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!!

 

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.

 

 

 

“It’s Your Move” and other BS We Tell Ourselves about Broken Frienships

I’m not Catholic, but I’m retreating at a Benedictine Monastery. This is my 4th retreat at a monastery and I’m hooked.

St. Gertrude’s is particularly special. It overlooks the Camas Prairie with mountain ranges rising up on the horizon. Behind the retreat center is a forest playground where you can meander and explore for hours in solitude. At the top of the hill on the SE side, the forest gives way to flower-filled, verdant meadows. And the views – well, they’re simply stunning this time of year.

I retreat for the silence, to listen, to dream, to write, to listen some more, to grapple, to struggle, to doubt, to learn, to listen some more, and to leave pretty much exhausted.

I used to feel the pressure to return home full of energy, but I usually sleep poorly on retreats. The silence – extended over days – awakens me to messages that have been trying to grab my attention and get me to listen for a long time.

Yesterday, on my daily walk to the “summit,” I heard myself say, “No, it’s your move.”

I mean, I really said it out loud and I was alone.

Ever spontaneously talk to yourself?

Usually, this happens when something really wants our attention.

I stopped in my tracks and noticed.

Noticed my stomach was in knots. My throat was tight. I was short-breathing and holding my inhalations. And I was thinking about a friend I have not heard from in almost a year.

Gulp.

A friend I used to meet with weekly. A friend I trusted. A friend I laughed deeply with. A friend I cried with. A dear friend.

On my walk through the forest, I had been ruminating (in the background of my mind) on the loss of our friendship when, “No. It’s your move” rose to the surface and just came out of my mouth and into my awareness.

I spent the next 15 minutes talking myself through why it is my friend’s move. I had a lot of great reasons. A very impressive and convincing list of why he should be the first to reengage our friendship.

As my former colleague Kenyatta would say, “That’s some bullshit right there!”

Be quiet, Kenyatta.

Because I don’t have anything to apologize for. I feel like he went away long before our last meeting. I feel like he was my friend as long as I agreed with his way of looking at the world and when I didn’t see things his way, I wasn’t of use anymore. I feel discarded.

That’s right.

It’s his move!

Again, “That’s some bullshit right there.”

And I know that’s a crass way to say it, but it’s true and it’s what came to the surface.

I used a quote by Richard Miller to frame the last podcast “Human Beings Do.” I think it’s fitting for this discussion as well.

Here it is:

Opening up awareness allows us to feel as though we are putting a tablespoon of salt in the ocean rather than in a small cup of tea.

“It’s your move,” is a small cup of tea way to live life.

In this instance, it’s living scared. Afraid of being overwhelmed by that tablespoon of salt. Afraid of rejection. Of things going sideways.

(And, by all means, do not take this to mean that any of us should put ourselves in a place to be physically, emotionally, verbally, or otherwise abused.)

But, that’s not what this is.

And we’re not cups of tea, are we?

We are oceans, my friends.

And since I had yet written an article and recorded a podcast about nurturing our being, I stood there in the forest and dove into the ocean.

You see, my friend comes up in my awareness multiple times a week. Like a consistent knock on the door.

Now, I’m as good of a rationalizer as the rest of you out there – maybe even better than most.

But in the extended silence of this retreat where the noise is diminished and my intention is to be awake, alert, and alive – well, it’s time to face reality, to open the door, to respond to those messages.

We always have the right response to every situation.

Did you know that?

We always know what to do. In our being is the wisdom we need for life.

We can, however, push that wisdom down, turn up the noise, and try to avoid that wisdom or fight it and silence it.

But wisdom remains. Right action is still available.

We are always able to be fully present and fully alive.

As we nurture being, as we move beyond a cup of tea sense of being and into ocean-sense being, we are able to meet reality on its own terms.

Another word for this is “confession.”

It literally means “to speak the same” or to agree with. I agree with reality. I speak the same. We are in alignment.

On the trail yesterday, I came face-to-face with my fighting of reality. My, “No, that’s not the way it is. It’s not that big of a deal. Anyway, it’s his move.”

But as I came into agreement with reality, I noticed that a strong sense of sadness and hurt and some anger are present. I say, “are,” because I can feel these emotions even now.

I have been acting like I wasn’t hurt ever since a conversation with my friend in which I felt he disregarded and discredited my experience. I distanced from him and felt him do the same. Our next meeting was business-like, and when he got up to leave, he told me, “Maybe we can get together again sometime.” Sometime? That’s not how it was with us. More hurt. More distance. I needed him to be there at that time in my life, to be happy for the brain recovery that had happened, to be with me. We had one more meeting after that and based on the content I thought he would surely follow up with me. That was 10 months ago.

As I write this and process this and agree with reality, I notice that the tension in my body has given away to an ache in my heart area, my breathing is deep, and tears roll down my cheeks. I miss my friend.

And so the wisdom in this moment of authenticity – of coming into agreement with reality – is pointing to right action, to an appropriate response that I have known for, let’s see, the last 10 months 😃!

It’s my move. It’s my opportunity to give my friend a chance to respond. To share my heart with him. To open up in vulnerability. To come into the clearing, into the meadow. To hear his heart and how I have likely hurt him. And to offer him my own response.

From nurturing being, we realize that we are an ocean and that even a tablespoon of rejection, or fear, or whatever it is, cannot and will not overwhelm us.

We do not have to numb ourselves. We will still feel the spectrum of life’s emotions, but these happen in a place that is whole – a place of unchanging awareness.

A decade ago, sitting at a Chili’s at Chicago O’Hare with my friend and colleague Fred Cogswell, he shared with me some of the most revolutionary and meangiful words I have ever had spoken into my life.

We were talking about estranged relationships, particularly those between fathers and sons.

He said, “We cannot fully live unless we embrace vulnerability.”

Hmmm…

Yes. It’s my move.

Right action is easy and titilatting to talk about, but not so easy to do. I know that I need to reach out, but a wave of fear comes with such plans.

What if he snubs me? What if he doesn’t even want to be my friend anymore? What if he uses this vulnerable space as a way to hurt me and get me back? What if he doesn’t care? What if he thinks I’m weak and insecure?

These fears are about me. They are unfounded in our relationship. They are not representative of my friend. They are my fears.

And they are wrapped up in a defensive posture in my body. As I listed them, my fists were clenched, jaw tight, mouth and lips set, eyes narrowed.

Cup of tea.

Back to nurturing being.

This doesn’t stop, friends. The ocean is where we belong, where we truly reside, but we tend to come back to the cup of tea mentality.

The practice of living out our wholeness, of being fully present and fully alive is a lifetime practice.

I’m just getting started.

Having had PTSD twice in my life and multiple traumatic brain injuries, the road is slow-going at times, the fears more provocative, the world a seemingly more dangerous place.

It guts me to do this kind of stuff.

I’ll bet you can relate at least a little.

But the more I practice, the deeper my connection to that unchanging awareness in which being resides.

The ocean.

Yes. It’s my move.

And so I just sent a text to my friend because I don’t have phone reception.

Now is the time. Here is the text:

“Hello, my friend. Perhaps we can get together this next week? I think often of you and am weary of the distance I feel (real or imagined) between us. Wisdom says to my heart that our friendship goes deep and that I should not give up on it so easily. I look forward to talking, sharing, laughing, healing, and being together.”

Gulp again.

As Brene Brown – the acclaimed vulnerability researcher, author, and speaker – has said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”

Damn. She nailed it.

I’m standing in the clearing now, friends. Feeling the flow of life arise with its fear and doubts, but also its hope and peace and love and joy and kindness and wholeness. They’re all present right now. Flowing through.

I will leave you with a very fitting poem by my buddy, Hafiz, titled “The Warrior.”

The Warrior

The warriors tame
The beasts in their past
So that the night’s hooves
Can no longer break the jeweled vision
In the heart.

The intelligent and the brave
Open every closet in the future and evict
All the mind’s ghosts who have the bad habit
Of barfing everywhere.

For a long time the Universe
Has been germinating in your spine

But only a Pir* has the talent,
The courage to slay
The past-giant, the future anxieties.

The warrior
Wisely sits in a circle
With other men
Gathering the strength to unmask
Himself,

Then
Sits, giving,
Like a great illumined planet on
The
Earth.

I need those words right now.

Warrior up, my friends. Or, WTFU in Hardwick speak.

May you have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.

Human Beings Do

How do I respond to the pain and suffering of others?

This morning, I was reading about the recent Isis attacks in the Philippines. Over 200,000 people have fled from one city after Isis began killing people and burning and bombing homes, businesses, and even a university.

After reading some of the article and seeing a photo of nine villagers lying dead in a field after they had had their hands tied and being shot, I realized that I had stopped breathing some time ago. My muscles were tight. My jaw clenched. My stomach was in knots. I felt terrible.

So, I closed the article and tried to move on with my day and my “retreat.” I’m usually pretty adept at doing this – diverting my attention away from the uncomfortable, away from pain and suffering, and toward something that I feel like I have a little bit of control over.

I have this fear that pain and suffering will overwhelm me and so I must turn my eyes away, turn my attention away, lest I be flooded and drowned and suffocated and overtaken.

I don’t imagine that I’m the only one of us who has this response.

However, I am learning in this season, when there have been no adequate escapes from the pain and trials of my traumatic brain injuries, that such fears and my maladaptive responses to them likely come from not knowing who I really am.

What do I mean by this?

At a recent training I attended, Richard Miller said,

Opening up awareness allows us to feel as though we are putting a tablespoon of salt in the ocean rather than in a small cup of tea.”

Hmmm…

And, wow!

Rings true, doesn’t it?

You know what a sugar dispenser looks like at a diner, right?

You know, before packets, when we put sugar in a glass jar with a metal lid that had a little opening covered by that smaller piece of metal that was always getting hung up on the hinges.

Remember those?

From the beginning of time, everyone put sugar in that specific dispenser.

Except for my mom!

While I was away at college, she bought one of those dispensers and filled it with salt. 20 years later, I’m still putting at least a tablespoon of salt in my morning coffee when I visit! 🙂

It’s overwhelming. I can’t drink it. It ruins everything!! 😉

That’s kind of how it feels to engage with suffering when we are closed off to who we truly are, when we view ourselves as isolated, as contained and confined by our bodies, as governed by our minds, as in control.

That, my friends, can be a small, fearful, controlling, disengaged, and unpleasant way for us to view ourselves and live our lives.

We will have a strong desire to try to avoid the unexpected, we will try to avoid the unpleasant, we will try to avoid all pain and suffering if we live lives in which we think of ourselves in a cup of tea sort of way.

I think that many of us have forgotten who we are.

If you’re of the Lion King generation, it’s impossible to write and say that line without conjuring up the voice of James Earl Jones.

But back to the point.

Pain and suffering remind us of something we have forgotten.

When we see others in pain, it can feel overwhelming because we know that it matters and that we should care. Rather, we do care, but we may not know what to do. We may feel helpless, out of control, and so on.

And my premise is that we don’t know what to do because we have forgotten how to be.

You have likely heard (and you may be aloof to it by now) the saying, “We are human beings, not human doings.”

I think it’s more accurate to say that we are both.

I know that the emphasis of the saying is on being, but it cuts off the edges of reality. Instead, what if we said it like this,

Human beings do.”

Or,

A human being does.”

Nurturing our being leads to right action from a place of open awareness – an ocean that can engage with all that comes into it.

Nurturing our being leads us to respond wisely and from a place of peace, joy, contentment, patience, kindless, love, and wholeness.

We respond out of our integrity, not to appease a list of “shoulds,” “need tos,” “you betters,” or other messages that come from the idea that we need to make ourselves better, that we need to earn our wholeness.

Friends, you already are better. You already are whole.

The question is whether you will pay attention to who you are, to being? Will you nurture and pay attention to who you are?

How?

If you’re a westerner, there is a pretty good chance that you have spent your life nurturing and feeding and paying attention to the thinking mind. You read, you believe or don’t believe, you agree or disagree, you have conversations, you debate, you think about things.

Wonderful!

The thinking mind is a really important part of being. For many of us, this is where our sense of identity resides. We have fused tightly with our thoughts and beliefs.

We have nurtured our thinking minds!

How, though, have we nurtured other parts of our being? Our emotions, feelings, body sensations – all of these as connected and non-separate…

How do we nourish the feeling of being?

It requires practice and attention.

We have spent a lifetime prioritizing and fusing with and identifying with our thoughts and beliefs.

Of seeing ourselves as small cups of tea.

But what if we are the ocean?

What if we are unchanging awareness in which the ever-changing flow of live arises?

This morning, as I sought to engage with the pain of the people in the Philippines, I felt a whole lot like I had dumped a tablespoon of salt into my cup of tea.

I thought, “Now why did I do that? I’m on a retreat and I’m supposed to be getting away from it all!”

But now I’m thinking that what I really came here to do was to learn at a deeper level how to be with it all. How to welcome reality into awareness and experience reality on its own terms. How to welcome it all in the ocean of awareness in which being resides.

In between the lines, I spent time this morning nurturing being. I set my intention to stay awake and alert and open. I followed sensations throughout my body and then felt the whole body as sensation. I followed my breathing and then focused on it from one side of the body to the other and then the whole body breathing. I welcomed thoughts that arose and gently set them aside for the time being, knowing that wisdom will come. I spent some time answering the following questions: Where am I? When am I? How am I? What am I? Who am I? And I moved from being a witness of my experience to being witnesssing itself.

Doing these practices reorganizes our brains. Our amygdala (the fight or flight center of the brain) shrinks. Our hippocampus enlarges. We open up to awareness. We become oceans.

We move into the realm of human beings doing and we engage with our own pain/suffering and that of others with wisdom and right action.

It takes practice, practice, practice.

The more we practice, the more we want to practice because life as the ocean is much more fulfilling and freeing and meaningful than life as a cup of tea.

If this intrigues you, find a meditation class, listen and follow meditation and mindfulness teachers. Practice in small chunks throughout your day. Take the time to nurture your being.

My training in yoga nidra (yes, I know there is debate over the pronunciation, but I’ll go with what I was taught) has been through Richard Miller and his specific type of yoga nidra, called Integrative Restoration. There are lots of great resources on iRest.us and I will hopefully be teaching classes this coming year in the Boise area. But there are thousands of resources and just as many teachers out there who are wonderful and can help you on this journey.

Human beings do, my friends.

My heart and mind have been activated today. I have awakened a little more. I don’t have a list of specific next steps as a response. Those will come. They always do. Right now, there is a sense of deep sadness for the families and children of the Philippines. Being doesn’t mean we become unfeeling or immune to feelings. Human beings are moved. We live in a world that is messy. I am moved in the midst of the mess. May wisdom lead to action for children and families in crisis in the Philippines and around the world.

It matters when we don’t turn away. It matters that we wake up to our true selves and engage with the world.

There is one other thing that I did today in response to the pain and violence in the Philippines.

It is a practice that my dad-in-law taught me.

As I practiced nurturing my being, moving from the tea cup to the ocean, I imagined those who are in pain. And as I breathed in, I imagined them breathing out their pain, their despair, their fear, their sadness, their anger. As I breathed out, I breathed out to them comfort, hope, courage, peace, wholeness, and love. As I did this repeatedly, I learned of others things and breathed those in. Wisdom then breathed out to them what I could not have imagined.

I have done this for others (unbeknownst to them) in the many waking hours of my sleepless nights and they have told me, unsolicited, of experiencing the very things I breathed in and out.

I don’t claim to understand it.

But our bodies are in us, not vice versa.

We are much more than what we can see and hear and feel and smell and taste.

Human beings are not confined to the boundaries of the body.

We are interconnected in mysterious and wonderful ways.

We are one. We are inseparable. Distinct. But inseparable.

Rather than being overwhelmed during this practice (a common fear), I experience peace, love, courage, compassion, and wisdom.

I don’t know what it’s called.

I like to think that this is what prayer is.

Human beings do.

Nurture your being today, my friends, and live from the ocean.

I will leave you with a note from Hafiz:

“When You Can Endure”

When
The words stop
And you can endure the silence

That reveals your heart’s
Pain

Of emptiness
Or that great wrenching-sweet longing,

That is the time to try and listen
To what the Beloved’s
Eyes

Most want
To

Say.

May you have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.