Insideout Blog

The big reveal.

I think of trauma as heartbreak. It’s life picking up our sphere as we know it, our personal snow globe, and shaking it fiercely. Break up, divorce, illness, death. They haunt us, break us. These moments affect us deeply. They change us forever. 

In my personal life and working with clients, I often refer to these circumstances as impressions. Traumatic situations quite literally impress upon our hearts (emotions) and minds (neurological system) the pain and anguish connected to the experience. In scientific journals, this is known as epigenetics — the fact that trauma has the power to change our DNA. 

In other words, the tremble of the once solid foundation beneath us quakes us into an entirely different realm. The stance in modern scientific studies supports that of Ayurvedic belief. Ayurveda, or the Science of Longevity, stands firm in its belief that a change in the soil we’re rooted in has the power to shape or impress upon us a new mold. This is called samskara.

Let’s not forget the ripples. When one element shifts, the others are affected. Just the same, when the structure of life suddenly changes, we must bend our knees and take a lower center of gravity not to fall over. 

So why do we expect ourselves to endure ups and downs and sideways shifts without taking the time to reconfigure? It’s a process of absorbing, allowing, being, releasing. And it doesn’t happen in a day. Hell, sometimes it doesn’t happen in a lifetime. 

When we have heard the news about infidelity, cancer, death, we feel our sorrow more than we had once conceived possible. We have an all new understanding of how deep the “trenches” are. When we truly feel all of our fear and anger that surfaces during a time when life as we knew it is over, then we know we are truly present. When we are present, we are able to slow down, feel, and heal. 

Ayurveda is the glue that keeps my feet on the ground when I’m going through a rug-pulled-from-under-me experience. Little by little, layer by layer, I choose to care for myself in ways that soothe from the inside out. When I do this, I first consider my sensory self. How does this feel? Sound? Taste? And how is it affecting me? Do I contract? Expand? Feel disconnected or connected?

The goal is to return to connection. According to much research including Brené Brown’s deep dive into how we as humans thrive, we NEED connection for survival. Without it, we don’t have the resilience that it takes to rise to the surface after the weight of trauma has dragged us below our baseline. 

Trauma gives birth to grief. It’s a process that is personal and unique. There is an immediate call to action, a process that can heal when we share our stories and connect in our vulnerability of “this f*ing sucks”. Without connection, our grieving process is longer and heavier and darker.

When we face trauma, our perception changes. If we don’t slow down, it may drag every bit of energy out of us. Today may be the day we think we don’t have any choice other than to ride the roller coaster of emotions as we grieve. It’s normal to have those thoughts. And we can choose to overcome them. One thought at a time we cleanse, reset, and renew.

Yes, these impressions may leave scars. Though scars don’t define us. They refine us.

How To Settle Trauma Within Self to Authentically Unite

Let's start with our inner battles. 

Today marks the day I start chemo for the second time. It's also my niece's first birthday. Such a well-played juxtaposition, life. I'm grateful for the reminder that we must create freedom on the inside to experience fully what's waiting for us on the outside. But how do we liberate ourselves when our experience could easily feel like entrapment?

Let's get curious.

Firstly, we must ask ourselves if we are interested in personally healing and consequent unity of humanity. If so, then we make a conscious commitment to fine tune our empath skills. We must deliver that message to our stubborn, hardwired brains deliberately and consistently. We must stick to it even when our minds try to pull us into old ways of thinking. Whether it's believing some closed-minded religious entity we mistook for something spiritual back in the day or that inner child wanting to believe grandpa as he spouts out his own fear and delusion that his father and his father passed down to him. 

When we truly believe that the pain within our experience we choose to relive results in adding dis-ease in the lives of those around us, we begin our own personal excursion through simultaneous freedom and unity. Freedom within self surfaces when we let go of the burden that's created when we carry pain that is ready to be processed and released. Unity with the whole experience means feeling the joy and the holy shits of life, so that we can truly honor everyone's journey. This life is one that will touch us and support us tenfold if we are only willing to hold hands through the process. 

Let's be honest.

If divorce, death, and cancer diagnosis walked into a bar, let's face it typically no one would be tripping over themselves to hang out. They're alarming and inconvenient. They're isolating and uncomfortable. They're scary, yet enlightening. Well, potentially. And that's where, if you're willing, what I like to call The Freedom Perspective (TFP) enters stage right.

Here's some of my back story to illuminate a bit of what's happened in my own life, how it opens the door to TFP, and why all of us can find this navigation in our unique but very similar incidents of fear. (This includes anger, betrayal, and grief.)

At the start of the year I had a scan that came back with some questionable areas. I won't get into all of the details, just a quick broad brushstroke on the canvas of this experience to let you know that since then I have had multiple scans, a biopsy, and now another scan to finalize which treatment plan I will take.

At times I questioned if multiple (second, third, and fourth) opinions were too much. But given we received different advice from these sources, so I am more than satisfied my husband and I traveled through four states to get inputs from four different well-respected institutions. Life is all about giving us hints about how we can move forward with more ease.

We need to listen. 

The reminder here? Yes, life is urgent. But haste or trying to speed up the natural order of things isn't the way. 

So that's the nutshell version of my preparation mode over the last six months to make a decision about treatment for my third recurrence. It has been perfect, thorough. And still, the thought of picking up the chemo pills and putting them in my mouth can be at best a connection with the greater energies of the world to grant me a heaping helping of high vibration and healing. At worst, the mere idea invites analysis paralysis.

The pills will hit my stomach before I finish writing this blog post. The day echoes the meaning of Alanis Morissette's 1995 song, Jagged Little Pill, as I realize all of the internal wars I have initiated about whether I'm making the best decision for my situation or not. And yet I am past that place of not knowing and sit in the driver's seat ready to move forward.

According to the American Cancer Society, "in 2016, there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases"(1) in the United States alone. Perhaps for this reason, the sandpaper feeling of hearing about someone starting cancer treatment isn't as abrasive as it used to be, albeit still harsh. So what does this mean?

Let's cultivate awareness.

When we feel the pangs of our own pitfall, when we hear about someone else's sadness, let's get clear on what we need and the steps we can take to promote consciousness around it. Let's not try to push our feelings to the side. Let's recognize that right now, we can tap into the heartbeat of what keeps all of us alive. We can sit. And listen. We can make the choice to view our experience as shared, as one that has been grieved before us, with us, and after us. 

The truth is, we aren't as distinct as we might think. Yes, we look different. And we have different preferences and lifestyles. Yet if we live in a place of believing this part of our existence trumps everything else, we are also choosing to live very closed lives. We need to zoom out from our own experience. 

Our lives depend on it.

We all feel pain. We all know what it's like to yearn for belonging in this world. We all know that the sorrow of loss comes in many forms. Diagnosis. Death. The end of a marriage. Loss of a job. The ongoing hurt in all of us for having been mistreated at some place and time for simply being who we are.

So what do we say to those who violate the humanity code? What is our default when the lack of gun control measures horribly interrupts the natural order of things by allowing gun owners to kill an average of 90 Americans each day? (2)

The only constant is change. The only sameness is our differences. The only gifts are our challenges.

Our souls are strong, yet fragile. Our hearts can only endure so much. Let's take steps today and everyday to honor.

Choose freedom.

Unite.

 

(1) http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancerfactsfigures2016/

(2) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/16/gun-control-vote-senate-background-checks-watch-lists

5 Simple Ways to Fall in Love with Life During Illness

Trauma is startling. It picks you up, shakes you senseless, and plops you down facing a completely different direction. Having recently hopped off of this merry-go-round, now it's up to you to figure out how the hell to reconnect with self and create a new normal.

The good news? There is a way to take all of this in stride and enjoy the journey.

If you're skeptical, keep reading. You are a force to be reckoned with, all it takes is tapping into your power source. Here are five ways you can fill your heart with joy even if life as you know it is over.

1. Remember
Surgery might leave you painfully bruised with deeper soreness than you have ever known. You may have cloudy medication brain. Instead of fixating on discomfort or how unfair your circumstance is, draw your attention inward beyond your physical body. Look past the tattered and torn tissues. 

You are a source of infinite love and power. Close your eyes and feel your heart radiate. Key into the sensation of warmth. Offer yourself everything that arises from your heart center. Love. Compassion. Kindness. Forgiveness. Accept nothing less.

2. Be a Container
When you can't participate in activities you love, it may seem like you have been robbed of your personal identity. It can feel like you are already dead. Whether you are sleeping 18 hours a day or running the Leadville Trail 100, you are you. Hold space through this grieving process. Where there are endings, there are also beginnings. It is all about how you choose to view the world. Take a step back and consider a new vantage point. Or advantage point? 

What if you could let go of your attachment to old hobbies that don't serve you now? If so, you could do something you've been longing to do for years. Pick up the paintbrush. Get those voice lessons. Jump out of a plane. If you have a list of wants that you can't do today, line it up for when the time comes. The world remains your oyster.

3. Relax
When you are tired, rest. When you want to watch another movie, go with it. Overdose on all the Netflix and jammy wearing you want. You've spent days, months, years of your life moving at a swift pace. Relish your time to relax. When company comes and your hair is a mess, unapologetically be where you are. If that's laid out on the couch with smelly armpits, so be it. You've earned it.

4. Celebrate
When you're sick and heart-heavy, there are a zillion reasons to take to the bottle to numb out. Or drown your sorrows in pints of ice cream? Here's an idea. Visit your triumphs. Sure you can incessantly go down the litany of things that scare you. When life-threatening illness comes at you, you can absolutely surrender to obsessive thinking about your limitations. No contest. 

Why not next time the wave of harsh reality rises, give it a smack down? Bring to light all of your accomplishments. There is nothing too small to celebrate. There are no rules on throwing parties. Poop for the first time at the hospital and now you get to go home? I recommend P-A-R-T-Y. If it's worth a mental "hell yes", it's celebration-worthy even if it's a party of one.

5. Let go
According to Bruce Davis, Ph.D., you have a startling 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day or between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute. You think a lot, which means your life will be incredibly changed for the better if you understand life is about choice.

There is an unshakable brilliance that develops from the willingness to draw in discomfort. A specific source of wisdom emerges when you don't resist pain. When you are truly present to your current situation, the chaos can slingshot you into a space of contentment. You can nestle into a place of peace even with the tornado that encircles you. All you have to do is let go.

Ego says, "Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace."
Spirit says, "Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place."
-- Marianne Williamson

This was first posted on gatheryoga.com @gatheryogacollective. Post noted from huffingtonpost.com @huffingtonpost under contributor Caryn O'Hara.

The One Change That Will Save Your Life

Almost dying may not give you bragging rights, but what it does give you is the ability to offer sound advice about how to pull through a game changing experience. Two years ago when I was unable to breathe, pee, poop, talk, and sit up on my own, I had a choice to make. I could let my head swarm like a termite infestation eating away at the sound structure of my brain, or I could choose to look closely at what was happening and embrace it. At least these are the two options I saw for myself at the time. In retrospect, it still makes sense.

In a society that thrives off of perfectionism, consumerism, and competition, it is no wonder most of us have spent some time being riddled with anxiety. Or maybe it has been happening the majority of your life. However long you felt the experience, looking back you can definitely identify when it has happened. It may have weighted you down with overly analytical thinking. It may have slowly yet methodically draped a blanket of disorganization or confusion over your existence. Or it may have hit you like a ton of bricks: a car accident, a death, a spouse walking out on you, or, like me, feeling particularly put together one day and knocked out on a surgical table the next.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three main factors for heart disease, which is the #1 cause of death of men and women in the United States. Specifically "that’s 1 in every 4 deaths". Just below half of Americans have one of the three primary risk factors for heart disease, which are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. The CDC explains that "several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease" like, diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.(1)

If you are a smoker, the good news is your odds for having heart disease might be slightly less. And yes, some of these disease-related factors are hereditary. But many can be eliminated or avoided altogether by decreasing the number of components in your life that nurture stress on the heart. Like, for instance, stress. In fact, "Coronary heart disease is also much more common in individuals subjected to chronic stress and recent research has focused on how to identify and prevent this growing problem, particularly with respect to job stress. In many instances, we create our own stress that contributes to coronary disease by smoking and other faulty lifestyles or because of dangerous traits like excess anger, hostility, aggressiveness, time urgency, inappropriate competitiveness and preoccupation with work." (2)

However, with a single practice, your odds could be considerably reduced for becoming a part of the current statistics around heart disease.

Simplicity.

If you need to tend to a relationship that is falling apart, make time for it. If it is your health that is being neglected, take notice. Then take action. Think right now. What in your life about which you care deeply has fallen by the wayside? What can you eliminate to spend more time focused on that weak spot in your life?

The challenging thing about living simply is that it isn't simple at all. I make a living coaching very intelligent, successful people on how to do less and be more for this very reason. Simplicity is the key to freedom. It's the key to health. It's the key to survival. But as human beings, we dishonor compromise because we are obsessed with complexity. We feed on big, blazing fires. We seek to climb the highest mountain.

Now that doesn't mean that my mountain looks or feels the same as your mountain. Your mountain most likely doesn't mirror your significant other's either. But we all strive to accomplish more. So I ask. What if we could spend some time every single day to reprogram our minds to believe that accomplishing more doesn't mean doing more?

Accomplishing more is actually BEING more. Choose to BE there to taste your lunch during the work week. Chose to BE there to feel the pain that throbs when your heart is broken. BE there to console a friend who needs it.

When you simplify, you gain control of what you eat, where you go, what you do, and the company you keep. Your desires are less lusty and more driven. There is purpose in your conversation, your meal, and the dates on your calendar. The irony of our society is that we often catch ourselves thinking "if only I could physically be in two places at once". Why not re-frame the question to ask how we can be in one place mentally more fully?

To hell with multi-tasking...at least when it's feasible. Carve out time to make sure there are moments in each one of your days that have a single pointed focus. It's urgent for your mental, emotional, and clearly your physical well-being.

It's a matter of presence. Learn to dial down your need for excess so when unexpected chaos draws near, choose to redirect your focus. Take a hike. Strap on your boots and head for the hills. Hit a yoga mat. Sit on your meditation cushion. Hop online in search of mealtime inspiration so you can thoughtfully plan out your next meal, to make slowly at home.

If you don't have time for that, turn off any noise within your control: phone, radio, TV. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. And give yourself a KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.

1. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

2. http://www.stress.org/stress-and-heart-disease/

 

3 Traits of a Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who used his faith and rhetoric to punch society in the face. He was a humanitarian to the depth of his being. His composure blew the minds of everyone who had the privilege of listening to him speak from behind a podium. His met others with a consistently fierce presence and defiant compassion.

The MLK holiday always ignites sharp thinking. It's a day of remembrance. It is a day of immense gratitude. And the days that follow can be spent in deep states of consciousness, reflecting on the lives our forefathers led and which ways of living we want to continue. Furthermore, we can decide when to be strong enough to let go of the old mindset and start anew.

I have looked deeply into my own experiences: feeling helpless as I watched my mom become a widow at age 56, sadly embracing a friend who is experiencing the throws of divorce, coming to terms with a colon cancer diagnosis. At some point it all started to make sense. We have every opportunity to turn our biggest challenges into our greatest gifts. In fact, this is the thinking of mindfulness master, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We can take the pain of adversity and transform it into energy that lifts us into a new dimension of living. When change takes the wheel, we can insist upon claiming our power in the midst of surrender. No, surrender is not weak. Surrender takes guts and perseverance. It takes strength. We can look at adverse situations as simply unfair. Or we can choose to step up. We can decide to walk into the light so others can live knowing that they aren't alone in their pain. They can live contently, knowing someone else had the courage and commitment to take a stand despite the sorrow.

When we rise in unity to mindfully recognize our hurdles, we have the ability to march together using the power in numbers to propel us into a new way of living. Dr. King knew this and made it happen from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. He announced his intention with such conviction that thousands of his brothers and sisters followed him regardless of the cost. It was worth it. 54 miles of movement and the message of peace threaded through each heart as they burst open down those roads.(1) What a beautiful story of nonviolent demonstration.

Dr. King called on his inner place of peace over and over again to encourage others to listen and think differently. He catalyzed a shift in millions of others. For his mastery in leading the way to freedom, Time magazine readers voted him 6th in the "Person of the Century" poll. And among many other prestigious honors, his perspective and allegiance to it also earned him a Nobel Peace Prize. We must learn from leaders like Dr. King.(2) He gave it his all. He sacrificed his life.

Taking a stand is urgent. Using our voice is imperative. We cannot afford to neglect service to others for the sake of humankind. For those interested in keeping the goodness going, take some notes from mindfulness master, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let's allow his life and this day to remind us how we should live. Let these descriptions be ways in which others describe you.

Vigor - Take time for self study. You will learn the most about the world when you take pleasure in knowing the shadows in your own being. Live with reckless abandon. Stand on a platform and speak loudly and clearly. Circle yourself with people who believe your words. Lead with intention. Don't take no for an answer when the truth comes to you straight from deep within your heart. Don't be afraid. Be prolific.

Harmony - Let peace rule. Remember that hate crimes do not get any job done. Know that being right isn't what is important. Trust that being strong will get you exactly where you need to be. Understand that feeling weak is part of gaining more strength. When inner peace isn't accessible, find some way to release whatever pollutant is in the way. Haters are going to hate. Shift your attention elsewhere when they show up. Continue to believe in something better. Do not be afraid that death will be the end of you. Winning is temporary. Your biggest dreams live on as long as you share them. It's a lifelong practice to live in harmony with your surroundings. Sometimes that means you need to initiate big change.

Kick Ass - Yes. Whatever you do, be a master of kicking ass. Give yourself, your loved ones, your community a swift kick in the rear to wake up from tired ways of thinking. Do not criticize the current situation without offering reasonable options to get from A to B. Offer honest advice. Never, ever be concerned with moving forward when doors are opening. You can certainly gain the respect of someone new by putting yourself out there. You can influence a dozen or hundred or thousand more lives. Shake old patterns and practice the power of choice.
 

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selma_to_Montgomery_marche

(2) http://kingian.net/awards-recognition.html

Je t'aime, Paris.

After just being in Paris five days ago. My heart bleeds for those directly affected by the shootings today. And then I got to thinking about how deeply we are connected and how crucial it is to embrace those we love and, perhaps more importantly in time like these, those we don't.

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6 Reasons I'm Grateful for Cancer

This time two years ago I had a stage III tumor removed on what was supposed to be my wedding day.

Rewind a few weeks. I was wildly excited about taking an overseas honeymoon in Italy and vacation Spain with family and friends. As time to hop on the plane drew closer, I had abdominal pain that had gotten increasingly worse over the last several months. I chose to live in denial, so life could go on the way I had planned. I decided to power through the trip, altering I did along the way as not to exacerbate my discomfort. With minor interruptions my now husband and I jaunted through Italy. Life was magical.

After celebrating Christmas with family in Barcelona, family and friends from all stages of my life gathered on patios to celebrate my marriage while I was buried under covers in an apartment. Unable to walk on my own, I was barely able to sit up. I could not poop. After a few hospital visits, I was rushed into emergency surgery to remove what wound up being a stage III colon cancer.

In 2013, I experienced four major abdominal surgeries, six months of chemo, and ten months living with an ostomy. Today I am a better version of myself after having those life-changing experiences. And so this year, I will spend my holidays mostly grateful for cancer. This is why:

1. Cancer makes us stop. In the conscious world, this is referred to as being (versus doing). When cancer comes, all else is background noise. It teaches us how to focus on what matters. Decisions are simple because you do what you have to do to get sh*t done. There is no "I'm too busy". There is no "I'll catch it next time". Following my diagnosis, I finally ended my under-rested, over-committed lifestyle. For the first time, I noticed that my value increased the more I was able to be. Ask yourself, how and when can you let go of doing this holiday and just BE?

2. Cancer makes us listen. Cancer says "Jump!". We say "How high?". It pulls the carpet from under us. Things come undone. It's sad. It's painful. It's tiring. It's inconvenient. But cancer offers a unique element of humanity. People know that cancer sucks so when you are facing it, doctors, nurses, spiritual guides, family, and friends listen with intent. They want to know how you are. They want to let you vent. I wanted to be there for my dad before he passed away from cancer, and as a patient I loved when others were there to hear the voice I had pushed down for so 34 years. Ask someone how they are. Ask because you care and want to listen. Let someone bend your ear.

3. Cancer makes us say yes. Experiencing cancer as a patient, caregiver, or loved one is tricky. Life is especially unpredictable. The shift from one thing to the next can change drastically. Pieces of the daily routine may be completely new and frightening. For this reason, cancer gives us the power to say yes. We can invite new activities into our lives to find inner peace. We can read books in our Amazon queue to take our mind out of serious mode. We can start putting effort into a relationship that has become lack luster. We can say yes to gaining new perspective on something much bigger than our tiny existence in this universe. What can you say yes to today?

4. Cancer makes us say no. As soon as we get accustomed to believing that yes means yes and no means no, something shakes us into thinking again. Like a snow globe we stand there in the midst of everything swarming around us and wonder how it will all land. As a recovering over-scheduler, one of the biggest realizations I had was that saying no to others means saying yes to myself. Wow. Mind blown. One day it finally stuck. If I was at my capacity, I could tell other people "no" and they would accept it. How can you nourish yourself by saying no?

5. Cancer makes us grow. Whether you are drinking the concoction the night before a CT scan or driving a patient to their chemotherapy appointment, there are opportunities to grow throughout the process. We can look at doctor visits as disruptive to normal life. Or we can look at all of the beautiful gifts along the way. When we face illness, we are showered with gifts we would never have otherwise experienced like the chance to learn more about physiology, a deeper relationship with someone who has stepped up to schlep us from A to B, or that chance to dig deep down and unveil the connective power that lies within. There is a growth spurt waiting for you in the face of cancer, or whatever your challenge, if you take notice. Are you able to recognize it?

6. Cancer makes us savor. I am fully aware of my situation and how fortunate I am. I am cured for god's sake. After almost losing my life twice in the course of a few days, having to be put in a medically induced coma, and having a sacred heart-to-heart visit while in ICU from my dad (who has been deceased for ten years this February), I realize how fragile and miraculous life is. If fact, it seems all I see are miracle moments to savor. Look at your loved ones and notice their gorgeous laugh lines. Smell the pine tree needles as you sink into the holiday season. Taste each nourishing bite you put in your mouth. Listen to your children sing. Feel the satisfaction of living in a moment of reckless abandon. As you savor more, you may want to consume less. Starting now, be grateful for your variety of experiences. Be willing to drink in the spice of life. Your perception of cancer just might change.