Posted in after the diagnosis, creativity and health, Emotional Health, Living with Illness, Self-Nurture

Create a Space Worthy of Healing

I have to admit that I watch a lot of HGTV.  I’m particularly drawn to “House Hunters International” and as of recent, been watching reruns of “My Favorite Place”.  I like to see how these famous personalities create spaces that not only function for their lives, but also actually serve a purpose…the spaces are designed mindfully.

Since arriving back home from my five-month assignment in west Texas, I’ve been thinking a lot about one space in the house.  I’ve been focusing on the space that serves as my art studio and my office.  Upon arriving home from my previous assignment in Nashville, I decided I needed a real desk so I could anchor my consciousness in a place devoted to writing.  My current return has me focused on the functionality of the space for multiple purposes.  I had two big farm tables for my textile art but it took up too much space functionally and visually.  I removed one of the tables giving me room to walk around the studio without bumping into things.

I still had one problem and that was I didn’t have a space to read.  I can’t read with technical material with the television on or music playing.  I need to concentrate when I’m absorbing new material.  I also needed a place where I could knit (part of my spiritual practice) without worrying about animal hair flying around.  I decided to buy a chair for the studio/office.

Yesterday I went to a huge furniture store and began my hunt for a chair.  I had specific requirements for the chair.  Obviously it had to be comfortable, but it also had to be functional.  Functional for knitting required the chair to be armless so I don’t keep banging my elbows while creating the shawls I’ve been knitting for the past three years.  It had to have enough support since I plan on spending a fair amount of time in the chair, and it of course had to be beautiful.

Armed with my phone (with a camera) so I could take pictures I set off on my quest for a chair.  I sat in almost forty chairs looking for the chair.  I felt a lot like Goldilocks while searching for this chair, and sure enough I found it.  The chair is armless, comfortable and the fabric is neutral.  The chair is covered with types of tea; it’s from the Teahouse collection ( I drink a lot of tea so I felt it was appropriate).

Why is all of this talk about a chair important?  It’s important because part of health and healing requires you to have spaces that are calming and soothing.  Your space needs to be a reflection of you because it’s another form of self-expression.  I find that I can enter this space and my body, mind, and spirit take a break from the chaos outside of this room.  Yes, I usually have one or more animals with me, but they stare out the window or sleep; they understand the peaceful nature of the room.

I have a beautiful photograph on the wall of painted silk drying on 30-foot high poles drying in the wind, a photo taken in China.  My desk has small pieces of art and a photograph of the crew I most recently worked with in Texas.  It was a parting gift when the contract ended.  The caption on the photo is, “We make things happen”.

What type of space would you create for your health and healing sanctuary?  How can you claim a space that’s yours for spending peaceful time?  It doesn’t have to be a room, it can be the corner of a room, but it has to be yours.  It needs to be a reflection of both your soul, and the intention you set for your healing practice.

I’d love to hear about your spaces!  Share your ideas down below in the comment section or email 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

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 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

If Anne Lamott said it…It must be true!

I feel fortunate to be following the work of Anne Lamott for 20 years.  I first heard her when I lived in the Bay Area and she was an ongoing guest on KQED, public radio.  She was discussing her book, “Operating Instructions”, documenting her experience with her newborn son, Sam during his first year of life.  I found the sequence of interviews to be refreshing, funny, and provocative.

I’ve read many of Anne Lamott’s books over the years, mainly those pertaining to spirituality or her books about a writer’s life.  I was thrilled to see that she was coming up with a sequel to “Operating Instructions” because her style and perspective is refreshing.  “Some Assembly Required” chronicles the first year of her son Sam’s life with a son of his own and the relationship of the entire family.

As usual Lamott’s words are insightful, funny, and thought provoking.  Then I got stopped in my tracks when I read the following, “Silence brings you to a place where all of a sudden you’re not in the mental ping-pong game.”  I’d never heard racing thoughts described as a ping-pong game, but for me it was so accurate in its description.

Since your diagnosis, what has the ping-pong game been like in your head?  What actions do you take to try and stop the volley between the rational and emotive parts of your being?  I know from personal experience, while waiting for test results or another doctor’s appointment, that the ping-pong game is exhausting.

What is it about silence that stops the ping-pong game?  I’ve been thinking about this and one of my own explanations is that when everything around you is silent you get to see how loud everything around you resonates.  We get distracted by all the noise and don’t really know how prominent the noise is and how it disrupts our lives.  When we are in silence we can work to eliminate the chatter, the negative dialogues that get in the way of your health and healing.

It takes dedicated energy to allow the quiet to prevail because so many of us are in desperate need of a distraction following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness.  When we can sit in the silence and stop the ping-pong game we can work toward calm.  We can begin the journey to health and healing!

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

Believing in Faith

Religion and spirituality are often a component in our journey to health and healing.  There are those who make pilgrimages to sacred sites around the world, like Lourdes, hoping to be rid of their maladies.  We’re told that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, so looking for the meaning in our health challenge is one of life’s great mysteries.  However, what about those of us who engage in some type prayer to get better or well?  What part does faith play in our healing journey?

Why don’t we hear more about the part that faith plays in our lives when we’re facing a health challenge?  This morning on Good Morning America, medical editor Dr. Richard Besser shared that only about 10% of patients who use prayer tell their doctor.  Don’t you think that this would be important for the doctor to know?  After I heard the statement I thought about my own medical history and I have never discussed my spirituality with my doctor.  I’ve never shared what I do to improve my emotional and spiritual health resulting (at least in my own belief) in better physical health.

It’s interesting because faith, religion, and spirituality has never been one of the questions asked by my medical provider(s).  It’s as if it’s taboo to discuss this part of my life.  My first thought is to applaud the 10% who do share this personal information with their medical team.  I’d be interested to know if it impacts the care you receive or how the medical team handles this information.  I’ve read many stories about cultural healing beliefs and how those practices, at times, have been challenged in the courts like when people want certain ceremonies to be held in a hospital.

Are we missing out on an aspect of health and healing that could super-charge our immune systems?  What would it mean to us and to the medical team if we shared this information about ourselves?  Is it fear or skepticism about how the science community would view us if we shared this deeply personal side of our lives that inhibits us from utilizing faith in our journey to wellness.

Have you had an experience of sharing your faith with your doctor?  How did you bring it up and how did it impact your journey to getting better or well?

 

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

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?