Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Path of Wisdom

One thing I say to clients in the midst of a life or health drama is, Let it change you. I say it all the time. It's a counterpoint to the idea that an illness or injury of body, mind or spirit should not change anything. The idea, spoken and unspoken, is that we should see illness, injuries and endings as setbacks to be gotten over as soon as possible. Once we are well or healed or have grieved a loss or ending, we're supposed to get right back on the merry-go-round of our goals and plans, undeterred, but also unchanged. I wonder what that is about.

Determination is a beautiful human quality. Commitment, too. During a serious health or life crisis, we would have a much harder time surviving if we couldn't access determination, will, and a commitment to carry on.

When the crisis has passed, that's when people turn their intentions toward getting back to life exactly as it existed before the illness, loss or injury. It's then that I will inevitably say, Let it change you.

Of course there are those who dive head first into transformations. As soon as they're able, they begin straightaway making rash decisions, before they have healed, before they've integrated what happened. In a certain way, the folks who all of a sudden quit their jobs, leave their partners, move to new cities or whatever, are also not allowing whatever happened to change them. They opt to make external changes that are often quite destructive rather than evolving from the inside out. I should know - I've tried this approach numerous times.

The people who can sit with what has happened to them, who can make changes in their lives that come from the inside out, become wiser, kinder and more compassionate. Sometimes they have to let go of a relationship or their profession. When those life changes come from wisdom, they are, in every case, sound, helpful, healing.

Life is a sacred drama, as full of loss, illness and sadness as it is with beauty and joy. Every experience can teach us something new about being human. I believe we would be hard pressed to ever learn anything if life didn't trip us up now and again. How we get back on our feet after a crash and burn is a sublime learning experience, or - it can be. There are people who are pretty good at avoiding the potholes - I guess. I've never met anyone who was able to avoid all injuries, illnesses and loss. But maybe there are some of them out there. Are there?

People who say they don't want drama in their lives confuse me. I think what they're saying is that they would prefer not to suffer. Well, who wouldn't?

May you be safe and sound. When the sacred drama of life in this form throws you a curve ball, may you prevail. May you take in what happens to you at the deepest level. Let it change you.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Who knows best?

I'm in the middle of a modern medical battle with my eye doctor. Actually battle is way too strong a word. He is a very nice person who wants to do right by me, he sincerely does. He has been in practice for a long time in an office downtown where he sees patients who are chronically sleep deprived, stressed out, poorly fed. His patients sit for many hours a day in front of their computers, squinting at numbers and letters under fluorescent lights, enclosed in hermetically sealed cubicles, or in communal work spaces where they must fight distractions in order to stay focused. These people drive around a lot, they sit in front of their TVs at night. The way they use their eyes is radically different than the way I use mine.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail - hence he is trying to change my prescription as he would for someone who suffers from eye strain. Even though I've spoken and written at length (and quite eloquently, may I say) about the differences between me and the people he usually sees, even though I have been vociferous about explaining that the glasses I have now are EXCELLENT, that I see perfectly through them at a distance, while reading, and when I'm on my computer, even so, he can't help but think my prescription can be improved. He even agreed with me that my prescription does not need improvement, except - well - he wants to improve it.

The glasses I wear now are scratched up (because my old eye doctor didn't automatically include scratch resistant coating for the lenses) and the frames are crusty. I've said to this new doctor, verbally and in writing, many more times than once, that I don't need a new prescription, what I need are new lenses and new frames. But he can't hear that. He can not take it in.

The first round with the new prescription was a disaster. I couldn't read, and through the new lenses, when I looked at a photo across the room, my eyes crossed. He admitted he had overcorrected and that the measurements for the progressives were off. He asked me to come back into the office to have measurements retaken. He promised to redo the lenses with something more akin to the old prescription, but he still wants to make changes.

My confidence in the new glasses is not sky high since I had to show his assistant that the machine she was using when taking measurements was upside down. But I'm open to what happens next. I can still see perfectly with my old glasses, except for the scratches. If it takes awhile and several attempts before the new glasses work, I'm ok with that. I'm curious to see what happens next.

It's hard to stand up to modern medicine. It's a challenge to be assertive, even for me, and I'm kind of an expert in that endeavor. Modern medicine depends on tests and numbers and charts. Even though according to the measurements, the new prescription was scientifically better, I couldn't see through the new lenses. My eyes and my vision are not something that can be totally accounted for by medical charts and standards. I could be insulted that this doc is unwilling to believe me, except I know it happens all the time. It's not personal.

One problem is that within the realm of modern medicine, we are encouraged not to pay attention to sensations of any kind. We are told to accept what the doctors say and to follow their lead, because they know best. I have clients who feel like hell, but since all their test numbers are correct, the doctors tell them they are healthy. It is bizarre.

In many cases, doing exactly as the doc says, no matter how you feel, is the best course of action. I'm talking about people who swallow fistfuls of sensation killers such as ibuprofen, and try with all their might to ignore the needs of their miracle bodies - basic needs like sleep and good food, fresh air and relaxation, for instance. For people like that, modern medicine is important.

But for people like me who pay attention to every symptom and shift in the realm of the body/mind, modern medicine can be - at best - perplexing and at worst, utterly frustrating.

Who knows best what is going on in your body/mind? Have you ever thought about it? Well?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Take the long view

Sun dogs and clouds above the chateau.

How often do you stop whatever you're doing, look up, and gaze at the sky? It's easy enough to ignore the sky, especially if you live in a city and have the busy life that's exalted in our culture. Instead of the sky, it's more practical to focus on screens small and large, books, magazines, recipes, shopping lists, the dishes, the laundry, the notes you've written in preparation for a meeting at work. We also look at each other, our nears and dears, co-workers, kids, pets, friends and neighbors.

I have nothing against focusing on the dishes, by the way. Humans are working animals. Unless we're productive, we are dissatisfied, we easily become bored. But all work and no play, no matter how great or important the work seems, dulls the ability to feel pleasure, blunts the capacity for enjoyment. It's unhealthy and out of balance.

And yet, many people continue to flog themselves with work and busywork, focusing their minds on the minute details, focusing their eyes on letters and numbers. Is it any wonder that as a society, stress is crippling us? Good lord. We have to relearn how to relax. We need inspiration. We need to take the long view. One easy way is to stop whatever we're doing every now and then, and just look at the sky for awhile. Clear, overcast, day and night, the sky is ever changing and in almost every situation, beautiful. I'm not talking about a quick glance upwards. Spend at least five minutes gazing. Breathe.

Looking at the sky extends visual focal length which relaxes the eyes and the brain. Here's a link to a Scientific American article about why the brain needs down time.  The best ideas come to the relaxed brain.

Father Sky helps us see the big picture metaphorically and literally. People have always seen patterns in the stars and shapes in the clouds. Those patterns and shapes inspire, shift perspectives, help us think clearly. In Tibetan medicine, a treatment for depression includes gazing at the unobstructed blue sky. That would cheer up anyone, don't you think? It cheers me up, for sure.

There have always been people who focused on the minute details, of course, like scribes for instance, scholars, watchmakers, painters and the like. After work, though, like most humans throughout history, even scribes stopped to look at the heavens and marvel at what they saw.

It still works, if you can remember to do it. Looking at the sky helps everything. I highly recommend it.