Chronic

A word about Chronic.

Post-concussion syndrome (or, whatever name they finally end up giving chronic concussion symptoms) is my first first-hand experience with chronic illness.

I’ve witnessed others go through chronic seasons, and as a marriage therapist I worked with a wonderful couple who had been in a relationship with chronic illness for at least 20 years.

I say “relationship” because they referred to the chronic illness as another member of their family.

They deeply loved each other and both longed for healing and for life to resume to the way it had been before Chronic joined their family.

I remember their deep sadness, grief, and anger over dreams deferred, trips cancelled, relationships broken, life dramatically altered.

In some ways, they had spent 20 years waiting for Chronic to move out.

They never intended to live that way, but it sort of crept up on them.

One of them had a health condition that could possibly change someday. Each day, there was still hope for healing, for a medical discovery, for things spontaneously to change. They read the success stories and hoped for the same.

For 20 years.

And they went through the ebbs and flows of hope and despair and everything in between.

For 20 years.

They asked and experientially answered questions like these:

Does embracing life as it is today mean that we have to give up our hopes, dreams, and expectations?

Wouldn’t it be easier to just give up hope and accept this as our lot in life?

Is it necessary to live in the tension that hope brings?

Is there a better way to live with Chronic?

I don’t have the “right” answers. Our family is only in Year 3 of our journey.

I will say that, at the end of each day, the decisions we face are actually quite similar to those you and everyone else does. Sure, the content might change a bit. But, in some ways, we’re the lucky ones.

We are facing our limitations, the frailty of life, and the challenge of living out the universal and paradoxical tension of Acceptance and Hope.

We’re learning how to live out the Serenity Prayer that was framed in my folks’ house…a message echoed in ten thousand other words and myriad messengers throughout the ages.

A message reminding us that, at our root, we are unchanging Awareness or whatever your belief system might call your unchanging state.

A message reminding us that the ever-changing flow of life moves through us and past us, just as the clouds move across the sky.

Yes, we can certainly attempt  to grab on to transient ideas, things, feelings, beliefs, and sensations. And some of us might even get to hold on longer than others. At some point, we fall into grace and realize that we already are and have what we’re looking for.

I’m not sure I really helped the couple I worked with. They expressed that they felt closer to one another, but they were still quite unsettled when they stopped working with me. They despised Chronic and insisted that he leave before they could enjoy life again. I don’t blame them a bit.

Chronic is not someone I would have invited into my home. But, Chronic is here, for now. And like every transient thing that arises in Life – in us – Chronic will pass away. Perhaps not until the body passes, but it will pass away…and it will leave that which is unchanging.

But what are we to while it stays? While the clouds of life hide the sun’s warmth from our skin and light from our eyes?

Hmmmm…

Consider this maxim: That which we welcome cannot bind us.

Another paradox.

If you doubt this maxim, do a quick check-in on those things that have you bitter, wound up, agitated, anxious, jealous, angry, possessive, envious, depressed, etc.

They are likely things you’re either trying to hold onto or get rid of: a feeling, an emotion, a relationship, a belief,  a reputation, a possession, a season of life.

Can we welcome the ever-changing flow of life to both come and go?

I am learning that an essential part of my growing and maturing in life is to welcome Chronic as I welcome all else that arises.

As I do, I can be guided by the wisdom that comes from this dual  “letting go” and “settling into” who and what I am and always will be.

Wisdom that shows up right here and right now.

Wisdom that leads to responsive action rather than resignation or fantisization.

Wisdom that leads to realization – a full awareness of what really is, not what we wish it to be or not to be.

This takes work. It takes discipline. It take openness. It takes practice. It takes community. And it takes practice in community.

My hope for us all is that, whatever our circumstances, we engage in the work to embrace life today, that we allow Life to live us as we learn to be fully present and fully alive.

 

Rehab and Restoration: A Story of Wholeness

A practice called Integrative Restoration (also known as iRest) saved and transformed my life. I recorded this off-the-cuff almost a year ago for a group of friends, leaders, businessmen, athletes, and family who were interested in the practice. It is my deeply personal and highly practical account of rehabilitating from brain damage, a process that continues to this day.

If you are in rehab, struggling in life, dealing with anxiety, sleep deficient, unable to focus/concentrate, or just want to live a more full, whole, joyful, loving, and happy life, I think you will greatly benefit from this podcast and the practice.

If you’re an athlete, the practices of iRest are highly relative and they will improve your productivity, perseverance, endurance, pain management, mental game, and overall experience.

As with anything, discipline is key. iRest is no exception.

During the podcast, you will hear me reference a prototype of the practice in which my initial audience participated. While that prototype is now over, my next goal is to host classes in the Boise area as soon as I am able to be more consistent with my health. The target date is this fall. Feel free to DM me if you’re interested.

In terms of my background, I have completed both the Level 1 and Level 2 iRest intensive trainings with Richard Miller (pictured) and am currently going through the Certification process, which feels a little like getting another Masters. I’m also a licensed therapist, but that’s a story for another day :).

Cheers!!

 

Dark Room Days

Yesterday was a dark room day.

One of those days when the medicine, meditation, and mindfulness can’t seem to make a dent in the sound sensitivity, loud ringing, disorientation, and migraine that are too often part of this post-concussion syndrome (PCS) era of life.

I started out with high hopes, endured as much as I could, and finally listened to the wisdom of the body, mind, emotions, and spirit. That meant making my way to a dark, quiet room in our house where my brain could rest and continue its healing.

The best way I can describe the sensation in my brain is that it is boiling or close to boiling during these troughs in the waves of PCS. Whenever there are competing noises, too much light, stressful events, etc., my brain moves into a full and rapid boil. My body temp rises, my eyes squint, my head throbs, my palms sweat, and I become extremely agitated.

I am by nature a push-through-it guy. I have an extremely high pain tolerance and it was a source of pride on our farm to endure pain and continue working no matter what. There have been seasons where I have actually enjoyed pain and my ability to take more of it than others. But I don’t want people to see me in pain, so I became great at acting like things didn’t hurt until I was alone.

I have always been able to push through. That has sometimes meant doing even more damage to my body, but I’ve been able to do it. I’ve been proud of that.

But we all know what happens when you turn up the temperature on a boiling pot and walk away. The liquid becomes a gas and eventually we even destroy the pot.

Pushing through with this brain injury ironically means extending the timeline for recovery, both short- and long-term. Boiling over is destructive. Pushing through, in this case, is destructive.

I have tried to push through. I have used anger and even rage to try to beat it into submission. I have gone into our back yard and destroyed things in these fits. I have destroyed a door frame in our basement. When I decide to push through, I turn up the temperature to an already boiling pot and the effects are devastating to all involved.

I simply cannot make this go away by trying harder or pushing through.

The way through is in.

It’s the hardest lesson I have ever had to learn. And I don’t really want to be learning it.

A key to health and healing is to learn how to “be”. If there is a pushing through, it is pushing through the ego’s tight grip of control to get to a place of peace and wholeness. Pushing through the messages the ego broadcasts to get to a place of stillness. Putting the ego in its helpful place.

Pushing through to being.

This is life for our family right now.

Not very sexy. Not a parade of success. Not the life I thought I’d be living almost two years after the most recent brain injury.

But I am living the life I can.

Not the life I want. Not the life I imagined. Not even the life I imagine others imagine for me.

But the life I can.

To the hilt.

To the fullest.

It’s not very Hollywood. It’s not attractive. It’s not very becoming. It might not look like a full life from the outside. This part of the script loses readers and viewers. It is mundane and slow and difficult. I’m looking for the fast-forward button.

However, one of my goals during this period of my life is to share the process of living a whole life in the midst of these difficult circumstances.

If Hollywood won’t show us, then I will.

For my sake. And for your sake and others’.

We as humans love success stories. We love stories about overcoming obstacles. About grit. About perseverance. And we especially like to read books/articles and watch movies about people’s struggles AFTER they have been victorious over those struggles. After the end of the story has already been written.

In real life, though, we’d rather that the “strugglers” go away during the messiness. And then show back up to our show when they get their act together. At the very least, we like them to keep relatively quiet.

“Don’t ruin a perfectly great time for the rest of us. Surely you’re over that by now!”

Chronic illnesses are inconvenient for everyone.

They are like having an unwanted new member of the family. One that gets in the way. One that we all wish would just pack its bags and leave or at least be agreeable and stop messing with our plans.

There are many times that I have wanted to act like these dark days don’t exist. Most people outside of our immediate family don’t really have to feel their effects.

A select few friends have had the wherewithal and grace and patience to enter into the muck. To be by my side when it’s unpleasant. When I’m unpleasant. When I’m hard to be friends with. When I don’t know how to help them be helpful. They’re persistent in their pursuit of me, they are not easily offended, they hold no strings, they simply love me as I am. I cannot express how important they are.

I am the luckiest man in the world to even have one such friend. But I have numerous.

There are many who don’t know what to do or how to help. They stand on the edges. They want to help and they genuinely love and care for me and my family. I so appreciate this group. Their thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.

Other folks are waiting on the outside for this part of the story to be over. Waiting for a celebration. I greatly appreciate them, too. They’re holding a light up at the end of the tunnel.

I need them all. I need you all. And you need me.

You need me to show up when I can’t show off, especially when I’m bringing my mess to the table. When it’s difficult for me. And perhaps for you. To show up even when I’m in a dark room like today. Writing and sharing life in these moments – like this – is one way I can do so.

Grit. Perseverance. Courage. These are present-centered qualities. They are not lofty ideals that we can absorb during an ESPN 30for30 and a bowl of popcorn. They won’t grow in us, regardless of how many times we watch Rudy.

They develop as we live the life we can. Right here. Right now. Fully present. Fully alive. Awakened. Engaged.

You don’t have to be pretty to show up to life. You just have to be willing.

Willing to be. Willing to stop acting in the pretending sense of that word. Willing to stop trying to live the ideal life or someone else’s version of your life or what you think their ideal version of your life is.

Willing to be a human being who does. Being is never devoid of action. But it is action centered in wholeness, not action to achieve wholeness.

I think we sometimes have this idea that we’ll show back up when we overcome. That can be an inner voice, or it may be the real voices of folks who would like you to stop talking about your life until you’re better.

But overcoming isn’t a final product.

Overcoming is a moment to moment process.

I understand there is a fine line between complaining and showing up.

The former involves an external locus of control and the wishing for things to be different. It leads to misery and isolation.

The latter involves welcoming life, engaging with it, and living out the life you can as best you can. It leads to peace and wholeness and joy and love and gratitude, no matter what.

Yesterday, I overcame my fear of what others might think when I listened to my body and walked out of a setting where my leaving was obvious.

I really didn’t like doing that. I didn’t want to create a scene or offend anyone. I wanted to turn the boiling back into at least a simmer. But as I listened to my symptoms, as I meditated, as I breathed, as I used the practices of mindfulness, the message was, “It’s okay to leave. It’s time to leave.”

For me, taking care of myself before the symptoms were completely out of hand (and thus last for many more days) – that was a moment of overcoming.

On the outside, perhaps to others or out of context, leaving may have looked like a step backward, a failure. In reality, it was a moment of living the life I can, a moment of grit, courage, and withitness. A moment of listening and responding with right action.

So, today, don’t let others’ expectations or even your own keep you in a land of living some idealized fantasy life, which is not really living at all. It’s a show. It’s pretend.

Show up today even when you can’t show off.

Show up on social media when you don’t have it all together. Meet that fantasy head-on and let it fade out as reality comes into focus.

Let your actions rise up from being all here, all now.

Live the life you can, awakened and engaged.

It may not be pretty on the outside, but it will be real and authentic.

You will be filled with a sense of groundedness and well-being that have their roots in the integrity that awaits our attention and corresponding action.

And you will revel in the peace and wholeness that you will find right here, right now. No matter the circumstances.

May you have a wonder-filled day, fully present and fully alive.

 

 

 

Falling into Foundness

Life is only unbearable when we demand it change. In case you missed it, I blew out my knee last Thursday. A bad blowout. The kind where you tear ligaments and cartilage.

And now a harsh reality is setting in as it is becoming hard even to walk or stand without a lot of pain. Waves of disappointment and discouragement wash over me as I come to grips with the recovery road that is ahead and all the “life” I’m missing and am going to miss. Again. I’ve been down this road.

I start to get really angry and I push too hard and I ignore the pain and I make it worse.

I wonder how I’m going to ride 🚴🏾100 miles in #rebeccasprivateidaho in less than two weeks?? I begin to replay the accident and I agonize over what I could have done to prevent it. I imagine a different life.

I look forward. I look backward.

I tell myself a story that doesn’t really exist. I concentrate on the physical pain. I let it consume me for a bit by wishing it would just go away.

In short, I create a lot of suffering by resisting life.

And I miss out on the wholeness, fulness, peace, joy, love, and power of the moment.

Ever been there? Ever wish life were a little different? Ever get caught up in the stories (past and future) that keep you from the present?

There are a lot of things I wouldn’t have chosen over the past two years. Multiple concussions. This post-concussion syndrome ongoing nightmare. Broken arm. And now this knee.

I imagine you have (or will someday) your own list.

Can I be with life, though?

Can I engage fully in life even though it’s not going as planned?

Can I welcome the messengers of pain and respond out of wholeness?

Can I be thankful and grateful without disowning the reality of the struggle?

Can I be compassionate to myself?

Can I extend grace to myself?

Can I be here, now?

Can I welcome the peace, wholeness, fulness, joy, and love that are always present, no matter the circumstances?

With each breath, the answer to each question can be, “Yes.”

We can learn to be with life. There are practices that help us do so. And, not unexpectedly, these practices require focus and discipline.

As we learn to be with our breath, with our bodies, with our emotions, with our cognitions, we begin to be informed by them and not controlled by them.

We learn how to listen.

We learn to stop trying to control life or dictate the way that it goes.

We learn how to be.

We learn how to respond to life with right action.

We learn how to be human beings who do.

Life doesn’t have to change one iota in order for us to find what we are looking for.

We are already found.

Falling into our “foundness” is one of the profound lessons that pain, disappointment, and the hard knocks of life are ready to teach.

In our brokenness, we find ourselves resting on solid ground. We find wholeness and fulness.

We experience the unchanging awareness in which the ever-changing flow of our lives arises.

We enter love and become love to ourselves and others.

A great paradox? Yes.

A wonderful truth? Also, yes.

As Hafiz says,

This

Sky

Where we live

Is no place to lose your wings

So love, love,

Love.

With each breath today, may you awaken to life and engage with love.

Fully present. Fully alive.