night-light to help you find your way!

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

Puzzled

From a very young age we’re given puzzles to play with.  When we first start out the pieces are large and there are only a few needed to complete the puzzle.  As we get older, the puzzles become more complex.  There are lots of types of puzzles and they are for all ages.  Think of Highlights magazine for kids and the puzzle where you find the hidden objects in the picture.  As you get older perhaps you did word searches or crossword puzzles.  Obviously the hottest craze in the past few years has been Sudoku, not only as a means of entertainment, but as a way to keep the brain engaged and active.

Puzzles are intriguing and ask you to become a problem solver.  They require you to be inquisitive.  Your diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness is not just a physical challenge for you and the medical team; it’s a mind challenge.  You’re being asked, invited, or demanded to create a new mindset for how you’ll live your life.  You’re body is inviting you, on your journey to wellness, to be resourceful in how you approach living this “new normal”.  One of the things I know and have witnessed is that those who enjoy puzzles are tenacious and show perseverence…how do you stack up in this arena?

One of the things about puzzles is that as you do more and more of them you begin to see patterns.  Pattern recognition is what allows us to learn complex ideas because we build upon what we already know and add to it.  It’s about having a good foundation of the puzzle’s rules and then tweaking it with each new twist and turn.  Another quality of those who enjoy doing puzzles is that once they “master” a certain level of difficulty they begin to seek out harder puzzles.  I’m not recommending that you become sicker to up the ante of your mind challenge, but you can certainly take on more complex questions regarding your quality of life.

How are you going to make the pieces of your life puzzle fit together?  What will you do to keep yourself engaged in the puzzle and not let it defeat you?  Puzzles can be a team effort so who will you enlist to help you solve the mystery?

 

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

What’s Your Sign?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

When I first went back to school a few years ago, the first class I took was “The Nine Muses” with Angeles Arrien.  If you don’t know Angeles Arrien, she is one of the most inspirational cultural anthropologists and teachers in the country if not the world.  She’s insightful, inspiring, and one of the best storytellers I’ve ever been privileged to hear.  It was interesting to me that prior to taking her class on the Nine Muses, I had read her book “Signs of Life: the five universal shapes and how to use them.”

Early in the book Arrien quotes Isamu Noguchi, designer of the Unesco Gardens in Paris.  I want to share his words with you:

     I don’t think that art comes from art.  A lot of artists apparently think so.  I think it comes from the awakening person.  Awakening is what you might call     the spiritual.  It is a linkage to something flowing rapidly through the air, and I can put my finger on it and plug-in, so to speak.  Do artists need a spiritual way or do they need art?  You can say that one is the same as the other.  Everything tends toward awakening, and I would rather use the word awakening rather than use the word awakening than a word that derived from some system- because there are so many systems. (p. 18)

The book goes on to identify the five universal symbols and explains that we all have a primary symbol that is in our consciousness.  After ranking the symbols, Arrien goes on to share her thoughts on how the order of the preference/prominence of the symbols impact our conscious and unconscious processes.  The five symbols are: the circle, the triangle, the square, the spiral, and the cross.

Think about which of these symbols you’re drawn to the most.  Consider where and how this symbol shows up in your life?  Learn how these symbols influence your experience of this life.  This isn’t about creating a masterpiece.  Recognizing shapes and symbols is an easy and fun creative process.  It’ s something you’re probably doing without even realizing it.  Look at things in your home.  Look at the patterns on the fabric of our clothing.  Look at your jewelry and see what shapes/symbols are present.  These are small clues that can give you unprecedented information.

I encourage you to read Angeles Arrien’s books, but going one step further, if you have the chance to take a class, attend a lecture, go on one of her retreats, I highly recommend the in-person experience.  She is truly a treasure.