Being completely healthy

There is a lot to being healthy.  It is a synergy of body, mind, and spirit.

It involves being fully present in the moment, exactly as it is. It is a kind of martial art. But the thing that you are fighting against is the experience of being pulled off center.

 You have to do the groundwork. A building cannot stand if the foundation is shaky. The foundation has to be daily prayer and maintenance of the body. No longer can we treat the body as extra, as a thing, as something to be neglected or abused.

It is also important to understand that the body has to be reined in. You must control it or be controlled by it. Discipline and disciple.

You would not shortchange your car. If you did, you wouldn’t get anywhere. Likewise, you shouldn’t shortchange your body. Deprivation of the body through starvation or abuse is not acceptable. Likewise it’s not wise to over indulge.

There must be a balance. There must be a middle path.

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Mayo Clinic

In the past month I’ve seen two people who say they need to go to the Mayo Clinic. They say the name like it can work miracles. Their illnesses aren’t accidents. They are self-imposed addictions, possessions, where they are holding their own bodies hostage because they find themselves bringing up to their mouths another cigarette or can of beer or forkfull of chemicals that are in the guise of food. It is all an illusion, a mirage they can’t see through.

There was a patron I knew who was named Mr. Mayo. He used to say “The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” He said it over and over – every time I saw him. He probably said it to everyone he saw. He said it like it was a divine revelation.

Maybe that is the true Mayo Clinic. Maybe that is our miracle cure. That idea, corny as it is.

Not a 10 hour bus trip to a hospital that may or may not have a cure. But right here, right now, to be here as is, painful as that is, to not run away from who we are, as individuals, as a nation.

Panic attack

Remember to breathe from your abdomen. It takes time to make that natural. Shallow breathing is normal, but it tells the brain that things are in crisis mode.

Get 8 hours of sleep.

Eat more fiber and no processed sugar. Natural fruit is fine, just don’t go overboard on it.

Go for a walk.

Stretch. Yoga is helpful.

Don’t watch or read the news.

Make art.

Connect with God through prayer.

The panic attacks are physical. They are not “real”. They feel real because you are in your body and you feel them. You can learn to observe them and see them as a sign that you are going off track. Refer to the list above. What is being neglected? Do that.

I have to do all these things every day to feel human.

Mental health and the pothole

How mental health works –

I saw this pothole.

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It was on my route every day to work. I decided to fill it with rocks from my walk. I can only carry a few at a time (in a plastic grocery bag). So I will gather rocks and fill it little by little every time I go for a walk.

It took a week to get to the point from where I saw the problem, figured out the solution, and started to commit to it. It is a slow process, but that is how it works.

A little later –

It has been days since I have last worked on this. I have left myself a note on the dining room table and a large rock at the end of my driveway to remind me that I need to keep working on this task.

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It doesn’t matter that I haven’t done any more work in several days. It only matters that I continue the work. While this may look mostly complete, it is not. It is shallow. I need to add more to it. I have found a place at the end of the road where they have recently repaved so I am not taking rocks from anybody’s driveway. But to get these rocks requires that I walk all the way to the bottom of the hill and then carry the rocks, small bag by small bag, up to the top of the hill.

This too is mental health.

Do what you can with what you have, even if it is small. Something is better than nothing.  Keep going.

Also, rains will come and wash some of this away. Cars will drive over it and knock some of the rocks out. I will need to check it every now and then to make sure that it is whole and add more to it.

That too is part of mental health.

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Days later….I found a small (palm-sized) box to scoop the rocks into.

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It can’t be a big box because I have to carry it. So I walked down to the bottom of the hill to gather the rocks and then I looked up. Here’s the view looking up the hill.

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I can’t see the top from here. But I know it’s there. The trick is to just keep on walking towards the goal even if you can’t see it.

When I get to the top I see that cars have driven over my filled-in pothole, kicking out some of the rocks.

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So some of my work has gone away. This is not a “do it and walk away” project. This requires diligence.
People may try to take away from your happiness intentionally or otherwise. But all that you have done doesn’t go away. That was a lot of exercise just putting those rocks there. That is not erased. And I got a lot of encouragement from starting a project and persisting in it.

But then sometimes you have to admit that the task is bigger than you are equipped or trained to handle.  The rocks I put there were now scattered on the road.  The road isn’t a smooth surface for walking anymore.

So yesterday (7/26/18) I contacted a professional (the city government) – to fill in the pothole.

This too is mental health.

They fixed it on Friday, 7/27/18

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mental / emotional / spiritual health

We talk about having a “go-bag” for natural disasters. How about having a plan in place for mental / emotional / spiritual problems? Do you have a daily practice that keeps you grounded and stable? What can you share of that to help others? Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for nearly 20 years. I have committed myself twice, and am in recovery. That being said – I have also been married for 14 years, held the same job for 17 years, and have excellent credit and health. All of that happened after my diagnosis. There is a LOT that I do to keep myself sober – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Mental/emotional/spiritual health is an inside job and requires as much work as physical health – if not more so, because our society doesn’t value it. Perhaps it is time to. We have lost too many people to suicide, to substance abuse, to mass murder. We have a mental-health epidemic going on. Sanity starts with each person, making tiny daily steps on a consistent basis, towards getting stronger. It isn’t easy, but it is essential.

Things I do –
No substance abuse – this includes the usual suspects but also I severely limit caffeine and sugar of all sorts.
Daily exercise.
Reading the Bible.
Making art.
Doing worksheets for my emotional health.
Doing family of origin work.

Return, not repent

I frequently drive by this train trestle on my way to centering prayer. I finally decided to take the time to stop and photograph it. This required that I drive past it and park at the entrance to a neighborhood and walk back.  There is no shoulder to the bridge I stood on so I had to be very mindful of traffic, and pray they would notice me.  I had not planned to do this so I wasn’t wearing bright clothing.  Army green is a neutral in my world.

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I admire the effort required to write this, and I love the colors and font. The word on it – repent – is problematic. The English word “Repent” has such weight. The original Hebrew word is “tshuvah”, which means “to return”. It isn’t about “paying for your sins” but turning away from them and walking towards life. Every moment of every day we have a choice – to choose life or choose death. And every time we make an unhealthy choice, we get the opportunity once again to turn around and get going in the right direction again. It isn’t about penance at all.

Consider when the Psalmist says in Psalm 103:12 –

“As far as the east is from the west / So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

– that the distance from east and west is simply a matter of direction, instead of distance.  If you are walking east, all you have to do to walk west is turn around.

God doesn’t care how far you are along the path of life – just as long as you are walking along it.  God cares which direction you are pointed.

When you notice that you’ve gotten turned around and are headed in the wrong direction (this is part of being human and happens to all of us) then all you have to do is turn back around towards Light and Life and the Lord.

Hidden pictures

You know those picture books where you’re supposed to find a hidden picture? There may be an elephant or a rabbit or even a cartoon character hidden within the picture. You know that you’re supposed to spend some time really looking deeply into this picture to see what is hidden there for you. Otherwise you’d pass right over it after just a glance.

What if life is like that? What if everything is a hidden picture and we’re supposed to slow down and look very carefully?

I like to think of that with God. I like to think that God is hidden within everything and that if we just look really hard will see God hiding in plain sight right front of us. Just like with those pictures. The elephant or the rabbit or the cartoon character was always there. We didn’t have to uncover anything. We just had to slow down and take the time to look, and the only reason we knew to do that was because of the title of the picture. It was there all along.

Try this with everything. Try looking for the hidden – this hidden beauty in everything. I promise that you will see amazing things.