What Are You Waiting For?

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
What Are You Waiting For?
Is it a promotion? A raise? A date with that person you’ve been flirting with for the past month?

Well, in my case, it was a stripe. Let me give you some background. I started Hung Gar Kung Fu in November. There are five belt colors, and within each belt, there are four levels to pass before one is eligible to advance to the next. At my level, the stripes are correlated with learning/mastering a “form.”

So I recently mastered the “first form.” And expected to get a stripe. THAT DAY. However, I didn’t. Nor did I get a stripe at the next class, or even the next, even though I was now beginning to learn, and even about halfway through the next form (“Second form”).

Now I was really starting to wonder. Was Sifu (the master) upset with me? Had I done something wrong? Perhaps I wasn’t doing the form properly? Was there some other lesson I needed to learn?

I had heard that sometimes people didn’t get their stripes right away, that sometimes Sifu waited a little, and that he had his own way of doing things. In one sense, I was definitely cool with this; on the other, I kept trying to figure out what I was missing…

Was I missing patience? Certainly. Was that what he was trying to teach me? Unlikely.

How about perfect placement of my feet in “horse stance?” Nah, probably not that, either, since it often takes a long time to perfect that.

After the third class of no stripe, I was crushed. You’ve probably figured out about me that I’m driven, that I like to achieve goals and that I like to advance measurably. I began questioning whether he wanted me in the program, whether I was good enough, liked, etc. No negative thought un-had!

It’s the fourth class after mastering the first form, and I’m deep into the second form. Sifu walks by me as I’m lumbering my way through, and as he is walking by, he looks at me and seems a little surprised. Then he says: “You don’t have a stripe yet?”

“Not yet,” I replied.

Right before we complete the class, Sifu calls me up to the front and gives me my first stripe! Truly, I am elated. I’m not a complete failure at Kung Fu, I guess he does want me in the program, etc.

Turns out, not giving me a stripe didn’t have anything to do with me, really. There are over 150 students who take Kung Fu where I do, at every level of belt and stripe-ness. The permutations are endless, and I imagine, difficult to keep track of. And that’s what happened with me; it just got overlooked.

But the greatest reward for me was not in the negating of all those awful thoughts about myself I had, which went away when I got the stripe. It lay in recognizing that all those thoughts I had were things I MADE UP, and weren’t based on reality. Not one of them was true, or even valid.

So I ask you. What things are you “making up” about yourself, your life, or the people in it, that are not only not true, but making you feel things about yourself that are not-so-great? I’d be willing to bet that, like my thoughts were, there’s likely little basis in reality.

Yes, I am inviting you to question your beliefs about yourself. Yes, I am inviting you to try to see events for what they are, or make up a meaning for them that doesn’t leave you crushed.

What are you waiting for?!

The Process, Part 4
Nov. 20, 2013

I have doctors. Lots of them.

I should really say “health care professionals,” because not everyone whose is helping me deal with this is an M.D. All of them, however, are what I’ve decided to call “Team Stan.”

So far Team Stan includes my regular — or pre-cancer — starters:
1. Internist
2. Dermatologist
3. Chiropractor
4. Personal trainer
5. Pharmacist

To this I’ve added, or had to add, a number of new players:
6. Surgeon
7. Medical oncologist
8. Dermatologic oncologist
9. Radiation oncologist
10. Dental oncologist
11. Radiation oncology resident
12. The radiation technicians who administer the radiation
13. Dietician
14. Speech therapist
15. Acupuncturist
16. Massage therapist.

I’ll see several members of Team Stan every day during The Process. Others, especially the oncologists, will be a regular part of my life for years to come as I continue to monitor the disease and, if it recurs again, catch it as early as possible. The plan right now is to begin every-six-weeks follow-ups a month and a half after the radiation treatment ends.

This past week was a good example of the team at work.

I met with the dental oncologist to make sure the radiation guards he made fit properly. They’re needed because I have two gold crowns and the rest of my mouth has to be protected from what happens when radiation reflects off them.

I met with the speech therapist because the radiation may affect my ability to talk and swallow. She gave me exercises to minimize that effect.

This will be important for two reasons. First, I make by living by communicating and my ability to talk to clients, do interviews on television and radio and make speeches — all of which are part of my regular schedule — will all be affected if I can’t talk. Second, I’m going to need to keep my weight up during the treatment, and eating will be hard if swallowing is painful.

Maintaining my weight was the primary topic of conversation with the dietician. I wouldn’t mind losing five to seven pounds during The Process (and, really, who wouldn’t?). But the whole team is worried about me not getting proper nutrition because eating is too painful because that will make it harder for my body to deal with the trauma from the radiation.

I also met with the radiation techs for the first time to make the mask that will hold my head in place during the treatments, to tattoo a small blue mark on my chest so the radiation is always delivered to the right place and to make me comfortable with how each treatment will go. It’s called “the simulation” because it’s similar to what I’ll be going through when radiation treatments actually begin in a few days.

I also had a session with my massage therapist, who worked on my neck, shoulders and back to deal with the effects of the surgery from almost six weeks ago.

And I worked out a new schedule with my personal trainer. We will now meet at the gym at 6 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for a 45-minute workout. This will allow me to park on the street in front of the gym and not walk the three blocks from my office in December and January. That will limit exposing my radiated neck to the cold and other elements of winter, which is what I was advised to do.

Not walking back and forth to the gym will also help me deal with the fatigue I’ve repeatedly been told will be another side effect of the treatment. Working out at this time means it will be the first thing I’ll do after a (hopefully) good night’s sleep. Not having to walk to and from my office means that six blocks of physical energy will be saved. Plus, not having to deal with the cold during the walk means that my body won’t have to work as hard to stay warm.

Yes, this means I’ll have to get to bed early the night before and that (1) I won’t see much prime time television and (2) my Beautiful and Talented Wife (The BTW) will be the one who has to walk our dog before bed. But that’s why god created VCRs and The BTW has already volunteered to take over my last-walk-of-the-day duties with Gracie.

What I do during the workout will depend on my energy level on any given day. I got the dietician to admit that she cares more about me maintaining lean muscle mass than total pounds so training, especially weight-bearing exercises, will be important. If the fatigue level is high I will reduce the intensity of the workouts and some days may only stretch, but it will be good for me physically and mentally to keep coming to the gym so that’s what I’ll do unless my body tells me otherwise.

I’ll get back to my car before I have to start feeding the meters at 7 a.m. and drive directly to the hospital. That will take about 15 minutes so I’ll be able to get something to eat before the treatment begins at 8:15 a.m. I should be back in the car and driving to my office by 8:45 a.m. and be at my desk close to 9 a.m.

The only exceptions will be on Mondays, when I’ll be meeting with the radiation oncologist’s resident after treatment to review my progress, and on Wednesdays, when I meet with the oncologist himself.

This is a continuing series of blog posts by Stan Collender about his experience fighting cancer. “The Process” Stan is describing began last August.

Grief and Healing: Will I Ever Recover?
I am super, super particular about language.

The wrong word choice grates on me, even in the best of times.

So when I was first widowed, hearing words like recovery and healing really bothered me.

Healing sounded ridiculous. Exactly what was going to improve?

Within a month after my partner drowned, people began to ask me if I was “feeling better.” I kept my answer largely to myself, but in my head, I screamed “I didn’t have a stomachache. A little rest and some ginger ale is not going to make me all better!”

“Getting better” was not on the list of possibilities.

How can you heal when the one you love is still dead?

Honestly. A loss of this magnitude is not something you simply recover from.

Recovery, as defined in the dictionary, means to restore oneself to a normal state, to regain what was lost, or to be compensated for what was taken. I hear from a lot of people grieving the loss of a child, or grieving the loss of their best friend and partner, grieving someone who should have had 20, 30, 80 more years. The whole context of healing and recovery is just plain strange in this kind of grief.

That hole torn in the universe will not just close back up so that you can go back to normal. No matter what happens next in your life, it will never be adequate compensation. The person you lost can’t come back. That loss can’t be regained.

By definition then, there is absolutely no point in time when you will “recover” from such a loss.

And that makes it tricky. If there is no “healing” in terms of being as good as new, if we can’t “recover” any more than someone who has lost their legs can simply will them to grow back, how do we go on?

What could getting better possibly look like in this case?

I think it depends on who does the asking.

For me, any outside source or force asking me when I’ll get better is going to be met with irritation. But if I do the asking, if I wonder — for myself — what healing or recovery might look like, then it becomes a very different question.

If you are very, very new to this grief, this may not be the time to even wonder about healing. But if it feels right to gently question, asking yourself about your own healing can be a genuine act of love and kindness:

Given that what I’ve lost cannot be restored, given that what was taken cannot be returned, what would healing look like?

What would it take for me to live this life well?

There certainly aren’t easy answers to these questions. The answers themselves may change over time. But wondering about your own path forward is a gift you can give yourself.

It starts when you ask yourself: If I can’t recover, what would healing really be?

If you are so inclined, share your thoughts on healing in the comments. If you’re completely stuck as to how to even begin answering, get in touch: we can mess around with the question, and see what might feel true.


Megan Devine is writer, grief advocate, and clinical counselor. You can schedule a free 30 minute phone call to talk about your grief by clicking here to choose a time on her calendar. Megan is the author of the audio program When Everything is Not Okay: Practical Tools to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind. You can find this and other resources on her website, www.refugeingrief.com.

Because You Feel Sad Doesn’t Mean You Have to Be Sad
Mindfulness check! What liberation, to become aware of our own mind. With all the recent attention on mindfulness, we are getting better at being able to watch our minds in action, notice the thoughts it generates, the stories it tells us. We are starting to understand that it is simply the nature of the mind to fire thoughts, randomly and ceaselessly, whether we want to hear them or not. The fact that this happens is not our failing, just the nature of the beast called mind. So, too, we are starting to realize that thoughts don’t necessarily contain the truth… or even anything particularly interesting.

Thoughts may not always be true, but emotion — now that’s an entirely different thing (or so we think)! Emotions must be taken very seriously. Emotions arise out of our lived experience, and thus must contain some fundamental element of truth. When we start observing our emotions however, we realize that emotions fire almost as randomly as the chatter we call thoughts. One moment we are flooded with icky feelings, suddenly back in a story from middle school. The next moment the channel changes and a new movie plays. For no reason, we find ourselves in a tsunami of bliss as the image of summer camp wafts into consciousness.

Emotions follow thoughts and are made of thought stories (that we believe) about whatever experience we are reliving or imagining. Our emotions are made of bundles of thoughts, and contain the truth that our thoughts have written. We relate to our feelings as fixed and entirely trustworthy entities, and yet, like weather moving through the sky, our feelings are often as unreliable and changeable as everything else our mind puts out. When we stop romanticizing our emotions, as fundamental truths that arise out of the all-knowing heart, we can notice them as another byproduct of our wild and temperamental minds.

Further complicating our ability to put our feelings in front of the witness, we believe that our emotions are fundamental to who we are. We think that if we feel sad, we are sad, if we feel unworthy, we are unworthy, and so on. The combination of our belief in the truth of our feelings along with our propensity to identify with them, makes emotion the hardest aspect of the mind to become mindful of, the trickiest play of the mind to get behind and see clearly.

In order to be mindful of our emotions, some part of us must have the ability to watch our feelings, be with our feelings, and feel for them, all without actually becoming them. Can we relate with our sadness without feeling entirely sad, be with our sense of unworthiness from a place that doesn’t share the unworthiness? This would imply that some part of us could remain separate from and larger than even our strongest emotions. You might ask, If I am not made of my emotions, then what am I made of? Yes, maybe I am not made of my thoughts, but how could I possibly not be what I feel? What else if more fundamental to me?

The process of gaining perspective on or unsticking from our emotions is further complicated by the fact that we are emotionally attached to our emotions. As a friend described, My feelings contain a piece of my heart. I feel like my feelings are my children, I guess I love them in some way. Noticing our emotions would mean that we would have to let go of them just a little bit, at least enough to be able to be with them. Being with our feelings can feel like we are abandoning our children, severing the merger between us and them. Indeed, this sense of loss can present a real challenge.

In truth however, we can best serve our strongest emotions by offering them our own kindness and compassion, and loosening our stranglehold on them (and thus theirs on us). In order to bring true comfort to painful feelings we have to be the larger parent to the wounded-ness in us, to be with our feelings, but not of them. We experience a deep sense of relief as we create a little bit of space between us and our feelings, allowing our feelings to absorb our company rather than our identity.

We want and need a separate grown up, a compassionate presence that can protect and lead us out of our suffering, even as our suffering is screaming for us to stay in it and as it. Sometimes, we need something or someone to represent a different possibility, to sit beside us and not be where we are. We can be that something or someone for ourselves. Our emotional pain, young as it often is, lacks the wisdom to know that we do indeed need to unstick from it a little bit, to be just to the side of it, in order to actually make it feel better. First, we must be mindful that such emotions are happening within our awareness, and second, we must bring our empathic company to that which we witness. Such company is a gift of kindness to ourselves, and not the abandonment that we mistakenly believe. This awareness is the more evolved wisdom that both blooms from and gives life to genuine wellbeing.

Mindfulness includes not just awareness of thought, but also awareness of our deepest emotions. At the farthest end, awareness can include even the very sense of the “I” who witnesses such phenomenon, but more on that later… Practice mindfulness — not only with your “What’s for dinner?” thoughts, but with the emotions that you feel most attached to and identified with. Ultimately, having some space between yourself and your feelings liberates you from the deepest bondage of the mind. The good news is that you can in fact feel your feelings, the energy that they contain, without actually having to be them or be swallowed by them.

From “Inviting a Monkey to Tea” by Nancy Colier (Hohm Press, 2012).

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