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

Soul Transparency

This is probably one of the most personal posts I’ve written, but the experience was so striking I wanted to share it with you.  I was at the park last week and going about my business.  Usually I go to the park to read or do some writing, but I was sitting in my car just thinking about the day when unbeknownst to me, I was being observed.

I was sitting quietly in my car when a woman who was getting in the car next to me approached my window.  She asked if I wanted her to pray for me; figuring I could use all the help I could muster I said YES.  Her prayer was sweet and meaningful, although obviously Christian (only mention it because I’m Jewish).  She finished her prayer, offered me some literature and then went on her way.

The kind woman pulled out of her parking spot to leave and immediately pulled back in next to me.  She got back out of her car and asked me if I wanted her to wait while I reviewed the literature in case had any questions that she could answer for me.  I politely declined, but didn’t feel like she believed me totally.  She left the parking lot and I was dazed and confused.

I began thinking about how transparent I might be if she were able to pick up a vibe calling out for help.  I didn’t feel particularly needy or distressed that day, but I’m suspecting I had an aura that said something different than my personal experience.  It made me begin wondering about how transparent I am, and how much of my soul cries out even without me being aware.

When we’re challenged in life how much does our soul reveal about us?  What does the soul do to catch the attention of others bringing people into our lives who may be able to ease our pain.  When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness those times may be come and go, but are we really aware when challenges arise on our health pilgrimage?  Do we acknowledge the challenges and allow them to serve as teachers?  This experience happened over a week ago and I’ve been contemplating it every day since it happened.  I keep wondering why this woman was brought into my life and what was she leading me to see that I couldn’t or still can’t.

Having a health challenge may serve to mask our connection to our soul, but when people intervene, such as this woman, does it reconnect us more authentically?  I’ll continue thinking about this experience and continue searching for the meaning of this meeting.  I’m thankful that there are people in the world intuitive enough and courageous enough to intervene.  As I wrote in that post the other day, “I may not know her, but I’ll never forget her”!

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

Leave it All on the Stage!

They say when you audition for any type of performance art that you need to leave everything you’ve got on the stage.  It’s crucial that you not hold back because the selection/judging committee is seeing lots of people all vying for the same position.  When you hold back the only person you’re sabotaging is you!  Let’s face it, what have you got to lose, absolutely nothing.

I was looking at Facebook and found the following posted by one of my friends, “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy S**t…What a ride!”  I felt a sense of jubilation when I read this because it follows the idea that you should “Die Broke”, at least physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Allow your life to be spent wisely, but completely.

Perhaps this philosophy isn’t new, but we don’t talk about it much.  In all my years of working with those facing a life-threatening illness many hold back.  They talk about the big plans, but often that’s as far as the planning goes, but what if that changed?  What would happen if you had a personal activity director for your life?  What would you be doing if you had full-fledged encouragement to live everyday to its fullest?  What’s the one thing you would be doing today if you had to spend (figuratively) everything you had by the time you go to sleep this evening?

Life is finite!  The day is finite!  The possibilities are limitless!  Leave it all on the stage of life and let your life expand to its full potential.

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

Need A Spiritual Connection? Create a Portable Chapel

When I was working in El Paso I had a 15-mile commute to work (not bad).  I like to use my time in the car to process the morning thus far and to ground myself so that I can start the workday on the right foot.  I found that even though I engaged in spiritual practice early in the morning, I needed something else to propel me forward for the day.

I know this may seem like a winding road, but stick with me and we’ll get there.

I had gone to the store one evening and decided I wanted some new music.  I find that music frees my mind and spirit and puts me in a good mood.  I saw the soundtrack for the movie “Joyful Noise” and even though I hadn’t seen the movie, I’d heard snippets of the music.  I love Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah so I though it would be a good purchase.

It was quite a surprise when I listened to the entire soundtrack and found it very uplifting.  They had created a soundtrack that could be used in spiritual venues across the world.  I especially loved four tracks in a row that provided me with the feeling of “giving thanks and praise”.

Listening to these four tracks on the CD, in my car, on the way to work, provided me with my own portable chapel.  I could sing as loud as I wanted, could repeat a song that I needed to hear again, and revel in the good feelings spreading through my body.  I felt as if I had expressed myself musically, and simultaneously created a sacred space and a container for my spirit.  I felt rejuvenated when I got to work and the start of the day was blessed.

It’s amazing how something so simple as the confines of a car and some music can create a space that is special, uplifting, and sacred.  It’s amazing how simple it can be to find that place in your heart and soul to express yourself and to release what might be holding you back in the moment.

When facing adversity in your life whether it be illness, injury, or any other life transition such as loss of job, ending a relationship, etc. it’s crucial to find those places to give thanks for what we have and to muster the strength, courage, and tenacity to move forward.  Having a portable chapel, like the one I created in my car, gives me the freedom to give my body, mind, and spirit a place to connect and fortify myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Have you ever created a portable chapel?  Where do you find those places to fortify your body, mind, and spirit?  I’d love to hear your experiences…Email me at greg@survivingstrong.com

Posted in Storytelling

Do You Really Know Your Own Story?

Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air” is one of my favorite talk show hosts.  I think she’s inquisitive and very smart.  One of the things about the show is that they often replay interviews with individuals when they die as a memorial.  A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Gross interview Barbara Lea, a cabaret singer who died on December 26, 2011.  The interview was fascinating.  I went on to read her biography listed on her website, www.barbaralea.com, in the biography it states that she had a been a minister for 20 years in the Church of Actualism.  When I read that the statement she made came to life.

We all know how I feel about stories; I love them.  I believe that our stories are the portals to wholeness.   I believe that our stories are the threads that connect us to each other.  I believe that our stories unlock the mysteries to our body, mind, and spirit and that is crucial when we’re looking to get better or well.  Our stories are why pathographies, telling our story in support groups, and our personal experience of our health challenge directs our journey to wellness.  During the interview with Terry Gross, Barbara Lea stated, “You have to know the story before you tell the story.”

It’s a rather simple statement, but it’s something that I believe in very strongly.  Too many people like to tell their story, but aren’t necessarily connected to their story.  We have a tendency to tell a story that makes us look good because we believe that we’re being judged based on our story.  The problem with this modus operandi is we begin to distort our story the more times we tell it.  So what was Barbara Lea encouraging us to do?

Lea was encouraging us, possibly even challenging us to become one with our true story.  Our story is our legacy.  When we connect to our true story we stand a little taller.  We unify our body, mind, and spirit decreasing the inner struggle that takes place with so many people.  The big question is how do we connect to our own story?

If you haven’t engaged in deepening your connection to your own story, now is the time.  Creating a sacred space to engage in this exploration is important.  We need the safety and open environment to allow ourselves to begin this personal pilgrimage.  There’s no doubt this is a journey.  It is an ongoing process and each time we engage in this type of self-exploration we add more details to the story.  Our stories become more colorful, rich, and healing.

I encourage you to find a way to start this personal pilgrimage and begin your journey to wellness.  It’s a life-altering experience for the good.  When you’re facing any kind of personal challenge, health or otherwise, knowing your story allows you to tell your story with stronger conviction.  Our capacity to tell our deeper story allows our healing to unfold; this gives our bodies the space to expand its wellness capacities…isn’t that what we all want?

 

Posted in after the diagnosis, Emotional Health

Are You Chasing Your Own Tail?

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that perfection is a great ideal, but in reality just makes you chase your own tail.  You move very fast, but don’t get very far, and that’s exhausting.  So what is it about perfection that drives us to have ridiculous expectations of others and ourselves.  Perfection is a nice idea, but as a goal to strive for seems pointless.

Last week on, “Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class”, Jane Fonda put it so simple and elegant, she said, “We’re not meant to be perfect; we’re meant to be whole.”  At first glance you may expect that perfection and being whole would be synonymous, but perfection leads us away from being whole.  It drives us deeper and deeper away from our true selves.  Trying to be perfect creates an emotional and spiritual wedge that prevents us from achieving peace.  It doesn’t give us the momentum we need for health and healing.

After receiving a diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness you would think that perfection would mean being well.  However, for many, the illness creates deeper problems than just physical.  Creating a space of inner wholeness will ignite your immune system to work at its best level.  Whether the outcome is getting better or getting well, wholeness allows you to eradicate the negative that often compromises your immune system.

Let’s face it, no life is perfect.  When you feel like you’re a hamster on a hamster wheel stop and ask yourself if you’re expecting perfection.  If you dig deep enough and the answer is yet, you’re sabotaging your own wellness and happiness.  If this is the case, then I urge you to begin looking within and asking yourself what would make you feel more whole in the moment.  How can you create a space that will promote wholeness.

Consider what’s keeping you from feeling whole.  Resentments, tolerations, and unrealistic expectations are often the culprit that tease us to work toward perfection.  You think that if you work hard enough you can reduce the impact the resentment, toleration, or unrealistic expectation has on your daily life.  Stop and think about that for a moment, does that make any sense?  What could you accomplish if you released those negative energies and apply all that focus on your own wholeness.

Be like Jane Fonda and stop striving for perfection and strive for wholeness!

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

 

Posted in after the diagnosis

Leading Your Own Master Class

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) may not be a success, but some shows are obviously taking center-stage on the network.  It shouldn’t be a surprise, but the shows that are doing well are the shows where Oprah’s touch is evident.  In these cases she’s either doing the interview as in, “Oprah’s Next Chapter”, or “Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class”.  It’s the later that caught my attention last night when the guest of the show was the famous actress, activist, and fitness guru, Jane Fonda.

If you haven’t seen the show it allows the guest to speak about their life dividing the segments into “life lesson” segments.  The show is tasteful, insightful, and inspiring.  When I was listening to Jane Fonda speak last night I kept my notepad close by waiting for those bits of wisdom that would get me to think about my own life in a new way.  The lessons that caught my attention were: Allow your vulnerabilities to show; we’re not meant to be perfect, we’re meant to be whole; and Empathy is revolutionary!

This got me thinking about all the client/participant stories I’ve heard over the years and the lessons I’ve learned from all of you.  On the other hand, I started wondering what it would be like if I put you in front of a camera for an hour and you got to distill your life down to four or five pivotal life foundations.  This is very different than conducting a life review because it’s not about summing up your life at the end; it’s about punctuating those things that have made you who you are today!

I believe this can be a great part of your health and healing journey.  After your diagnosis you may have began to reflect on your life, your experiences, relationships, and adventures.  What have you taken from each of those experiences that will support your journey to wellness.  One of the things that Jane Fonda made very clear is “It’s never too late!”  That would mean that even for you, getting a diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness doesn’t have to be an end, but a beginning.  It can be a launch pad for your new life.

What would you impart to us if you were filming your own Master Class for the Oprah Winfrey Network?  What do you believe are the most important, helpful, inspiring lessons you’ve learned that will propel your life and ours forward?