Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 10

go all the way

go all the way

Unorthodox Idea #10

Dive Into Fear to Find True Hope

So, here we are; this is our chance.  If we are going to talk about self-healing, let’s talk about what’s really on the table: Fear. We are standing at the threshold of — let’s say it — painful or premature death.  Blech.  What about your 90th birthday you imagined you’d make it to?  What about that second career you’d been planning on?  What about knowing your grandchildren?

The truth is, we can’t expect to heal ourselves — by any means — as long as our fears are the forces coloring our lives.  We’ve got to dive in.  When we say “dive into fear” what that really suggests is experiencing a fear — the full physical and emotional sensation of it — versus talking about it. It’s the difference between saying something from a detached place, “This is the worst thing that could ever happen.  The next year is going to be terrible and I’m probably going to die.  I don’t even want to think about it,” and going into the actual manifestation of the fear, “In this moment, I feel my heart race and my throat close up, and I feel unspeakably sad.”

Yikes!  Why bother?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just set it aside and talk about something else?  It would be easier in the short run, except for one important detail.  As we discussed yesterday, your body is no fool.  We think, “maybe if I just avoid this, it’ll go away.”  Unfortunately, that’s not what happens most of the time. Rather, our fears — espoused, giant, and ominous — circle like vultures and disallow us to truly know and accept who and where we are.  Instead of the fears diminishing when we ignore them, they grow larger.  You might have heard the saying, “what we resist, persists.”  When we let fears hover and resist the full sensation of them, often times, we remain ignorant about what they are at the core.  Rather, we just feel them controlling us, wreaking havoc on our emotions, causing resentment and anger, getting us out there trying to find someone to sue or blame for our bad luck, and perhaps the worst, causing us to slap a smile on our faces and act like everything is okay.

Diving headfirst into the waters of our fears requires a certain amount of bravery, and I know you’ve got it.  The opportunity to do so invites us to let go of who we think we are (entitled, invincible, etc.) and see what else is there, present, awaiting us.  Diving into our fears is a kind of death — a true look at what moves within us; a true experience of what isn’t comfortable; a true, visceral presence with what is.  Remember when you were little and would see scary shadows on the wall at night?  You’d bravely get out of bed, flip on the light, and see that what caused the big shadow was a harmless stuffed animal sitting in a chair.  Big fears behave the same way.  When we go in and really look, we get to see them for what they are instead of the larger story we make up about them in our minds.  What dies are our attachments.  But what gets reborn?

True hope. Hope in a profound sense — not in the way of seeing progress or investing yourself in a likely and optimistic outcome — but rather a willingness to tread daily towards something that is right and true, and holds all the integrity that you do. Eco-therapist Bill Plotkin draws a distinction between what he calls “mature” and “immature” hope, saying this, “[immature hope] believes there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome; we can only sit helplessly and hope for the best.  Mature hope, however, motivates action until the outcome is achieved or abandoned.  It inspires us to become the change we seek.”  It is with true hope, hope that emerges from the dark and fearful places within you, that you will find a body that has always wanted you to be free.

“May you live all the days of your life.”  Jonathan Swift

Postscript:

I woke up this morning knowing today was the last day of this personal (and now public)  journey, thinking, “how do I conclude?”  What is there left to say about this delicate and mysterious thing we’ve come to call self-healing?  What can I offer that will sufficiently put a period at the end of this 10-day sentence?  What’s left?  I pondered this for awhile…had some tea…had a few client sessions…and pondered it again.  And then I realized something: this is hardly a conclusion.  This is just the beginning.

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Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 9

Unorthodox Idea #9

Assume this Illness has Shown Up in Your Life to Teach You Something

Perhaps you’ve been in a situation in which you have witnessed an injustice performed — say, you see an adult abusively screaming at a child in a public place.  Your mind might convince you not to speak up or do anything, repeating phrases in your head such as, “it’s none of my business”; “that’s not my child”; “the authorities will do something about it.”  Meanwhile, you walk away from the situation with a stomach ache, tears in your eyes, or a “sinking” feeling of guilt.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “the body never lies.”  Indeed, we can talk ourselves into just about anything using the mind’s cunning ability to persuade because it wants what it wants in the moment (safety, security, and social acceptance!).  Our bodies, thankfully, are more honest — they tell it to us straight.  When we are tired, our eyelids sag.  (When we start to get older…so does the rest of us.)  When we are about to do some public speaking — forget about it — the physical symptoms show up everywhere!  It’s not always the prettiest picture, but our bodies do send us all kinds of alerts.  If you don’t believe me, look no further than the contents of your handkerchief when you have a cold, or consider what happens when you eat food that’s gone bad.

The same is true for diseases, even the deadly ones, when they show up in our lives.  Like it or not, they might be trying to tell us something, and it behooves us to stop our complaining for a few moments  and listen.  One of my favorite writers, a Zen Buddhist named Charlotte Joko Beck, says this, “Everything in our life that disappoints us is a kind friend.”  Though we might squirm to know the answers, we can be for ourselves like our kindest friends who offer truth when they see it, and more importantly, ask open, clear, judgment-free questions that let us know any response is welcome and valid.

Ask yourself these questions:

What might this hurdle be trying to tell you?

What is there to learn?

How could you be supporting yourself — mind, body, and spirit — more fully?

What unfinished business might you need to attend to?

How is this an opportunity to rebirth?

What does this disease want for you?

It took awhile of living with Lupus for me to see that I had not one disease to overcome, but two.  I had, for several years, been suffering from a mild but very persistent eating disorder.  Determined to look a certain way, I had spent my high school and college years silently obsessing about food and weight.  The obsession was so pervasive, it hovered over me like a dark cloud rendering me nearly incapable of thinking about anything else.  Not only did I miss out on a lot, in effect, I formed an addiction to the mentally-disabling yo-yo of self-approval and disapproval.  The medications I took to control my Lupus made it even worse — the side effects adding considerable weight to my body and severe acne all over my face.  To say the least, it was a low and lonely time of self-discovery, but slowly I began to consider that my body wanted more for me than a life of ego-driven, conditional self-acceptance.  I saw that I could begin to accept myself in many forms, and that as I did that, others would too.  As I started truly taking care of my body, my eating disorder, quite literally, started to lift away.  Eventually, so did my Lupus symptoms.

Assume this illness has shown up in your life to teach you something. While you are at it, further assume it will only stay as long as it needs to. This isn’t about you having done something wrong — rather, it’s about the universe seeing that more is possible for you and offering you an opportunity to see it too. Like it or not, our bodies are constantly talking to us.  Getting sick, if we are listening, forces us to do things we need to do — to rest, slow down, reexamine what’s important, start telling the truth, eat to live, see our lives and the people in them for what and who they are, know ourselves, and play this game as if our lives depended on it.

Thanks for being here.  I’ll see you tomorrow for the final entry, Unorthodox Idea #10.

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Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 8

find your own fire

find your own fire

Unorthodox Idea #8

Devote Yourself to Personal Work

You believe you can heal yourself, right?  It might be time to dive into doing personal work that will connect you with some powerful parts of yourself you might not know about.

It’s no coincidence that when I got serious about curing myself of Lupus, I was also knee-deep in my lifecoach training as well as doing a lot of work with my own coach and developing my personal spirituality.  Working specifically on healing myself wasn’t necessarily the focus of that work, but learning to become my most powerful self was.  This process was (and still is) absolutely integral to the continuation of my health success.  Why?  Because I am constantly both raising and deepening my awareness of what’s true about me at every level of my being — mind, body, spirit — which opens the channels for ever-more mindful choices and fearless living.

When we start prioritizing personal work, we not only begin to deepen our own human experience, but we also engage in the continuous feedback loop of holistic healing.  Our bodies get the opportunity to awaken to their own power centers when we take the time to notice and work with them.  For many of us, there are wellsprings of healing potential that are virtually untapped.  Consider this: how connected are you to your energy centers, your breath, your dreams, your internal cast of characters, your inner critic, your core of aliveness, or your muscles memories?

Mae Jemison, the 1st African American female astronaut, says, “The answers to many questions are already with us.  Often we just need some help to bring them out.”  Getting some help with personal work is a great idea and there are so many directions to go.   Hire a coach who is a true soul guide (I know a good one), find a great therapist, develop a spiritual practice, take an enriching workshop, try out some Reiki or Alexander Technique — most importantly, find someone to work with who will truly support and reinforce your process and who will help you identify and connect with your innate powers.  Just get in there and start to know yourself — you’ll be amazed at what you discover.

I’ll see you tomorrow for the penultimate Unorthodox Idea, #9.  Don’t forget to enter your email and subscribe to the Treelife Blog.  More importantly — pass this article along to anyone in your life who is suffering.

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Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 7

you are what you eat

you are what you eat

Unorthodox Idea #7

Realize You Are What You Eat.

This idea is not unorthodox at all.  It goes without saying, right?  Still, when you are on the miracle mile towards self-healing, it is important to remind yourself that each and every morsel you put in your mouth is an opportunity to make a contribution towards health.

Food choices are some of the easiest places to look and make changes — even small ones — towards what we want for our bodies and ourselves.  The logic is right there in choice, if you think about it — what you put into your body is what you’ll get out of it.  For example, do we want our bodies to look and behave like a bag of Cheetos or like organic tomatoes? In other words, do we want our systems to be made up of processing dyes, empty calories, and chemical preservatives… or do we want them to be natural, alive, and full of energy?

death spray

There is a movie that came out a few years ago called Our Daily Bread that shows — with striking and objective imagery like the photo above — where, exactly, our food comes from.  There is one particular scene that stays with me.  We see a middle-aged man arrive at work and go directly to the locker room to dress for the day’s duties.  At this point, we don’t know what those duties are.  We watch him methodically don a kind of hasmat suit, complete with a face mask, gloves, and special footwear.  He is totally sealed in; not an inch of his body exposed.  Seeing the extent to which he is protecting himself, we might assume this man was about to clean up a toxic spill, perform live surgery on a poisonous snake, or enter a burning building.   But no, we quickly learn he is merely treating our food.  We see him enter a large greenhouse, and with a spraying hose, distribute chemicals on a huge crop of growing peppers.  This man’s head-to-toe protection suit keeps him a distance away from the hazardous chemicals he is spraying on our food. In the very next scene, he sits down to eat his lunch.

As I said yesterday in regards to how we speak to the delicate healing systems at work inside us, we can’t engage in warfare — at any level of consumption — and expect to balance our own systems.  Peace just isn’t achieved through violence — we know that — so let’s stop supporting food sources and systems that promote it.

A few years after I was diagnosed with Lupus, and I was still juggling medication dosages and different advice from different doctors I had a realization: I am the ONLY person who can truly take care of this body.  The same is true for you. If self-healing is your goal, start investing in yourself by choosing life-giving sources of daily sustenance.

Here are a few places to begin:

1. Get the facts. Put Our Daily Bread or the movie Food, Inc on your Netflix queue and learn about where your food comes from.

2. See that what’s best for the planet is also best for us. Get some education and a great story with one of these enjoyable reads: Animal, Vegetable, MiracleThe 100 Mile Diet, or Omnivore’s Dilemma

3. Take ownership. Shop at your local farmer’s market and/or join a CSA for the freshest, organic ingredients.

4. Stop drinking out of plastic bottles! Buy a water filter and save money while you are saving your own life.

5. Cut out the unnecessary drugs. All the chemical preservatives in processed and frozen foods go directly into our bloodstream. When we are already taking prescription medications, that can add up to a large amount of chemicals having their way with our internal systems.  Trim the fat — start cooking your own simple meals.  That way you can be in charge of using fresh natural ingredients, and start filling your body with live, active nutrients it needs to bolster it’s own healing. Cooking can be easy and simple.  If you are new at it, start with Mark Bittman’s fabulous How to Cook Everything. Take it from me, that book can turn just about anyone into a family chef.

6. Start to see your health as a life-long journey. When you spend a little extra money and effort to procure organic meats, dairy, and produce from small farms you’ll get it all back and then some in so many other ways.  A few extra dollars is a small price to pay for a healthier body; cleaner, safer water sources; a more beautiful and functional environment to live in; and a sense that you are contributing to a small-business fair economy, among many other benefits.

7. Put love in your food. Before you eat anything, remember you are feeding the miracle-making temple that is your body.  Take a moment to acknowledge the true meaning of nourishment when you are cooking and preparing meals, and another moment just before you eat to let your body know you are taking care of her. Go ahead and envision your daily intake working wonders on you.  It is.

I’ll see you tomorrow for Unorthodox Idea #8

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Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 6

It’s a new week — Happy Monday!  Today begins the 2nd half of this 10-Day, 10-Way Blog Series on Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease — Unorthodox Ideas #6-10.  If you are just now joining us, you can scroll down this page and read the last 5 entries in reverse order to bring yourself up to speed. There’s a subscription button to your right — just enter your email address and you will be the 1st to know when a new post is published.   And, don’t forget to pass this blogsite along to anyone in your life whom it might empower.

unabashed presence

Unorthodox Idea #6

Befriend Your Body.

“You mean, you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword and we’ll try and kill each other like civilized people?” – from The Princess Bride

When I was first diagnosed with Lupus, I was lucky enough to receive superb medical care and getting the right cocktail of prescription drugs shifted my experience from one of utterly painful paralysis to taking a long jog in the park within a matter of days.  In the short-term, western medicine saved my life and I am grateful for it.  In the long-term, though, I knew I’d need to save my own, especially with a label like “incurable” tagging along behind me everywhere I went.

Befriending my body meant realizing my body is 1)all of me, and therefore, 2)not against me, and 3)not some separate thing I can “hand over to the experts to fix.”  I knew I needed to forge a loving relationship with the very thing that seemed to be betraying me and my life plans.

One easy and totally accessible way to start to befriend our bodies is to put down our swords. We can embrace that in order to move towards true, lasting health, a holistic approach is not only preferable, it is necessary.  To start, we’ve got to see that our minds and bodies are constantly sending messages to each other, and that how we do that matters.  Modern medicine approaches (particularly when utilized solely) have a tendency to engender an antagonistic relationship between our minds and our bodies, and you can hear it in the very language we use.  Visit any conventional cancer ward, and you’ll hear words and phrases like “kill the cancer cells”; “get rid of”; destroy”; “eliminate”; “infested”; “battle”; “fight”; etc.  Sure, the idea is to get whatever is toxic and poisonous out, but in the meanwhile, these are our bodies we are talking about.

We all know that sticks and stones can break our bones…but words hurt the worst. The last thing our bodies need when they are sick is more violence — particularly coming from us! We simply can’t wage a war against our own lifeblood and expect to heal from the inside out. What we can do is change our language.  We can nurture the delicate processes of healing with a delicacy of speech, thought, and belief.  Doing so instantly shifts our relationship both to our disease and to our bodies.

So, put down your sword, and instead, send some loving messages to the systems in your body that are working to right things.  Write yourself a letter.  Talk about your journey with others using the kind of language you would use with a toddler.  And, thank your body for all that it’s doing to move you along towards another day.  After all, we all work better with a little encouragement.

I’ll see you tomorrow for Unorthodox Idea #7.

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Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 5

you don't get to stay here indefinitely

hey Disease! You don't get to stay here indefinitely...

Unorthodox  Idea  #5

Tell Your Doctor.

Doctors want to see medical miracles happen as much as the rest of us do.  It was awhile before I told my doctor I was nearly certain I was through with Lupus.  I wanted to be symptom-free for a good while, and more importantly, I wanted to feel it in my gut.

When I did go and have an office visit, the conversation went like this:

Doctor: “So, what brings you into the office today?”

Me: “Well, I’m here because I really don’t think I have Lupus anymore.”

I fidgeted while she looked down at the copy of my medical chart she was holding, perusing it for a long moment.  Then she looked me dead in the eyes.

“You know what…I don’t think you do either.”

Getting this clearance from her (and the blood tests that followed) was important to my family, but what made a huge difference to me was knowing my doctor trusted me. As in all healthy relationships that eschew hierarchy, trust is a two-way street.  If my doctor trusts me, I can trust her.  In sharing your commitment to heal yourself with your doctor, you aren’t asking her to mix a potion or perform wizardry — you’re just asking her to partner with you.  In effect, you are making her job easier.   (I have subsequently visited other specialty doctors who have, patronizingly, laughed in my face when I’ve mentioned my Lupus-free status.  Suffice it to say, I walked out of those offices and have never looked back.)

While the focus of the modern/western medicine is a more scientific approach to the human body, many doctors understand the limits of a science-only approach to healing. Moreover, they do well to maintain a sense of empathy and openness when it comes to dealing with their patients’ emotions and experiences.  After all, doctors are the ones who invented the placebo effect, right?  They know that good old faith, hope, and love can have a most dramatic effect on the healing process.

With an air of confidence and a little benefit of the doubt, tell your doctor your plans.  If your doctor isn’t one to truly listen to your belief in your own powers to heal, find another doctor.

Thank you for following along this week.  I’ll see you on Monday for Unorthodox Idea #6. (And, don’t forget — now you can subscribe to this blog!  Just enter your email address in the top right corner, and confirm your subscription status when you receive an email.  “Subscribing” means you don’t need to remember to check the Treelife Blog for updates — we’ll alert you!)

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Curing Yourself of an Incurable Disease, Part 2

this year's bucket list

bucket list

Unorthodox Idea #2

Write It Down.

Once you have decided you are the cure to your own disease, put it in writing that you intend to cure yourself — this year…this decade…this lifetime.  Write it down as a goal. Merely by the act of recording your hopes and wishes begins to make them come true both because it activates external support and it sets you in motion.

There’s an exercise I do at the beginning of each year and I invite my clients to do as well:

*Date a sheet of paper for the end of the year that’s just beginning.

*Write down your accomplishments in past tense — as though they have already happened.

For example, if you made this list today it might look something like this:

August 2010

1. Got pregnant

2. Went to Mexico

3. Cured myself of diabetes

4. Saved $10,000

5. ………   and so on.

Seeing the goal in past tense brings it alive and it lets our brains know that we are taking over — that we mean business.  It also sends our bodies the subliminal message that this goal is fully possible, and the process has begun. When we write things down we make them a priority, and the universe responds to us when we clarify and articulate what we want.

In January of 2007, when I did this exercise, “Cured myself of Lupus” went on that list.  Shortly thereafter, I put the list away and didn’t even look at again until November.  Lo and behold, when I dug that list out of my files 10 months later, there were lots of items on the list that I had completed and accomplished that I had even forgotten were goals.

I notice, both personally and with my clients, that sometimes very specific goals change slightly over time (instead of going to Mexico, you went to Greece — but most importantly you lazed on the beach).  The heart and soul of what’s important to us doesn’t change all that much.  When we say we want to cure ourselves, what we are really speaking to is a deep desire to live fully in our bodies.  To be here now, and to know we have that choice.

Your heart has the ability to decipher what your brain is asking for and to respond accordingly.  When your brain decides it is going to do something — and writes it down, making it real — it sets up a whole body accountability with your heart, your muscles, your cells, your energy, your breath, and your spirit as if to say, “All aboard!  Let’s get this thing moving!”

See you tomorrow for Unorthodox Idea #3.

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