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

Are You Hoping to Get a Scholarship to Life?

Life is expensive, not only financially, but physically, mentally, and spiritually.  It seems that everything we think and do has a price on some level.  How do we keep coming up with the payment for life?  Do you have the life resources you need to lead a good life?  It may be that just like when you were applying to college hoping they would provide some financial aid, you’re hoping for a scholarship to life.

Unfortunately there are no scholarships.  Everything in life needs to be paid in full on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.   If you’ve ever read Stephen Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he discusses making deposits into the emotional (and I’m going to add spiritual) bank so when the day comes that you need some extra resources you have somewhere to go to make a withdrawal.

I guess the next question you may have is if life is so chaotic, where do you get the extra resources to put in the emotional/spiritual bank?  Connection pays high dividends.  That extra dividend allow you to make a deposit in that emotional/spiritual account.  I travel around the country for work and I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people who will be in my life forever.  It’s an important thing because e-mails, texts, and phone calls are certainly one way to feel less alone when traveling.  It also allows me to be a part of people’s lives from afar.

Creativity fuels my passion and my soul.  When I engage in creative activities I feel energized and alive.  The opportunity to create something from scratch is about birthing something.  It allows me to bring an idea to fruition.  In addition, the finished piece is a reflection of my life.  It may exist long after I’m gone.  The more I create the more I have to deposit in my emotional/spiritual account.

Engaging in a spiritual practice is one more way to create extra “income” to deposit in your emotional/spiritual account.  It doesn’t matter what that practice is, but to have one and to keep it going on a conscious level is important.  I find that writing and creative activities are my spiritual practice.  I’m not the type to sit on a cushion and meditate.  I find that engaging in a repetitive activity while listening to music like Gregorian Chant keeps me in my sacred space and that promotes a soul energy that can carry me through the day.  I may not get to engage in my practice every day, but I’m conscious of keeping reserves in my emotional/spiritual account.

So if there are no scholarships to life, what are you going to do to keep yourself pumped up on your journey to wellness.  Health and happiness are paramount to a good life, especially when you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness.  I would love to hear how you create resources to deposit in your emotional/spiritual account.  You can tell you story in the comment section or e-mail me at greg@survivingstrong.com

 

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

Getting to the Finish Line

Last night I went to sleep at my regular time, but at 3am I woke up and couldn’t fall back to sleep.  I follow the rule of thumb that says if you can’t fall back to sleep after 30 minutes it’s a good idea to get up and do something like read until you get sleepy.  I always ask myself what’s going on that I can’t fall back to sleep and last night it was just a bunch of racing thoughts.

Laying in bed awake the racing thoughts felt like they were competing against one another, all the thoughts fighting to get to the finish line.  Of course there’s a lot going on since I just got home from being away for four months, it’s the holiday season, and like you I still have to fit in doctor’s appointments before my medical insurance changes.  (just a side note: last year on New Year’s Eve Day the line at the pharmacy was a mile long since everyone was getting refills before their prescription plans changed…be prepared)

It’s common to have racing thoughts on an ongoing basis following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness.  The big question is which thought will make it across the finish line.  My hope is that you give the thoughts about health and healing a head-start so that those thoughts have an advantage on your journey to wellness.

How do you find ways to let the thoughts tire themselves out.  It’s funny, until this very moment I hadn’t thought about letting the thoughts wear themselves out, but I guess everything including thoughts get tired.  If nothing else, you get tired of them and once you exhaust them you don’t have to worry about them continuing in the race.

Of course this time of year adds stress and that will give some momentum to your racing thoughts so find ways to reduce your holiday stress.  Make things simpler.  Don’t get caught up in the hype, keep the holiday feeling realistic and authentic.  You’d be surprised how people are returning to more intimate holiday experiences instead of trying to buy everything and anything just to say they got something.

Let your racing thoughts run and hope they run out of steam.  As you enter the holiday season insulate yourself from these racing thoughts by reminding yourself what’s important for you during the holiday season.  For me, it’s all about family and friends.  It’s about trying to do things like donate food to the food bank for those who need a bit more help.  If you have a spiritual practice, this is the time of year when relying on that spiritual practice can ease your mind and limit the energy resources for those racing thoughts.

If you want more information on health and healing visit the website, www.survivingstrong.com and you’ll also get a free gift if you register for the special report.  My gift to you is to help you limit those racing thoughts and get rest so you can enjoy the holidays!

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

Are You Afraid of Committing to a Practice?

For those of us who took music lessons as a kid the mantra our parents repeated, even screamed, was “practice makes perfect”.  How many of us lifted our instruments with less than full enthusiasm or belief that we would become virtuosos?  Tony Robbins says that “repetition is the mother of mastery”.  It’s interesting that as adults we don’t look at mastery as something to achieve.  We’re caught up in the idea of gaining as many skills as possible to pad the resume, but what if we became masters?

We hear a lot about the mind, body, spirit connection and yet many of us spend our time focusing on the physical aspects of our health challenge.  We become masters at filling the pill box, taking naps and visiting the doctor.  Is that how you want to live as a master?  If we were to shift our focus to become masters of our spiritual life would the impact of our health challenge be lessened?  I believe that to be true and I’ll share with you how I arrived at this conclusion.

It’s not a surprise that most of us facing a chronic or life-threatening illness are challenged emotionally at different points in the disease process.  We look for quick ways to feel better and that usually entails pharmaceuticals.  I’m definitely an advocate of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, but without something to complement the physical are you selling yourself short?  A practice, in this case a spiritual practice, is something done to create peace in the heart and soul.  It’s the activity, sacred space, meditation you engage in that brings calm and acceptance to the challenging situation.

When I was in graduate school to become a psychotherapist we had a community counseling center so the students could engage in psychotherapy training.  The center screened the clients thoroughly to make sure they weren’t either court ordered or suicidal for legal purposes.  We began our work in the counseling center our first week in school.  One of the students asked the professor why they were starting us out so quickly since we didn’t have any official training.  There was a fear in the voice of my fellow student.  The professor responded gently and said, “It’s not like medicine, you’re not going to kill the patient, at worst you’ll be ineffective”.  That was certainly a reality check.  The same is true for engaging and committing to a spiritual practice, at best it will help enormously and at worst it will be ineffective.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Are you on board yet?

Personally I find peace and comfort in the arts.  I’m a textile artist and my art reflects the deep questions I ask myself about how my physical, emotional and spiritual life can dance together in harmony.  I also find that writing is a great outlet allowing the deeper question to emerge.  Once the questions reveal themselves I’m free to explore how they impact my quality of life and I can make adjustments.  I try hard to write this blog Monday through Friday.  It’s important that I do something with regularity and conviction.  I am certainly on a mission and will continue because all of you are a part of my community.

Ask yourself what would be your first choice for a spiritual practice.  I know lots of people who could mentor you through a process.  Kim Rosen, poet extraordinaire www.kimrosen.net , truly elicits the deep questions through poetry in her workshops.  Sarah Haskell, a weaver and community organizer has started a project called “Woven Voices”, www.sarahhaskell.com.  Jenny Finn, a woman with the grace of a gazelle engages in spiritual movement practices, www.somamovement.org.  These are just a few people and there are many more out there who use the arts to engage in spiritual healing.

If you’re the outdoors type then make hiking a spiritual practice.  The point I’m trying to make is that whatever you love can become a spiritual practice.  It’s about the intention you set for engaging in the experience.  It’s your commitment and devotion that reaps the rewards I’ve been describing.  Once again…do you have anything to lose?

What’s your spiritual practice?  How does it help you with your health challenge?  What obstacles have you overcome to keep up your commitment?  Let’s spread the wealth in our community!

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

The Lone Ranger

Have you ever wondered how far removed we are from the animal kingdom?  I have this discussion with my vet every so often in regard to my cats.  We discuss the fact that cats have not been domesticated as long as dogs and every so often their natural instincts play out.  I began thinking about we as humans and our nature connection.

This afternoon I went to speak with the Rabbi at one of the local synagogues.  Having been raised Jewish I had some questions about where I feel I fit in the religious community.  As I move forward in my Doctor of Ministry degree I am exposed to many religions, faiths and spiritual concepts.   Having practiced only one faith I’m more inclined to be intrigued by others…it’s not like I’m looking to convert; I’m just looking for answers to those “what is the meaning of life” questions.

I’m currently reading the translation of Teresa of Avila’s “The Inner Castle”, a great woman, but obviously not Jewish.  The Rabbi commented that as a faith Jews are community based.  The Jewish faith is not a monastic tradition.  It was one of those Aha moments.  I’ve read lots about monastic traditions and although appealing, especially when things get crazy, I’m a community based person.

So what am I trying to say?  I want you to consider how you practice your religion or spirituality best.  Do you feel more in line with a solitary tradition or do are you more suited to a community/group based practice.  I find comfort in praying with others.  I feel energetic when I’m surrounded by the energy of others.  I feel part of something larger than myself when I am in the company of like -minded others.

This is important for our lives and pilgrims because it will impact your healing process.  If sitting alone and meditating works for you then that’s you’re chosen healing process.  If sitting on a pew in a church, praying the rosary, then that’s how you’ll heal best.  We all have a primary mode of connection both with people and with our God or whatever your spiritual source.

Know thyself and aid in your own healing process.

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

Getting Naked

This week I had the joy of reconnecting with a group of people who have been meeting together since February, but took the summer off due to overwhelming schedule conflicts.  It was like kids returning to school after the summer break.  We came together, checked-in about what we’ve been up to and then began to create a vision for the coming year.

This group  works to have its members come from a place of authenticity.  Everyone in the room is looking to be able to connect with others who “Are what they are”, not “Do what they do”.  There is a big distinction between the two; one relies on external commonality and one relies on internal commonality.  The reason that it’s important for those facing the challenges of a life-altering illness to attend groups is because it’s one place you don’t have to walk in the room with explanations.

When we are with people who are the same as a common denominator, there is a shared language that needs no translation.  There is does not have to be any guise of pretense of falsehood about how you “really are doing”.  It’s a place of honesty and with that comes vulnerability.  Having facilitated groups for twenty years for those facing life-altering illness I have been honored to bear witness to the impact that honesty and vulnerability can have on one’s well-being and quality of life.

Imagine carrying around an eight hundred pound gorilla and with one sharing getting that monkey off your back.  Having the capacity to get naked (in the figurative sense) with others is about freedom, just as it is in the literal sense.  It’s a time when you don’t have to protect or take care of anyone but you.  What better gift can you offer yourself and the world than to put you first?