Wheelchair Wisdom: Stop the Busyness and Smell the Roses

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Wheelchair Wisdom: Stop the Busyness and Smell the Roses
“When you ask creative people how they did something,
They feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it; they just saw something.
It seemed obvious to them after a while.
That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had
and synthesize new things.” — Steve Jobs

Imagine stumbling upon the Garden of Eden in an abandoned warehouse. That’s what it was like for me entering the Philadelphia Flower Show.

It was March, and outside, the skies were gray, the trees leafless. The bite of a brutal East Coast winter was still in the air. In the Civic Center, the world was transformed into a haven of outrageously flamboyant color. And the fragrance! It was almost overwhelming — a fantasy landscape where every flower, every vine, every leaf was enjoying the fullness of a conjured springtime.

I vividly recall my scooter, too. It was clunky and huge (not at all like the one I have today — which is a fashionable, sleek, metallic-green model), but I could steer it and maneuver it with very little assistance. Which meant it was good enough for me. Some months before, I’d taken this scooter on a very significant “trial run” on Peace Prayer Day, “day of prayer for world peace” event I attended at the U.N. General Assembly Hall in New York City.

It was at this event that I realized, for the first time, that people were not staring at me. They did not pay any attention at all to my scooter. What they saw instead was a woman of courage, inner strength, and dignity. My spirits soared! I participated in the U.N. event with a feeling of complete freedom, as if the machine that toted me around did not even exist. And now, here, at the Flower Show, I was hoping that once again I would be able to enjoy the feeling of utter liberation that I had experienced once before.

So much in life seems to change — does change — when anyone, man or woman, aging adult or handicapped child, becomes wheelchair bound. That designation in itself, “wheelchair bound,” speaks volumes. The wheelchair binds us. It becomes our sole means of transport, the wheels we rely on for motion, the position from which we see the world. Even though the wheelchair provides mobility, we immediately begin to think of ourselves as held back by its limitations.

That, at least, had been my first experience of life in a wheelchair. I had raged against its confinement, cursed the illness that forced me onto its wheels. I had regarded the wheelchair as an enemy. It had affected not only my self-perception but all my relationships. People stared at it, or tried hard not to stare at it — yet transmitted, with their averted glances, the pain of embarrassment and the fear of contagion-by-association. I had felt as if they would never be able to see my identity apart from my wheelchair.

Everywhere I went, it seemed, my wheelchair presented as many problems as it solved. It couldn’t climb stairs. It couldn’t get through doorways that “normal” people could stride through without a second thought. My wheelchair needed ramps, electric doors, the constant attention of a friend, a family member, a caregiver, my husband Michael, or the spontaneous assistance of kind strangers. I was part of my wheelchair, and my wheelchair part of me. It had become a constant reminder of entrapment, of my differentness.

And yet…

Something very important had happened when I attended the U.N. event in that clunky scooter. It seemingly disappeared from under me. Yes, I was still the same seated figure moving through a crowd in a motor-powered vehicle. Yes, all my physical limitations were just as they had been previously. But my mind, my soul, and my feelings became liberated. I was free, and totally caught up in the experience of joining in a cause I believed in, as an equal among all those who surrounded me.

Now, as Michael and I rode the elevator down to the floor of the Flower Show, I wondered whether I could have that feeling again. In the years before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I had always excitedly anticipated the Flower Show. I loved the thrilling profusion of blossoms and the palette of infinite colors that greeted the visitor descending from a March landscape of beiges and grays. But that experience was in the past, before the diagnosis, before the wheelchair, before I had allowed my identity to change from “normal” to “handicapped.” Could I reclaim the sense of freedom I had felt in the years before the beginning of life in a wheelchair — the freedom I had tasted once again, so briefly, at that U.N. occasion? Would I be able to forget the machine that allowed my movements and, instead, let my heart, my soul, and my imagination be absorbed by the visions of springtime that would surround me at the flower show?

Could I just be Linda and not Linda-in-a-wheelchair?

And yes, it did happen! I forgot about my scooter. It wasn’t part of me. I forgot about my illness. It wasn’t me, either. I was simply there, relishing the present moment.

Expand yourself into the freedom and beauty that is Spring,


I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment below; or drop me an email.

JOIN MY E-MAIL MAILING LIST by sending your name and email address to: lnobletopf@comcast.net; or visit my Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/WheelchairWisdom

CONTACT Linda as a life coach for practical spiritual counseling. Visit http://www.wheelchairwisdom.com for more information.

SCHEDULE Linda for a speaking engagement, please contact BigSpeak at 805-965-1400.

Reframe illness or any adversity by applying a few simple steps that may transform your life. Order Linda’s book, You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge on Amazon.com.

Linda Noble Topf is author of You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Wheelchair Wisdom: Awaken Your Spirit Through Adversity, will be published in 2014 by Berrett-Koehler & iUniverse.

How to Change Your Life and Change the World (By Living Boldly, Confidently and Fearlessly)
Fearless women come in all shapes, forms, ages, and professions. As Shakespeare put it, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. Rather, it’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down. The more comfortable we are with the possibility of falling down, the less worried we are of what people will think if and when we do, the less judgmental of ourselves we are every time we make a mistake, the more fearless we will be, and the easier our journey will become.

The preceding words come from Arianna Huffington’s book, On Becoming Fearless in Love, Work and Life and its following Meditation Program. Her purpose in writing the book was to encourage women to live boldly, to speak up and to ask for what they want without fear of disapproval, rejection or the opinions of others.

In the first chapter, Arianna recounted how her mother taught her how to be fearless by simply living her life fully and fearlessly each day. From her frightening experience with the Greek Red Cross, telling soldiers to put down their raised guns, to raising and providing for two daughters as a single mother, she taught her children how to live life free from fear. As a powerful, outspoken woman, Arianna has faced fears of rejection, of disapproval and of public criticism throughout her life. And yet, she has emerged as a powerful presence and bold example to so many women from all walks of life across the globe as a leader and voice for fearlessness in their daily lives.

In order to live the kind of life she wanted to pass down to her daughters, Arianna said she had to learn to live boldly, in spite of other people’s opinions. Had she listened to the negativity, she probably would not have run for office. Had she listened to the skeptic voice of so many, The Huffington Post may not have been launched. She had to learn to overcome fears in order to make a difference in the world. She writes, “I accomplished this by learning to connect with the still center within myself, that secure and persistent structure of inner support.” Meditation proved to be the perfect vehicle to make that connection. Now, as life’s challenges appear, Arianna views them as opportunities to practice her own fearlessness.

Now she is ready to share her valuable insights with you. I want to invite you to join Arianna Huffington and a global community of like-minded people on what will be a life-transforming journey into fearless living, beginning Monday, March 31, in collaboration with Mentors Channel. She will be presenting “On Becoming Fearless, a 21 Day Meditation Journey,” based on her book On Becoming Fearless in Love, Work and Life.

In this important series, you will be given a roadmap to:

Gain more self-confidence
Learn to ask for what you want and believe in,
Become assertive in love
Let go of fear of opinions or judgments from others, drawing upon your inner strength and perfection
Plus so much more

Along with her long-time friend, Emmy award-winning actress Leigh Taylor-Young, Arianna will give simple steps for achieving fearlessness in every aspect of your life. She will outline the ways fearlessness can radically and positively affect your everyday living, and offer you the way out of the darkness of fear and into the light of a fearless life — the life that everyone of us was meant to live each and every day.

In Arianna’s words, “We have so much potential; yet we hold ourselves back. If my daughters, and women of all ages, are to take their rightful place in society, they must become fearless. This (program) is dedicated to them and to that goal.”

We are very proud of this FREE series and encourage you to connect with thousands of meditators around the world on this journey. As the famous Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall and falling, they’re given wings.” You were born with wings. It’s time to spread those wings, to use them to soar over any darkness from the past, to release present fears and become the empowered, fearless person you were always destined to be. Join today and let one of the most fearless women in today’s world, show you how.

Register at: www.mentorschannel.com.

Destined to Stereotype? How the Mind’s Gift for Grouping Gets Us Into Trouble
With each encounter in our lives, we categorize. It’s a survival skill that allows our brains to make sense of an endless flow of data. Without it, we would have to puzzle out the meaning of each person and object individually rather than, say, assigning that speeding car to the “reckless driver” category and getting out of its way.

But this ability, and the ease and unconsciousness with which we do it, can lead us to distorted perceptions, sometimes with results harmful to others and ourselves. For example, research has shown that items or people placed in a group are perceived as more alike than they really are — and as more different from other groups than they really are. The fine details are overlooked in favor of the easier-to-process generality. It’s a recipe for stereotypes. “When we categorize, we polarize,” notes author and theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow in his book Subliminal.

This may be especially problematic for those struggling with addictions and mental health problems, who may need help but are reluctant to place themselves in the category of “addicted” or “mentally ill” because of often negative social perceptions (their own included) about what this means. They may also fear being seen as an issue rather than an individual.

A recent U.K. study of more than 90,000 participants in the U.S. and Europe noted that stigma is a key factor preventing people from seeking the help they need. “The profound reluctance to be ‘a mental health patient’ means people will put off seeing a doctor for months, years, or even at all, which in turn delays their recovery,” said study senior author Graham Thornicroft, a professor at King’s College London.

While we can’t turn off our brain’s natural tendency to lump people and things together, we can understand and help influence the meaning we assign to those categories and to push ourselves to think beyond the stereotype. But it takes effort.

The first step is in understanding how — and how easily — our mind creates and maintains categories.

The Sorting Brain
Researchers believe the brain’s prefrontal cortex holds the neurons that respond to categories. When we observe a person or an object, we latch on to a few overt details and then use that information to assign that person or thing to a place in our mental library of categories. For example, we see a man in a uniform throw a ball and we assign him to the category of “athlete.” If we don’t have the time or opportunity to interact more, this generality is all we will know. And how we feel about athletes — arrived at through our own experiences and connections with the world, some conscious, some not — will shape our perception of him.

For example, if we love the excitement and physicality of sports, we may assign “good” values to athletes. But for someone who has seen organized sports monopolize family time and take school funding away from other electives, “athlete” may have another value altogether.

This categorization process seems effortless to us, but it is actually a highly sophisticated skill. To put it in perspective, any child can recognize that an apple and a banana are both fruit, but scientists have only recently been able to create a computer vision system that can successfully distinguish cats from dogs.

What would we be like without the ability to do this mental shorthand? In the 1980s, scientists studied a stroke victim who seemed cognitively fine except for one thing: He could no longer categorize. If shown a picture of two different trains, for example, he could not recognize the connection between them. Daily tasks, even something as simple as setting the table, were beyond him.

Categorization is what allows us to group individual letters into sentences, to recognize the person with the menu as a waiter, to understand that the items in the pantry are food. In short, categorization helps us understand our world.

Uncovering Our Bias
Being able to categorize keeps us speeding along mentally, but it also means we run the risk of making our assessments based on categories rather than on the objects themselves.

When people are the ones being categorized, the effect can be profound. We may think we judge people as individuals and without bias, but if we don’t have the time, opportunity or inclination to get to know them well, we turn to their social category for our understanding of them, sometimes without even knowing it. It can lead to unwarranted assumptions, both negative and positive.

In 1998, a group of three researchers created the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which has become a standard tool in social psychology for gauging the degree of stereotyping behind categories. In one test, for example, participants are shown men’s and women’s names along with science and arts terms, and told to pick “hello” when shown an art term or a woman’s name, and “goodbye” when shown a man’s name or a science term. Most find that easy enough. But when grouping is switched and participants are asked to choose “hello” when a woman’s name or a science term appears, and “goodbye” when an art term or a man’s name appears, they find it more difficult. Why? A bias toward connecting men with science and women with the arts is revealed, often to the surprise of the person being tested. Ask yourself: When you think of a physicist and a piano teacher, what sex do you assign them?

The IAT researchers later created a non-profit called Project Implicit, which provides a platform for the investigation of thoughts and feelings that exist outside of conscious awareness or conscious control. Among the research is the examination of implicit associations regarding mental health, including self-esteem, anxiety, alcohol use, eating disorders, depression and more. Visitors to the Project Implicit site can even gauge their own hidden biases through online tests, choosing from topics such as, “Do you implicitly favor medication or talk therapy?” “Do you implicitly feel eating high-fat food is shameful?” and “Do you implicitly think people with mental illnesses are dangerous?”

Unconscious bias is being recognized more and more as scientists come to discover how large a role unconscious thinking plays in our lives. As author Mlodinow notes in Subliminal, we read consciousness into all of our actions, but the reality is that many processes of perception, memory, attention, learning and judgment are in parts of the brain that are off limits to the conscious mind.

The good news is that simply learning about a previously hidden bias can help us overcome it. In one Project Implicit study, a group of researchers used brief versions of an Implicit Assessment Test to uncover negative feelings the participants had about people with mental illnesses. Some participants received personalized feedback about their test results; others did not. In all cases, simply allowing the participants to experience that there was a difference between what they knew they should feel and what they did feel toward people with mental illness was enough to reduce stigma-relevant attitudes. And the effect was greatest for those who started out with the strongest bias.

Eliminating the Negative
Trying not to categorize in the first place may seem like a good goal, but it’s not a solution. Our brains simply can’t help themselves; they must categorize or grind to a halt. But we can recognize that we have the power to understand a person beyond a category and to influence what those categories mean.

But perhaps the strongest weapon at our disposal in the quest to reduce biased thinking is simply knowing someone within a category. That knowledge can easily dispel any stereotype and any negative feeling. It’s why the category of “addict,” for example, can take on an entirely new meaning when someone we love has been assigned to it.

David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of mental health and addiction treatment centers that includes a recovery ranch in Tennessee, Promises Treatment Centers, and The Recovery Place.

Subliminal hypnosis: sports hypnosis, weight loss hypnosis, mental health hypnosis, and 40 different topics hypnosis at Amazon.com, full catalog    http://amzn.to/VGoe0Y photo 2163_zps044fb03b.jpg


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