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

We Walk This World As Pilgrims

We’re familiar with the pilgrims of the Middle Ages struggling to make it to the Holy Land. They overcame many obstacles, fought wars, and hopefully in the end found peace. There are many who make pilgrimages for personal reasons; physical challenges and healing of health issues, emotional freedom, or attaining spiritual enlightenment. The truth is that we walk this world as pilgrims because we’re all in search of something, even if you’re not aware of what it is in this moment.

Last night I facilitated a call for students working on their doctoral dissertations. I believe these students are on their own personal pilgrimage. They are expanding their personal and professional boundaries. They are taking on a pursuit that will change their lives forever. They are creating a soapbox on which they will stand for the rest of their lives. As someone who has completed this process I am honored and privileged to serve as their Sherpa, carrying the heavy load when necessary giving each pilgrim the space to move forward on their journey.

Richard R. Niebuhr, noted scholar from the Harvard Divinity School, stated “Pilgrims are person in motion, passing through territories not their own-seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do us well, a goal to which the spirit’s compass points the way.” When we set out on a pilgrimage we have a nagging question that keeps showing up in our lives and is demanding attention. Many believe that the “good” life is one where we have a sense of completion. We have tackled the challenges set forth by that whisper in our ear nudging us to take action in our lives.

Roger Housden in Sacred Journeys in a Modern World writes, “Whatever its destination, what sets a sacred journey apart from an every day walk, or a tourist trip, is the spirit in which it is undertaken. It is sacred if it sensitizes the individual to the deeper realities of his or her own being, and those of the world in which we live.” Our pilgrimages are sacred because it’s part of our narrative. It is a catalyst for change. As Pilgrims we are making conscious what has been seeking a voice, an answer, or possibly leading us to new questions.

I’ve sat in many counseling rooms with those facing life-threatening illness and each person’s pilgrimage had similarities, seeking hope, some sense of control over their lives, and empowerment. Since not everyone who is diagnosed with an illness recovers, some individual’s pilgrimage is seeking a good death and making sure they do not have an unlived life.

Whatever your pilgrimage I hope you make each step a conscious one. Your pilgrimage will keep you consciously engaged in your life opening your body, mind, and spirit to new heights. Set out on a pilgrimage and experience the wonder this journey to the depths of soul will reveal!

Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Want to take an Art and Healing pilgrimage?  Visit

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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

New Territory

In grammar school we learned all about explorers. These brave individuals circumnavigated the earth (once they realized it wasn’t flat) finding new lands. It didn’t matter why they were exploring, just the fact that they were risking their lives and the lives of their crews to find what may be possible. Obviously these individuals were vested in finding new lands for notoriety, money, or fame. Times have changed, but we have modern day explorers. Look at social media, technology, even space exploration, individuals and groups looking to go beyond what we believe is the end of the road.

Our lives are like undeveloped countries. We’d like to believe that we have mapped all aspects of our physical, emotional, and spiritual planes, but the truth is if we’re only using ten per cent of our brains, and our spirits have unlimited potential we have miles to go before we sleep (at least according to Robert Frost). So what lies in these unchartered territories?

If we knew there would be nothing to write about. The self-help book industry would collapse. Spiritual leaders like Echart Tolle and Depak Chopra would have to file bankruptcy. Fortunately for them, we still have places to explore deep within. We are human cartographers. Every experience we have allows us to add detail to our personal maps. It gives us insight into what makes us tick. It gives us leads to unlock our ultimate healing potential.

Like the explorers of the past these actions don’t come without risk. Your personal exploration requires training and/or preparation. It starts with a question or an experience. For many, this journey or pilgrimage begins with a stressor such as a death, divorce, or diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness. We find ourselves in a spiral and need to put on the brakes to stop the spinning. This is the beginning of your journey. Next is to think about what you’re hoping to achieve; are you looking for health and healing, love, or happiness? This is important because it allows you to narrow the immediate search or guides you to the path that will bring you answers.

In the beginning you may not have the resources to venture on such a journey. I encourage you to begin by consulting with a therapist, coach, or spiritual director. Read books, attend lectures, go on retreats with others who may be on a similar journey and develop a supportive community.

Setting out on this journey won’t necessarily bring you fame. It may not bring you riches in the form of money, but it can bring you peace! Coco Chanel used to say, “Some people are rich and some people have money.” Become rich! Start your journey and map your world. Become an explorer!

Facing adversity such as a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Hoping to find education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Want to explore your creative side and how it helps healing?  Visit


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

Space Planning

I watch a lot of HGTV and I’m always amazed at the result the designers achieve.  I have some friends currently building homes and it’s not uncommon to discuss space planning because they are all artists and are designing their ideal studios.  We consider space planning when it comes to our physical homes, our dwellings, but don’t consider space planning in any other realm of our lives.

What if we worked on space planning in our minds?  How would our lives change if we thought about how we use the space in our minds?  What would it take for you to consider space planning for your emotional and spiritual life?

Let’s face it being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is a big thing; it takes up a lot of space.  The most obvious place it takes space is in your body.  You and your medical teamwork together striving to reduce the amount of physical space your illness takes in your body.  Along with various treatments and medication, good food and rest are vitally important to reducing the amount of space your illness takes up in your body.

The other aspect to this is the amount of space a diagnosis of an illness takes up in your mind.  It is like “The Blob”, expanding into all the nooks and crannies of your mind zapping your energy that you need for health and healing.  When you ruminate about your illness the amount of space it takes up is enormous.  What can you do to contain the expansion of negative energy?

Support groups are a great way to contain the negative emotional aspects of a health challenge.  It allows you to dump the negative energy and get support when you need it most.  The group atmosphere is affirming and lets you know that you’re not the only person in the world having these experiences.  The problem is that not everyone lives in a geographic location where there is a support group for your particular diagnosis.  The Internet has given us the opportunity to connect with people around the world at any time day or night, creating relationships and partnerships for mutual support.

When it comes to your spiritual life, expansion is the name of the game.  Finding a spiritual director or coach to help you create a space plan in your soul can be a game changer.  Having someone who travels with you on this pilgrimage can provide you with soul reinforcement allowing you to continue this arduous journey.  This partnership is about comfort as well as expanding the positive aspects of belief in an energy force greater than you.

Space planning is not just for your physical environment, but your inner habitat as well.  It can provide you with comfort when you feel as if your diagnosis is taking over your entire life and you feel as if no one understands.  Containment of the emotional and spiritual intrusions can promote health and lead you to getting better or getting well!

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

Could Monster Jobs Have the Secret to Health and Healing?

I don’t like commercials, but I do like to see what’s coming out of the marketing departments of big companies.  I get a kick out of seeing how these advertisers find just the right hook to get you to buy their product.  For me, I find nuggets of wisdom in some of these ads, just like I did yesterday.

There’s was an ad in the paper by the online job finder website Monster.  The ad read in big bold letters, “You Don’t Really ‘Find’ a New Job” then the next line in smaller print, “You Identify, Evaluate, and Seize the Opportunity.”  Funny (not like Ha-Ha, but funny like bizarre) that a job finder has unlocked the key to health and healing, but many of us still take a back seat when it comes to our health.

Identify, Evaluate, and Seize the Opportunity, a simple three-step process that when followed would help you on your journey to getting better or getting well.  The identification is the seeking part of the health and healing pilgrimage.  You have to decide what it is that you want or need and then gather the information.  Evaluation is next because medicine is constantly changing and what may have been the standard of care five years ago is now obsolete (you may have to tell that to your doctor).  Seizing the opportunity is finding the ways or the resources to bring your work to fruition.  It means that you embody a sense of control over your own well-being.  It allows you to shift from victim thinking empowering your mind, body, and spirit to tackle the health challenges ahead of you.

When you’re going through this process, this health pilgrimage, it’s important to shift your personal statement from “What If” to “What Next”.  I can tell you that until you’re dead there’s always a “What Next”.  The “What Next” may not be what you want to hear like when the doctor tells you that all treatment avenues have been exhausted and the “What Next” is hospice/palliative care….but it IS the “what next”.  It means that reality has to be a part of the process in order for you to increase your quality of life whether you have 10 days to live or fifty years.

So Monster Jobs is right, “You Don’t Really ‘Find” Health…You Identify, Evaluate, and Seize the Opportunity”.  It helps people find jobs/careers, tell me how it works for finding health and healing.  Send me an e-mail with your story to

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

It’s A Miracle…A True Blue Spectacle

Over the past five years, since I went back to school, I’ve been studying pilgrimages that take place around the world.  The most famous is the Santiago de Compostela, but people have been drawn to pilgrimages for hope and healing for centuries.  We hear and read about people who go to Brazil for instantaneous healing from John of God. 

When someone is healed in that fashion we all say “it’s a miracle”.  I guess my follow-up question is “What’s a miracle?”  For those who have been diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness the word miracle is strong, desired, wanted, sought after, prayed for, and humbled by. 

Thinking about miracles has pre-occupied my time for two days since I read my horoscope on Yahoo.  I’m not a horoscope follower, I just read it occasionally to see what the stars are planning for me as a Cancer.  However, every so often they write a line that catches me and makes me think (maybe a little too hard).

On Sunday, the 13th the horoscope said, “Before you can make miracles happen today, you have draw up the blueprints.”  I’d never really thought about laying the ground work for a miracle; always assumed they just happened.  I know the 12-step programs talk a lot about doing the footwork, so I’m guessing the two are aligned.

What type of blueprint would you need to draw up for a miracle?  First it depends on what type of miracle you’re hoping for and the impact it would/will have on your life.  I believe that’s why the pilgrimages were so important to the miracle process; they get people to plan, concentrate, and devote time, energy, and their soul to healing.  Lourdes is probably the most famous destination of healing pilgrimages, but there are others around the world.

It’s not like those who take the pilgrimage blink like in “I Dream of Jeannie” and their suddenly transported to the healing site and wait for the miracle to happen.  They plan the trip, then they make the trek to the destination thinking about their own healing or that of a family member too weak to travel throughout their travel.  They are consumed by the idea and hope that a miracle will happen to them.

If we put that much of our soul into the process will something always happen?  Will we get better or well?  How important is the effort we put into the miracle before it happens?  Is it like business where you think about the return in investment? 

What blueprints do you want to draw up today to make miracles happen?  Send me your blueprint…I’d love to be a part of the process.

Posted in Anonymity, Having a Voice, In the Know

Is it Really Possible to be a Tourist?

Ever hear the saying “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”?  When we are a tourist we go somewhere as an observer.  We participate on the fringe.  We look, often are told not to touch and at then end of the day we smile because we enjoyed ourselves.  There is not attachment to the outcome because the only expectation is to have fun.  Why do some people facing a life-altering diagnosis live their lives like tourists?

The easy answer is fear.  If someone receives a life-altering illness and takes no action, without really giving it careful consideration it’s like being a witness to a horrible accident, only in this case they’re the victim.  On the other hand, there are people who receive the diagnosis, go to the doctor, engage in treatment but are removed from the process.  For them it’s like having an out of body experience (not sure how that happens when it’s their own body).

Those of us who walk this journey as pilgrims know that we have to get down in the trenches and sure enough we’re going to get dirty.  There are times, like on the 500 mile pilgrimage in Spain, that you’re thinking the journey will never end and the suffering, pain and exhaustion are endless.  In many cases, the challenge has defined margins but it’s hard to see the end when wind is blowing in your face (like all the media discussing longevity, research trials and the endless pharmaceutical commercials on television).  What we need to remember is that having faith in our journey is the primary means of being a participant in your care. 

The pilgrimage is long because you have to show commitment to your healing.  The pilgrimage is long so you can have time to weed out of your life those things that don’t matter or get in the way of living a better, less burdened life.  The pilgrimage is long because you need time to take back the control you lost when you received your diagnosis.  It’s a time to regroup and re-attack.

We can’t afford to be tourists in life when facing a diagnosis.  Remember, those who are well behaved rarely make history.